Police attack villagers protesting land grab

Reports from Rovang village in the Pomio area of East New Britain say that young men protesting against logging have been beaten by police with fan belts and tree branches, according to the PNG Exposed blog.

It is alleged that an aircraft from Tropic Air, operated by notorious Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau, flew the police into Palmalmal from Kokopo. Kokopo police said they were not aware of this.

The logging is taking place under one of the controversial Special Purpose Business and Agriculture Leases (SABLs), which are now the subject of a Commission of Inquiry.

Police are said to have moved systematically village by village threatening land owners who oppose the project.

On Thursday police raided Tontongpal a day after the Commission of Inquiry raised issues regarding the SABL. It was reported that company representatives present at the hearing were not happy about the issues raised at the Commission.

It was reported that the police and company representatives planned to travel on to Mu and Kaiton villages “looking for” the two plaintiffs in a legal case against the company.

Rimbunan Hijau has been operating logging projects in East New Britain for over 15 years.