Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Christmas Gift from "Santa Claus" Somare


Oh oh oh oh! It’s Christmas! Monday 23 of November 2009, Somare Government’s extravagant purchase of the Falcon 900 X aircraft cost US$40 million (K112 million) landed at the Jackson’s International Airport. Despite many opposition, the government went ahead and bought this expensive jet.

An early Christmas Gift from the public purse, this jet will service a very few privileged who sit at the top of the pyramid at the expanse of the almost 7 million people of Papua New Guinea.

The Somare Government saw itself fit to deploy such an expensive expenditure in the height of the worst state of health, education and infrastructure conditions in the country since independence.

Hospitals, clinics and aid posts in rural areas have no medicine, schools have no proper classrooms, broken desks no learning materials, poor living conditions for teachers etc. Roads and bridges, the bloodline for the movement of goods and services into rural communities have deteriorated into unimaginable standards. Yet the Somare Government saw it so wise to purchase this fancy aircraft.

No doubt, it is very clear that, Papua New Guineans, your health and your children’s health, and your children education is not important as far as the Somare Government is concerned. It does not even care about the basic infrastructures crucial for servicing rural communities. This government is "Robbing the Poor  & Serving the Rich". Is this the kind of government the people of PNG deserve?

Now it is more convenient for Somare and his boys to do business deals and agreements in the skies.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Copy of Mekere’s speech at EFF's 10th Anniversary Dinner

Parliament House, Waigani, National Capital District
Ph 3277 631 Fax 3277 632

Corruption, Civil Society and Good Governance
10th Anniversary Dinner – Eco-Forestry Forum
19th November 2009, Crowne Plaza, Port Moresby

Thank you Ken, Board Members, Thomas, Effrey and members of the Eco-Forestry Forum for inviting me to speak at your 10th anniversary dinner. It is an honour and a privilege.

I am disappointed that my co-guest speaker, Tos Barnett could not be here. Apart from my missing out on catching up with an old friend, reminiscing about the satisfaction and fun we had working to put in place good systems and structures of government in the early days of Independence, we will all miss the story Tos might have told us tonight. The Forestry Inquiry that he chaired uncovered the first big cases of corruption in PNG.

The Inquiry report documented what Tos described as “widespread malfeasance” - pervasive bribery and corruption; large-scale transfer pricing resulting in the loss of millions of dollars of export income, government revenue and royalties; non-compliance with regulations; extensive violation of landholders’ rights; and serious environmental destruction. The industry was, in Barnett’s words, “out of control”.

Let’s for a moment reflect on the pre-Barnett Inquiry era of the 1970s and 80s, and then what followed.

Before the exposures of the Barnett Inquiry, we had seen some questionable land deals, some petty embezzlement, the famous public service Diary affair, and misuse by some ministers of sectoral funds, soon known by all as “slush funds”.

But in those days, the total amount in a slush fund was at most one hundred thousand kina, for the whole country. Now, each Member of Parliament is in control of millions of kina every year. In those days, we did not have procurement and payment officers of government departments and companies fixing their own deals on each item procured or paid for. We did not have political parties controlling Supply and Tender Boards. We had proper contractual processes and checks and balances that largely worked, and protected the integrity and transparency of the system.

We did not have trust accounts with billions of kina stashed away, and Ministers roaming the countryside manually writing cheques and dishing them out as if the funds were their private savings. We did not have government agencies like IPBC hoarding and spending revenue that belongs to the state, to the people of Papua New Guinea. We had an Ombudsman Commission that took action; and Police Commissioners and Public Prosecutors who did their work without fear or favour.

The Barnett Forestry Inquiry reported 20 years ago. To me it is a landmark, a dividing point in the history of our country. Because while at the time it had major repercussions, we did not seem to learn from, or implement, its excellent recommendations. It resulted in the dismissal of one MP, and the resignation of the Deputy Prime Minister, which itself led to the dismissal of the Governor General. Some administrative reforms were put in place, but the very clear and detailed evidence set out in the Report was not taken up by prosecuting authorities, nor did the structure of the industry change. Those described by Tos as “robber barons” were soon at work again.

How PNG has changed in the 20 years since the Barnett Report. What was then a total scandal seems monkey compared with what is going on today. Corruption now pervades all sectors of government. In turn it has spread to the private sector; it affects every one of us in our daily lives. A friend, a very big businessman who grew up here and knows the country inside out, recently made the comment to me that it is very difficult to do honest business in PNG these days. And sadly, he is right.

In 1999, when my government came to power, there was so much to do. The country was virtually bankrupt and the kina on the verge of inconvertibility. Decision-making had been high-jacked by people outside Government. My focus of attention had to be on re-establishing an orderly process of decision-making based on process and professional advice, on stabilising the economy and government finances, on reforming the financial sector, and laying the foundation for both sustainable economic growth and for major reform of the public sector. In short, it was a period of reconstruction and rehabilitation for development.

In the three short years I had, there simply was not enough time to undertake all the reform necessary in different sectoral areas. For forestry, all I could do was to impose a moratorium on all new licences, increase taxes on timber exports (especially on logs), extend the SGS monitoring and checking of exports – and appoint the Eco-Forestry Forum to the National Forestry Authority Board. Discussions were advanced with the World Bank to fund a comprehensive review of the structure of the industry, an audit of all existing licences, a review of the fiscal regime for forestry and, most importantly, a stock-take of the remaining forest resource so that a Plan for a sustainable industry could be laid. Interim studies were completed, but not yet translated into law.

One of my greatest regrets in not being returned to power in 2002 was that I did not have the opportunity to undertake these more complex reviews and reforms.

Instead, the first thing the Somare Government did was to ingratiate itself to the forestry companies by reducing export tax. The moratorium on new licences was lifted. Section 59 of the Forestry Act, which provided for consultation with landowners on matters relating timber permits was repealed in 2005, and the Eco-Forestry Forum was removed from the Board to make way for a ministerial appointee. The Somare Government has conducted no audit of existing leases, to determine whether licence holders have fulfilled conditions of licences or not. There has been no analysis of ownership of forestry leases, to determine the real structure and ownership of the industry. No plan for sustainable exploitation has been developed. No action has been taken against lack of compliance with lease conditions, against violation of labour and immigration laws, abuse of human rights, or environmental damage. No monitoring of reforestation is taking place; indeed hardly any reforestation is taking place at all.

What Barnett detailed 20 years ago is not only relevant today – the situation is a hundred times worse. The control of the industry by one company is even more concentrated; the connections between timber companies and those in power have intensified; transfer pricing is still rampant; the majority of timber resource owners do not benefit from the industry; the environmental damage from uncontrolled logging has magnified.

Tos Barnett described the political accomplices of the timber barons 20 years ago as “corrupt, gullible and unthinking politicians”. I am not sure that today they could still be described as such. Corrupt yes, but not so gullible, and not so unthinking. Corruption has become, as I predicted in 1994, systemic and systematic. It is deliberate.

Removing export tax on logs is a deliberate act by the Government. Syphoning off timber revenue to Singapore bank accounts is a deliberate act. Corruption in forestry and throughout Government is systemic and systematic.

Every day we see it: politicians walking around with bagfuls of cash; their conspicuous spending on cars, houses, travel, gambling, women and drinking. We have a Prime Minister buying a private jet to spin around the world to sell more carbon credits; a Prime Minister negotiating to buy a satellite from India costing billions of kina; Ministers selling state assets cheaply, like the state’s shares in Oil Search; while children are not at school, aid posts are closed, health centres have no medicine, and roads have potholes like craters. It is all before our eyes. Who is taking action?

One shining light in this sad story of neglect and corruption is you, the Eco-Forestry Forum. You have shown through word and deed the importance of civil society in the quest for good governance. You actively engage in policy discussion, on forestry, environmental issues, on emissions reduction, carbon trading and on human rights. You campaign against illegal logging, and campaign for sustainable eco-forestry development. You involve landowners and rural communities in your work. You have taken the Government and companies to court, culminating in the landmark victories over Kamula Doso and East Awin. You have filed a constitutional reference challenging the validity of the Timber Permits Validation Act 2007 – another deliberate act by the Somare Government in support of questionable forestry activities.

You have a major role to play right now to protect forest resource owners from being seduced by the carbon credit cowboys who are carrying around their permits signed by the Prime Minister and his colleagues in the Kitchen Cabinet. What a paradox. On the one hand the Prime Minister, outriggered by his American and Italian logs, champions the REDD cause, while allowing uncontrolled exploitation of our forests by timber companies. On the one hand, we champion REDD and wish to trade our carbon credits, but we have no legislation or policy in place. In the face of chaos, we are vulnerable to sharks as well as cowboys.

To counter this and other misdeeds we need many more organisations to join you and speak out, engage in debate, draw out alternatives and options, protest about what we know to be wrong, and demand appropriate action by Government. Business people, workers, church representatives, media representatives, academics, students, professionals, community leaders all need to stop taking a passive role and play their part as responsible citizens. It is only when the people hold a government accountable, that it will be accountable.

Accountability requires commitment from the top, the leaders, and pressure from the people. NGOs, working together, drawing strength from each other, can make a difference for the silent majority to be heard.

I congratulate you on all that the Eco-Forestry Forum has achieved in its first ten years, and encourage you to keep up your fight. I assure you of my support.

Thank you.

Mekere Morauta KCMG MP
Leader of the Opposition and Member for Moresby North-West

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What is the Grand Chief trying to hide?

The Government plans to disband the parliamentary bipartisan committee investigating the anti-Asian rioting in May. It claims that the bi-partisan committee chaired by MP Jamie Maxton Graham has lost credibility.

The panel is seeking to establish what triggered the May 2009 protests and looting of shops owned and operated by Chinese in the Highlands and Port Moresby.

We know that the Government initially tried to shelve the issue by not funding the committee, however the Prime Minister was pressured to make funds available. Now we learnt that the committee would be disbanded by parliament.

Why are we NOT surprised Grand Chief! It was Somare’s government’s intention all along to hide the truth about the anti-Asian riots. We know that Somare and his government are in bed with the Asian and they will do anything to ensure that this love affair is not disrupted.

Well the fact of the matter is that, MP Jamie Maxton Graham and the bi-partisan committee have uncovered some serious issues relating to the anti-Asian riots that may bring to light things that Somare and his government do not want the people of PNG to know.

It is a shame for the government to question the credibility of the bi-partisan committee who has done a commendable job to bring to light the causes of the anti-Asian riots. What is the Grand Chief trying to hide?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Somare turning PNG into a Casino

The Somare led Government has turned Papua New Guinea into a Casino. With the natural resources boom in PNG, we see more mining licences being granted, new areas turned into oil palm plantations, loggers penetrating new forests frontiers, commercial fishing and now the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) projects.

The PNG government is signing all kinds of deals in a very short period of time as if the whole world will end tomorrow. The way these deals are done is like a casino, and it is very clear the Somare led government and his NA ruling party are gambling the future heritage of this country.

Do we need to mine all the mountains, and the sea floor, log all our forest, fish all our tuna, and drain out all our oil and gas to be developed? Have we not learnt from our African brothers that once had all the riches but are now plaque with HIV and Aids, riots, civil wars, corruption and starvation? Do we really think we will become like the first worlds? Have we not learnt from the Bougainville crisis? Have we not learnt form the pollution of the Fly River by Ok Tedi mine? Have we not learnt from the experiences of RD Tuna cannery in Madang? Have we not learnt from the RH logging operations in the Western and Gulf province? Have we not learnt from the Oil Palm problems in West New Britain?

Make no mistakes, the deals the government is signing is selling the rich heritage of this country cheap. For instance, the Ramu Nickel Project in Madang. The Chinese state owned Company, Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (CMCC) owns 85% of the shares; Highlands Pacific owns 8% the rest of the 7% is shared between the government, MRA, individuals and landowners. And on top of that, they (CMCC) are given tax holiday up to ten years.

No country in the world allows a foreign company to own over 50 percent of mining shares, it is only happening in PNG. For such deals as these who stands to benefit? Definitely not the country and not the people nor the landowners. Would it mean that those who are facilitating these deals and signing agreements are stupid? Or would mean that there are significant commissions for those who facilitate these stupid deals and sign the agreements?

The government claims that landowners would benefit from spin-off business and possible employment opportunities. This is just a cheap cover up, to divert people’s attention from the real issues of equitable benefit sharing. In fact many landowner company are still struggling to get contracts and employment opportunities are only low paid wages. Is this what we deserve?

Palm Oil will Never be Sustainable

RSPO is Greenwashing
For copies in Spanish, Indonesian or Italian, please email

Open Letter to RSPO and WWF

Palm oil monoculture will never be

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"CORRUPTION" - Masterminded

Many people talk about corruption and it is a major issue for many developing countries in world. Corruption is responsible for many run down government services, cheap selling of natural resources, ineffective public service, shortage of medicine, shortage of essential school supplies, policemen on payroll of companies and the list goes on.

Often, the focus is on the problems associated with corruption and the parties involved. However, this may not be the only face of corruption, there is another face to it that plays strategically and tactically behind the seen.

I read a Book about Nelson Mandela and the struggle for Blacks to have equal voting rights as the white minority. That book opened by eyes to see the dimensions of the masterminds behind the suppression of the blacks struggle. While the African National Congress (ANC) and their leader, Nelson Mandela were involved in International lobby to force the white government to allow the blacks to have voting rights, England was pumping money into the Zulu Party to oppose the moves by ANC. Huge amounts of money were also pumped into underground killings and riots which were published in International media to discredit the ANC and lie to the world that the blacks were not ready to vote or have the country in their own hands. This was uncovered by the Truth Commission who did an inquiry into all the riots and killing in South Africa prior to blacks being granted equal voting rights as the white minority.

I believe, the various riots and crisis in Africa are manufactured by masterminds of the governments of the first worlds who do not want to see these countries have good strong stable governments who can control the vast natural resources. The political instability and in fighting in the African countries makes it easier and cheap for their resources to be exploited.

To put things into perspective, for those our us, who have not fought for our independence, our colonial masters made sure they put strategic controls in place before granting us independence. We do not have civil wars in Papua New Guinea, accept for the 9 years Bougainville crisis, however, we are rated amongst the most corrupt countries in the world. Sir Mekere once said that "Corruption has been institutionalized". The Transparency International is yet to raise issues of corruption despite of many happening in the country.

Donor agencies such as AusAid are continuing to fund land development programs despite the fact that the Department for Lands and Physical Planning is clouded with corruption with missing files, re-zoning public parks, most prime commercial lands in urban centres and cities go to Asian businesses. Interestingly the donor agencies, including AusAid, ADB, EU etc are not raising any concern about corruption in PNG. They simply brush it aside as an internal matter. Don't you care that the money you are donating is going to the dogs? For AusAid funds, don't you care that it is the Australian Tax payers money thrown into the hands of thieves?

Well if they do not care than, it sounds like the situation when ANC was struggling to get the blacks the voting rights. So someone is masterminding corruption in PNG. The corrupt the government of PNG is, the easier to control and manipulate. I believe Australia is benefiting for the corruption in PNG, because if we have a strong, vibrant non-corrupt government, with the resources we have, we can be more powerful than them and we can donate to them. Who says No?