PM promises to stop land grabs


Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, says he will do everything possible to protect his people and his country from irregular land dealings.

The comments come in response to the scandal surrounding the issuing Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs).

“We have made some fundamental mistakes over the past few years,” O'Neill told ABC Radio Australia.

“One of them is the Special Agricultural and Business Leases that has been given out by government over the past few years.”

Since 2004, 11 per cent of PNG's land mass has been leased out without the permission of landowners, and usually for a period of 99 years.

“It is a huge concern where many of our own people have been displaced without giving much thought,” he said.

Over the weekend, ABC's Background Briefing program exposed an Australian-led logging company that has been involved in moving more than 2 million hectares of land out of customary ownership in Western Province.

Representatives for the landowners told the ABC they had approved leases for a road corridor, not for more than 2 million hectares of land.

A Special Agricultural and Business Lease Inquiry is now underway, and O'Neill said he will consider a review of the situation once he has received the inquiry's recommendations.

“We will make further amendments to try and make sure that there is a level playing field where developments taking place in rural settings and especially on traditional land must have the fullest respect and participation of the landowners,” he said.