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Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea

by Bismark Ramu Group
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Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Land is Life - Land Justice for Papua New Guinea
Anti-PMIZ Forum 2015
Anti-PMIZ Forum 2015

Five years ago Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill took out a US$2 Billion loan from China’s Export Import Bank (Exim Bank) to improve the National Highways and State Owned Enterprises. In the same year, a deal was also signed between the two parties that US$74 Million of that loan would go towards the very first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project in the country.

 

So what spark this interest in Special Economic Zones when Papua New Guinea currently has a billion-dollar oil and gas project including several other major mining projects in the extractive industry?

 

It all started in 1995 when a Multi-Million dollar Filipino company, RD Corporation, came to Papua New Guinea to open its Tuna Canning Factory in Madang Province. It is important to note here that RD Corporation built its empire from SEZs in the Philippines.

 

So it was no surprise four years later in 1999, RD Corporation bought Vidar Plantation, a 860 hectare coconut plantation that used to be customary land that was leased to the Catholic Church for 99 years. Instead of the church handing over the land title back to the original landowners as required by law, the land title mysteriously changed owners from the church to RD Corporation.

 

Fast forward to 2006, the PNG Government bought 216 hectares of Vidar Plantation from RD Corporation for about US$1.9 million. Two years later, an application was sent to World Bank’s International Finance Corporation to assist the Government of PNG (GoPNG) to incorporate SEZs into its national economic development plan.

 

An Appraisal Report from World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman in August 2014 stated that IFC “was to assist GoPNG in framing a viable legal framework for the development of special economic zones

(SEZs) and, in particular, to advise on the economic and legal conditions for the proposed Pacific

Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) in Madang”.

 

Approval was given in 2009 which included three components:

  1. Legal and regulatory regime - including advice on the establishment of a sound legal, regulatory and institutional framework for the development of SEZs in PNG;
  2. Policy and regulatory framework (aside from law) – including advice on phytosanitary, labor environmental and other standards needed to ensure access to global markets; and
  3. Commercial viability and site assessment – including detailed analysis of the proposed Madang site and its suitability for development as an SEZ.

 

However, in June 2010 the IFC had to revise the scope of its assistance since GoPNG did not honor the third component by announcing the 216 hectare site in Vidar as the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone, which would involve as many as 10 Tuna Factories.

 

These all happened without any awareness or prior consent from the original landowners of the Vidar Plantation and the surrounding communities. As talks of a GoPNG project on their land reached the people in the form of a blue fence restricting access to food gardens; open forums and protests were held to demand explanations.

 

The people’s dissatisfaction resulted in a Court Injunction in 2012 to the PMIZ project that also caused Exim Bank to freeze its PMIZ loan.

 

However, late last year the current Minister for Trade, Commerce and Industry Richard Maru announced after a visit to China that Exim Bank has lifted its ban on the PMIZ loan and work will continue as planned.

 

Since then the affected landowners have taken up the battle again and this time are demanding that the PMIZ cease all operations and be taken some place else.

 

Throughout that whole ordeal Bismarck Ramu Group has been assisting the landowners by providing vital information deliberately held back from them, networking with necessary individuals and groups and advocate for national media organizations to recognize the PMIZ project as the highly controversial issue that it is.

Canoe Protest 01 2015
Canoe Protest 01 2015
Canoe Protest 02 2015
Canoe Protest 02 2015
Stop PMIZ Petition Presentation
Stop PMIZ Petition Presentation
Stop PMIZ Petition Presentation 2
Stop PMIZ Petition Presentation 2

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VBAs with TTU trainers, Esther (L) & Jacklyn (R). Pic by TTU .JPG
VBAs with TTU trainers, Esther (L) & Jacklyn (R). Pic by TTU .JPG

By Marina Waita

BRG Paraprofessional

 

Inspiration comes to each of us from different levels in different forms. Sometimes all we need is a little push in the right direction.

 

For three female Village Birth Attendants (VBA) of Kesevaka village in Dunantina LLG, Henganofi District, Eastern Highlands Province, it was ‘Women in Agriculture’ a locally produced film documentary showing how women in the highlands of Papua New Guinea use agriculture-specifically gardening, to their advantage.

 

The three women came across the documentary whilst doing their practical at the Goroka Based Hospital. They were part of a group of people trained by an NGO called Touching The Untouchables (TTU) who operates in the Henganofi District.

 

TTU in its process to bring knowledge of healthy living and practices to people also gave them the chance to explore in the people sector- or what is generally known as the informal sector.

 

After completing their training, the three VBAs went back to their village with the determination to plant more potatoes to sell. Their determination paid off when they filled ten big bags which is so much more than they anticipated.

 

They said agriculture is part of their lives so they could easily relate to and be motivated by the documentary, which was produced by Bismarck Ramu Group.

 

Agriculture is not a foreign concept to us Papua New Guineans.

In fact it is a practice that has been very much a part of us for the past 10,000 years. Evidence of which can be found in Kuk, Western Highlands Province.

 

It is a practice that is in harmony with our land. No rules, no policies just the farmer in total agreement with the land.

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Children help to harvest watur in Tangu.jpg
Children help to harvest watur in Tangu.jpg

Tangu community is located in the Awar Local Level Government of Bogia District. This community is renowned for its Yam or Watur Culture, gigantic Watur towers and the rich lifestyle associated with it.

Earlier this year, the abundant life of the Tangu people was threatened when they learnt of some secretive coal prospecting activities on their land. Young men from the community unceremoniously came across a couple of geologist who trespassed on their land to collect coal samples.

Interest from the whole community to learn more about this threat reached Bismark Ramu Group so a team of community facilitators held information sharing sessions with different groups in Tangu during BRG’s 3rd Patrol of 2014. Mark, Bailal and Stella were able to share updated information relating to land grabbing and mining, including videos to school-aged children and the whole community. Immediately afterwards, the Tangu community made an informed unanimous call to stop further talks about coal mining on their land when government officials and representatives from Pacific Mining Partners, a mining company, visited Amuk village to rally for coal mining.

However, the Tangu people’s fight to protect their land and lifestyle did not end there. Two months ago, Papua New Guinea’s Minerals Resources Authority announced its intention to research into developing a coal mining policy for the country. On top of that the Department of Mineral Policy & Geohazards Management has been working on changes to the Mining Act. One of the changes that would endanger the lives of millions of Papua New Guineans who knowingly or unknowingly live literally on top of mineral deposits like the Tangu people is the Involuntary Resettlement Policy or IRP. The scope of application of this policy in the draft that is being circulated for feedback among closed groups, states that IRP is to be applied in all instances of land acquisition and resultant involuntary resettlement (displacement) for mineral sector projects in Papua New Guinea. It applies to both physical and economic displacement. The IRP is therefore expected to apply to all projects that must acquire land held under either customary title or freehold title, which combined, constitutes the majority of land in Papua New Guinea (PNG). After the IRP has been enacted, should mineral sector projects encounter discrepancies related to involuntary resettlement between national law and the IRP, the IRP shall apply.”

Having this information at hand Stella, Bailal and Harry returned to Tangu as part of the final patrol for the year. This time the people of Tangu took on a different approach to ensure their message was clear to the government of PNG and other potential coal mining investors which was well captured by Kandawa in the Little Green Palai blog:

Tanget leaves tied at the top and set on a block of coal then a bow and arrow placed over it and set

on the land indicates a taboo; a no no for coal mining on their land.

 

This was a sign by the people of Andimarup village in the Tangu area of Bogia two weeks ago. Witnessed by more than 100 school children, their teachers and parents, the leaders flew a banner carrying the same message saying there will be no coal exploration on their land.

 

They said, "we have cocoa and lots of yams. We do not need a destructive coal mining project on our land.  Our land is for growing our food!"

 

Three months ago in a neighboring village their young men chased some scientists out of their forests for not seeking their permission and informing them of their purpose of visit. It was only after the scientists returned with the Bogia police that the villagers learnt their reason was to collect geological samples including coal.

 

In the Biam village alluvial mining is fast becoming their way of life and the finds are used to barter for chicken, rice and other necessities in their village. They have taught themselves on how to extract and trade gold locally and hope that this practice will not be disrupted by large scale mining.

 

There is word already of gold mining in the nearby Niapak Mine and Madang government officers have been out to talk with landowners.

 

Coal mining is a new thing and brings a lot of questions about their land. Already some papers including Incorporated Land Group (ILG) forms have been issued for them to sign.

 

In traditional PNG villages various plants are used to indicate taboo but the common ones across all cultures are the tanget and the gorgor. 

 

The people of Tangu are farmers. Each family makes many large gardens and at harvest time a huge thanksgiving ceremony is held to celebrate the abundance. Yam is their main crop for kastom ceremonies. Their children learn their ways through their yam culture.

 

The people of Andimarup demand that their taboo sign is respected and no word of coal exploration or mining on their land should be discussed anywhere without their consent.


http://littlegreenpalai.blogspot.com.au/2014/12/tanget-means-no-coal-exploration.html

The watur tower.jpg
The watur tower.jpg
Bailal speaking with communtiy leaders.JPG
Bailal speaking with communtiy leaders.JPG
TANGET PROTEST by Bailal Songai.jpg
TANGET PROTEST by Bailal Songai.jpg
NO Coal banner by Sasai Duaiya.jpg
NO Coal banner by Sasai Duaiya.jpg
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One Ocean, One People.
One Ocean, One People.

Wansolwara Success

Bismark Ramu Group has hosted a Pacific-wide gathering to affirm and celebrate unique Pacific identities.Top of the agenda was to protest against the dominant narrative, that development means selling of/ or exploiting our lands and our seas for the riches within.

Prominent academics from five universities around the Pacific participated in the "Wansolwara" conference at Divine Word University, Madang in Papua New Guinea (PNG), to discuss the importance of restoring Pacific identity. They told the gathering that the current model of development is about adopting universal ideals, it is about endless growth in which people and cultures are nothing less than commodities; and it is about not having moral limits to what we can do.

The gathering coincided with a celebration dance. The dance signified a protest against western influence of exploiting land and sea resources in the Pacific. The Bismark Group Coordinator and local host, John Chitoa, he said the celebrations of this unique Pacific gathering will be centred on reclaiming our Wansolwara: one people, one sea.

In other news...

Following the decision by the PNG Cabinet to cancel all Special Agricultural Business Leases (YAY!), it has sadly been necessary to keep up the pressure to actually get enforcement of Cabinet's decision on the ground. In many SABLs the loggers think it is business as usual. Bismark Ramu Group and ActNow PNG have jointly sponsored a further radio campaign to get the government to act. You can hear the ad here.

Thanks again to all our supporters. Join us on Facebook for more updates and regular information.

PS: BRG is currently experiencing Internet problems. We asked RIchard to file this report for us to keep up with our obligations to you, our donors, and to GlobalGiving.

The local community of Riwo welcome delegates
The local community of Riwo welcome delegates
"Lean on me when you're not strong" Julian Aguon
"Lean on me when you're not strong" Julian Aguon
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Bleached coral surrounding Basamuk villages
Bleached coral surrounding Basamuk villages

This is a followup on a special report on February 17 regarding the toxic gas explosion at the Ramu Nickel refinery at Basamuk Bay. Since then Bismark Ramu Group (BRG) has been getting reports of substantial toxic damages to the surrounding area. BRG is working closely with landowners to speak out about the violence against their land and livelihood.

Here is an article in the nation's online media, PNG Loop, on the present situation at Basamuk Bay:

PNG LOOP

Mine rubbish affects Madang reefs landowners Health Inspectors

Dorothy Keno May 22, 2014

Basamuk landowners near the nickel refinery report the coral surrounding their villages has  been affected by mining activities. 

Terry Kunning, a landowner actively voicing landowner concerns through NGOs, specifically the Ramu Bismarck Group, said the reefs near his house at Mindre village facing the refinery have changed colours.

“Currently the reefs look like they have been bleached by some strong chemicals, we’ve never seen this before the mine came in,” Kunning said.

He said health inspectors had reported that the lime stone chemicals had been washed down the two rivers near the refinery and had proven to be contaminated.

Madang District Health Inspector Roy Milling confirmed the two rivers are contaminated from the mining activities.

Kunning said he also has samples of the red mud which is reportedly the slurry that was supposed to go down the 150 metres deep sea tailing pipe to the bottom of the Basamuk Canyon.

He said the slurries had been reversing up towards the surface and local fishermen had  been catching the red mud slurry from their fish hooks.

Kunning said the mud had been soaking into the baseline of the reefs beneath the sea and the outcome of it is seen as white paint all over or have been bleached.

“I took some samples of the red mud and put them at my house. Anyone interested can come and see them,” he said.

Kunning added that the recent revelation of the reports of tailings affecting the biodiversity in Madang waters was not new to him.

He said he was an environmentalist and knew the slurry will not only remain in Basamuk Canyon but will also spread to the slopes of Basamuk Canyon and slide down to Gawar and Yaganon Canyons.

“We saw and felt the signs and have been fighting for our rights to properly address this problem at the first place but the government and developer cooperated and turned us down,” Kunning said.

He said locals had grown tired of talking about this issue because the government they knew would help them was always working against their favour.

“We are tired, we will just wait for the worst to come even if it costs our lives, we don’t have a voice in the government to help us,” Kunning said.

- See more at: http://www.pngloop.com/2014/05/22/mine-rubbish-affects-madang-reefs-landowners-health-inspectors/#sthash.JZTjr0zE.dpuf

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Organization Information

Bismark Ramu Group

Location: Madang - Papua New Guinea
Website:
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Bismark Ramu Group
Julianne Sapi
Project Leader:
Julianne Sapi
Madang, Madang Papua New Guinea

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