Abal announces commencement of Commission of Inquiry into SABL

Acting Prime Minister Hon. Sam Abal has announced the commencement of the Commission of Inquiry into the Special Purpose Agricultural & Business Leases (SPABL).

"I am very happy to inform the people of this country that the Commission of Inquiry into the Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Lease is ready to commence public hearing commencing today (28/07/11). This follows the signing of the Instruments last week and the gazettal of the same. The Commissioners whom I appointed last week have taken up office at the Inquiry venue and advise that all is set for commencing hearing". 

The Commission of Inquiry into SPABL consists of the following:

  • Mr John Numapo as chairman and Chief Commissioner
  • Mr Alois Jerewai as Commissioner and member
  • Mr Nicholas Mirou as Commissioner and member

The other persons appointed to assist the Commission of Inquiry includ the following:

  • Mr Davis Stevens as Counsel Assisting
  • Mr  Paul Tusais as Senior Lawyer Assisting
  • Dr Garry Sali as Technical Advisor
  • Mr Mark Pupaka as Technical Advisor
  • Ms Mayampo Ipu Peipul as Advisor
  • Mr Mathew Yuangu as Secretary to the Commission
"This is a formidable team and I want to urge those who have information, or are affected one way of the other by the SPABL to come forward and register their interest to make submissions on the operations of SPABL".

"The Commission of Inquiry will at an appropriate time, put out public notices inviting submissions from the public so I urge those who have information to come forward. I also appeal to those Government agencies directly dealing with SPABL matters to cooperate with the Inquiry so that we can correct the irregularity for the good of our people and the country".

"A few months ago, I made public my intention to set up a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the granting of the Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases to encourage economic development but it has been abused and it is having negative impact on the people and the environment, especially using SABLs to secure Forest Clearance Approval for timber harvesting of large virgin forest areas".

"The Commission is given three (3) months to complete this task and present their Report to me for presentation to Parliament as required under theCommission of Inquiry Act.  I have given directions for the Commission to commence the inquiry on the 12 of July and complete the inquiry at the end of September 2011".

The SPABL Commission of Inquiry will investigate and make recommendations on reforms in this important area and allow the government to mitigate between climate change issues, development needs and landowner issues".

"Often lease holders and their business cohorts do not abide by the terms of the lease agreement.  In some cases, they deviate from it and do not comply with terms of the agreement under which the SPABL has been approved and granted".

"A full scale Commission of Inquiry is warranted because of rampant abuse of the laws, regulations and the procedures concerning the approval and the grants of Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Development Leases".

"However, I should at the outset inform the people of Papua New Guinea, especially those provinces that rely on the Forestry Industry as investment for economic development that this inquiry will not affect their livelihood.  Rather it should help them improve their gains and add positively to overall development of the country".

"The Terms of Reference of the Inquiry have been carefully determined to guide the Commissioners in the investigations. The objective of the inquiry is, not to interfere with the operation of genuine projects but, to address those areas that abuses have been rampant resulting in marginalizing of our people.  It would be unacceptable for a responsible government to perpetrate land alienation and in that process marginalize its own people. What has come to surface is that, under SPABL policy over 5.2 million hectares of customary land have been alienated between 2003 and this year and the majority of this happened in the last three years. It is estimated that this is almost 10% of customary land which have been alienated under SPABL".

"It is important that we correct the situation and allow people to grow the economy in a sustainable way.  In fact, I am aware of good stories on SPABLs and I should mention the operation in East New Britain where the Provincial Government operated SPABLs are the provinces impact projects operated under Public, Private Partnership concept. This must be encouraged and multiplied across the country.  This inquiry must be seen as the best way to ensure this happens".

"The Terms of Reference of the Commission of Inquiry which I have approved is very clear on this.  It does not discriminate SPABL holders and the logging companies.  Rather, it has been designed to help the government improve operations in this important sector and see greater benefit in terms of agriculture sector expansion and development, while we maintain some control over the rate of forest degradation in Papua New Guinea".

"The newly created Commission of Inquiry & Investigation under the Department of Prime Minister and NEC will provide all the necessary administrative and secretariat support to the SPABLs Commission of Inquiry while the Department of Justice will be called up to provide  legal expertise during the course of this inquiry.  This is an important government initiative and I want total support from the bureaucrats".

"The National Government is determined to see positive changes for a better future for our people.  I am optimistic about the outcome of this inquiry and because of the confidence in the people I have been appointed on the Commission. This inquiry will result in some positive changes and bring about tangible development in the agriculture sector and have impact on reducing the negative effects of climate change".

"It is important for the government to listen to the cries of the people and correct the anomalies that affect them.  This is what government is all about. It is about having positive impact on the peoples’ life.  This decision is demonstrative of the NA-led government’s commitment and policy priority given towards improving service delivery".

"We are a vibrant democracy and the Commission of Inquiry is one way to demonstrate people’s power bestowed on the Prime Minister to invoke as and when absolutely necessary. It should be made known to the people that Commission of Inquiries are not cheap.  That is why it takes careful consideration before deciding on COIs. But they have to be carried out as part of the National Government intervention to address pressing issues. The government must act decisively when there are issues affecting the people".