Greenpeace ship joins remote protest against largest land grab in PNG history

Press release - 23 October, 2011
Hundreds of landowners converge to save their stolen forests

Papua New Guinea, Sunday 23 October 2011: At the request of landowners from the Pomio district in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Greenpeace’s largest ship, the Esperanza, is protesting the export of illegally logged timber bound for China.

Five district Task Force policemen with machine guns requested to board the ship as it arrived at the remote island at 7am this morning but were denied entry by the Esperanza captain and the ship was locked down. Meanwhile onshore, over 200 local landowners have converged to protest the theft of their land and forests.

Two weeks ago, the same Task Force police were funded by the notorious Malaysia logging company, Rimbunan Hijau (RH), to fly into these Pomio villages. They abused people with fan belts and sticks and locked young men in shipping containers. (1)

Right now in PNG, people’s land is being stolen by corrupt logging companies. Under a new lease system - known as Special-purpose Agriculture and Business Leases or SABLs - over 5 million hectares of PNG’s remaining forests will be destroyed and the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of traditional communities will be lost forever.

“Our land has been stolen and our forests are being destroyed and no-one asked our permission. These SABL leases must be stopped or my people will lose our livelihoods for 99 years and our forests forever,” said Paul Palosualrea, a landowner leading today’s protests in Pomio.

The Pomio SABL was fraudulently obtained and many of the names purporting to approve the lease on behalf of landowners were deceased and some were local children - one was as young as three.

“A major scandal involving the destruction of forests and the abuse of human rights is rapidly unfolding in my country,” said Greenpeace forests campaigner in PNG, Sam Moko.

“The logging companies promise much needed roads and health services but all they deliver are dirty rivers and destroyed forests. The new PNG government must choose the rights of its people over company profits. This massive land grab has to stop.”

Last week, Greenpeace and twenty three NGOs, civil society groups and a local timber union from PNG, sent an open letter to the new Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, urging him to overturn all fraudulent and inappropriate SABLs and implement any reforms recommended by the Commission of Inquiry currently taking place.

View PNG forests and SABLs briefer

For more information and interviews, contact:

Julie Macken, Greenpeace Communications Officer in Sydney: +61 400 925 217

Jessa Latona, Greenpeace Communications Officer in PNG: +61 488 208 465 or ship Vsat phone +4723677986/ 87/ 88

Images and footage available for download at:

http://greenpeacemedia.org

Username: photos Password: green

Notes:

1) http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-10-11/png-police-reveal-crackdown-financed-by-loggers/3496032

2) In March this year Greenpeace, along with a large group of academics, social scientists, landowners and PNG based NGOs, signed the Cairns Declaration asking for an inquiry and moratorium on SABLs: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0323-hance_png_sabls.html

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