PNG government accused of dragging the chain on SABLs
PNG government accused of dragging the chain on action over fraudulent Special Agricultural Business Leases.
The Papua New Guinea government has been accused of failing to act on recommendations from an inquiry into the controversial Special Agricultural Business Leases.
In September the prime minister Peter O'Neill tabled a report in parliament from a commission of inquiry which found more than 90 percent of those leases were illegally obtained from customary landowners.
The anti-corruption NGO Act Now says that over 5 million hectares of land, more than 10 percent of PNG's total land mass is affected by the illegal leases, most of which were for a term of 99 years.
Act Now's Effrey Dademo told Johnny Blades that the government appears to be ignoring the inquiry's clear recommendations.
EFFREY DADEMO: The commission of inquiry actually said that the leases had been fraudulently issued and they should be cancelled as soon as possible. So it's just as simple as that. I don't know why the government is delaying this. I don't know why they have to set up another Task Force [O'Neill has announced a task force] which will look into the recommendations of the commission and make their own recommendations which is just a waste of time. There's already been money spent on a commission of inquiry that has produced something, and they should be working on those recommendations and not trying to put a bunch of politicians together to come up with their own stuff. The task force is made up of people of questionable character and we don't really trust those politicians sitting on the task force.
JOHNNY BLADES: Is it people who are linked to some of the leases themselves?
ED: Yes, some of those politicians have been involved in the decision-making process around the leases in the past and therefore they should not be asked to look into those. They [the government] should just be acting upon the recommendations of the commission of inquiry and not trying to divert it. We see the task force as a diversion tactic for some reason and we are asking the Prime Minister to come out clear on what concrete actions he has taken to act on the report because this is an issue that involves people, small people, and these people are scattered throughout PNG. Their land is being held in the hands of foreigners, it's being held in someone else's name because of certain deals that took place in Waigani. So it's only fair to those people if the leases are cancelled because that is the clear recommendation from the commission.
JB: Given that the Prime Minister said last year on a couple of occasions that the Commission of Inquiry was flawed and he had in a way discredited it, do you think that's part of the reason why he's trying to set a task force, a new level of scrutiny?
ED: He's got to come out clear and say that. Besides, a task force of politicians is not another level of scrutiny. Politicians are really not supposed to be making these decisions because most of them are the decision makers in this SABL process. So if he is really serious, he said on several occasions that he saw it but yeah, then he accepted the report, it was tabled in parliament. But what are the conflicts? This particular task force has never convened.
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