In a conference last Wednesday, the Lands Department vowed to take action on land deals in Papua New Guinea - deals in which control of more than 5 million hectares of land, 10% of PNGs land mass, has been taken away from local people and given to corporations.
While Acting Lands Secretary, Romilly Kila Pat, might have been personally sincere in his call to address the issues, he also said it was going to be a “long process”.
The landholders of PNG cannot afford a long process as control of their land is being taken away from them, often without them even knowing what has happened. This must stop.
If Mr. Pat is sincere in his call to address the issues regarding land then he must be given that time, but, in the meantime, there must be an immediate moratorium on any new Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs).
In addition to the moratorium the government should also:
- Establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate ALL existing Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases
- Suspend all Forest Clearance Authorities (FCA) - which allow logging in the SABL areas
What is going on via the SABLs is land theft. The government must act responsibly and protect landholders by reforming the system and, in the meantime, stop all SABLs immediately.