15 Feb 2010

Papua New Guinea landowners to launch legal fight against loggers

8:53 am on 15 February 2010

Papua New Guinea landowners are preparing to launch a legal battle against controversial Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau or RH.

Landowners claims RH are illegally cutting their trees and using brute force and bribery to stifle their concerns.

The accusations come as the Australian government reiterates its commitment to a 2007 election promise that the importation of illegally harvested timber would be considered a criminal offence.

Ramu and Sogeram landowner groups in Madang Province, on PNG's northwestern coast, are out to stop RH - PNG's largest logger.

In November last year a PNG court banned logging in the Ramu area after a review by the country's Forestry Authority.

But landowners fear this is a temporary reprieve and worry RH will use their influence and challenge the court.

Lawyer Tiff Nongor, representing the middle Ramu clans, told AAP she is preparing for more legal battles with RH.

She says landowners in no way shape or form want logging, they have always opposed logging.

In 2006, international NGO, Forest Trends released a report based on a five-year World Bank study that found 70 per cent of logging in PNG was illegal.