PNG civil society keeps heat on PM over SABLs
Another call from civil society for the Papua New Guinea government to revoke controversial Special Agricultural Business Leases as grassroots communities are increasingly alienated from their land.
Papua New Guinea civil society continues to put the heat on Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to have the controversial Special Agricultural Business Leases cancelled in entirety.
It's almost eight months since the tabling in parliament of a commission of inquiry report into SABLs, which found that the vast majority of them were fraudulently obtained and merely a front for logging projects.
Environmentalist groups like FORCERT, which promotes sustainable forestry in PNG, say clear-felling has wiped out much of the forest in regions like New Britain.
Johnny Blades asked FORCERT's Peter Dam about the inquiry report's recommendation that the SABLs be cancelled.
PETER DAM: Yeah I think we very strongly support the goal for all of the SABLs to be revoked, all of the illegal ones. Because the Prime Minister himself said that 90 percent of all SABLs have been done incorrectly, are illegal. And he said in parliament, and later on on national radio, he promised the people of Papua New Guinea that he would deal with it, that he would revoke them and that he would give the land back to the landowners. And we are still waiting for that.
JOHNNY BLADES: But he said he was going to set up a taskforce to review the review... sort of thing.
PD: Yeah well, that's the thing. We see that at first there's a very clear conclusion, there's a very clear outcome of the investigation - problem is though that there is no clear united report - but the message that comes out is unmistaken. It's just that all the SABLs, apart from those few examples, have been done incorrectly, are illegal, should be revoked. What we see now are delay tactics and maybe the Prime Minister thinks or hopes that there are ways to mend this but the way we see it, there are no ways to mend this. This has been done wrong and it's wrong from the very basis of it. So the only way is to revoke them and give the land back to the landowners. If you then want to still go for it, ok start the process all the way from the start and do it in a correct manner and then see if people are still willing to join.
JB: Are communities around this province (East New Britain) fairly united about this problem, are they against it? Or do they see some development from the exploitation of the forest?
PD: I think there are divisions. But when they see what's actually happening, when they see the clear-felling and the oil palm coming in, when they realise that what has been happening is that their customary land rights have been basically suspended for 99 years, once they realise all of that, they are against these kind of developments. And they're not really developments. This is government working together with companies trying to get access to customary land and putting aside the customary landowners and taking away the rights of the customary landowners.
JB: So local MPs are colluding in this?
PD: Yeah, unfortunately I think there's a lot of MPs that are supporting this and that are doing it without really checking the voters and the people in their electorate.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: