Moves by the government to review the Lands Act and introduce revised legislation* are premature and focus attention away from the real problem - corruption, says community activist group, ACT NOW!
Changes to the law ignore the corruption which is at the root of most of the current problems with land administration and any changes will do nothing to stop the ongoing abuses.
The Minister for Lands has publicly acknowledged the high level of corruption and inefficiency within the Lands Department and has described the system of land administration in PNG as "corrupt and dysfunctional".* *
Unlawful land transactions and land grabbing in PNG are widespread and extend across both rural forest areas and our urban areas. The SABL Commission of Inquiry highlighted how the Department of Lands has unlawfully granted leases to more than 5 million hectares of forest and there are numerous examples of corrupt land deals in our cities.
It is senseless to review and change the law when everyone accepts the Departments responsible for administering the laws are incapable of doing their job.
The first task for the Minister of Lands must be complete reform of the Department of Lands and Physical Planning. This needs to start with the removal of all those implicated in different land scandals and Inquiry reports, including the current Acting Secretary. The reforms must also include, new staff, new management systems and much greater transparency and accountability.
At the same time the government has to implement the laws Parliament has passed allowing for the creation of an Independent Commission Against Corruption. The government must ensure the ICAC functions as a well-resourced and independent body free from any political interference.
Only once these steps have been taken should we look at reviewing our existing Land Laws. And any review needs to be done through a process of wide and open consultation with people across the whole of PNG.* See http://www.actnowpng.org/blog/minister-proposes-new-land-law ** Minister for Lands, Hon. Benny Allen, address at NRI, 29 October 2012