PNG LANDOWNERS CLAIM ASSAULT BY LOGGING

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‘THUGS’
East New Britain landowners were protesting illegal land deal

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Oct. 10, 2011) – Landowners have accused Papua New Guinean police of conducting raids and beatings in East New Britain province at the behest of a logging company.

West Pomio landowner Paul Palosualrea says police attacked villagers with fanbelts and sticks at midnight last Thursday before locking up some in shipping containers.

He says the police, under the influence of alcohol, raided the village, burst on all the elderly men in the village and beat them up.

Mr Palosualrea says the police had removed road blocks set up by the landowners to protest logging company Gilford Limited’s acquisition of land last year - a move the landowners say was fraudulent.

[PIR editor’s note: According to blog PNG Exposed, East New Britain provincial landowners protesting what they say was the illegal acquisition of forest land by Gilford Ltd., reportedly a subsidiary of PNG newspaper The National ower Rimbunan Hijau, a Malaysian conglomerate, were assaulted by police between Oct. 3 and Oct. 6, 2011. The police reportedly were based at Drina logging camp in Pomio, East New Britain.]

Other villages in the district were raided on Friday and Saturday.

In a letter of complaint to police, non-governmental organisation, the Eco Forestry Forum accused the police of harassing, attacking and arresting youths without lawful reason.

The Forum’s Kenn Mondiai says they’ve been told the police assaulted local landowners who had gone public on the illegal dealings of the logging company.

PNG’s acting police commissioner Tom Kulunga has issued a statement saying he had ordered an immediate investigation into the allegations.

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