How we can stop criminal cartels stealing our PNG forests
22 March 2018
GARY JUFFA | Asia Pacific Report | Pacific Media Centre
ORO - In the ongoing saga of stopping illegal logging in Papua New Guinea’s Oro Province, facts reveal that the PNG Forest Authority is failing our people.
A network exists whereby a few corrupt public servants in both Oro and the PNG Forest Authority have helped facilitate fraud and theft of resources worth millions of kina. Indeed, such a network exists in every province where there is illegal logging.
In Oro we have identified those people involved and they shall be dealt with.
Meanwhile, our investigations reveal that PNGFA is negligent in its efforts and has been facilitating the theft of our forest resources for decades. It is complicit in transnational crime and those who process the paperwork are accomplices.
Despite all the government rhetoric about stopping illegal logging and concern about the environment, the truth is that this government entity, designed and created for the purpose of protecting PNG interests – PNG resources – is failing miserably in its mandate and is assisting transnational criminal cartels steal our forest resources.
What is the point of an organisation we pay for with our taxes if it serevs transnational criminal cartels and sells us out?
Every month, shipments worth millions of kina leave our shores – forest resources obtained under pretext and fraud - leaving behind destroyed landscapes, polluted waterways and miserable landowners who have been fooled, contemptuously mistreated and intimidated by corrupt elements of the public service and police.
But we can stop it. Yes, you and I. But if we know about it and do nothing, we are complicit.
I’m doing something about it and I need you to stand with me and demand that PNGFA and its chairman, David Dotaona, and minister, Douglas Tomuriesa, and the entire department act to stop these crimes against Papua New Guinea and our people and protect our forest resources.
How? Immediately review all licences granted to logging and you will find:
-- They are illegally granted via fraudulent processes and corrupt public servants;
-- The so-called landowner companies don’t represent our landowners at all;
-- All machinery is unregistered – it can all be impounded;
-- All foreign workers are without permits – they can be immediately detained until deported with the cost being met by the company, and their companies fined and banned from doing business in PNG ever again;
-- Significant environmental damage to waterways and reefs and logging on gradients that are in contravention of the permit restrictions. Your sister agency, the conservation Environment Protection Authority, will be brought in to inspect the results, and fine and ban the company from any future agriculture or forest development projects;
-- That tax evasion and transfer pricing mechanisms have allowed the company to evade paying for decades. The IRC and Customs can carry out audits and raise assessments and commence recovery and prosecution action. They can use the double tax treaties to recoup any taxes due;
-- Significant evidence of corruption involving many public servants and landowners. This can be referred to the police fraud squad for arrests and prosecution;
-- Too many of our resources have been stolen and, as this is a crime, the principals of these companies can be charged and prosecuted when you lay the complaint. You can also seize property as proceeds of crime.
-- We can engage the army and the police to shut down all such operations and seize and auction all machinery. If they sue us, so what? They are running illegal operations of a transnational criminal nature and they will lose in court;
-- Finally, some of the proceeds can be used to compensate genuine landowners.
And if you can’t do this, ask me. I will do it. For free.
Just give me the resources and let me select a team of patriotic police and soldiers; labour, migration, IRC and customs officers; and state lawyers – and watch.
The mandate of the forests department, besides protecting PNG interests at all times, is to develop innovative strategies to use our forest resources in a sustainable manner.
There are options whereby the vast forest resources that provide such a rich life do not need to be destroyed. We don’t need to destroy our forests in order to progress.
At a time when the world is facing a climate change disaster, we can do our bit by preserving our forests and finding alternative means of income using forest products in a sustainable manner.
For 40 years we have silently and meekly allowed pirates to raid our shores and we’ve accepted a few measly kina in compensation.
For each shipment worth about K6 million, we get less than K100,000. Where is the common sense in this? For each forest cut down, thousands of species of flora and fauna are devastated and some never recover.
We are destroying our natural home so we can live in an unnatural home in pursuit of money and material goods so we can be “happy” because someone we thought was more educated and civilised told us so.
But we will never be happy in this endless pursuit of the unnatural - living in an unnatural world where unnatural leaders make unnatural decisions that cause us more misery – naturally. We are only chasing illusions of happiness.
Certainly if we continue to allow this, if we are thinking, intelligent patriots, as we so often like to tell one another, then we are truly failing ourselves, our nation and our future.
It can be done – it just needs all of us to rise up and do it together.
Around August 2016, PNG's Minister for Forests sought to gain support as reported in PNG Attitude:
Minister Tomuriesa already had some background in seeking to "improve economic and social conditions in remote areas of PNG’s provinces" which seemed a well-placed objective. His province and own home island location exhibit aspects similar to those of Collingwood Bay and hinterland.
Now in responding to claims from Oro Governor Gary Juffa, Minister Tomuriesa is reported calling on stakeholders to stop badmouthing his Ministry and the PNG Forest Authority.
Yet discussion shown at LoopPNG indicates scant support, rather the opposite.
Minister Tomuriesa "said the forestry sector generated K1.4 billion in revenue" although it does not appear over what time scale nor to which organisations derived-wealth accumulated.
To that extent at least, his provision of information is insufficient, and perhaps worse in effect than the Juffa comment "PNG Forest Authority are now so silent".
Minister Tomuriesa spoke of "we are conserving the forest [sic]" yet while only some US$45M is received in donor aid, of that aid, “Brian Schaap, said not a lot of resources are being deployed to conserve PNG's huge forests.”
One major issue is “transfer pricing is taking place in PNG through an undervaluation of log exports”:
Minister Tomuriesa “told Parliament…that the National Executive Council has agreed that the authority became a self-financing organisation.”
While that objective will resonate with governments in many places and PNG, question might be asked of the ranking of priorities, processes and performance. Was that "became" actually 'yet to become'?
Minister Tomuriesa said that at Collingwood Bay, logs are “wasting in the sun.” Hardly a great loss if as “Mr Makamet said LEDL funds are comprise of K8 per round log exports collected at each point of vessel outward clearance by Customs and kept in Trust administered by Secretaries of Finance, Planning and Monitoring and Managing Director of PNG Forest Authority, specifically intended to provide socio-economic and community based services, such as agriculture and infrastructure development projects in the logging areas in the country.”
The waters at Collingwood Bay are indeed shallow and with much reefing, as written in many logs.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 23 March 2018 at 07:34 PM
Oh yeah? have a look at the LOg Export Development Trust Account. K 160 million stolen -m this is money owned by the resource owners but simply taken by fraudulent "projects" and MP's - particularly the Minister for Forests who appointed his personal Secretary to administer the Fund - in breach of the Act.
Posted by: Will Self | 22 March 2018 at 08:37 PM
For readers who haven't seen tweet by Gary Juffa: "Anselam Foremat and John Kunikas in Wanigela Collingwood stood for their land against illegal logging by company owned by Malaysian Hii Ann Yii and were attacked and injured by the company's thugs. The company ignored them and built a jetty and an access road on their land."
Now is the time to front up as did Anselam Foremat and John Kunikas at Collingwood Bay and stand with Gary Juffa to protect PNG national resource in timber and all other species of tree-covered land of PNG.
The lumbering pillage of timber can be brought to court. If there is any legitimacy in logging, let it be contested in the presence of judges and news media, not brazenly forced by thuggery in remote places.
The iron of juggernauts in this past century of human warfare can be contained and stopped by ingenuity of device, defense and determination. The steel weaponry of extractive stealing can be exposed and impounded awaiting decisions at courts.
Keeping pigs out of food gardens is a matter of fencing, local law and vigilance. Keeping rigs out of forests is a matter of defending, law enforcement and vigilance. Keeping jigs out of administrative offices is a matter of foiling those who are spoiling.
Posted by: Lindsay F Bond | 22 March 2018 at 08:13 AM