PORT MORESBY - Community advocacy group Act Now! has praised new police minister Jelta Wong, for his commitment to stop the intimidation and harassment of customary landowners by police officers in SABL [special agricultural and business lease] areas.
But Act Now! remains concerned that the minister’s instructions may not be followed in all SABL areas.
Mr Wong has said he will ensure the government’s decision cancelling all SABL leases will be supported:
The Post-Courier newspaper has quoted him as saying that “No members of the police force should be interfering and intimidating affected landowners in SABL areas.
“There should be no members of the Police Force operating as security guards for purported developers within SABL areas.”
We are pleased with the minister’s commitment but unfortunately similar orders in the past have not been followed on the ground.
Over the last few months Act Now! has visited SABL areas in East and West Sepik, New Ireland, East New Britain and Madang and in each case we have observed police acting as security for logging and oil palm companies.
We have recorded numerous testimonies from men and women about police violence, threats and intimidation, despite the government having declared the SABL leases unlawful.
The new minister needs to ensure his instructions are clearly communicated and followed in all SABL areas, including those controlled by the largest logging companies.