People of Paradise

Background - 28 February, 2006
Millions of people live under the canopies of the Paradise Forests. These communities enjoy a relationship with the forests that we cannot even imagine. The cultural diversity of these communities is astonishing.

Papua New Guinea - Hokowe Pamowe, headman of the Batamoa clan of the Kosuo tribe (cassowary tribe) surveys a recently constructed logging road and bridge over the Aworra River. The river is important to the local people for fishing and there is concern that already fish stocks are depleted due to the erosion and silting.

More than 1000 languages are spoken in New Guinea alone - one sixth of all the languages spoken on Earth. Illegal and destructive logging has dire consequences for these communities. It destroys their forest home and turns their subsistence lifestyle, supported by the forest for thousands of years, to poverty overnight.

"It has destroyed our river systems. We cannot fish, we cannot drink the water. And it has destroyed our livelihood. Our forest has been our one stop shop and that is not the case today" John Danaiye, Musula Village clan leader, Western Province, Papua New Guinea.

When the loggers come, forest families often suffer violence and abuse.

Specific allegations include:

  • People forced to sign agreements at gunpoint and threats of imprisonment or even death.
  • Use of armed police officers with guns drawn to emphasise the ability of the company personnel to enforce their threats.
  • Use of police 'mobile squads' to quell any industrial unrest amongst logging company employees.
  • Use of firearms by logging company managers to threaten and intimidate local people.
  • Torture, physical abuse and unlawful detention of local people by police officers 'employed' by the logging company.
  • Rape of female employees by logging company managers and police.