Papua New Guine PM Peter O'Neill
SABL investigation: O’Neill says bureaucracy not responding
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill says the bureaucracy is not responding to political directions to implement the recommendations of an investigation into the Special Agriculture Business Leases (SABL).
He has tasked the Chief Secretary to ensure the recommendations are implemented.
The SABL became a national and an international issue when it was uncovered that over 5.2 million hectares of customary land were converted to agricultural business leases without the knowledge and consent of customary landowners.
This caused a nationwide protest and calls for this to be put right.
An investigation, at a cost of K15 million, was completed last year.
It was recommended that a majority of the leases be revoked because they were illegal. Of the 78 leases that were investigated, 42 came back with recommendations. Out of the 42, only four were found to have followed due process while a staggering 38 were found to be fraudulent.
Many of these leases were being used as a cover for illegal logging operations and were not genuine agriculture businesses.
Until today, nothing has been done to implement that recommendation.
Prime Minister O’Neill said the government is firm on its decision that the SABL's must be cancelled.
A team is already in place to begin monitoring work next year. It will be headed by the Chief Secretary, Sir Manasupe Zurenuoc.
Sir Zurenuoc said the handling of the Rabaul Queen maritime disaster was swift and it was hoped that the SABL and Finance Inquiries would have been given the same attention. Unfortunately the bureaucracy is not as swift in their response in these matters.
He said the team will find out from relevant agencies what the holdup is in implementing these recommendations and where it can, the team will assist in doing so.
Over the last 10 years, concerns about illegal logging in the country have become an international embarrassment for Papua New Guinea.
While the SABL debate rages, communities in provinces such as Oro and West New Britain, are still dealing with alleged abuse of their customary land rights.