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Green MP to look at human rights in PNG

5 November 2007

Green MP to look at human rights and illegal logging in PNG

Human rights of indigenous peoples, parliamentary democracy and destruction of tropical rainforests are the main issues for Green Party MP Metiria Turei during her a visit to Papua New Guinea from November 6 to 11.

At the request of Speaker of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea, Hon. Jeffrey Nape MP, the Australian National University's Centre for Democratic Institutions (CDI) is organising a training workshop for Papua New Guinea MPs. The focus of the training is on the role of parliamentary committees with an emphasis on "engaging the community through committee work". "I'm keen to improve dialogue between ordinary people and Parliament," Mrs Turei says. "I'm also interested in discussing reports of villagers being forced off traditional lands to allow big corporate mining and logging companies to operate, plus serious environmental degradation in that country," Mrs Turei says.

One aim of the workshop is to promote parliamentary committees as a means of "taking Parliament to the people" so Members will be better informed about community views. It is hoped this will provide a bridge between constituents' concerns and the broader community interest and promote more public debate.

"In my free-time in PNG I hope to meet people like Greenpeace representatives and will inform them of our tropical rainforests campaign here. Nearly all New Zealand's tropical kwila timber imports come from dwindling 'paradise forests' of PNG and Indonesian-run Papua. The World Bank reports 70 to 80 percent of such logging is illegal."

Mrs Turei's trip comes coincidentally on the anniversary of Green Co-Leader Rod Donald's death. Mr Donald passionately advocated for the end of illegal log imports from PNG.

In 2004, Omanie Sakapeso, a representative of Papuan landowners, visited New Zealand and met Mr Donald (who died suddenly shortly after midnight on November 6, 2005). During the meeting, Mr Sakapeso said he was deeply distressed the New Zealand Government was allowing wood which could have been stolen from his family's forest to be imported into this country.

"Since then, instead of stopping the kwila trade, the Government has allowed such imports to soar. It is believed that New Zealand and Australia now take around 60 percent of PNG's sawn kwila," Mrs Turei says. "The Government said then that it would look into the problem and it's still singing the same tune. It's time for the talk to stop and for such tropical timber imports to be halted until they are certified legal, sustainable and of real benefit to indigenous forest communities such as those in PNG."


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