Papua New Guinea’s Land Minister has said that “process” is
delaying the cancellation of devastating and illegal licenses, one year after
the country’s Prime Minister claimed they had already been cancelled.
In the 2000s, 50,000 square kilometres of forest belonging
to indigenous communities was leased by the government to private plantation
and logging companies, under Special Agricultural Business Licenses, or SABLs.
A government inquiry, in 2013, found that the process was riddled with fraud
Since then, senior figures within government, including
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, have made repeatedly stated that the licenses
would be cancelled, and even that they had.
In March last year O’Neill announced on live TV: “we have
cancelled all the licenses. All SABL licenses are illegal in this country.”
But in an Al Jazeera short film released last Friday,
12 January, Land Minister Justin Tkatchenko admits the licenses have yet
to be cancelled. He told Al Jazeera’s reporter that legal process is preventing
the cancellation, almost half-a-decade on from the government inquiry.
Al Jazeera forests that are currently being logged under
SABLs, then has the following exchange with Tkatchenko:
Tkatchenko: There’s definitely some that are illegal,
there’s no question about it, and they will be cancelled. They will be
cancelled and all logging will stop.
AJ: But it’s not stopping. We’ve just been in East
Britain, the logging is devastating.
Tkatchenko: Correct. You’re right. It’s not stopping
because of the fact that we still have to go through the process. There’s a
AJ: But it’s going to stop?
Tkatchenko: It will stop.
Click here to
watch Al Jazeera’s report.