The Government is plotting to grab more customary land and hand it to multi-national companies and the commercial banks, says community advocacy group ACT NOW!
“The government has been forced to stop issuing illegal SABL leases but now wants to use the National Land Summit as a cover to find new ways to ‘facilitate access to customary land’ for big business and the banks”, says campaign manger, Eddie Tanago.
ACT NOW! says it is duplicitous for the Lands Mining to claim that ‘customary land will never be taken away’ as a 99-year lease can mean multiple generations of people lose all rights to use their land.
“The government and industry are using the same false idea that customary land is unutilized and a barrier to development, that they have been peddling for decades”, says Tanago.
“The truth is customary land is our nations most valuable resource. It already supports 3 million rural farmers and an informal economy and subsistence lifestyles that are worth up to K40 billion a year.
“Customary land also provides communities with a fresh, healthy diet that helps protect them from lifestyle diseases associated with imported and highly-processed foods. This helps reduce the burden on overstretched health services”.
Rather than new schemes to take control of customary land away from rural people, the government should be focused on mobilising people so they can benefit even more from their land, says ACT NOW.
“Rural famers desperately need government support to help them develop their existing agriculture and horticulture businesses and increase downstream processing”, says Eddie Tanago.
Supporting the people to utilise their own land is the development path laid out in Papua New Guinea’s Constitution and is the only way to ensure the 2050 Vision of a ‘smart, wise, fair, healthy and happy society’.
“The government should be defending customary land ownership and helping local businesses to boost production and to access national and international markets”, says Eddie Tanago.
“This means providing extension services to nurture new enterprises and help increase productivity, providing better transport and storage infrastructure, supporting processing and value adding and protecting local producers from unfair foreign competition”.
ACT NOW! also says the government has still not reversed all the SABL leases unlawfully issued in its last grab and has not compensated customary landowners for their losses.
“The Department of Lands should be focused on correcting its past mistakes rather than coming up with new ways to steal customary land” says Eddie Tanago.
ACT NOW! is calling on the government to cancel its misconceived Land Summit and instead concentrate on doing what is best for customary landowners.
“The government should be promoting Papua New Guinea as a proud and independent nation not trying to find new ways to allow foreigners to come and steal our land”, say Mr Tanago.