True spirit of the Fourth Goal in Papua New Guinea's Constitution destroyed


The current resource exploitation trend, coupled with changes in natural resources and environmental laws of Papua New Guinea clearly undermines the true spirit of the Fourth Goal of the National Constitution. In effect, it has compromised this and PNG’s future generations.

Vision 2050 uses the analogy of a driver knowing where to go before getting into a vehicle, assuming the road map PNG. Theoretically, this might be so, but practicality it may not be easy, if not impossible.

Normally, before a driver gets into a car he/she knowing there is road connecting the destiny.

PNG is geographically a difficult country with rugged terrains, high mountains, gullies, large rivers and wet conditions. Therefore, road to the destiny of this Vision can be described the same.

Given the PNG road conditions, type of vehicle and the necessary accessories like spare tyres, additional fuels, wheel-jack and other accessories are important.

Will ever the driver of this vehicle reach its destiny is the question to be answered in 2050?

Will the PNG LNG Project build an all-weather type road with a vehicle fitted with all the necessary accessories take this nation to its destiny in 2050?

The generation of 2050 will reflect on the journey and provide the answer to this question.

The Fourth Goal of PNG’s Constitution declares that 'Our natural resources and environment to be conserved and used for the collective benefit of us all and are replenished for the benefit of future generations'.

PNG's social-economic development strength is at present based on natural resources.

How these resources are managed jointly with their surrounding environments on sustainable basis is the key to meeting future generations’ inspirations and needs.

It also requires fair and equitable distribution of wealth derived from these resources and reinvesting the returns into management these resources and environments.

In early 2004, PM Sir Michael Somare challenged the Australian Government and the World Bank by announcing that he had 10 impacts forestry projects, which if all came into operation, would generate more than K300 million annually.

Sir Michael said then that he would no longer need the Australian aid money.

Consequently, the World Bank forest conservation programme was kicked out of PNG.

Recently, on Kundu 2 talkback show, Kevin Condrad confirmed that he was behind that advice which saw the withdrawal of the World Bank forest conservation programme, and the beginning of negotiation for forest carbon.

Main reason behind this decision was the comparative monetary values.

The forest carbon is now seen as a second major source of development fund to the PNG LNG Project revenue generation for PNG.

Sir Michael championed the formation of Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) and has been heavily engaged in the international negotiations for the forest carbon projects.

Quick assessment on technical inputs by individual member countries of CfRN) showed that PNG contributed very little in this regard, though PNG is boasting of the chairmanship of the group.

What happened to the 10 impact forestry projects since then?

Are these 10 impact forestry project areas still intact to fully realise the forgone value of forest conservation with forest carbon projects?

The 2009 Copenhagen meeting on Climate Change and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) failed to come up with any agreed way forward.

It was a total failure to PNG costing the nation’s taxpayers K8 million to send the delegation across.

PNG’s position paper for the Copenhagen meeting was prepared by two sets of international consultant teams at very-extravagant fees.

The first group involved individual consultants from Australia claiming to be the experts on PNG, compiling different sector reports on the drivers of deforestation.

Following the compilation of these individual reports, another consultant firm put together the reports for PNG’s positional paper for Copenhagen meeting.

This consultant firm is also responsible for PNG’s climate-compatible development policy framework document and the ultimate changes to the Office of Climate Change and the office name.

This firm is now the main contender to undertake PNG REDD demonstration projects in PNG.

Concurrently, the Office of Climate Change has turned into a battle ground for political cronies to muscle their ways into office.

Initial establishment cost of the office including fleet of vehicles was phenomenal and controversial.

In 2009 there were four regional conferences conducted throughout PNG.

A report is yet to be compiled together with the accounts of funds spent on the conferences.

After the conferences a major controversy surfaced involving the EO of OCCES of his involvement in voluntary forest carbon markets deals which led to his suspension and thereafter his fate was not known up to the abolition of the office in June 2010.

In November 2009, another NEC decision abolished OCCES and was replaced with Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD).

The frequent NEC decisions affecting Office of Climate Changes to facilitate individual cronies’ interests and agendas are cause for concern.

The recent changes in to the forestry and environment acts raises more concern among resource owners.

Why is the Government manipulating tactics and intimidated its own citizens to control their birthright and God-given resources?

Exploitation of natural resources using such tactics sends wrong messages to the international communities.

Over 97% of land in PNG is traditionally-owned.

The effective participation of the resource owners in any meaningful dialogue and decision is now in jeopardy and thus democratic principles adopted by PNG is now being tested.

Collapse of effective natural resource laws through such changes to give full government control in PNG is a dangerous trend heading towards dictatorial rule.

The changes in the Forestry Act diminished the forest resource owners’ freedom of choice of developer for their forest resources.

The changes gave ultimate power to the PNG Forestry Board to make final decision on the developer.

Were the changes made to merely to cover up for the Forestry board’s blunders in 1999 for allocating the Kamula Doso forest management area (FMA) in the Western Province to Wawoi Guavi?

The decision was against the provincial forest management committee (PFMC) choice in which resource owners were party to the decision.

Also, the Forestry board allocated the Middle Ramu FMA to another company against the Madang PFMC decision and recommendations.

In both cases, Forestry Board was found to have violation of Section 69 of the act.

Changes to the act are simply to make the board and ultimately the minister have more control over the forest resource allocation in PNG, thus going back to the dark days of the Barnett Inquiry into the forestry sector in PNG in 1987.

Similarly, the changes to the Environment Act 2000 were simply to cover up for the incompetence of the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) in dealing with such environmental issues and also to protect government’s dealing with Ramu Nickel.

Ramu Nickel deal is similar to the Bougainville one where the deal was signed overseas without much input from the relevant stakeholders including the landowners.

Though the proposed deep sea tailing placement (DSTP) may have met all the necessary requirements, the system has been worldwide considered to be of high risk because a small leakage in the ocean will cause more damage than if the same leakage was occurred on land.

There were already such instances with Misima Mine and Lihir Gold Mine.

Why repeating the same mistake?

Is it because DSTP is the cheapest means and that PNG is the cheapest place to practice environmental protection and management?

Adding new laws (Sub-sections 69, A & B) to outlaw any third party involvement in land and resources issues in PNG is a crime of humanity.

About 97% of land and resources are owned by the people and 80% of these people live on these land and resources in the most-remote parts of PNG.

These people are the most vulnerable ones to the environmental risks, which also give rise to poverty and deprivation of human rights to healthy living.

The changes to the Environment Act 2000 ultimately will give more powers to the secretary of DEC both as the director of Environment and the chairman of environment council (Sections 15-17).

The secretary has the ultimate power to make the final decision on the issue of environmental harm and landowners will only dispute his decision through court without any third party involvement.

This is an act of violation against human rights.

80% of the population does not have access to legal means and to subject them to such requirements is a crime against humanity.

NGOs are the organisations that can quickly come to landowners’ aid when it comes to immediate services.

In effect, the changes make it difficult for any NGO to assist the disadvantaged landowners and communities PNG-wide to pursue their concerns with land and environment.

Is this fair and fits the principle of democracy?

And in whose interest are these changes of the Act trying to protect?

Legislators ought to bear know that they will be the most-frustrated ones when they find themselves back home and want to seek re-election in 2010.

At the dawn of this new millennium the world leaders came to realisation that human miseries were brought about as a result of the so-called social-economic development.

The world leaders then came up eight millennium development goals (MDGs) with set targets, and recommended that MDG 7 which deals with ensuring environmental sustainabilityis the key to achieving the other development goals.

Apparently, PNG through the current Government had little regard on the environmental issues in this country.

The National Planning & Monitoring Department's performance framework report on the MTDS in 2007 clearly showed that environment sector has the rating of zero (0) out of 5 for its trend of development and 1 out of 5 for its current performance.

Generally, the overall ratings of each sector on the MTDS were very poor and we now are moving into the new MTDS under the new national strategic plan for PNG’s Vision 2050.

PNG to date has failed miserably in meeting many important regional and international multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), including the millennium development goals.

The responsible sectors have lost touch of their mandates to ensure sustainable development principles in the country.

DEC is merely there to facilitate the process of environment permit issuance.

The important sectors are no longer headed by technically-qualified citizens, but rather by political cronies to protect and pursue certain political interest.

The power of money is more frightening than the barrel of gun - even the gun barrel works through the power of money.

The revelations by prisoner William Kapris should not be taken lightly and that the development of natural resources in PNG will is the key factor to the downfall of this resource-rich nation.

This calls for urgent action from lawmakers.

In early 2008, Environment Minister Benny Allen, during the swearing-in of the environment council members challenged the members of the council with an allegation that a multi-million company tried to bribe him to approve their environment permit application.

Has the Minister forgotten that challenge or can the Minister reveal the name of the company?

Manipulation of resource and environmental laws in the country to suit minority groups and foreign multinational in PNG is a very bad and dangerous which can cause the collapse of this nation.

Do we have to wait until the whole system collapses on us?