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July 24, 2021
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Namah pressures forest board

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FOREST Minister Belden Namah, who is also the deputy prime minister, has pressured the National Forest Board to award a concession in Middle Ramu to Madang Timbers Ltd, it was claimed yesterday.
 

FOREST Minister Belden Namah, who is also the deputy prime minister, has pressured the National Forest Board to award a concession in Middle Ramu to Madang Timbers Ltd, it was claimed yesterday.
It was alleged that an individual offered board members financial inducements to decide in favour of Madang Timbers.
At least one board member is believed to have been offered more than K200,000.
It is understood that the matter was reported to Namah.
Sources said board members were shocked when the minister suspended PNG Forestry Authority (PNGFA) managing director Kanawi Pouru last week.
The suspension letter is dated Feb 12, a day after the board decided to reaffirm previous decisions to refer the project back to the Madang Provincial Forestry Management Committee (PMFC) to re-evaluate the three tenders.
The sources said the board’s decision was in compliance with a Supreme Court order.
They said Pouru’s suspension might have something to do with his failure to support Madang Timber’s tender.
Under the amended Forestry Act 2010, the board must have the
PMFC’s decision for consideration before it can forward its own recommendation to the minister for formal approval.
Industry participants have pointed out that the board is not legally able to take a decision because following the Supreme Court ruling, no decision about allocating the concession can occur until the PMFC has reconsidered the matter.
They pointed out that the PMFC has yet to complete that process.
Even when that occurs, a concession can only be allocated after the forest board recommends that.
If the forestry minister wishes to ignore the board’s recommendation, he must first secure the National Executive Council’s approval.
These arrangements were put in place to stop corrupt dealings following the reforms instituted after the Barnett Inquiry into forest management in PNG in 1989.
For the Middle Ramu project, the board followed the legal process and, in 2007, recommended that the concession be granted to Timbers PNG Ltd, a subsidiary of Rimbunan Hijau (PNG) Group.
Namah, who was the forestry ministry at the time under the Somare government, signed the permit.
One of the losing bidders challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.
Early this year, Namah had directed the board to reconsider the Middle Ramu project at its meetings between Jan 13 and Feb 11.
Industry representatives expressed concern over the suspension of Pouru supposedly for failing to follow the court order, for inefficiency and for trying to issue a permit to Timbers PNG Ltd.
The charges were not true, they said.
They questioned the rationale of the court challenge against the concession to Timbers PNG Ltd as similar procedures were used in deciding other concessions in West Sepik (Amanab 5 and 6 and Aitape-Lumi Forest Management Areas) and they were not questioned.

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