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PNG Customary landowner: SABL exploits human rights

The Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL) continues to exploit the human rights of the people of west Pomio in East New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea.

Customary landowner Anna Sipona from Malmal Village in west Pomio said the SABL is a strange concept to the people of Pomio that promotes human rights abuse.

Representing the silent majority in the affected villages in west Pomio, Sipona said the SABL issue is not just about land and logging but about the human rights of women and children.

“Women and children are the biggest losers in this land grab and it is just another form of abuse.

“Our gardens have been taken from us, our freedom has been taken, we are dependent on the company and we are slaves in our own communities,” Sipona said.

Sipona added that west Pomio is where a big destruction has already happened since the introduction of SABL.

“The foreigners entered our villages without any respect and explanation and they forcefully came in and took our land from us,” she said.

The land in Malmal is under a 99 years lease and they’ve been told by the logging developers that it is legal State land.

In June 2013, the SABL Commission of Inquiry revealed how government officers have facilitated the theft of over 50,000 square kilometres of land from customary landholders.

So far, promises by the Prime Minister to cancel the leases, stop illegal logging and return the land to its rightful owners, as the Commission recommended, have not been fulfilled.

Meanwhile, about 10,000 post cards signed by concerned customary landowners across the country were delivered today to the Lands Department Office calling for action on the Special Agriculture Business Lease land grab.

The signed post cards petitioning the Government were presented by representatives from SABL affected areas organised by community advocacy group ACT NOW.

Paul Pavol from Mu village in Pomio, East New Britain Province led the group to deliver their grievances calling on the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and the Government to cancel the leases and stop SABL.

Campaign coordinator Eddie Tanago says the Government needs to stop protecting the foreign companies and overseas loggers who have stolen the land.

Tanago said not one lease has been revoked by the government and in the meantime logs worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been shipped overseas from illegal logging operations.  

Pavol explained that they’ve been mistreated on their own land with permanent damage done to the environment.

He said his people, similar to others throughout the country, have been fighting alone for years to get back their land and they’re still struggling through the courts to try and defend their birth rights.

On behalf of the people in the SABL affected areas, Pavol called on the Government to stop making empty promises and look into their grievances to cancel all leases and stop SABL

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