By Betrin Geluwa – legal intern
On the 3rd of May, I attended a presentation by FORCERT, on SABL, at the University of Papua New Guinea. Mr. Peter Dam and Ms. Pamela Avusi, from FORCET presented on issues surrounding Special Agriculture and Business Lease (SABL) in PNG. They emphasised on the problems associated with the SABL process through its enforcement in the Land Act 1996. They were able to show students, the time line of its implementation process and its effects to the landowners along with the process of registering customary land for SABL purposes along with pictures and videos from the affected area. Students were speechless when they saw evidence of the impacts of SABL on the lives of customary landowners.
It was strongly highlighted that customary landowners do not need the assistance of Government or foreign investors to develop their land; as the land itself has sustained their lives for many generations.
The presentation captivated many students especially, those from areas that the presenters were referring to including others who felt that their communities are likely to be affected by SABL.
During question time, a number of students raised questions on how FORCERT can extend its work to other communities that are experiencing similar issues. Students also thanked FORCERT for the presentation which has made them realize the importance of protecting customary land.
FORCERT is currently working with 27 communities in Papua New Guinea, which are currently affected by SABL, in Madang, East Sepik, New Ireland, East and West New Britain provinces.