8 Aug 2006

Calls for stringent controls on foreign logging companies in PNG

7:53 am on 8 August 2006

A new report says foreign logging companies in Papua New Guinea are brutally suppressing landowners who oppose their destructive practices.

It also details abuse of the companies' workers.

The report has landowner accounts of arbitrary detention and brutality by police 'moonlighting' for logging companies, abuse of women, contamination of village food and water sources, unjust working conditions in logging camps and destruction of cultural sites.

The report by PNG's Centre for Environmental Law & Community Rights and the Australian Conservation Foundation says villagers are often persuaded by the government to sign away communal land for timber production in exchange for new roads and schools that never materialise.

And it says workers at logging camps often go unpaid, live in unsanitary and crowded conditions and are prevented from leaving their work site.

The report recommends the PNG government set up a high level inquiry into the industry and revoke the licences of companies found to engage in human rights abuses and which make private security payments to police.

The report also recommends parliament establish independent anti-corruption and human rights commissions and urges international donors to help PNG shift from large-scale industrial logging to community-based timber cutting and milling.