Acting Prime Minister, Sam Abal’s decision to appoint a Commission of Inquiry into Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs) and subsequent suspension of forest clearance permits issued under such leases, has come under scathing attack from vocal Opposition MP, and PNG Party leader, Belden Namah.
Namah also says more stiff opposition is expected from stakeholders throughout Papua New Guinea.
Mr Namah, who is thought to be heavily involved himself in an SABL in West Sepik, claims that under SABL, private funds are invested to establish important sustainable agriculture and forestry projects providing employment and business opportunities for thousands of people in rural parts of the country. Areas where the national government has failed miserably.
“Land owners have power to obtain SABL to develop resources in their customary land in the absence of government initiated agriculture projects. Land owners and private investors have taken the initiative to invest their resources in agriculture projects with private sector investors because the Government has failed in the agriculture sector.
“Indicative of this is the miserable failure of the Government’s controversial National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP).
“Mr Abal has no power whatsoever to stop or suspend agriculture projects operating under SABL. Stakeholders must not listen to the current Government. Unless there are specific court orders, businesses should continue as usual.
“National Government does not have the right. Landowners have the absolute right over the use of their land."
Mr Namah has warned the Government to consider seriously the effects of such bad decisions on the livelihood of hundreds of thousands people and ramifications on the National Government.
As well, he said the Government was sending wrong signals to the private sector and businesses who have made enormous sacrifices and contributions to PNG’s agriculture industry.
“Agriculture has always been the livelihood of Papua New Guineans. No Government or Prime Minister will stop that. I strongly discourage landowners through Lands Department not to sell any customary land to foreigners. We should encourage partnership with foreign investors instead.”