COMMUNITY advocacy group Act Now has condemned plans by the Papua New Guinean government to convert unlawful land leases to another form of land tenure using Incorporated Land Groups.
Act Now says converting the so-called SABL leases will not only repeat injustice and human rights abuses, it will give control of vast tracts of land to a small number of people overseen by a corrupt and dysfunctional Department of Lands.
Act Now says the plan is an attempt by the government to appease the foreign owned logging industry and oil palm companies and ensure a continuation of their illegal occupation of customary land.
“If the land ends up being registered then it could be sold, leased or mortgaged again and again,” Act Now said. “It is the next step in making people slaves in their own communities and excluding them permanently from their land.”
Act Now said the only proper course of action is for the government to cancel the leases and return the land to customary landholders. It will then be for the people to decide on the future of their land.
It said that over the past 10 years fraudulent Special Agriculture Business Leases have been used to steal rights to more than five million hectares of customary land from local communities.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had promised the government would implement the recommendations of a Commission of Inquiry and cancel the leases; but now the Lands Minister wants to convert them to another form of land tenure.