Company Dismisses PNG Deputy PM’s Illegal Logging Claims

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Rimbunan Hijau licenses revoked by Namah, restored by court

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 1, 2012) – Rimbunan Hijau Group (PNG) has dismissed claims by Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah that it is conducting illegal logging operations in the country, specifically in the Sogeram area in Madang.

The group (RH) said it had been granted court orders which allowed its subsidiary Timbers PNG to continue the Sogeram operations.

Additionally, the court order restrains the PNG Forest Authority (PNGFA) and Namah, who is also forests minister, from giving effect to a cancellation of the license until after a judicial review.

Last Friday, Namah told parliament during grievance debate that Timbers PNG was not complying with the country’s laws and that its camp manager would be deported.

He claimed that the company was defying a Supreme Court order to stop its operations.

RH said in a statement yesterday that Timbers PNG was granted the license by the PNGFA in 2009 to enter into a logging and marketing arrangement with a landowner company, Sogeram Development Corporation.

It acknowledged that on Jan 4 this year, Namah cancelled the license but Timbers PNG applied and was granted leave by a National Court to seek a judicial review.

Pending the review, the license remained current and Timbers PNG was within its legal rights to continue operations in Sogeram, it said.

Legal experts told The National that Namah was protected under parliamentary privilege even if his comments were incorrect and deemed to be defamatory.

The camp manager was detained by a special task force in Madang on April 20, and driven to Goroka before flown to Port Moresby the next day.

He was finally released on April 23 in the morning.

Sources told The National that throughout his confinement, the manager was never held at any official facility.

In Port Moresby, he was held at a home before being moved to a hotel and then released the next day.

He left the country on his own accord last Saturday.

In February, Namah shocked the industry by summarily dismissing PNGFA head Kanawi Pouru, and then secured a National Executive Council decision to review the concession.

This followed reports that members of the forestry board were offered bribes to favor the company which was ultimately awarded the concession.

The National has been informed that the decision is also subject to legal challenge.

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