Many people living along the Sepik river have raised concerns about the serious destructions to Sepik river. The river and the people are being affected by the movement of tug boats and pontoons on the river but yet their calls fall on deaf ears.
The logging operations are in West Sepik. However, the companies use the Sepik river to transport their logs. Us8ng the Sepik river is the fastest and most efficient way to ferry logs. Tug boats and pontoons belonging to logging companies frequently use the river to ferry logs from the headwaters of Sepik river down to the sea. But little do they know and understand that their actions are affecting the people and their livelihood.
The continuous movement of the boats, according to locals has caused problems on the river.The build-up in sedimentation, river bank erosion, river pollution from oil spills and disturbance of the fishing grounds were some of the serious concerns raised.
An elder from Avatip village, Middle Sepik said, ‘the logging is in West Sepik, why are the logs being brought down our river? we’re being affected by these boats. We do not want them on our river’. The same sentiment was echoed in the 24 villages in Upper and Middle Sepik river we visited. There is resentment towards the logging companies who are using the river and destroying it.
I interviewed a couple of people who shared their concerns on the use of the river by logging companies and how it was affecting them. From those interviews, I put together a video to help put their voices out there for the government to see. The video interviews were captured with my mobile phone during Project Sepik’s re-education patrol to Middle and Upper Sepik River in December 2020.
Civil Societies in PNG Submit Joint Report to the United Nations.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) commenced in 2006. It involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States, every five years. The UPR is a State-driven process, under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC). It provides the opportunity for each State under review to announce the actions they have taken to improve its human rights record and for the fellow States to make recommendations to the country under review to foster the implementation of its human rights obligations on its territory (UPR- OHCHR).
Following PNG’s second UPR in May 2016, 161 recommendations have been addressed to Papua New Guinea (PNG), which accepted only 101 recommendations. To implement them, the country established a multi-sectoral agency working committee with the mandate to oversee and coordinate sectoral implementation. However, there has been slow progress in the implementation of these recommendations .
PNG will once again be reviewed for the third time under the UPR mechanism in October/November 2021 at its 39th Session by member states for its commitment in improving human rights.
The International Catholic Centre of Geneva (CCIG), together with its partners Edmund Rice International (ERI), the Marist International Solidarity Foundation (FMSI) and the Dominicans for Justice and Peace, organized a three-day workshop, ahead of the UN UPR of PNG. The capacity building workshop took place on the 15th to 17th February 2021, at Emmaus Conference Center inside Don Bosco Technical College in Port Moresby.
The workshop was aimed at enhancing the participation of representatives of the local civil society in the UPR of PNG, by training them on the functioning of the UPR and the advocacy opportunities around this process. CCIG with its partners formed a Steering Committee based in PNG to lead the UPR Process. A total of 25 participants from various national associations involved in the defense of human rights across the country were invited to participate in the third cycle of UPR.
The participants were organized into groups to discuss on some key issues in PNG. They formed working groups on four thematic areas: 1) women’s rights, 2) children’s rights, 3) rights of people with disabilities and 4) environmental issues.
The working group on women’s rights discussed the issue of ‘Equal participation in Parliament, politics and decision making, Gender-based violence (GBV) and Sorcery accusation-related violence (SARV)’. The working group on children’s rights discussed the ‘Right to education, Right to health, Juvenile justice and Violence against children’. The working group on rights of people with disabilities discussed ‘Children with disabilities, Violence against persons with disabilities and Participation in public affairs’. The working group on environmental issues discussed ‘Mining and Logging’.
The civil societies contributed to the review by monitoring the implementation of the government’s international commitments. They then drafted several recommendations and submitted a consolidated human rights report to the UN.
The next step in the UPR process will be advocacy and lobbying to local and international authorities.
The UPR Joint Report on PNG can be downloaded below in PDF format and shared broadly among NGOs, Government Departments and International missions.
IRC Commissioner Sam Koim has a reputation for going after the big crooks in Papua New Guinea. After serving his legal apprenticeship at Justice Department, Mr Koim was handpicked by former prime minister Peter O’Neill to investigate and prosecute corrupt politicians and their foreign cronies. Mr Koim demonstrated diligence in his work by prosecuting crooked public office holders. He took a step further by investigating his political boss, the prime minister, which ultimately cost him his job as head of Task Force Sweep.
Now, after being appointed IRC Commissioner by the current prime minister James Marape, Mr Koim promises us that he is going after the Malaysian timber cartel, an obnoxious gang of tax evaders, who have been corrupting PNG politicians and public servants over the last 40 years to steal billions of dollars through transfer pricing and false declarations on the value of logs for exporting.
The IRC must be thorough and ruthless in its approach to weeding out corruption with the forest industry. A 1980s inquiry into the forest industry by Justice Tos Barnett uncovered widespread corruption involving a deputy prime minister, parliamentarians, and departmental heads working in partnership with the Sia brothers and other Malaysians to steal money from the country.
All corrupt PNG politicians and public servants were named in the reports by Tos Barnett. Veteran PNG journalist Harlyne Joku and the Times newspaper editor Anna Solomon published a series of reports on corruption within the forest industry. I have published the names of crooked PNG government officials in a chapter of a book edited by Michael Rynkiewich of the Melanesian Institute.
Papua New Guineans tend to have collective amnesia on corrupt officials, so we need to constantly remind readers of the past sins of our leaders.
Sam Koim knows that state agencies and the officials who work within them have aided and abetted the work of crooked foreign businessmen. The Malaysian loggers were brought into this country by Michael Somare and other politicians. RH is at the forefront of destructive logging in this country. It owns the Vision City Mall as well as the Stanley Hotel, in addition to other companies. It will require the most skilled and imaginative of auditors to trace the trail of transfers of funds from one company to another through a series of Holding companies and offshore accounts.
We need to set an example to deter crooks from robbing us in future. Lock up the big foreign crooks, including facilitators within PNG, and nationalize all assets acquired through fraud. The logging companies must now pay for their crimes against our environment, our country, and our people.