Illegal logging destroying PNG

Posted in Corruption - general with tags , , , on February 27, 2010 by crimeandcorruptionpng
BARNEY ZWARTZ in The Age

Environmental vandalism by loggers in Papua New Guinea is destroying the nation and its people while Australia makes futile promises to try to influence logging policy, according to a former missionary and a landowner.

Brother Jim Coucher, a former missionary in Papua New Guinea.Brother Jim Coucher, a former missionary in Papua New Guinea.Photo: John Woudstra

Brother Jim Coucher worked in and near Vanimo on the north-west coast of PNG for 43 years until five years ago. Just returned from his first visit since, he was utterly horrified at the changes, he said yesterday, the speed of destruction caused by logging and corruption, and the plight of the local people.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised at December’s Copenhagen conference on climate change that he would try to persuade his neighbours to reduce logging.

”I don’t think anyone has an idea of the extent of logging, and I don’t think anything can be done,” Brother Coucher said. He does not want his religious order identified for fear of reprisals against members still working in Papua New Guinea.

A PNG landowner now living in Australia said yesterday that loggers came on to his land without consultation or compensation, and stockpiled logs there. The landowner, a sub-clan chief, said loggers destroyed a creek that had provided fish for his villagers.

They bulldozed breadfruit trees, sago and coconut palms, and built a wharf in the harbour that meant villagers could not fish. They hired almost no villagers, he said. Instead, they brought in unskilled Asian workers.

”Malnutrition is rampant. It is horrible to see young mothers who are skin and bone. There is no sanitation, no running water – it is a time bomb,” the landowner said. ”They are logging Vanimo to its death.”

Brother Coucher said the villagers were worse off than 20 years ago, because the logging companies and the government don’t put anything back.

Soldiers and police guard the logging camps under corrupt arrangements, prostitution and AIDS had become rife, and people could not support their families, he said. Logging practices by Malaysian companies in PNG have long been of international concern, but Brother Coucher said matters were much worse in Vanimo and Sandaun Province because it was so remote.

”You can only get in by sea or air, and there’s one coastal road. To calm the locals, the main landowner in an area might be given a vehicle and he supposedly keeps the villagers quiet,” he said.

”At first they welcome the loggers because they think it might mean money, but in fact they get very little out of it. The loggers don’t do any replanting or clearing up at all … and they give no benefits to the people. They use bulldozers to drag the logs, which creates all sorts of problems with erosion.”

In all the years the loggers had been in Sandaun there had been no development, Brother Coucher said, except for some work by AusAid on a hospital and putting bitumen on the road.

An AusAid spokeswoman said Australia and PNG were working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, having signed a forest carbon partnership two years ago.

This included an initial $3 million to tackle policy and capacity challenges, plus a commitment to tackle illegal logging and a program to help PNG manage its forests sustainably.


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Transparency International slams government for lack of respect

Posted in Corruption - general with tags , , , , on February 22, 2010 by crimeandcorruptionpng

TRANSPARENCY International PNG (TIPNG) has slammed the government for its lack of repect for the ordinary people of Papua New Guinea and its ‘don’t care’ attitude about missing public finances, in comments reported in The National.

TI has also highlighted how the government’s tolerance of wide spread corruption translates into the non delivery of services to the vast majority of the population and foreshadows how most of the proceeds from major new projects like LNG will likely be stolen.

Transparency International’s concerns have been fueled by the findings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which has documented the collapse of the Governments’ financial management systems and revealed a complete lack of accountability within the public service.

TIPNG chairman Peter Aitsi said: “It is very sad to learn from the PAC that from the 1,000 inquiries carried out by the PAC into the operations of various Government agencies, hospital boards, and trust accounts, most have not complied with lawful requirements. “The Government must wake up. The PAC has sounded the alarm and the National Executive Council (NEC) must address this situation as its highest priority. “We understand the various PAC reports have been sitting with the NEC gathering dust. “If this is true, then indeed this is a cause for national shame.”

He said it was totally unacceptable that the Government, particularly the NEC, turned a blind eye to the reports. “What does it tell our people when one of the highest decision-making bodies in our country allows public money to be mismanaged and stolen. “It creates doubts and the people are asking, don’t they care? Are they involved? “This state of affairs suggests the Government has no respect for the people it is sworn to serve and is certainly not serious about ensuring that proper procedures and regulations, particularly the Financial Management Act, are adhered to by all agencies in a transparent manner.”

Mr Aitsi said such lack of action by the Government continued to feed and encourage more unlawful practices, translating into non-delivery of goods and services to ordinary Papua New Guineans. The PAC reports and the statement issued must resonate with the key people in Government that we are heading on a dangerous path. In the words of the PAC member and Eastern Highlands Governor Malcolm Kela-Smith, the loss of public funds as a result of corruption could be as high as K3 billion kina.

“If these corrupt networks are able to steal K3 billion of public money within our current economic levels, how much more are they likely to steal when the revenue for the LNG start flowing if we do not take firm and decisive action to fix our Government systems?”

Papua New Guinea a failed state says MP

Posted in Corruption - general with tags , , , on February 19, 2010 by crimeandcorruptionpng

MP Sam Basil says the findings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) are a sign that Papua New Guinea is a “failed state”.

The PAC, of  which Basil is a member, has found that accountability and transparency in the use of public money within all but five of 1000 government agencies has collapsed.

Just one example is the 100 million kina ($A40 million) missing from the National Forest Authority, the body overseeing and administering logging permits for an industry labelled in 2006 “as 70 per cent illegal”.

PAC Chairman Timothy Bonga has said  he is shocked by the poor result.

“The whole functional system of the (Forest) Authority has collapsed and the original finding of the Auditor General that 100 million kina ($A40 million) simply disappeared and the (Forest) Authority had no ability to audit or trace these funds,” he said.

“In total, we have made inquiry into 1000 agencies, each examined from 2003 to 2008.

“The findings have shown that the management and accountability by our public servants and the government has collapsed miserably”.

Bonga said the Bank of PNG, Institute of Public Administration, Post PNG, Goroka Base Hospital and Alotau Hospital were the only government entities well-managed.

The worrying state of affairs came from a PAC inquiry examining 33 government departments, 25 subsidiary agencies including 19 provincial treasuries, 19 provincial governments over 400 districts, 19 urban authorities, 19 hospital boards, 116 statutory corporations and all trust accounts.

In September 2008, the PAC found most government department heads did not even know how to make the simplest of bank transactions.

In 2008, the PAC estimated that over the past 10 years more than a $1 billion kina ($A400 million) had gone missing from PNG finance coffers.

Southern Highlands torn apart by violence

Posted in Crime - general with tags , , , on February 17, 2010 by crimeandcorruptionpng

Bail for Chinese murder suspects a disgrace – but not a surprise

Posted in Tan attempted murder with tags , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by crimeandcorruptionpng

The ugly face of corruption and the power and influence of the Chinese mafia was clearly on display in Port Moresby on Friday as Magistrate Fred Tomo granted bail to two Chinese men accussed of the shooting and attempted murder of businessman Jason Tan on January 2nd this year.

The two Chinese, Chanjiang Gao and Xue Zhufu, were released on bail of just K2,000 each despite the facts of the case which include that neither man can speak English or Tok Pisin, one is unemployed, both were arrested close to the scene of the attempted murder, both were in the vehicle from the crime scene, and they were in possession of guns, one of which was unlicensed, black face masks and gloves and false number plates.

The two Chinese suspects have been released

Clearly it is highly likely that both men will now disappear from sight and it is very unlikely that either will ever appear in court again. No wonder the National newspaper reported they were “beaming with happiness and making thumbs up signs” when coming out of court.

Both Magistrate Fred Tomo, who granted the two men bail despite the overwhelming evidence against them, the flight risk and the seriousness of the charges; and the police investigating the case who apparently have done little to advance the prosecution over the last six weeks should be forced to explain themselves.

When Mr Tan was shot at on January 2nd and the two Chinese arrested, we all expected that the Chinese mafia would ensure that justice would NOT be done. Mr Tomo and the police it seems have proved us all correct.

Controversy over LNG project another symptom of corruption

Posted in Corruption - general with tags , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by crimeandcorruptionpng

While major resource projects continue to extract millions of dollars of oil and minerals from the ground, life for ordinary Papua New Guineans just gets worse and energy giant ExxonMobil’s new liquified natural gas project looks set to continue the trend .

Already work has been suspended on the gas liquefaction plant in Port Moresby after four local villagers were killed in a tribal dispute and extra police and troops are being rushed to the Southern Highlands to quell tribal violence at that end of the project.

With rising maternal mortality rates; increasing poverty and only 45% of children finishing primary school it seems corruption will ensure this latest large-scale projects will only benefit the rich – as Al Jazeerah reports in this new video.

Spread of Cholera a symptom of corruption

Posted in Corruption - general with tags , , , on February 6, 2010 by crimeandcorruptionpng

The United Nations has reported that the Cholera crisis in Papua New Guinea is going from bad to worse as health officials and non government organizations still struggle to cope without adequate government funding. The government’s failure to contain the outbreak and provide promised funding is just one more example of the endemic corruption that is destroying the nation.

IRIN: Cholera continues to spread in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where government health officials are now describing the disease as a major national public health concern.

“Things are going from bad to worse,” Victor Golpak, the government’s national response coordinator for cholera, told IRIN on 5 February. 

“This is now a national public health concern. We cannot ignore it any longer,” he said.

Since the first case was reported in August 2009, more than 2,000 cases have been confirmed nationwide, including 577 in Morabe Province, 885 in Madang and 602 East Sepik Province, the country’s National Department of Health reports. 

As of 5 February, 45 people have died.

Much of Momase is now affected. 

There have also been single cases reported in the country’s Eastern Highlands Province, as well as the capital, Port Moresby, in late January. 

“The disease is very much mobile,” Golpak said. “Tragically, the government has not woken up to this fact yet,” he said, referring to a lack of funding so far to curtail its spread. 



On the move

Cholera was first detected in Morobe Province, and a national response team was set up by the Department of Health, supported by the National Disaster Response Centre, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international partners. 

In October 2009, cholera was detected in the northern province of Madang, followed by another outbreak in East Sepik in November.

Despite that, resources to curtail the disease’s spread are in short supply. 

Of particular concern is the situation in East Sepik, with cholera cases reported in Wewak, Angoram and Ambunti districts, as well as around Murik Lake – the home of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. 

There, provincial health authorities have joined forces with staff from Oxfam New Zealand, Save the Children PNG, WHO, and Médecins Sans Frontières, to help contain the disease’s spread. 

Provincial health officials, together with NGO partners, have set up cholera treatment centres in affected districts, but time is of the essence, aid workers say. 

Of the 602 cases treated thus far in East Sepik, there have been 16 deaths, Oxfam said on 4 February.

The Sepik river is used for bathing and drinking water: Photo David Swanson

“We are getting more reports of deaths coming in from the rural areas that we have yet to confirm,” said Andrew Rankin, Oxfam’s Sepik programme manager, who also described the situation around Murik Lake as particularly bad.

Clean water at a premium

According to health experts, cholera, an acute intestinal infection, is fuelled largely by poor sanitation practices and inadequate access to safe drinking water. 

About 58 percent of the country’s six million inhabitants do not have access to safe drinking water, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) reports. 

“People paddle for miles to fetch water. There is hardly any fresh and safe water around,” Rankin said. 

Although water tanks, buckets and other essential items have been distributed to affected communities, they are useless without any rain. 

Many residents continue to use water from the Sepik river – PNG’s second largest and a primary source of water for both drinking and washing. 

In November, WHO confirmed large traces of the bacteria vibrio cholerae in the river. 

“We found cholera in the water in more than one location and the bacterial results were very high,” Daniel Bleed, an epidemiologist with WHO, told IRIN at the time.

But even more worrying now is how to curtail the disease’s spread – and not just along the Sepik river. 

“Madang and Morabe also have big river systems, but we have yet to test the water there,” Golpak noted.

Resources lacking

On the ground, Sibauk Bieb, the operations coordinator for the government’s cholera task force in Madang, says time is running out to stop the spread. 

With resources largely depleted, and unable to pay his own staff, he is appealing directly to international donors for help. 

“What other choice do I have?” Bieb asked reluctantly. “I continue to make representations to the government at the provincial and national level, but so far no funding is forthcoming. We need help and we need help now.”

In September, cholera was declared a public health emergency by the government, which committed more than US$4 million to combat its spread. 

As of 5 February, however, just US$900,000 had been released nationwide, leaving provincial authorities and NGOs struggling to cope.