Letters & Opinions

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Claims by NGO group misleading and defamatory

YOUR article, "Madang NGO group challenges logging giant" (14/2/10), completely misrepresents both the Rimbunan Hijau Group and the current legal proceedings regarding the Middle Ramu Block 1 concession.
Logging operations at Middle Ramu are currently being wound down.

This follows a Supreme Court decision in November 2009, which found fault with the way the concession was allocated by the Papua New Guinea Forest Authority (PNGFA).  This decision overturned an earlier National Court decision that confirmed the action of PNGFA in awarding the concession to Rimbunan Hijau was correct.

The court did not find fault with the operations or conduct of Rimbunan Hijau, the current concession holder, nor has it "banned" logging within the concession.

The Supreme Court has ordered the PNGFA to re-evaluate the forestry development proposal lodged by Madang Timbers Limited during the original tender process.  If the Madang Timbers proposal is in order; Madang Timbers will undertake logging operations in the concession area in future.

Claims by the American-backed group 'Asples Madang' and Ecological Internet stating that landowners are opposed to logging in the concession are not correct.

As is common in PNG, various landowner factions will support the developer that comes closest to serving individual interests.

More than 100 incorporated landowner groups (ILGs) expressed their support for Rimbunan Hijau's operations in MRB1 in December 2009.

Claims by Ecological Internet that RH has bribed landowners, government officials and police are defamatory and without merit.

The story refers to a Greenpeace report that claims Rimbunan Hijau is engaged in illegal logging and human rights violations.  As has been demonstrated by a number of independent reports and audits, Rimbunan Hijau does not engage in illegal logging and its treatment of workers and communities is exemplary.

The story claims that a 'recent' report from the Department of Labour found fault with Rimbunan Hijau's operations is also without merit and defamatory.

The report in question was published in 2004.  It was commissioned externally by the Department of Labour, which rejected the report's claims after further investigation and subsequently did not publish the report.

We suggest that the Sunday Chronicle check its facts with local organizations and the subjects of its reporting rather than relying on the half-truths of foreign-based activists.

Axel Wilhelm
Manager- Corporate Policy and Affairs
Rimbinan Hijau Group

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