Anger over delay to PNG forest act
LAE, PNG — Tribal landowners, community organisations and members of the government have reacted angrily to delays in gazetting Papua New Guinea's new Forestry Act, says Sasa Kokino, director of the PNG Village Development Trust. The act, passed by the national parliament in July 1991, was prevented from becoming law by members of the Department of Forests, who removed the act from the National Gazette at the Government Printing Office.
The act was based on the findings of the Barnett report, which revealed widespread corruption and environmentally destructive practices in the PNG forestry industry. While community groups have some reservations about the act, it did represent "a serious step forward in addressing environmental and social problems" connected with the forest industry, says Kokino.
"Now, however, the government's commitment and the integrity of the democratic process in PNG must be seriously questioned. It is of grave concern that the signature of the governor can be overruled by events at the printers."
Kokino adds that a two-year moratorium on new timber permits "has been a farce, as over 20 new operations have been approved" since it was imposed in June 1990. Poor enforcement of the moratorium and now the delay in gazetting the act have led to an increase in the number of forest projects and the area of forest under threat.