Monday, 1 August 2016

Ministerial bribery attempt by foreigner highlights forestry corruptions.

A PNG Government Minister has confirmed he was attempted bribery by a foreigner of Asian origin. The National Forestry Minister Douglas Tomuresia (pictured below) said a Malaysian national identified as Peter Ling Koh Woo tried to bribe him with a bag full of money but he reported the matter to the authorities including the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato that led to his deportation.
Forestry Minister Douglas Tomuresia.
  According to a Post Courier report, Mr Ling was recently deported by Immigration faced other criminal charges including misappropriation, false pretense and for causing disaffection within the PNG Royal Constabulary.
 He was detained at the Bomana Jail and deported on a PNG Emergency Travel Document while his Passport was detained at the Waigani Committal Court registry as part of his bail condition but was released to his lawyers as ordered by the Courts on July 20, 2016.

 Mr Tomuresia said a lot of people especially foreigner with interest in the industry have tried to entice him by he has lived and performed his Ministerial duties based on his ethical values and conscience while the main factor his being his wives plea to live a honest life.
 “This is the kind of stance I’m taking at Forest and I wish to leave a legacy as one corruption free office during my term,” he said.
 Mr Tomuresia said he is cleaning up the mess in the Office and one such example is the deportation of one foreign national who tried to bribe him with bag full of money.

 Around the world tropical forest are being cleared at an appalling rate.  In Papua New Guinea, sections of the 1996 Land Act facilitated much forest clearance (adding to the previously mostly illegal logging) supposedly to help customary landowners convert their forested land into agriculture, in partnership with investors.  But logging companies mainly from Malaysia and Australia saw it as a potential bonanza.

According to a 2012 Greenpeace Report, between 2003 and 2011 over 5 million hectares of land, mainly along the Papuan coast and the islands of New Britain and New Ireland, was leased under Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs).

 This equates to over 11% of the country’s land area and over 16% of its accessible forests.  Exports of logs grew by 20% in 2011 alone, mostly from within these SABLs and mostly heading to China.  Up to 50% of the cleared land was to be planted to oil palm under the 55- and 99-year leases of the SABLs. 
Because of growing international concern over the improper processes in leasing of customary lands, the PNG government in early 2011 issued a moratorium on issuance of SABLs and ordered a Commission of Inquiry.  This Inquiry made recommendations but left existing SABLs in place.

The improper leasing of customary land -- referred to by many in PNG as 'land grabs' -- is still playing out.  One example is the 200,000 hectares of Musa Pongani land in eastern Papua.  This area was gazetted as Special Agriculture Land in 2010, so opening it to initiation of an SABL.

While the legal SABL process required full and informed consent by all customary landowners, this was not done in this area.  Two customary landowner-incorporated bodies and their Asian development partners are now wrangling for control of the title to the whole area in the courts. 

A third group called the Iris Cooperation has surveyed 100,000 hectares of land within the overall area and is reported to have mortgaged it on the Malaysian Stock Exchange for US$300 million.
The majority of the customary owners in PNG are illiterate or nearly so and have no understanding of the future impacts of an impending multi-million dollar 'development'.  Many can be pressured into signing papers in light of glib promises of good roads, education, health services, and cash in hand.  
In short, the prognosis for these lands and their customary owners is bleak.  The world needs to pay close attention to the dodgy dealings going on in PNG.

According to a 2014 report from Chatham House in the UK, which monitors illegal logging among other things, the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into the SPABLS and associated logging was that over 90% of the SPABLs were 'illegal', and the process was 'entirely corrupt'.

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