SUCCESS! The government led by Peter O'Neill and Belden Namah announced on October 14, 2011 it will repeal controversial amendments to the Environment Act that undermine the rights of traditional landowners. The amendments were bulldozed through Parliament in a single afternoon in May last year by the previous Somare regime [see further below].
In making the announcment the Environment Minister Thompson Harokaqveh has described the amendments as "unnecessary and undesirable" and revealed the government had been advised the changes were unconstitutional.
Prior to the government announcement ACT NOW! members sent over 1,700 emails to Ministers calling on them to reverse the amendments and in June 2010 ACT NOW! supporters help collect 18,000 signatures on a petition opposing the amendments.
More on the amendments
On May 27, 2010, the government rushed through Parliament amendments to the Environment Act which give the Secretary of the Department of Conservation new powers to approve activities by mining and petroleum companies without consulting traditional landowners or securing their agreement.
This is a fundamental denial of the traditional rights of landowners. But the changes to the law do not end there.
Landowners are also being denied the right to challenge what the government allows mining and petroleum companies to do. The amendments allow the Environment Secretary to approve activities and any such approval is FINAL AND CANNOT BE CHALLENGED IN ANY COURT. So no matter how outrageous or unfair the approval, the people will have no way of challenging it.
Even worse, the amendments state that when the company carries out the approved activities it cannot be sued, whether in tort or any other law and the activities cannot be an offence and cannot be unlawful.
This means that no matter what harm the company causes to any person or group of persons they will have no recourse to the law – even for an oil spill on the scale of that unfolding right now in the Gulf of Mexico.
These amendments effectively take away traditional rights (rights developed over tens of thousands of years); common law rights (rights that the courts have developed over hundreds of years); and remove criminal liability.