Activists intimidated as logging company reacts violently to peaceful approach

Feature story - 31 May, 2006
True to form, Asia's biggest logging company, Rimbunan Hijau (RH), intimidated and detained six of our activists who attempted to present them with a ‘Golden Chainsaw’ award for forest destruction.

Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Sam Moko talks to Rimbunan Hijau security guards while attempting to deliver Rimbunan Hijau with the Golden Chainsaw Award.

The activists were harassed inside RH's Port Moresby compound and hadto lock themselves into their vehicles for their own safety.  Acameraman was assaulted while attempts were made to seize his film andhis camera was broken.

RH is the largest logging company in PNG today. A 2003/2004 review ofexisting logging concessions documented numerous allegations of abuseof local landowners, including rape and physical violence, by eitherlogging company officials or police associated with the loggingcompanies. Allegations were also made by a former officer of an elitePNG police taskforce that RH paid local police officers to intimidateand beat landowners who complained about breaches to their rights.

Today, our personnel and people from the media were prevented fromleaving the compound for 45 minutes.  The cars and windows werepounded on and verbal threats made.  The situation came to an endafter police arrived and escorted Greenpeace staff and volunteers,along with senior management from RH, to the local policestation.  No charges were laid.  

We wanted to peacefully present the company with the award - to mark 30years of forest destruction - and leave. RH's over-reaction reflectsits belief that it is above the law.

The incident occurred as delegates from around the world arrived inPort Moresby for the African, Caribbean and Pacific - European Union(ACP-EU) ministerial meeting to discuss trade and development. We willbe asking EU delegates to urgently implement legislation to stopillegal timber from companies like RH from entering the Europeanmarket.

RH controls logging concessions in many parts of the developing world.It operates with impunity in PNG, directly controlling 40 per cent ofall log exports. It was recently granted a new 791,000 hectareconcession in Kamula Dosa by the PNG government. This concession islocated in one of the largest pristine forest areas left in the country.

The Greenpeace Golden Chainsaw award is reserved for the worst forestdestroyers in the world.  It has been awarded twice before, tocompanies in Brazil and Indonesia.

In conjunction with the award, we released a " Forest Crime File"highlighting RH's continued involvement in large scale forestdestruction and questioning the legality of its operations.

The report states that unless brought under control, timber giants suchas RH will continue to "plunder the world's ancient forests, destroyingcultural diversity, biodiversity, stealing from some of the world'spoorest and most vulnerable people and degrading the environment onwhich we ultimately depend".

The report also points to the close ties RH enjoys with the PNG government.  Examples include:

  • An ex-Deputy Prime Minister was criticised by the PNG Ombudsmanfor pressuring the National Forest board to favour RH with an illegaltimber permit extension.
  • In 2004, Minister for Internal Security, Mark Maipakai was theshareholder and director of a company, Gopera Investments Ltd, holdinga timber permit sub-contracted to RH.
  • A National Intelligence Organisation report alleged that aprovincial Governor and two Members of Parliament were on RH'spayroll.