Papua New Guinea, Monday 24 October 2011: Early this morning, in a remote district of Papua New Guinea, Greenpeace activists temporarily stopped the loading of rainforest logs stolen from customary landowners. From two inflatable boats, the activists painted ‘stop the land grab’ on a ship loaded with 4000m3 of logs bound for China.
Greenpeace is in Pomio at the request of landowners who are at the frontline of a massive land grab. 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.
Yesterday, over 200 local landowners gathered from ten remote villages to protest the theft of their land and forests in what has been described as the largest land grab in PNG history. The Pomio SABL was fraudulently obtained and many of the names purporting to approve the lease on behalf of landowners were local children - one was as young as three. Other names belonged to deceased villagers or to people who did not exist at all.
“These SABLs are daylight robbery. The people in Pomio did not know their land had been signed away for 99 years. They have lost everything - their food security, their livelihoods and their future is lost without their land and forests.
“Logging companies like Rimbunan Hijau (RH) promise development and services and my people believe them. But when the logging trucks leave, all that is left is destruction, social conflict and communities with no futures,” said Sep Galeva, Western Province clan leader and landowner activist. (1)
Two weeks ago, police funded by the notorious Malaysia logging company, Rimbunan Hijau (RH), were flown into the Pomio villages to intimidate those opposed to the logging with fan belts and sticks. (2)
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:
Username: photos Password: green
(1) The communities of Western Province are also affected by the SABL system. Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/little-common-ground-as-land-grab-splits-a-people-20111014-1lp09.html
(3) 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.