Commission of Inquiry Publishes report assessing 42 SABLs

Delay After Delay

On September 18, 2013, two years after the CoI started its investigation and following months of questioning about the reasons for the non-release of the report, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill tabled the report in parliament. He said that the report revealed a shocking trend of corruption and mismanagement, and that the policy of using SABLs to free up customary land "had failed miserably."

According to the report,186 only four out of the 42 SABLs examined had the consent of local landowners and consisted of viable agricultural projects. While acknowledging the major failure of the government and the administration, the prime minister chose to not question the policy that led to this debacle and did not announce any steps to cancel the fraudulent leases nor to stop the illegal logging. On the contrary, he announced the establishment of a task force "to develop a new legislative framework to free up customary land for development."

By calling for a new legislative framework, Prime Minister O'Neill is deliberately ignoring the true nature of the problem with PNG's land-freeing development strategy and implementation. The problem does not lie in the law. Like previous assessments cited in this report, the CoI report clearly indicates that PNG shows no capacity to "free up land for development" in a manner that will be beneficial to landowners and operate within people's constitutional rights.

While a new task force is created, the looting of the country's resources continues in plain sight of the government and - in the absence of any action to stop it - with its de facto stamp of approval.


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