Sarawak logging giant Rimbunan Hijau is being linked to a protest crackdown in Papua New Guinea.
Australia’s ABC radio said a senior Papua New Guinean police officer has revealed that the logging company financed a police crackdown on the protesters who were against a controversial oil palm plantation in the country.
It alleged forty-four thousand hectares of land in Pomio district, at East New Britain province has been leased to the project for 99 years and a company called Gilford Limited has a permit to clear the area.
The station quoting local – Mr Pavol who said many locals were angry because the leases were granted without the approval of the majority of traditional landowners.
“We have never given consent. We did not say yes. We want all to sign, we did not even sign any document. I think we are going to lose all the land for 99 years. That is three generations,” Papuan villager Paul Pavol told the station.
The villagers have been staging blockades to try and stop the land from being cleared.
Mr Pavol said a group of policemen flew into the area last week, visited several villages and arrested two men who’d taken part in the protests.
According to Pavol what they did is they bashed up the people in the village, young men and elderly men, using fan belts and tree branches and all that. People were very terrorised.
But Assistant Commissioner Anton Billy told ABC radio, police went to Pomio because protesters had trespassed into Gilford’s work camp and assaulted the workers.
“The protesters believe police came to Pomio at the bidding of the giant Malaysian business conglomerate Rimbunan Hijau, or RH as its known,” ABC radio said.
One of RH’s major interests is logging and locals suspect Gilford is a front for the company.
The protesters say security guards at Gilford’s work camp wear RH uniforms and they’ve received letters from the company’s lawyers urging them to stop their protest.
Assistant Commissioner Billy told the ABC RH did fly his officers to Pomio and told them he didn’t see anything wrong with the arrangement.
“Because police cannot- we don’t have any funds to get these people there and pay them allowance and all this stuff. That is normal,” Anton Billy told ABC radio.
The radio station said, RH hasn’t responded to questions about its involvement with the police action or its connection to the oil palm plantation.
In a statement sent to all media it says the Pomio project is legitimate and has the support of the majority of landowners.