THE Special Agriculture Business Lease (SABL) practice is having a direct impact on the environment and cultural values, says customary landowner Anna Sipona.
Anna comes from Malmal village in East New Britain Province where logging has exploited the environment.
She explained that their forest has disappeared under SABL and the people in her village live as if they don’t own land.
The land in Malmal is under a 99-year lease agreement and the people have been told by the developers that their land is now state land.
Sipona highlighted that drinking water and fresh water creeks have been contaminated because there are no buffer zones to protect them.
“In reality, what was once our land, we now feel that we are settlers on a land that is no longer ours.
“Our right to life has been severed and our way of surviving has been destroyed and we are no longer benefiting from the land as someone else holds the title
“Our land has been acquired in the name of development, however we cannot see any development happening instead there is displacement of villages, destruction of forests and food gardens and destroying of cultural values,” she said.
Anna Sipona is calling on the government to respond to their cries by cancelling the leases and give back their land.
Promises by prime minister Peter O’Neill since June 2013 to cancel the leases, stop illegal logging and return the land to its rightful owners, recommended by a Commission of Inquiry, have never been honoured.