Pomio villagers reject MPs defence of SABL land grab

Pomio MP Elias Kapavore has defended an illegal land grab in his electorate in which four SABL leases have been granted to logging company Rimbunan Hijau. Kapavore claims the company has built roads, provided jobs and made ‘a massive economic investment’ in oil palm. He says the company should remain and local people should stop voicing their complaints and exaggerating the negative impacts.

But local villagers say the MP is ignoring the huge disadvantages of the land grab and the abuse of their human rights:

Our MP should not question our rights to speak out and report with facts and evidence. We have every right to address these issues and demand our rights be respected.

The SABL leases have huge disadvantages that far outweigh any benefits both in Pomio district and in PNG as a whole. Nationwide, customary landowners have lost more than 5.2 million hectares of land - that is 52,000 square kilometres. 

In the Pomio SABLs we, the people have lost our God given birth right to our land for 99 years and significantly our traditions, cultures, customs, virgin forest and friendly environment, the eco systems we depend on and our peaceful community living and life setting.

People have been deprived of their basic human rights to own land, to have their freedom of speech and freedom of movement and are now facing serious social disorders in our communities and our children not attending to their classes very well. We all face a massively unpredictable future.

Life dose not exist with money alone, no way!

Those who say we have experienced development in the last six year forget that it has all involved corruption and dirty tactics. The logging and oil palm have not left any buffer zones, destroyed cultural sites, old cemeteries and historical sites, destroyed traditional and historical land marks, and old villages, and if people stand to protect and voice their rights, force is used to suppress and intimidate them. This is not development, it is destruction and it can only occur because of the foreign companies greed and not having concern for the original people of this land and our PNG laws. 

Our MP says the land grab is good because the new mill will produce oil palm - but that production only serves the interest of the company because the agreement states the oil palm planted on the land remains their property and does not belong to local people. There is nothing spelling out how the new land use will benefit us.

If our Pomio MP has a copy of any agreements showing what percentage of the palm oil is ours, he should come and show it to every one. Even the palm oil kernels will not be processed here, it is going to be shipped overseas to be processed at an unknown place. What an idea!

Our MP says roads have been constructed but they are for the benefit of the logging and oil palm leaving old government founded roads unattended and uncared for. The roads will only last as long as the logging is still going on. Since the beginning of the SABL project six years ago many existing roads, including one from Mu all the way to Toto, are waiting for assistance despite the fact logging operation has shipping millions of cubic metres of logs earning huge profits for the foreigners. 

The roads that have been built into inland areas are not safe for the traveling public. There have been unreported road accidents and of course two deaths, one at the back of Drina and the other this Christmas past at Mauna village. 

Road construction is the responsibility of our government and leaders (MPs) and they should not be using people’s resources to relieve them of their own responsibilities. Even the counter funding of roads by Pomio District Development Authority has not followed proper procedures and the money should not go to logging company because they have the machines and are on the ground. THIS IS CORRUPTION. 

The supposed employment does not benefit local people as they now work as slaves on their own land with very bad conditions including low wages. The opportunity for employment is also now creating a high influx of people from outside establishing the grounds for future disharmony in the District, which is already growing slowly. This experience is evident in all oil palm area and West New Britain is very clear example. What will our MP do to address this corruption?

Land demarcation should be done before SABL leases are issued and oil palm plantations started and there is no representation or transparency through the so-called landowner companies. No one from the areas appointed the current chairmen and directors. They are self-appointed and have been lured with money just to sign agreements with out knowing what they are doing. They compromised people's resource for money, for their own benefits, big name and power and glory. What will our MP do to address this?

This is stealing and the Pomio MP should know and stand up to protect people's rights. 

RH is still logging and operating in Pomio despite the declaration that all SABLs are cancelled and logging should stop. All over the festive season logging activities were still going on at Lau village - our MP should tell the truth and not claim as he does, the logging has stopped!

Our MP should be in Waigani ensuring that government departments do their duty and bring services to our communities. He should not be siding with RH and relying on them, it is very highly suspicious.