By PNG Echo
Today will go down in the annals of PNG history as a day when something insightful, far-reaching and concrete was finally done about corrupt practises in PNG. But this is not my story to tell – it belongs to all those that have fought tooth and nail to save the environment. So over to you Tiffany Twivey-Nonggorr who writes:
You want to talk about corruption fighting? Well this government has just killed the biggest corrupt dealing of the past 10 years.
During the Somare government, a heinous scheme of issuing SABLs over large forest areas was created under the guise of Agri/forestry leases.
The Forests Act was amended under the then Forest Minister Belden Namah to allow for large scale clear-felling permits that had never been allowed for over 50 hectares before. SABLs were then given over hundreds of thousands of hectares of forest under the pretext that the trees needed to be clear felled so that agricultural projects could start.
These 99-year special purpose agricultural business leases were given over 5 million hectares of land in PNG amounting to the alienation of 10% of all of the land in PNG.
The leases meant that the peoples customary rights to the land were suspended for 99 years.
Up until these leases were issued, only 3% of the land in PNG had been alienated (taken away) since Independence from the customary landowners and 97% was still held customarily by landowners but within a few years 10% went.
That was the food and social security if 100s of thousands of people just taken from them.
Literally 100s of thousands of hectares of old-growth forest was cleared – with clearance permits obtained for shonky “agricultural projects”.
A commission of inquiry into these SABLs was started – yes there were issues with the reports as only two of the three commissioners submitted their reports [ Editor’s note: Alois Jerewai was the Commissioner who did not table his report – he later went on to become a legal representative of the man who enabled these leases – Belden Namah] – so a ministerial committee was established to pool the findings of the commissioners.
Their work is done.
NEC yesterday declared all of these disgraceful SABL leases cancelled. They are gone.
This represents billions of kina worth of land and trees returned to the people – not to mention food security. This is the biggest decision in the history of this country.
I spent years working as a lawyer representing the great organisation that is the PNG Eco Forestry Forum with people like Kenn Mondial, Almah Tararia, Effrey Dademo, Thomas and Mary Paka, John Chitoa and Rosa Koain and everyone at the Bismark Ramu Group – and so many others…and they fought and fought and fought against this evil scheme and we actually had the issue of one SABL being over the 800,000 hectares of Kamula Doso restrained by the courts. But that wasn’t enough – they all had to go.
This is a great day for the people of PNG This is your day to celebrate you people past and present of the PNG Eco Forestry Forum and Bismark Ramu Group.
Editors Note: It is also a day for the whole of PNG to thank their lucky stars that they have great eco-warriors to fight their battles and preserve their children’s heritage – and the name Tiffany Twivey-Nonggorr is right up there. Bravo.