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09 May 2014

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I have been involved with discussions with the people of East Sepik concerning the proposed Oil Palm Scheme on the Facebook discussion page. I am shocked that they are very confused by Land Laws. There are some good local men trying to help the land owners get their ILGs set up but they are appealing for help.

Some believe in a Land Bank system, which is not legal to my knowledge. There is also confusion over the ILGs as so much land is group owned. There are accusations that the local MP has been busy acquiring land well before he announced the scheme. Obviously looking after himself and a conflict of interest.

I would say there is much confusion over the Oil Palm Scheme for Yangoru-Saussia electorate as it appears the MP has also set up a company, Sepik Agro Industries Ltd, to work with Wilmar, the multinational set to run the scheme, but he has evidently made himself the sole shareholder and appointed his Private Secretary to run the scheme.

Already police have been brought in when land owners complained that they were not being given back the Urimo cattle station land which had not been used for 25 years and was due to be passed back to them. The land owners were thrown into prison and fined.

I hear that one of the landowners, who protested loudly, has now been called to appear before the Secretary for Treasury & Chairman of State Negotiation Team for the Sepik Oil Palm Project Mr. Dairi Vele. He will be inviting Secretary for Trade Commerce and Industry, Lands, Environment and Conservation and Agriculture to also sit in that meeting.

There are many Sepiks who have had experience working in the West New Britain oil palm industry who do not think setting up a huge oil palm scheme is the right thing to do for the East Sepik. (See previous article by Arnold Patiken)

There are also highly qualified Sepik agriculturalists, with experience in West New Britain, who have not been consulted. They have serious doubts about the wisdom of setting up this scheme. There is great lack of consultation and many fear that the people who are pushing the scheme are the only ones who will benefit from the scheme.

There is also the fear that the village people will lose their villages and become landless peasants working for very low wages for a large multinational that will be allowed to take home huge profits.

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