GROUPS CALL FOR RESIGNATION OF PNG FOREST MINISTER

admin's picture

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Mar. 4) – A coalition of conservation groups in Papua New Guinea yesterday called on Forestry Minister Patrick Pruaitch to resign, charging he has allowed corrupt practices by foreign logging firms.

At a forum in Port Moresby, coalition speakers said the PNG government had for too long allowed unsustainable and illegal logging in PNG to the great disadvantage of local landowners and PNG workers who were exploited in logging camps.

Their call for the minister to resign follows a similar call in Parliament last week from Huon Gulf Member of Parliament Sasa Zibe. Zibe demanded Mr Pruaitch expel Malaysian timber giant Rimbunan Hijau or resign for protecting its interests over those of local people.

Mr Zibe, releasing details of a report on logging camps by a senior officer of the Department of Labour and Employment, said Papua New Guineans were treated like slaves and lived in appalling conditions in Rimbunan Hijau camps.

Mr Pruaitch said that many unfair criticisms were levelled against logging companies; he noted that logging is PNG's third largest revenue earner and companies built roads and contributed to health and education services.

At yesterday’s forum former chief justice Sir Arnold also decried the absence of decisive leadership which he said was bringing the country down.

Sir Arnold wondered aloud why Mr Pruaitch had not cracked the whip.

"This is a serious issue. If the gentleman who raised it is serious (Huon MP Sasa Zibe), he should persist. I urge this dialogue to stay with the issue. The Minister (for Labour and Employment) needs to crack the whip; why isn’t this report tabled in Parliament?" Sir Arnold asked.

The Government should protect the interest of its people; the National Goals and Directive Principles were very clear on the rights of the people, he said.

"There are enough laws in place. Agreements drawn up for businesses of this sort should be checked by the Government to ensure that they are complied with in the interest of the people; there should be no disputes if we have done our job well," Sir Arnold said.

The former chief justice said: "Where does the buck stop? Practise what you preach when you talk about transparency, accountability and good governance; that is what leadership is all about. The level of leadership needs to go up half a dozen rungs, we are playing cocktails, games."

He said it was time the leadership of the nation accepted real responsibility for allowing ineffective systems to be permeated.

"It takes a level of critical thinking; I don’t believe we are incapable — we have it, but real diligence is needed to make decisive and tough decisions — we don’t need outside assistance to tell us to make decisions in a transparent and honest way.

"Fundamentally leaders are passing the buck, I think that is where we have gone wrong."

Two villagers from the logging area attended. Max Mera from Ihu made new allegations of sexual harassment of local women by employees of the logging company. " I am sorry for myself and my people," he said.

Another villager, Ivan Keo from Lepokela village said there were two timber operations in the Vailala-Purari delta area — permit 240 and 260. "We want your technical support to bring all our concerns out into the open," he said.

March 7, 2005

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet

Add new comment