Papua New Guinea is the latest victim in a modern era of land grabs orchestrated by foreign corporations, an investigative report and a film reveal.
The film, entitled “On Our Land”, was screened on Tuesday at the Holiday Inn in Port Moresby by Oakland Institute and the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) on behalf of PNG partners Act Now! and Bismark Ramu Group.
The film revealed that in one of the swiftest and largest land grabs in recent history, close to a third of the country has now been appropriated by foreign companies.
Thinly veiled and illegal logging operations are destroying the world’s third largest rainforest and taking away the land and heritage that belongs to the people of PNG.
On Our Land also revealed how the current devastating land grab is happening with the de-facto approval of PNG’s Government and the failure of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to act on a government sponsored inquiry, which revealed a shocking trend of corruption and mismanagement in recent land deals.
Policy director at the Oakland Institute and author of the report Frederic Mousseau, said in a statement: “After years of looking at large scale land acquisitions in Africa, we thought we had heard about almost every scenario of deception and collusion. PNG was an eye opener.”
“Despite its findings, the Government has taken no action to reverse any of the 70 land deals and return land titles to citizens.
“From faked signatures to coercion to sheer bullying of communities, unlawful deals that fail to meet minimal guidelines are moving forward,” said Mousseau.
The report and documentary gave a revealing view of the intricately twisted world of land grabbing and untangle the question of why and how the government of a country likes PNG, with the most egalitarian and protected customary land rights, would betray its own citizens and the constitution.
Village members and activists, committed to getting their story to the world, spoke powerfully about how land has been taken away and the deceit of politicians and foreign companies promising them “development.”
The Government’s strategy of “freeing up land for development” has turned over 5.2 million hectares of customary land over to foreign interests for palm oil plantations in addition to 8.5 million hectares for logging operations.