Three years but still no action to cancel unlawful SABL leases

For three years Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has failed to cancel unlawful SABL leases affecting over 5 million hectares of land and has failed to deliver on his promises to return the land to its customary owners.

“Tomorrow, June 24, will mark the three-year anniversary of the Commission of Inquiry reports that exposed the whole scam and confirmed the leases are unlawful”, says Eddie Tanago, Campaign Coordinator for ACT NOW! 

“Since June 2013 all we have heard from the Prime Minister is empty promises and he has done nothing to protect the people from unscrupulous foreign companies, bureaucrats, politicians and a few greedy locals”.

As well as failing to cancel the leases, ACT NOW! says the government has allowed logging to continue in many of the lease areas and has actually been renewing the logging permits.

“Since the SABLs were issued Papua New Guinea has become the largest exporter of tropical logs in the world. All the logging in SABL areas just compounds the injustice for local people and increases the damage done to their land”, says Eddie Tanago. 

ACT NOW! says the SABL land grab, which affects more than 5 million hectares, or 12% of Papua New Guinea’s total land mass, is a human rights as well as an environmental and economic issue.

“We know that at least five different United Nations agencies have written to the PNG government raising the serious breaches of the human rights of customary landowners, but in every case the government has simply ignored the concerns of the international community”.

ACT NOW! says the land grab and the government inaction makes a complete farce of the government’s stated position on climate change and deforestation and exposes the government’s failure to deal with corruption.

“These leases were issued as a result of corruption, mismanagement and political interference, according to the Commission of Inquiry. If the government can’t cancel the leases then it shows the government is incapable of standing up and dealing with corruption”, says Eddie Tanago.

ACT NOW! says there is now just 12 months until the next election and people need to look at the inaction over the SABL land grab when deciding how to vote in 2017.

ACT NOW! says the affected landowners should also carefully consider suing the government for compensation as they could be entitled to billions of Kina in damages for the loss of their land.

“The SABL land grab could end up bankrupting the government if affected landowners sue for the loss of their land and all the environmental damage”, says Eddie Tanago.