Logging Human Rights In Papua New Guinea

August 07, 2006

CELCOR / Friends of the Earth Papua New Guinea
Australian Conservation Foundation

PORT MORESBY (PAPUA NEW GUINEA, PNG) -- Multinational logging companies operating in Papua New Guinea are involved in widespread human rights abuses, political corruption and the brutal suppression of workers, women and opponents, according to a new report.

‘Bulldozing progress: Human rights abuses and corruption in PNG’s large scale logging industry’ was launched today in Port Moresby by the Centre for Environmental Law & Community Rights (CELCOR) / Friends of the Earth PNG and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

The full report is available at: http://www.acfonline.org.au and at http://www.celcor.org.pg/public

Interviews with landowners reveal disturbing eyewitness accounts of:

+ Arbitrary detention and physical brutality by police ‘moonlighting’ for logging companies;
+ Intimidation and abuse of women;
+ Contamination of food and water sources;
+ Unjust working conditions; and
+ Destruction of cultural sites, artefacts and graves.

The report shows how the logging industry’s influence in PNG extends well beyond forestry.

“One company – Rimbunan Hijau, controlled by billionaire Malaysian Hiew King Tiong has interests in the finance sector, the media, information technology, property, retailing, commercial printing, travel and shipping,” the report’s executive summary states.

The Tiong family also has business interests in China, Malaysia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Canada, the USA, New Zealand and Australia. “In Australia, Tiong investments include the Harbourside shopping complex at Darling Harbour in Sydney, and companies that account for 10 per cent of Australia’s mango crop.”

Recommendations call on the PNG Government to set up a high level inquiry into the industry and to revoke the licences of companies found to engage in human rights abuses and ‘private security’ payments to police.

The report recommends the PNG Parliament pass legislation to establish an independent Anti-Corruption Commission and a Human Rights Commission and to better resource the Ombudsman Commission’s human rights unit.

It recommends international donors help PNG make the transition away from large-scale industrial logging to community based forest management and timber production.

“As long as logging continues to undermine governance in PNG, Australia’s development assistance to its neighbour is compromised. Donors can make their assistance conditional on reform, support the PNG Government’s reforms in education and governance, and provide financial and technical support to local groups in their dealings with logging companies.”

The report says local people, not multinational logging companies, are most skilled in tropical forest management. Yet local peoples’ skills are currently locked out of the forestry process, contrary to PNG’s National Goals and Directive Principles.

The report details examples of local communities that have successfully broken out of the patron-client relationship with logging companies.

“The Simbukanam people of Madang Province, the people of Collingwood Bay in Oro Province, and the Kuni and Begwa people of the Lake Murray area of Western Province are inspiring examples of what can be achieved when communities are empowered to stand up for their rights. In Lake Murray, the local ‘eco-timber’ initiative provides returns four to ten times greater than the royalties paid by large-scale logging operations, while causing minimal damage to the forest.”

The report urges Australians to purchase only timber and wood products that have been certified as legally and sustainably sourced.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Josh Meadows +675 693 3230 Harry Aurere + 675 323 4509

The full report is available at: www.acfonline.org.au www.celcor.org.pg/public