By Sharlyne Eri – EMTV News, Port Moresby
A recently published report by the UK-based charity, War on Want and Papua New Guinea-based community advocacy group, ACT NOW!, focuses on appalling human rights abuses of victims of the SABL land-grabbing in PNG.
The report, ‘SABL Land Grab: Papua New Guinea’s Ongoing Human Rights Scandal’, highlights the devastating impacts on people living in rural communities, and gives a voice to those who have suffered the illegal loss of their land to logging and oil palm plantations.
It highlights the devastating stories of landowners who have been threatened and beaten by armed forces to pave way for commercial activities on their traditional land.
UK based charity War on Want and ACT NOW! are calling for immediate action to end the land grab and cancel the leases by the PNG Government.
They are also asking the international community to be more proactive in pressuring for action by the relevant authorities.
In the 1970’s the government introduced the land scheme with the intention of helping landowner’s participation in economic activities.
According to ACT NOW, more than 5 million hectares of land was stolen from rural communities using fraudulent SABL agriculture leases between 2003 and 2009. The leases were exposed as having been unlawfully issued by a Commission of Inquiry that released its findings in 2013.
Following a Commission of Inquiry in 2011, Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, vowed to cancel all SABLs abused by commercial operators and urged landowners to revisit the leases and negotiate better benefits, if possible.
ACT NOW claims that since then, however, not much has been done to return the land to its rightful owners.