On 26 September ACT NOW! led a delegation to meet with the Managing Director of the PNG Forest Authority and his senior managers to explain to them why the Forest Clearance Authorities issued by the Authority are null and void and should be cancelled.
The Forest Clearance Authorities have been issued to allow clear felling of forests in areas leased from customary landowners under Special Agriculture and Business Leases.
An FCA for large scale forest clearance can only be issued following the requirements in the Forestry Act. Section 90A states there must be a genuine underlying lease or other land tenure before an FCA can be issued.
There is overwhelming evidence from a Commission of Inquiry and a number of court cases that the SABL leases are invalid for a failure to follow proper process AND a failure to obtain genuine landowner consent.
The evidence has been accepted and endorsed by both the Prime Minister and National Executive Council. Meanwhile the Minister for Lands has branded his own Department, responsible for the leases, as corrupt and dysfunctional.
If the leases are invalid then the PNG FA acted unlawfully and in breach of the Forestry Act in issuing the FCAs and should now act to remedy its mistake by canceling the FCAs.
The PNG FA is under a duty to act and remedy their mistake regardless of any action by the Department of Lands to cancel the leases.
But the PNG FA is currently refusing to take any action, saying they are waiting for the Department of Lands to cancel the leases. This is despite the fact the leases and the logging form no part of the National Forest Plan, which under the Forestry Act, is meant to guide all forest activity in PNG.
This is a complete abdication by the Forest Authority of their statutory responsibilities. The fact the leases have not been cancelled does not somehow mean they are valid or legitimize the failure of the PNG FA to cancel the FCAs.
The full submission presented by ACT NOW!, Transparency International (PNG) and Partners With Melanesians can be downloaded below together with the PowerPoint presentation made in meeting.