New report highlights the forgotten plight of SABL affected communities

As the Prime Minister continues to delay the implementation of promises to cancel the unlawful SABL leases, a new international report has highlighted the plight of SABL affected communities across Papua New Guinea.

Taking on the Logging Pirates, Land Defenders in Papua New Guinea Speak Out! elevates the voices of communities who are opposing the theft of their land and are suffering the impacts of illegal logging and palm oil plantations. 

The corrupt practices of government officials and foreign companies have led to the theft of over 50,000 square kilometres of land, but all too often it is the voices of the poor communities in remote parts of the country that are forgotten by our politicians and even the media.

ACT NOW! says the new report, published by the Oakland Institute, is a bold attempt to redress that balance, highlighting the suffering caused to ordinary women, children and whole communities by the failure of the government to cancel the unlawful leases or control the logging and palm oil industries. People, like Ana Sipona, from Pomio who has seen her land stolen:

“The situation has gone from bad to worse. The land has been taken away from us. The land—it’s our life. For generations we have lived on this land and our ancestors survived on the land. Their livelihoods were based on the land and the forest. Now, it’s like the rug has been pulled from under our feet. There are lots of problems that we face because of the alienation of the land from the people. Things have changed drastically for the worse.” 

ACT NOW! says the government should be ashamed that it has fallen to a United States based think tank to highlight the suffering of ordinary people in Papua New Guinea while the government, led by Peter O’Neill, has even failed to even accept a petition from rural communities calling for help.

“The government is too focused on serving the needs and wants of hungry foreign corporations and with lining their own pockets with public funds to care about ordinary people” says Eddie Tanago.

“The SABL land grab is just the latest example of a misguided focus on a failed economic model. The truth is logging and oil palm does not benefit local people and they are better off if they retain control of their land and use it themselves”.

This is graphically illustrated in the report through the stories of Rose Avusi and Paul Pavol. Rose has seen the destruction and misery caused by oil palm in West New Britain and is now removing the crop from her land. Instead she is farming cacao and breeding pigs, and as a result her income has risen dramatically from K300 a fortnight from oil palm fruit sales to K1,500. Things are not so good for Paul and his community. They had a successful small-scale saw milling business that was selling timber overseas and locally but that business has been destroyed as the forests have been cleared for oil palm; their successful local enterprise, self-reliance and cash incomes lost as they have been made spectators on their own land. 

“We were treated like animals and second-class citizens on our own land”, says Paul. 

ACT NOW! says the report highlights Papua New Guinea needs a new set of leaders focused on a model of development that promotes our own National interests, who are committed to establish an Independent Commission Against Corruption to effectively tackle land grabbing and other corruption and who will fight to protect customary land from any form of alienation.

For more information and interviews contact:

Eddie Tanago     + (675) 7119 3498