PNG GULF WORKERS PROTEST LOGGING SUSPENSION

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By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Aug. 20) – The
Vailala people of the province of Gulf on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea
are demanding the National Government's immediate intervention to stop the World
Bank and Chief Secretary Joshua Kalinoe from closing down their timber industry
projects.

At a meeting attended by over 200 landowners at the Ela Beach
yesterday, they signed a petition to Forest Minister Patrick Pruaitch urging him
to take decisive action and the World Bank and Kalinoe from stopping logging
operations in Vailala blocks 2 and 3.

Signed by at least 150 landowners, the petition says that any
interruption to the projects would immediately result in the loss of 450 jobs
and loss of income for 2,700 people.

"The socio-economic consequences would be disastrous for
the region," said the petition that would be handed to Pruaitch this week
after being signed by more landowners. 

The document contained the signatures of many leaders who flew
into Port Moresby after hearing of the proposed move by World Bank and Kalinoe.

They argued that a suspension notice issued to the developer,
Rimbunan Hijau, by ousted National Forest Service managing director David Nelson
was illegal and was not enforceable.

Nelson acted on directions of the World Bank and Kalinoe. On
August 1, a day before he was ousted, he ordered the immediate suspension of
logging operations in Vailala and ordered that the permit for Waoi Guavi,
another RH timber project in Western province, be suspended. This move would
effectively shut down PNG's largest sawmill in Kamusi and the veneer mill in
Panakawa.

The Kamusi and Panakawa timber mills are PNG's largest
downstream processing plants and have received a lot of support from past and
present governments.

The RH Group had recently unveiled a K30 million investment plan
for the Vailala project for a central processing plant that would also
incorporate major infrastructure developments.

Two of the leading spokesmen at yesterday petition signing were
Peter Waime, Secretary of landowner group for Central Vailala Block 3 Limited
which represents about 2,700 villagers and Augstine Heaoa, executive of Block 3
Popo Holdings Ltd which represents about 4,000 villagers.

They said that they were totally opposed to the suspension and
wanted Pruaitch to immediately intervene and stop World Bank and Kalinoe from
implementing the move that would be detrimental to their people. 

They said most people in the villages were in favor of the
project as "government services are non-existent."

The World Bank and Kalinoe suspended the project alleging that
"all outstanding social infrastructure and other tangible benefits as per
agreement between the landowner companies" have not been provided.

The petition categorically denies this and says: "the
developer has either fulfilled all infrastructure requirements as determined by
the agreement or was in the process of completing it.

Copies of their petition were addressed to Prime Minister Sir
Michael Somare, Deputy Prime Minister Dr Allan Marat, Justice Minister Mark
Maipakai, Gulf Governor Chris Haiveta and Kalinoe.

August 20, 2003

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

 

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