LIVE ACTION! Stolen forests protest in PNG

Feature Story - 20 October, 2011
The Esperanza and local landowners take action against forest crime in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Greenpeace ship the Esperanza has joined local landownders in the remote Pomio province to confront a logging scandal and protect PNG's vital forests.

This morning, the Espy crew painted "stop the land grab" on the side of a ship loading stolen timber bound for China. The activity was met with hostility from the logging company but welcomed by local communities who want to see an end to a new lease system called 'Special-purpose Agriculture and Business leases' or SABLs.

While over 60% of PNG’s diverse rainforests have already been destroyed, the situation is becoming even more critical. The introduction of SABLs will destroy over 5 million hectares of PNG’s remaining forests and, along with it, the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of traditional communities.

How do SABLs work?

Most of the land in PNG is held under customary ownership by communities. The government leases the land from these communities and then lends it to corporate entities, often foreign-owned logging and agriculture corporations. Most SABLs run for 99 years and alienate customary owners who can only remain on their land at the discretion of the leaseholder.

“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.

A web of scandal

Two weeks ago, the notorious Malaysia logging company, Rimbunan Hijau, paid police to fly into Pomio villages and silence the protesters. They abused people with fan belts and sticks and locked young men in shipping containers. READ MORE

Like many leases, the Pomio SABL was fraudulently obtained and many of the names said to have approved the lease were of local children - one was as young as three.

Greenpeace is working with a coalition of landowners, NGOs, civil society groups and a local timber union in PNG. Together we’re calling for an end to all destructive and fraudulent SABLs and the protection of PNG’s forests and landowners’ rights. The action today will place further pressure on the new PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neil, to end this devastating land grab.

“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.”

Sign ACT NOW’s petition calling for an end to the land grab in PNG

(ACT NOW is a Greenpeace NGO partner in PNG)

Follow the live action here