Customary land and peoples livelihoods at risk because of Prime Ministers failure over SABL land grab

By Lester Seri, OCEAN*

This country risks totally losing the five million hectares of customary land that has been allocated as Special Agriculture and Business Leases but which have been determined illegal by the Commission of Inquiry. The Government, especially our Prime Minister, has promised the nation that all illegal SABL will be canceled but to date, many remain to be canceled.

Some of the logging / oil palm companies that were found to have been illegally involved in getting the leases continue to either log or clear the areas that are supposed to be canceled. These companies that were also found to have been involved illegally remain to be held accountable before the courts.

Our silence is encouraging corporate criminals to be allowed to walk away free while our people involved in petty crimes are dealt the full force of the laws of the country.

The nation needs to stand together and get our Prime Minister and the Government to act responsibly and execute the National Executive Council decision to cancel the illegal SABL's.

There are hundreds if not, thousands of innocent people whose livelihoods (for generations) are threatened by the 99 years lease of these SABL's.

Remember Bougainville Mine, when the mine was closed because of the conflict / war, the very people / communities that faced the full brunt of the mine exploitation and the war, were left to survive on their own. No compensation from the Mine, the PNG Government or the Australian Government.

Their survival to date was only possible because of their land - they still had their land so they were able survive to now. Future generations will continue to survive because of their land.

This is how important land is to a Melanesian or in the Melanesian societal context!

Sadly we have some of our people that are now displaced and or dispossessed of their land because of these SABLs which the Commission of Inquiry found were illegal.

These unfortunate people need all our help to talk to the Prime Minister and the Government to effect cancellation of the illegal SABLS.

* Oro Communities Environmental Advocacy Network