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Presentation on theme: "Colin Filer POLITICAL AND LEGAL ASPECTS OF THE GRAND THEFT OF CUSTOMARY LAND IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA."— Presentation transcript:


2 The COI into SABLs found that more than 5m hectares of customary land had been expropriated without the free, prior and informed consent of the customary owners 2 But the Commissioners were not exactly on the same page

3 OBSTACLES TO INQUIRY 3 The 2012 National Elections, the political in-fighting, the change of government, the lock-down of the Government Printing Office that housed the COI and the ‘threat’ by the new in-coming government to stop the SABL inquiry were some events that directly affected the inquiry. The COI was virtually locked out of the building during the political impasse. This created a lot anxiety and uncertainties amongst the members of the COI. The interruptions went on for weeks. Delays in funding support resulted in personnel engaged by the COI not being paid for months, resulting in people not turning up for work. In fact, the government still owes the Commissioners and members of the legal and technical teams 15 months of unpaid allowances and salaries that are still yet to be paid to this day. The delay in the production of the recorded transcripts to assist the Commissioners with their final write-ups, and the lack of co-operation and display of arrogance by certain members of the COI, also affected the completion of the final reports by the given deadline. John Numapo, personal communication, April 2014

4 COMMISSIONS OF INQUIRY Into Land Matters 1973-74 (Goava et al) Into Aspects of the Forest Industry 1987-89 (Barnett) Into Special Agricultural and Business Leases 2011-13 (Numapo et al) 4 What do they reveal about society or ideology, and how do they relate to the history of land and forest policy?

5 ACTS IN PLAY Forest policy reform initiated 1985-90 Forest policy reform consolidated 1990-95 Land policy reform discarded 1995-2000 World Bank disappearing trick 2000-05 Land policy reform process 2005-09 Campaign against the land grab 2009-11 Commission of Inquiry process 2011-13 And what process follows next? 5

6 POLICY IMPERATIVE 6 “The status of land titles, the low level of confidence in the DLPP and the provincial offices, delays in processing applications, increasing incidences of missing and lost files, the perception of corrupt practices by the staff of DLPP and provincial land offices, the increasing number of land compensation claims, the need to grow the economy to create gainful employment and income generation for the growing population, the urgency to make customary land available for development, and the increasing incidents of land grabbing, collectively demonstrate the need to immediately improve land administration.” Report of the National Land Development Taskforce 2007, p.13

7 REAR VIEW MIRROR 7 “In 1995, the World Bank, as part of its structural adjustment program, included a condition that Papua New Guinea undertakes land reform. The policy prescription was in favour of privatising customary land. However, this raised strong opposition, which was led by students, non-government organisations, and trade unions, resulting in the destruction of public and private properties. This land reform program was subsequently aborted. In 2002, the Morauta government was said to have initiated another land reform program. This also drew strong reactions from the public, again led by students, trade unions, and non-government organisations. In the course of this protest movement, four students from the University of Papua New Guinea were shot dead by the police. Like the World Bank proposal, this attempt was also aborted. “ Report of the National Land Development Taskforce 2007, p.2

8 BIT OF A BLIND SPOT 8 “Reports of the successful use of the LLB are coming from the agricultural sector, where it is being widely used. However, the application of the LLB system to other sectors, such as the real estate sector, remains restricted….. The LLB system should be adopted as one of the instruments that customary landowning units could use to release land for development. The application of the LLB system to industries with long-term horizons, such as real estate, resorts, and industrial sectors, needs to be evaluated.” Report of the National Land Development Taskforce 2007, p.18

9 START OF A CAMPAIGN 9 “I acknowledge receipt of your E-mail dated 14/08/2008 apparently a response to my E-mail dated 31/08/2007 your copy of which must have been floating around in the “ether” for almost 12 months? Following my aforementioned E-mail dated 31/08/2007 (and its predecessor dated 15/08/2007) and at a meeting at the Department on or about 07/11/2007 chaired by Tony Luben I was given a verbal assurance by Oswald Tolopa that the grant of Special Agricultural and Business Leases in the favour of corporate entities and/or others not the person, persons or the ILG leasing their land to the State has ceased the implication of which was that henceforth all such titles will issue in the favour of the person, persons or ILG leasing their land to the State and any subsequent dealings with a third party would comprise a use right registered against the title in the form of a sublease. This, clearly, is not the case given more recently four (4) such leases were granted each in the name/favour of a corporate entity (and not an ILG); each for the maximum term of 99 years and each over substantial tracts of customary land…” Brian Aldrich to Pepi Kimas, 15/8/08

10 THE SLEEPING ELEPHANT Almost four years elapsed between the moment when Aldrich first rang the alarm bell and the NEC decision to set up the COI Even in 2009, environmental NGOs were so consumed by the forest carbon policy process (or cargo cult) that they could not see the wood for the trees In fact the wicked barons of the oil palm industry got worried about the new raft of ‘agro-forestry’ projects long before the Greenies did What the Greenies did was take credit for the results of an NEC submission in March 2011 drafted by McKinsey consultants But if the World Bank had not been kicked out of the forest policy process, then the government’s so-called ‘green revolution’ might never have got started 10


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