Land Grabbing in Papua New Guinea

This is from a Module 1, Assignment 2 course assignment post:

Land Grabbing in Papua New Guinea by Albert Manape

Land Grabbing in Papua New Guinea societies is not yet serious as in other
Africa countries and others. The current democratic and legal system of the
country is very tough in particular the Land Act 1996 that any land dealings
into alienated and customary land. However the minority of the landowners and
government officials from Lands, Forestry and Agriculture Departments or
other related organizations have capitalized on few loopholes in the legal
bounded land processes and procedures to grab million hectares of native land
to foreign investors. There are number of land acquisition existing in Lands
& Physical Department, however the most and common acquisition that involves
land grabbing of the native land in Papua New Guinea is lease and lease back
acquisition under Special Agriculture and Business Leases (SABL). Other land
grabbing related issues emerged internally among customary land owners
themselves through applying physical forces (inter- village clan tribal
fighting to remove other neighbouring villages take ownership of their land)
needs further elaboration in these, however might not be discuss in here,
but required to know in the future will disclose to you.

Because of the corrupt dealing of the minority group at the national level
and with collaborative effort with the chiefs of the customary land, many
hectares of native land title have been transferred to foreign investors,
Currently in PNG almost 69 lease - lease back land titles under Special
Agriculture and Business Lease have been (SABL) under Commission of Enquiry
after landowners, Public and Non Government Organisation (NGOs) raised the
alarm. Entire land dealing under this acquisitions been in to high court of
the country and any dealing which are not according to the Rules and
Regulations of the Act is being scrutinised.

In Papua New Guinea the Government‘s power to acquire land is contained in
Land Act 1996 and the Lands Acquisition (Development Purpose0 Act 1974. The
State can acquire land by agreement with Landowners or under some
circumstance the Minister for Lands can decide to make a compulsory only when
land is required for public purposes as defined in the Act. The legal
administration procures for acquiring land, whether by negotiation a
compulsory can be laborious and time consuming.

As well as acquiring land itself, the government can acquire an easement, a
right or an interest in the land. The Land Act also covers lease and lease
back acquisition but only when granting Special Agriculture and Business
Leases (SABL). The Land Regulation set out the procedure for buying or
leasing land.

With the posing of the Land Acct 1962, customary land was both through a
process called Native Land Dealing. The process fully invested the relevant
land owning group and others with rights to the land in question, a valuation
was made of the land and improvement, marked a survey plan was attached to
the Native Land Dealing document and these registered in the Department of

From the mid – 1950 the Australia Administration adopted a policy of
purchasing in full rights of way of national roads, institutions and urban or
outstation. The process involved only a cursory investigation of land owning
groups and was unlikely to ensure that all landowners and their rights were
recognised and received due compensation. There was also no requirement to
mark the boundaries of the purchase. As a result 3 or 4% of the state land is
dealing with paper titles for any business or residential transactions
through the Lands & Physical Planning Department in PNG

Regardless of strong legal system existing in PNG on land acquisition
especially in lease lease back titles, minority of the landowning leaders and
the relevant government officials are taking advantage of the few loopholes
in Land Act to corruptly facilitating land grabbing for the investors
companies. The entire processes involves in lease lease back title is that
the landowners themselves express interest to developers for any potential
development on their land. After negotiation phase with whoever developers,
the landowners then expresses interest to the relevant government departments
or agencies for land mobilization for instance Lands, Forestry, Agriculture,
Environment & Conservation or Mining & Petroleum Departments

For the Lands Department, entire processes of lease lease back acquisition
will be thoroughly followed and finally the land titles will be process and
given back to the customary land owner for further deliberation with the
investors on certain sub-lease agreement and business spin offs. However
these processes are usually being hijacked by government bureaucrats and
investors which denied the rights of the land owners.

Under the Land Act, the process of acquiring lease lease back title for
Special Agriculture and Business Lease (SABL) is that the Lands Department is
to process the lease title given directly to the landowners and then land
owners should sub-lease the title to whoever investors willing to develop the
land. Instead the government officials involve process the land title and
deliver to the investors under heavy bribery. For that reason, the landowners
with the assistance from the NGOs have realise the corrupt dealings in the
government departments and outcry for the government to recall Commission of
Enquiry for investigation into Special Business Agriculture and Business

Below is the media abstract from one of the popular news agencies in PNG, The
National for further information.
SABL Commission of Inquiry Blog
The Papua New Guinea government has appointed a Commission of Inquiry to
investigate a huge 'land grab' which has seen over 5 million hectares of land
swallowed up in 99 year leases. These Special Agriculture and Business Leases
(SABLs) are very controversial as it appears proper processes have not been
followed, customary landholders have not given their informed consent and
many leases are just a cover for clear-fell logging.

This dedicated blog site has been created to cover the Commission of Inquiry
proceedings and bring you all the latest news both from inside the inquiry
room and other media outlets.
December 2nd 2011
In the debate over the Special Agricultural and Business leases (SABLs), all
the attention is focused on the Lands Department. This may have happened
because the Lands Department, which is tasked to manage State and to some
degree, customary land in Papua New Guinea, issues the SABLs.

But for the SABLs to be of benefit to those that hold the leases, three other
government departments play crucial roles in the whole scheme of things. The
Agriculture and Livestock Department, the National Forest Service (NFS) and
the Environment and Conservation Department (DEC) also play a part in
allowing these lease holders to exploit the resources and the land. It is the
role NFS and DEC departments play in the whole process that is of great
concern to a lot of people as well as us.

When a SABL is issued, the developer or lease holder then applies for an
environmental permit. The DEC, one behalf of the Government, grants the
Environment Permit. This department is headed by Dr Wari Iamo. 
Armed with
the Environment Permit, the developer then applies to the National Forest
Board for a Forest Clearance Authority (FCA). The FCA is issued to allow the
developer to clear the land and plant oil palm or any other agriculture crops
it wants to on the cleared land. The National Forest Board is headed by Dr
Wari Iamo as well, as Chairman.

The Office of Climate Change and Development (OCCD) announced yesterday that
it is conducting a review of all existing SABLs. We are told that the
Government is “committed to making improvements where necessary” within
the SPABL process and the Government, through the OCCD, will review the
approval process, audit active

The PNG Government sanctioned Commission of Inquiry (CoI) hearing into the
issuance of the Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Lease (SABL)
commenced in Kiunga, Western Province on Wednesday, 16/11/2011.
The inquiry, which was supposed to have started on Monday (14/11/2011), was
delayed due to Air Niugini not able to fly all the equipment and staff of the
Inquiry into Kiunga on time. The hearing is being presided over by
Commissioner Mr. Mirou.

The hearing room at the Kiunga Vocational Training Centre was packed to
capacity with Landowners when Commissioner Mirou (pictured) began the
proceedings on Wednesday by explaining the purpose of the Commission of

Mr. Mirou said in his opening remarks the Commission of Inquiry was required
by the Government to report on whether or not processes and procedures were
followed by respective Government Departments in issuing the SABLs. In
particular, Commissioner Mirou said the Commission wanted to establish
whether all the Landowners consented to the issuance of the SABLs and whether
or not they were duly informed of the implications of the SABLs before
signing the documents.

Commissioner Mirou added that the Commission was aware of the existence of
nine (9) SABLs in the Western Province and encouraged people to come forward
and inform the Commission if there were any other SABLs within the province
which the Commission may not have been made aware of, signifying the fact
that no proper records were being kept by the relevant Government Agencies.
The 9 SABLs which the Commission is aware of are:
SABL No. SABL Grantee
12 Tumu Timbers Development Limited
13 Ia-Ali Investments Limited
14 Mudau Investment Limited
15 Godoa Land Group Inc.
16 Haubawe Holdings Limited
17 Foifoi Limited
25 Tosigiba Investments Limited
26 North East West Investments Limited
27 North East West Investments Limited

It was evident from the reaction from the crowd at the hearing that there
were disgruntled landowners who had come to the hearing hoping to be heard.
However, Commissioner Mirou said that only those who had been summoned by the
Commission would be required to give evidence. He however asked different
landowner factions and groups, with the assistance of the Police to appoint a
spokesperson whom, if required by the Commission during the course of the
hearing, may give evidence for and on behalf of their respective groups. In
the meantime, Mr. Jim Bokomi, Lawyer assisting the Commissioner, summoned
Messers Iman Ite Papa, Acting Principal Advisor for the Western Provincial
Administration (Summons No. 157) and Ipisa Biyama, District Lands Officer in
Balimo (Summons No. 154) who were both present at the Hearing. Mr. Biyama was
advised that he would be required to give evidence on Friday (18/11/2011)
while Mr. Papa was required to give evidence on Wednesday, the opening day of
the Hearing.

Name: manapea | Email: | Class: Earthsharing Pacific