PNG OFFICIALS CLASH OVER TIMBER CONTRACT

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By Yehiura Hriehwazi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 18) – Sandaun Governor Carlos Yuni wants the Amanab Blocks 5 & 6 timber project to be awarded to Vanimo Forest Products Limited in direct opposition to Papua New Guinea Forest Minister Patrick Pruaitch.

[PIR editor’s note: Vanimo is a town on the northeast coast of Papua New Guinea’s mainland peninsula near the West Papua border. It is the provincial capital of Sandaun Province.]

In a letter to the National Forest Board chairman Valentine Kambori and his deputy Dr Wari Iamo on September19, Mr. Yuni argued that Vanimo Forest Products Ltd had contributed significantly to the development of the province and has adequate capital and resources to develop the large timber tract.

Minister Pruaitch, on the other hand wants another company, Amanab 56 Limited, to be given special consideration.

The National Forest Board is said to have favored Stettin Bay Limber Company.

One faction of the landowners led by former captain in the Papua New Guinea Defense Force Belden Namah have waged a campaign with the Government—demanding the project to be granted to Amanab 56 Ltd—while another group claimed that the power of attorney given to Mr. Namah to act in their interests has been revoked and that he was not a legitimate landowner.

The other landowner group led by Messrs Monou, Peter Wini, Jones Kromo and Peter Kowo has taken out a full-page advertisement in this newspaper last Friday arguing that the National Forest Board should not be placed under undue influence by outsiders or interested parties.

This group said it wanted the National Forest Board to go through the normal process of vetting and to allocate the project to a genuine developer by taking into consideration the landowners’ choice.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pruaitch, in a letter of September 21, directed Mr. Kambori to convene a board meeting and consider a recommendation from the Provincial Forest Management Committee for a company called Amanab 56 Ltd to harvest timber.

Mr. Kambori had earlier informed Mr. Pruaitch that the board’s preferred developer was Stettin Bay Lumber Company.

However Mr. Pruaitch responded, "I advise you that the decision is not in order. The board’s decision did not take heed of the decision of the Provincial Forest Management Committee, which recommended Amanab 56 Ltd to be the top bidder for the board to approve to the minister to negotiate the project agreement with.

"On that basis, I hereby direct that the board convene to deliberate again, and I specifically advise the board that the matter should go back to the Provincial Forest Management Committee again," he wrote.

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