By Jeremy Hance
Post Courier editorial
Is the present Government involved in a conspiracy to take over all customary land in Papua New Guinea?
We ask this question because we are alarmed at the manner and rate at which the Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) are granted to date. According to our records, 5,114,911.85 hectares of customary land have been leased, much of the leases granted in the last two years.
The signature of the Secretary for Lands, Pepi Kimas, appears on the gazettal notices for leases taking away customary landowner rights to over 3.4 million hectares of land.
This appears to contradict Kimas's claims, Post Courier 5 April, that his Department is not responsible for the huge loss of land through 99-year Special Agricuture Business Leases over the last 5 years.
By Colin Filer
This is the introduction to a Paper to be presented by Colin Filer at an international conference in the UK starting on April 6. The full paper can be downloaded below
There has been a massive increase in the alienation and the conversion of customary land in recent years through the issuing of special agriculture and business leases (SABLs).
The allocation of these leases, some covering hundreds of thousands of hectares, seems to be occurring outside all proper legal channels and without the informed consent of affected landowners. The leases are being handed out by the Department of Lands without compliance with relevant laws, which indicates either negligence or fraud on the part of lands officers and the government.
The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has written a strongly worded letter (copy below) to the Papua New Guinea government demanding answers about the granting of agriculture leases over large areas of customary land.
The letter, signed by the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also raises concerns about the impacts of controversial amendments to the Environment Act last year, that took away citizens rights to challenge approvals for large-scale resource projects and seek compensation for any damage.