COP26 Logging Cartels Operating in Papua New Guinea - UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT


We have to concede, Mutang, that we lost all you lost to a large extent the battle against the loggers and their corrupt politician allies in Sarawak that you know over that period leading up to the end of the last century. Now, what did those loggers do after they made their first billions? 

As I explained they spread their tentacles into any other forested areas they could and one of the biggest lures, one of the biggest you know areas to get in before anyone else did was Gary’s territory of Papua New Guinea.

Gary when did these guys these same families these are companies um you know from Cebu, that's a town in Sarawak um mainly populated by you know long-established families originally from mainland China, who had you know the very well-known business region of mainland China um with very astute and ruthless reputation actually um these are family companies they married into each other. 

I actually think quite often of the Sicilian mafia when I’m looking for a uh an equivalent um they then arrived the same family members the same companies at your door, didn't they Gary? When was that round about the 1990s?

Actually they came in in the 1980s mid-1980s. And uh and how did they transform lives in your area Well we had a logging industry, a forestry industry, I would say in Papua New Guinea and it was you know basically the companies were from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and America and they did what uh companies ought to do which is to abide by the laws of a nation, wherever they are operating in. So they respected these laws which dictated where they could carry out deforestation activities, where they couldn't and they actually went into downstream processing.

They actually went into downstream processing and they had you know wood pulp mills plywood meals etc and there was a massive reforestation program that was managed by the department of forestry until the Malaysian cartels came into Papua New Guinea. 

When they (the Malaysian Cartels) came in they immediately displaced those legitimate companies that were operating in the forestry sector and soon enough these companies packed up and left because they just couldn't operate in this environment where they were intimidated, where they couldn't get permits where they were not treated fairly and eventually they packed up and that downstream processing industry was completely dismantled and replaced with a round log export.

You know philosophy that was perpetrated by the Malaysian timber companies. Then we saw some very interesting things happen which you know on the face of it you can't really tell but if you go into details and if you scrutinize what was actually happening you would see a systematic development of a perverted system whereby the various government departments responsible for checks and balances were compromised.

So permits and licenses would only go to these particular companies and you know and in record speed, without following the due processes for example there was no free prior informed consent from landowners. You know 97 (per cent) of the land in Papua New Guinea is owned by clans and what they would do is they would target individuals within these clans compromise them and then use the perverted system that they created in the government.

 They would then gain access to this forest. They even I would I’m stating here from my own analysis of what happened, they even went through the process of carrying out government reforms deliberately so that they could access timber in areas which they couldn't originally access. In the first place, for instance, provinces used to have a huge say in regards to what type of companies would operate in their jurisdiction. Well reforms were carried out in 95 they called them you know provincial government reforms and they basically allowed the centralizing of permits and licenses to be made from Wagani by the national government which were easily accessed by these companies then they could access the provinces and their forest which they couldn't previously do so.

That this is you know that's my knowledge of how they first entered Papua New Guinea and what they started to do well is what we're effectively talking about is um the systematic corruption of a country. Isn't it?


And I am from what I’ve  seen I would call it state capture is that a fair is that a fair term to use yes i would even go as far as saying it's it's actually a colonization effort you know and this is the first steps you know because they've grown significantly I mean I’ll give some examples here in straight after they came into the country uh there was resistance from not just people on the ground but from the government itself the national government and the provincial governments from the people itself an example is whereby they came into my province and they went into the hinterlands where i am from uh they tried to establish themselves there they had already acquired the permits and licenses but they had not received the permission of the tribal council so the tribal council's warriors captured them burned 10 million dollars’ worth of their machines put them in a canoe and sent them down the river and said if you come back the consequences will be far worse than this so they left us alone we are people from the mountainous regions so we you know you're going to come into our land and do things like this the consequences are going to be severe so they focus on coastal areas where the people are peaceful they're low abiding and they're less likely to resist in a violent manner that's how the people resisted in some areas so by a process of trial and error they realize that there are certain areas they cannot go to just yet and they keep trying but they will focus on areas where they can easily have access to the forest manipulate the people of those areas and carry out the activities with you know blatant want on total lack of consideration for either the people or the laws of the country Gary how the government started to take action at that time this is very instructive as to how these organizations evolved is that a inquiry was established by the forest minister at that time the honourable Tim Neville who's a you know very passionate member of parliament and Tim had taken a submission to the NEC at that time the national executive council and they had endorsed an inquiry this inquiry known as the Toss Barnett inquiry was to inquire into the criminal organization's participation in the forest sector now what happened next is quite you know it's worth noting justice Toss Barnett was the head of this inquiry and as he continued with his inquiry the minister himself was almost shot or assassinated the fraud squad office was burned to the ground but the forestry office was completely burgled and there were no files no information in regards to all these activities and Justice Toss Barnett himself was stabbed and he had to be medivac to Australia fast forward to 2011 when the prime minister at that time (Late) Sir Michael Somare instigated another inquiry called the special agricultural business lease inquiry and the consequences indicate how the organizations had evolved while he was in Singapore receiving treatment he was removed from office and an illegal government was installed and the SABL inquiry which cost about 17 million kinah was basically canned nothing happened to it to this day that inquiry has never been acted upon by the relevant organizations etc so you can see that they've gone from an outfit that was a crude criminal type of outfit they've grown into an outfit that now has political stock not only have they done that this current government under the prime ministership of James Marape insisted on you know strict reforms to address the issues that were recognized that were highlighted in these inquiries and he was almost removed in a recent vote of no confidence you know and although the information is anecdotal I’m  convinced that it is the same group of people because the members of parliament who perpetrated this were very visibly seen accommodated at organized hotels owned by these organizations well yes Gary I think this is a chance to at least show video I’ve  been given of you pushing back a bit against these guys if I can um yeah I’m  going to have to small it just get them some sound up but I found out that they have actually been shipping out from time to time without you know our permission.

 The problem is that many of these people do not fulfil their work permit requirements the work permit says that they are to provide training opportunities for all citizen employees they never train anyone they come and work and make money and don't train anybody and they go and it's probably unfair to ask you any questions huh because I’m curious I want to know what this new building is for uh this one will just uh now upgrade the from there but I think people are scaling down because you don't say I’m not signing the workforce how come your bosses are lying

 the companies that are coming in there are pests they have no consideration for our people or the environment or the future when they see a tree all they see is how can they convert the tree into profits in their bank accounts

 Gary you're pretty formidable i think you sorted that guy out but you know i have seen the same bosses strike fear into the communities where they are operating I’ve  been up to villages they're terrified of those company bosses who swagger around and you know i found out the most terrible things about how your impoverished communities are treated by these logging companies and not only are their working conditions if they are if they do get jobs I’ve  I’ve  seen I’ve  seen Papua New Guineans working barefoot um in the logging areas with bulldozers coming past um let me show you some of the photographs yes this is how they have to work as as you know the the the Malaysian loggers are all there um you know in their protected uh vehicles and and then around them scurrying about trying to help them with the chains to pull out the logs um are the local people forced to work in bare feet um that's just you know one aspect if the communities um rebel I discovered Gary from many communities they have these shipping containers that are lying all over Papua New Guinea and they just lock them in there for a few days don't they yes they use the police to do this and as i said many of these the coastal communities are very the peaceable people they are law abiding they've been instructed and drilled to respect the law over decades so that's what they're doing and they have these huge hopes that the government institutions that have been designed and created to protect them and enforce the law will do so unfortunately they won't because they've been hijacked by these cartels now in regards to the video you watched we've shut that camp down there were five in my province we've shot all of them down save two I’m  currently in court with these two remaining camps that are fighting tooth and nail to keep me out and i can tell you claire and others here but for me personally as a as a forest person uh coming from a tribe where we we are we are a warrior people you know and it's very very uh frustrating because we would like to go in there and deal with them the way we would often deal with people who are invading our land but it's very difficult because here are these laws that we are supposed to abide by you know so i have taken that route of using these systems the law you know the the entities that exist that are supposed to assist me in tackling these issues and it's very very challenging you know well it's challenging because they have all the money they have I’m  going to say it bought up and bribed as much of the political establishment as they can and certainly how they operate in Malaysia and uh you know they buy up anyone at local level um again um as in ceramic i spoke to communities who would say well you know um they come in they buy up to people who say they're community leaders who sign in our names um and then it's accepted that somehow the communities agreed to um to the logging um or they send in the police who turn up and in one occasion that i heard of um just told the people to sign at gunpoint in the middle of the night having banged on their door and of course Gary this is all done isn't it in the name of uh progress and development as it was in Sarawak and all the communities i spoke to said that they were promised that the logging was going to give them roads hospitals schools sanitation and take a look that's a classic setup that i would see and of course most of their waterways are polluted because these people are working on palm oil plantations i went down into the palm oil plantations and spoke to these magnificent guys who all strong magnificent workers who were having to work so hard to get these these fruits um often a mile or so up to the truck the track to be to be able to get them transported and and many of them spoke perfect and eloquent English to me um and told me that they felt slaves in their own land um and i said what's your parting as i was leaving i said what's your parting comment um if you would and um they said Malaysia’s Malaysians go home um so so that's the message from um i think the unanimous message from the people of Papua is it not now apart from those who've made an absolute fortune out of accommodating the loggers Gary Gary well especially i mean you have to remember that the logging is not taking place in the whole country as I’ve  mentioned it's taking place in specific areas where the people are vulnerable you also have to understand that as i said 97 percent of the land is owned by land owners so even though there are politicians and government agencies that may not want this to take place out of our tribal systems of respect we allow landowners to decide what to do on their own land so if the loggers go in and compromise the clan chief and the systems that exist on the land then you know they can basically get away with it because they say well this is the development that the people want and the people are you know extremely poor we're we're an extremely cash poor nation but resource rich and with no one coming to assist no one coming to help and a very young country at the age of just 40 plus years trying to find its way to merging 1 000 tribes into a nation and develop it's very challenging for the national government itself you know so i just want to point out that in many instances there are politicians who do want to do the right thing but they just you know they have to understand that if they go against this it could also cost them the elections they might not return because the communities will say well what are you doing in return how are you going to provide for us so for these people it's a bittersweet sort of uh situation where they don't want it but sometimes they feel that this is the only way they can get a road i mean if you are in a place where you have to walk five six days just to get to government services just to access a telephone just to be able to have your child treated you know a road is a very important vital piece of infrastructure that you would want so this is these are some of the complexities of the challenges of addressing this you know particular um situation but under this cover but these organizations come in they establish themselves and and then like a like a cancer they start spreading you know and that's what is happening but i want to point out here that it's not just Papua New Guinea but they're also in Solomon Islands another small pacific island country where they're brutally uh you know carrying out their activities in very similar fashion applying the template that they have developed refined in Malaysia in Papua New Guinea and now also in Solomon islands yeah and i i think we need to really reiterate that in your minds these same companies are all over causing the same misery and enriching themselves at the same time all over the region um and you know we're in an international conference now we you know we're appealing to a global audience and you know we need to think about how to help to to unite to help um wonderful leaders like Gary to push back against this because they're isolated in remote places and they're getting very little international support and attention against these timber raiders and i think this might be a moment to come back to Sarawak and some of the campaigners who are still fighting that final battle to save these last indigenous regions that mutants people and and other communities in Barham um have been trying to do um through one particular project which is the barum peace park which has been supported internationally is now being supported by the itto and indeed sort of signed up to by the Malaysian government although it appears that somehow the Malaysian government is dragging its feet on the implementation and meanwhile guess who sampling are in there nibbling away at the um the remaining few hectares that they're trying to protect um by investing in that area and i spoke to you know i mean the Papuans are so lucky the republicans so lucky to have Gary and I’m  and and the Sarawakians are very lucky to have Mutang i think you know Gary we need your input on what what the international community needs to do to help you and him yes certainly Claire look i see what is happening as one of the worst if not the worst form of terrorism that's taking place right now because it is a type of terrorism that's carried out against the interests of the world the earth and it is attacking what are essentially the assets of the world all of us and the people who are custodians who are stewards protectors of these assets they need help because these assets are not just their assets the assets of all of us and especially now with what is happening with climate change global warming the world needs to pay attention to what is taking place here and deal with this bio-terrorists as they ought to be dealt with you know and that's the situation that i feel needs attention that we can't say oh Malaysia is a sovereign country Papua New Guinea is a sovereign country Solomon Islands a sovereign country i mean this bio-terrorists have rendered Malaysia, PNG and Solomon Islands virtually unable to protect these forests this this natural assets resources of the world

 

Gary if you were going to say the top two things that the international community should be doing to move in to shore up you in your battle against these monstrously powerful wealthy um criminal concerns um what should we be doing and foremost they need to assist these nations deal with these bio-terrorists and one certain way to do that is to ensure that the proceeds of crimes that come out of these activities are not diverted into these economies i mean these organizations have investments in Australia in new Zealand in the us in Europe in other parts of the world and if these are proceeds of crime then why are their banks why are their economies accommodating these criminals we know who they are they need to be properly identified and they should cease to act with impunity with the world turning a blind eye the world's regulators turning a blind eye we need to go after these guys and make it clear that if you do this you will end up in trouble that's not been the message of the last decades absolutely these economies need these countries need assistance from the global community in these regards secondly there need to be alternatives now the people the stewards the custodians of this amazing resources have been taking care of these resources alone for centuries and they continue to now they're under attack and still they're being ignored i mean we hear these amazing pledges being made by powerful organizations world leaders and what have you but how are these pledges this this uh this statements that are being made going to be translated in such a way that we can also provide alternatives so that these stewards these custodians can continue to protect these assets that belong to the rest of the world well i think that this is probably the moment to uh to bring in uh Gordon (Brown) who um Mutang, Urad and Gary met yesterday um Gordon Brown is obviously one of the great Scottish politicians um um who forms part of the international community of well-wishers who think about these things and has written a book trying to analyse how the international community um can respond and help and and that's obviously what the whole climate conference is about and having met you both yesterday he was inspired uh to send a little message uh this morning to you so our world must support vulnerable communities and peoples who are rich in resources and yet often unable to stand up to deforestation and resource extraction and exploitation today thanks to the primary work of claim and to the energy and determination and commitment of Gary and Mutang whom I’ve  met because I’ve  listened to we focus on tackling illegal webbing and corruption in their home countries and their passionate desire the short cop 26 what's happening on the ground and why we need urgent and radical change and this meeting is important because in these few days left of cop26 we must alert the road to the need for builder action in meeting and mastering the climate challenge and we must show that after years of protectionism the building of walls the imposition of tariffs American first style ideologies and most recently vaccine nationalism that international cooperation can be made to work and as the world's resources institute estimate planting trees is one of the least expensive zero carbon options and it will do more to deliver clean water and air many such reforestation programs are shuttle ready and can create jobs what we lack of the global financial arrangements that will help those who have the most to do but have the least ability to pay so what needs to be done we must reach out with finance to those countries

 

but often indigenous rights are being trampled upon and to help fund this progressive mr even more to isolate him and close down those tax agents to where people and companies harming the environment siphoned off billions of dollars money which if attacks fairly could radically improve health education and climate action with advanced

 

in the international marketplace and of course over the next year we have also to agree the funding of a global growing new deal that can create millions of jobs across the world and invest in renewables and forestry on nature-based solutions the situation is perilous but we are not powerless and through this meeting that brings together people from all continents we're encouraging what needs to be done most of all the creation of an internationally coordinated public movement that shows that we all work together in good causes nothing can stop our progress if the last year will be remembered for our collective failure to come together to adequately tackle the coven 19 pandemic the year 2021 must not be remembered for our collective failure to help climate change we should feel hopeful we should be motivated to do everything in our power to create a climate that offers a home to everyone and is harmful to no one thank you

Gary um i think he reflected a lot of what we've talked about today if you've got any final final comments to make i think we should be wrapping up

Thank you

i want to say that western nations in the name of terrorism pursue vigorously with all the might they can master all the resources they get harnessed they pass all the laws in record time and they totally ignore sovereignty when they pursue those they deem engage in terrorism that threatens their communities businesses and trade they blacklist entire nations individuals and entities in this effort i'd like to see them apply those measures with similar vigor and resources

 

to bio-terrorist entities of which illegal logging companies are the voiced acts of terrorism primarily affect humans but acts of bioterrorism attack the entire environment of which we are a part of i see often at these type of forums everyone's speaking for humans we are so arrogant and ignorant in believing that we are the masters of this earth that only we have a right to live here forgetting that there are other citizens who also have a right to live here who often don't have representatives who speaks for them

 

That's my final thought Gary thank you for speaking for that and thank you Claire for being a champion thank you for everything for coming thank all of you for being champions and coming along and giving us an opportunity to

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