PNG COURT PUTS BRAKES ON LOGGING COMPANY

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 20) - The Papua New Guinea Supreme Court has ordered Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau not to start logging the Kamula Doso concession area in the Western Province pending further court hearings.

The country’s high court handed down the order on Friday after a successful application by lawyers representing appellants Eco-Forestry Forum Incorporated, local landowner groups and the Ombudsman Commission.

[PIR editor’s note: Aside from Rimbunan Hijau’s foresting activities in PNG, the company also has industries set up in Gabon, Indonesia, Vanuatu, New Zealand, and Russia. The company in turn trades with countries such as Asia, Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. A group called Rimbunn Hijau Watch PNG closely monitors the company’s activities.]

The appellants are questioning the decision of the National Court on March 9, 2006 to grant an order in the nature of mandamus to force the National Forest Board to implement a February 4, 1999 decision to award the 791,400ha Forest Management Agreement as an "extension" to an existing timber permit in Wawoi Guavi in Western Province held by Rimbunan Hijau subsidiary Wawoi Guavi Timber Company.

The Wawoi Guavi Timber Company Limited, Papua New Guinea Forest Authority and the state have been named as the first, second and third respondents in the proceedings.

The appellants are arguing that the National Court judge on March 9, 2006, failed to apply mandatory requirements of the law in relation to the judicial reviews, failed to conduct a proper hearing and that the timber company and the Forest Authority failed to table relevant material before the court -- including an Ombudsman Commission report on Kamula Doso.

Eco-Forestry Forum chairman Kenn Mondiai has described the court order as a "major breakthrough."

The matter returns before the Supreme Court next Tuesday.

The Eco-Forestry Forum has also filed separate action in the National Court in the form of a judicial review against the decision of the Forest Authority (or the board) on December 20, 2005, to give effect to and implement the same February 4, 1999, decision.

The non-government organization is questioning the board’s decision and is seeking a judicial review in a bid to have it quashed among other declarations.

It is arguing that the decision was illegal as the authority or the board never had any timber rights to award, as the acquisition of the timber rights from the landowners had not been done properly.

June 21, 2006

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

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