SABL logger cheating Bewani locals

“What little I get from my royalty payments I give back to the logging company because most business houses in Vanimo town, including the only supermarket are owned by the logging company. Moreover, the company cheats me by claiming money from my royalty payments”

That’s from Emap Itep of Aimbai village in Bewani, West Sepik Province.

A Malaysian logging company has logged his forest and now has an oil palm plantation on his land under a Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL).

“The company came and said they have a Special Agriculture Business Lease and so have the right to claim my land for oil palm. When I realized it’s getting my trees and exporting them overseas while clearing the forest for oil palm, it said it will develop my village in exchange for my trees. I regret believing them because now I can’t get whatever I’ve grown and cultivated for food and income within the areas that the company has claimed,” a worried Emap said.

Like most of the people Act Now! has come across in Bewani, Emap was not aware that the government has ruled all Special Agriculture Business Leases illegal and void. To Emap, the government seems like a nightmare that he unknowingly took part in creating, a government that’s now terrifying him by allowing the company to continue and not standing by him.

The Moresby Government says cancel the SABLs but the Vanimo government lets the logging and land theft continue in Bewani. I don’t understand, what’s the need for a government if it can’t operate as one for the people?” he stated.

Emap was told by the logging company that he would no longer have to travel long distances to access basic services like health and education etc. He needed the very things that the company promised and wanted to see them happen so he, along with others welcomed the company in and has since been suffering at its hands.

“The company said it will build a school in my village, an aid post, permanent houses etc, but first I have to give him my trees. I gave it permission to only get the trees but it’s claimed my land and said the land is its for 99 years. The cost of services it promised to deliver for free as a trade for my trees, has since been deducted from my royalty payments.”

Emap gave an example of how the company fooled him and takes back money paid as royalty payments to him.

“If I tell the company I need a school to be built in my area, the company calculates the cost of getting the school up and tells me that that amount will be deducted from my royalty payments, except with a 100% interest. For instance, if it calculates a classroom to be K1000 to build, then it tells me it can do so at the cost of an advance from my royalty payments. It says its an ‘advance’ but when my royalty payments are due, it gets another K1000 interest and ends up taking K2000 from me. That’s a 100% interest that’s maybe more than the interest paid back in a money scheme or for bank loans.”

Emap and many others from the other villages in Bewani feel they’ve been tricked and cheated into believing, the Malaysian logging companies will develop their villages using their own kwila trees. Now the company continues to fool them with the silence from the Vanimo government.

“We don’t have much hope against the company with the government on their side and since you (Act Now!) are here, we ask that you help amplify our voices to the government and the nation, and tell of what’s happening to us in Bewani”, he said.

Emap is one of many ActNow! has come across in Bewani, all with similar stories of the company cheating them and getting more than it pays to them.

In total, 50, 000 square kilometers of customary land has been stolen from indigenous communities across Papua New Guinea, using the fraudulent Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABL). Despite the government declaring SABLs illegal and void, the illegal logging has still continued in a number of areas, including in Bewani.

Land theft under SABL and illegal logging are nationwide issues with their roots in the corruption that pervades across the country. You may be the next victim, so please sign the petition demanding the government set up an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Act Now!