The Rape of Papua New Guinea's Rainforests
The world's third largest intact rainforest expanse found in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is being devastated by brutal criminal logging by Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau. For years brave campaigners have fought their virtual invasion at great risk to their person. PNG is on the verge of losing all of its major timber resources for a pittance and at great cost to future development potential and the environment. Increasingly these ill-gotten illegal timbers are facing important bans from Australia and other importers (except China who will steal any resources (search) they can). Prime Minister Somare has a long personal association with the loggers and is personally profiting from their law-breaking. The next action alert on this matter will target the ANZ bank of Australia because the bank provides guarantees for Rimbunan Hijau (search).
Here are some particularly interesting excerpts from the recent news article:
Malaysian logging companies that hold concessions to log eight million hectares of rainforest in PNG are operating in defiance of the country's laws with the blessing of Somare's Government… Three of Somare's five children are directors of their family company, SAB… SAB is involved in several logging operations in East Sepik Province. PNG authorities are investigating allegations of illegal logging in the Morijau wildlife management area in the province.
The Rimbunan Hijau Group is owned by Malaysia's Tiong family. It accounts for 80 per cent of logging in PNG and has an annual turnover of more than $1.5billion. Rimbunan is a big player in the country's economic and political life. Royalties from the group make up 3 per cent of government revenue. Rimbunan owns one of PNG's two main newspapers, The National, which runs a fiercely pro-logging line… Somare declared in a recent speech that Rimbunan "must be supported" in the face of international criticism of its logging practices.
Rimbunan's 1.5-million-hectare Wawoi Guavi concession has been particularly controversial. A villager from the area, Patrick Pate... was assaulted recently by unknown assailants after leading an anti-logging protest. "They don't let anybody stand in their way," Pate says. He claims that locals working for Rimbunan get little out of logging. "They got credit with shops owned by the company, and that uses up all their money." People often sell their daughters to Malaysians in the logging camps for sex. "All the old family ties are falling apart."
International pressure on Port Moresby over the logging issue is mounting, nonetheless. New Zealand's High Court has ruled in favour of the expulsion by the NZ Timber Importers Association of Rimbunan company the LumberBank. In London, the Wolseley Group has banned the import of plywood from China, the main market for PNG timber. Activists in Australia plan a campaign against the ANZ bank because Rimbunan is a client and the bank provides guarantees for logging companies to secure approval for new projects in PNG. An ANZ spokesman says the bank has raised concerns with Rimbunan.