History of Melanesia|
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 1996 02:07:44 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>
Subject: The Plundering of the South Pacific ** headlines: 113.0 **/
** Topic: Read Transcript Concerning South Pacific Resource Plunder **
** Written 6:23 AM Jan 29, 1996 by econet in cdp:headlines **
/Written 11:01AMJan 27,1996 by firstname.lastname@example.org in rainfor.genera/
From: Glen Barry <email@example.com>
Solomon Islands--Forest Crisis Documented by Australian Radio
From Worldwide Forest/Biodiversity Campaign News. January 27, 1996
Overview & Source
Following is an unofficial transcription of a Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio program concerning the resource plunder occurring in the South Pacific in general, and the Solomon Islands in particular. Forestry issues have been having a much higher profile in the region, with the Australian Government recently cutting off forest aid to the Solomon Islands on the basis of harvest rates twice the sustainable level, on a very small resource base.
The following item was transcribed by an Australian journalist from the ABC radio program, and I am sending it on exactly as received. It is a SENSATIONAL article, and one you should take the time to read. For additional information on local and international efforts to conserve the Papua New Guinea and Solomon Island rainforests check out the following URL's with your World Wide Web browser:
Gaia Forest Archives:
Solomon Islands Directory (over 30 articles):
Papua New Guinea Rainforest Campaign (over 500 articles):
Pressure must continue to stop the devastating logging occurring in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea; largely, but not exclusively, by Malaysian and other Asian timber companies. Intensive industrial forestry operations like have been practiced in Asia are also moving into Africa and Central and South America. Clearing of rainforests, or any forests, wantonly and totally destructively is wrong.
As our, and others, campaign efforts continue to gain momentum,
each of us must think what we can do to bear witness to what is
happening to forests worldwide. There must be a way to bring
about righteous management of these ancient and priceless
rainforests, while helping local inhabitants actualize and
maximize their own human development potential. Building a just
economic and political order will be a prerequisite for
sustainability of the planet's remaining ecosystem engines. The
forests of the South Pacific are one such center of biotic
activity. They must not be allowed to disappear as so much of the
world's ecological brilliance has, unheralded and unknown, as the
Northern countries pillaged the planet.
RELAYED TEXT STARTS HERE:
(The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has not released a transcript of this program for legal reasons. It was recorded and transcribed by a Canberra-based journalist.)
Announcer: Just after Christmas the Australian Government took the rare step of withdrawing part of our multi-million dollar aid package to the Solomon Islands. The move follows widespread allegations of corruption and mismanagement, particularly in the area of forestry, levelled against the Solomons Government.
Welcome to Background Briefing Summer Season. I'm Helen Thomas.
Now, the funding that has been withdrawn is a $2.2 million allocation to the Solomons Timber Control Unit, and the Aussie aid switch off comes at a particularly turbulent time for our northern neighbour, a political struggle that has involved media repression, industrial tension and perhaps even murder.
Kirsten Garrett was in the Solomons last September.
Garrett: The canoe bounces across choppy water between islands. It's astonishingly beautiful. The Solomons are a scattering of a thousand postcard islands, set in a turquoise coral sea, white beaches, gentle lagoons, rustling coconut palms. We're going to see Stanley Sade, headmaster of the Fly Harbour school. He's trying to get certain information out but Solomon Islands radio has been told by the Prime Minister, Solomon Mamaloni, not to broadcast what he has to say.
Sade: Myself have sent them the message in a press release but it was not released in the radio, over the radio broadcast in the Solomons. So I just have the chance of meeting Kirsten that I have sent this message to her. Then I report to her and she was happily try to take this to the Australian Broadcasting service.
Garrett: Okay, I will take it back and we'll put some of it anyway to air on Background Briefing in Australia. Is that what you would like?
Sade: Yes. I really like that one to be broadcast over the radio so that people can hear what's all about. I thank you very much.
Garrett: The press release reads in part, 'The Lavukal people of chiefs never held any meeting to consider customary land logging proposals. We want to make it clear that we have had enough of our land, resources and other blessings from our Almighty, which have been deprived from us and our children and their children and exploited by unscrupulous traders and settlers. Our cries were not listened to by politicians. They only serve foreign loggers, their brothers, for the love of money and forget the future generations.'
Garrett: Dominating these islands of paradise are the big boats that sail out of here, each loaded with thousands of logs of irreplaceable rain forest timber and the capital, Honiara, which has only one rutted main road but so many cars there is a permanent traffic jam, is practically fermenting with intrigue, bitterness and corruption. Joses Tuhanuku, a cabinet minister in the last Government, is now in opposition.
Tuhanuku: The people in the logging industry, as far as I am concerned, they are a bunch of crooks. There is no other way to describe them. People who are smart in business, they make money because they are smart, that's their chief character. But we are dealing with people who are actually crooks.
Garrett: Joses Tuhanuku is not the only one who talks like this. Justice Tos Barnett said it in 1988 in a forward to his 27 volume report on logging in Papua New Guinea. He wrote of loggers roaming the countryside with a self assurance of robber barons, bribing politicians and fooling the land holders. Even Australia's Minister for Pacific Affairs, Gordon Bilney, talked about it in Melbourne.
Bilney: All that said, we are increasingly concerned by the problem of public maladministration, including corruption, in some pacific island countries. Corruption is a cancer that robs a country of its resources. It destroys the trust between governments and people and it gravely threatens the long term economic and social integrity of the countries which harbour that corruption. People look to governments to act in the interest of all citizens, not just a privileged and powerful minority and history, I believe will judge particularly harshly those individuals in Government who abuse positions of trust to line their own pockets at the expense of their fellow citizens.
Garrett: Australia's fear is not only humanitarian. There's also the issue that if these small pacific countries use up all their resources the corruption and breakdown of society will get worse. Already money laundering and drug trafficking is a big problem throughout the Pacific. Eventually if populations continue to grow and societies break down completely it's been suggested that Australia may have to take people in as refugees. Joses Tuhanuku was the first ever to go public about attempted corruption when he was a minister in the Sir Francis Billy Hilly Government. He was offered $US3000 by Tony Yeong, an employee of the Berjaya Group, one of Malaysia's biggest business empires. He refused.
Tuhanuku: In the logging industry bribing people is part of the industry. They have been bribing ministers of the Government. They bribe landowners. They bribe certain chiefs. They bribe our provincial ministers and so on. So bribery is actually part of the logging industry and the reason is that most of these Malaysian logging companies that operate there, probably that is how they do business. In fact the person who tried to offer me some money, he said that their company, it is a practice in the south pacific, that they usually give some small present to government people who assist them or facilitate what they are doing in the various countries. So, actually it is a practice that is not restricted to Solomon Islands. But I would say that in the logging industry bribery and all other corrupt practices is part of the whole thing.
Garrett: So they must have been very shocked when you refused?
Tuhanuku: Yes, this person was really surprised. He could not understand why I could not accept it because probably in Solomon Islands it may have been the first time because he was someone who was already dealing with a lot of politicians at a national level and a provincial level. But I could tell that he was expecting me to receive what he termed as a gift.
Garrett: Tony Yeong admitted handing over the money. He denied it was a bribe but resigned from Berjaya and left the Solomons. But things didn't end there. During the next few months the Solomons were in a state of turmoil. Sir Francis Billy Hilly, Prime Minister over an uncomfortable coalition Government, had come in with a swag of new ideas. The country was dragging the third world chain. Malaria is rampant, only one in five people can read and write, health services are poor. And on top of it all an expensive Westminster system of Government inherited from the British. Above all, the loggers had moved in with a vengeance after Malaysia decided to put the breaks on logging in Sabah and Sarawak. Billy Hilly and his Government started to clamp down on it all. They wanted higher duty on timber, they wanted to stop whole logs being exported and for timber to be processed inside the Solomons, making control easier. And Australia was willing to help with expertise and aid money. But the Solomons Government under intense pressure began to crack. Eventually enough members crossed the floor to bring the Billy Hilly Government down and Tuhanuku says he knows why.
Tuhanuku: Now one thing that I know is that a lot of the members of Cabinet and backbenchers who left the NCP Government and who are now ministers in the present Government, they were lured actively by logging companies. There is a company here run by someone who used to be a Malaysian and who now claims to be a Solomon Islands citizen and he is the person who coordinated all that. This person by the name of Robert Goh, he is the person who actually facilitating all the payments to be given to ministers to leave NCP Government and to join the present Government. And I believe that Robert Goh organised or coordinated all the money that was given to mps, whether ministers or backbenchers of NCP, to cross the floor, to join the opposition in order to have the numbers and topple the Government.
Garrett: Now you are able to talk quite frankly about the level of kickbacks and loopholes and bribes and sort of general skulduggery going on. To an outsider it is surprising that given that it is such common knowledge that nothing happens.
Tuhanuku: There is the general feeling of anger but people do just do not know what to do.
Garrett: There is also an element of fear. The Solomon Islanders don't have a culture of violence but tensions are running high as the villagers show their resentment of timber companies being given huge and cheap licences to clear fell indiscriminately. Many people have bodyguards and there are an increasing number of demonstrations and activism against loggers. There's talk of a general strike. Some politicians have been brought before the courts for bribery and corruption but the charges often go nowhere. This month seven cabinet ministers are up on charges but no one expects anything much to happen. Joses Tuhanuku when he was in Government two years ago suspended one Malaysian company, Sylvania, from logging near Marovo Lagoon. The reasons were illegal and highly damaging practices. At the South Pacific Forum in 1994 the Keating Government backed Tuhanuku with a debt for nature swap. Australia would pay a $2 million debt if logging was stopped around the lagoon, said to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. A world heritage listing would be pursued. At the same time Keating threw down a gauntlet with a stack of Australian financed forestry research. He said that the Korean, Indonesian and Malaysian loggers were guilty of environmental piracy in the Solomons. Dr Mahathir, Malaysia's Prime Minister, came back immediately, saying that this is an example of how a jealous Keating believes that the South Pacific belongs to Australia. Remember, this was all in mid-1994. From Solomon Mamaloni, then in opposition, the pro-logging press releases shot out daily. 'I call upon my friend Keating to put up or shut up and stop interfering with the domestic affairs of Solomon Islands. He should look after the wellbeing of aborigines in Australia before making comments about the Government and people of Solomon Islands. I do hope that the Australians employed at the ministry of natural resources are not responsible for supplying statistical information which is unofficial and fabricated.' Another sally from the Mamaloni camp was that if Australia is so worried about the environment why don't destructive Australian companies pull out of Papua New Guinea. Meanwhile, Mamaloni made his move to rest power from Billy Hilly even warning that Australia was about to invade and had a ship and a Hercules plane and the military on standby. It was all over by October. The suspension on Sylvania was lifted and with Mamaloni back in power logging at Marovo started up again. The Keating deal is off. Here is the Solomons Foreign Affairs Minister, Danny Phillips.
Phillips: We see Australian assistance to Pacific Island Countries as very, very important. But I think it is also where AusAid, which areas monies are targeted toward is very, very important. There is some sort of discord in what the country wants and what Australia wants.
Garrett: It is probably no secret that Australia is looking at logging policies in the Solomons and that one of the things that both Paul Keating and the minister Gordon Bilney have talked about is what they see as unsustainable logging in the Solomons. They want that reined in, I guess.
Phillips: Australian AusAid money has been used for research work, getting status down and trying to show us that these are the areas that you need to work on. What people don't seem to understand is that our revenue at the moment from the logging industry itself is between 70 to 80 percent. That is producing $80 million a year. Aid money, as we all know, is not in cash. They are in materials, they in form of people,and I think to do a policy abruptly may cost more damage to a small country like Solomon Islands than good. If we suddenly stop logging now we have to forfeit $70 to $80 million.
Garrett: People will say, won't they, that if those statistics being collected are right that the logging will stop very suddenly anyway in five or seven or 10 years because there will be no more trees at the current rate of logging.
Phillips: That is true. We also believe, you know, the statistics are saying something which is quite true.
Garrett: So even the Foreign Affairs Minister admits that they're trapped and Danny Phillips also says that the figures put together by the Australian aid and research are accurate. But his Prime Minister says that they are not accurate and he hasn't hidden his blustering irritation at these pesky Australian reports. He is likely to be pleased that the Timber Control Unit will close down, though it will mean 16 less jobs for local people. After all in the past Mamaloni has savagely attacked the Timber Control Unit: 'The so called talented Australian consultants are engaging in a disastrous campaign which obviously is calculated to discredit our commercial partners who have invested substantial capital in the forestry sector. These Australian consultants are found to be engaged in openly injecting racial prejudice into Solomon Islands society. We have been subjected to a campaign of blatant lies and distortions of unthinkable proportions.'
Garrett: Mixed in with all this is the issue of racism, raised, as your heard, in that press release, that it is a racist fear of Asian economic power that drives Australia to take this highly moralistic stand. Paul Chatterton.
Chatterton: I don't it is a racist thing at all. A small group of particularly Malaysian businessmen, but they're not just Malaysian, they're Chinese, they're Taiwanese, businessmen who run logging operations across Melanesia who are ripping off landowners and ripping off the country that they are working in. There is a fairly common pattern that I see of exaggerated promises made to landowners, small bribes to communities and then the bulldozers roll in and they see nothing for the logs that are taken out.
Garrett: So your point is that there is nothing particularly racist about it, it is just a fact that they happen to be Malaysian. They could just as easily be German or Danish or South American.
Chatterton: Well, that's right. We're working closely with Malaysians and Taiwanese and Hongkong based people to try and change it as well. There are a lot of people in those countries who are very upset about how their countrymen are operating in Melanesia. So, it is not a racist thing. It is a particular group of businessmen who are using very corrupt practices.
Garrett: It is a problem though, isn't it, in these magazines that I've shown you and the cartoons I've got here that the logger is depicted as a fat, greedy, ugly Asian eating trees and depriving the local people of their resources.
Chatterton: That is unfortunate. I think it tars all Asians, all Malaysians, with the same brush which is a bit sad. And I know, I've sat in on meetings where NGOs, community groups, have been discussing the use of these sort of images and there is an internal debate within Melanesia about whether they should use these. On one side people say it is racist, on the other side people say, well it is. This is the easiest image we can get across to communities of this particular type of business person. it is a difficult one.
Garrett: AusAid did subcontract some work some years ago where these cartoons were used but they have withdrawn them now.
Chatterton: Yes. I think we certainly shouldn't buy into any racist images. It does no one any good.
Garrett: The thing is it's quite important because it can be very easily used as a distraction from the main issue which is that the logging is happening and that is having a cataclysmic effect on island countries throughout Melanesia.
Chatterton: That is exactly right. The situation is going crazy across Melanesia. I have spent two weeks in the Sepik in PNG watching a Hongkong based company bribe communities and get them to sign the back page of a contract that they saw none of the other pages of.
Garrett: What about the charge that Australia is being hypocritical because we too have large companies operating in these countries, copper being the obvious one.
Chatterton: That is right. Our record in the mining sector is pretty atrocious. You just have to look at Bougainville, at Ok Tedi, at Porgera which Mount Isa Mines has input into, Lihir is about to open up which will have disastrous effects. We are calling it Ok Tedi by the sea. It will pump an enormous amount of tailings into the Pacific Ocean. Australia has got a dreadful record. All that says is that we've all got to clean our act up.
Garrett: That's Paul Chatterton who heads the World Wide Fund for Nature projects in Melanesia. There are diplomatic trip wires for the Australian Government across the region. The largest logging network in the Solomons is dominated by the Fuzhou clan of ethnic Chinese. This is one of the biggest and most successful networks in business right across Asia. In the Solomons it is some businessmen from this very powerful group that are being accused and Joses Tuhanuku is scathing about some of these people.
Tuhanuku: Let's take some the people we are talking about. Actually they are not Malays in terms of being a race. They are of Chinese origin who moved to Malaysia so many generations back and some of them are living in Australia, probably they have already taken out Australian citizenship, or they are there on permanent residency and my impression is that these people, some of them even come to Solomon Islands and decide they want to be Solomon Islands citizens. My impression of these people is that they have no loyalty to any of these countries. They are there to serve one person and that is themselves. So these people here, they are people without conscience ...
Garrett: That's a pretty big thing to say.
Tuhanuku: They are there to make big money, however they make that money does not matter.
Garrett: Do you feel free to say that, to make that kind of accusation in the Solomons?
Tuhanuku: Well, the thing is that my reading of the people that I have been dealing with is that, you know, they are the sort of people who will do anything to make money. And that is why I say that there is no boundary to the method they are quite willing to employ. And I don't think they will say, this is not straight, this is not correct. If you are willing to bribe a minister to change the Government, if you are willing to bribe the minister to give you a licence, why would you think it is not correct to employ other methods but conceded by people normally as a crooked way of doing things or dishonest. I mean if you think that those things are all right you can do anything.
Garrett: Pulling out of Honiara Harbour is exciting. The ferry is full of cargo and people returning to their villages with food and clothes, mats, cooking things, petrol and video players. We're heading for the Russell Islands. At Yandina we change to a canoe with an outboard motor. And further out in the islands we go past the Pavuvu logging site. So we have pulled over close to where the logging camp is and it is hard to tell how many logs, a couple of hundred, no there are some more over there, maybe a couple of thousand logs, but it's very difficult from this distance to see how big they are or get any feeling at all for what kind of trees they are but just piles and piles of logs, some huts with corrugated iron roofs. Everything looks quite from here. There is just sort of a big open space down by the sea. The logging goes on inland and we can't see it from here but they tell me that that's where they would be now. We won't go too close because there are field police in there and Malaysian company people and they don't like you to get too close. They probably wouldn't like it if they knew an outsider was on the boat. They try to keep everybody away. And then to see Nelson Ratu, former Premier of the Central Province, who lost his position because he insisted on a detailed, black and white logging agreement.
Ratu: My provincial executive looked through the proposal, the proposal for logging on Pavuvu and my executive have decided against it because of the impact logging issues or logging problems bring about. So we decided not to allow or issue any licence to the Maving Brothers to log on Pavuvu. This does not mean that we totally do not want any development to happen within central province but I think the important part is that we should see that there is a proper agreement is reached in black and white, signed by the Provincial Government, so whatever problem may arise later on we can easily fix it up. In the end I did not issue a provincial business licence to Maving Brothers. Finally they find a way to get rid of me.
Garrett: Nelson Ratu was surprised that people who'd been against logging quite suddenly were for it.
Ratu: This is where one area I believe that they must have been influenced by certain leaders of the Government so that finally turned around and went against me. I do not totally put out the question of influencing by money.
Garrett: So logging went ahead on Pavuvu and now the top soil washes into the streams and the sea. Families on nearby islands are still trying to stop the logging. There have been raids to burn bulldozers and Jocinta Lovasa went over with some New Zealanders from Greenpeace to get evidence, among other things like they are logging to close to the river banks, they found that up to 80 percent of the trees logged were too small.
Lovasa: We went on Sunday early in the morning about five. We went across, then they went up to the bridge. They photographed that bridge and then look around and photograph all those trees that they cut and the way the bulldozers have pulled the logs across the river bed. Then they came back. Then we went to the camp. They counted two heaps of logs, one was 106 and out of 106 only 23 were over size. The rest were all under size. The larger heap was 216 and out of that 216, 83 were over size. The rest were under size. There are a lot of logs but 80 percent or 90 percent were under size.
Garrett: Back in Honiara things are tense. The Governor of the Central Bank, Rick Hou, is being investigated for mismanagement because he has refused to lend the Government any more money. Taxes are going up again, the roads are bad, the cost of living has doubled, and gossip and stories of cosy deals and rake offs and who suddenly seems to have an inordinate amount of money is common. Even the churches have begun to talk politics for the first time. This is Archbishop Adrian Smith.
Smith: People are beginning to want to, as it were, departmentalise us. They want to see the church as something that happens on Sunday, but I think that the churches feel that they must touch every part of life and the prophetic role of the churches demands that we speak if we think that the people are being cheated or denied their rights.
Garrett: One of the issues with forestry is not only the trees will be gone and therefore a source of income but the breakdown of village life and of family life. Is that what you are alluding to?
Smith: Yes because the selling of resources is creating a whole new social problem. Before the people who were chiefs in the society, they were more or less custodians on behalf of the people. And now the term landowner is being used and that term is being used in the sense of exclusive. So a few are getting the benefits while the large number of the population are just being left out.
Garrett: And unions are getting edgy. The Solomon Islands are 80 percent unionised. An irritant for years has been the Asian workers brought in to do work that the Solomon Islanders could do. Tony Kangaei.
Kangaei: When we check up some of the payrolls in the logging industries we find out what they have been claiming is not correct. The legal minimum wage here in the Solomons is 74 cents per hour and some of the Asians who come in here and work as chain saw operators, dump truck drivers are paid $10 per hour. It's not cheap.
Garrett: Is there bitterness on the ground over this issue of importing of Asian labour?
Kangaei: Of course. There is high opposition to having Asians in the camps because they know nothing about Solomon Island culture and customs of the place that they usually cause troubles within the camps and a few Asians have been stabbed, have been harmed by nationals because of that.
Garrett: Now at the same time the economy of Solomon Islands is in crisis really. The Central Bank, it's at loggerheads with the Mamaloni Government, there's a new tax - two cents in every dollar of all transactions which is effecting ordinary people very much.
Kangaei: Those Bills are immoral bills. We have never seen such bills come into place in history. We are calling on the Government to throw those bills out. If they continue on to impose those bills there will be industrial unrest in the country.
Garrett: And the unkindest cut of all. The Governor of the Central Bank has cut off the money.
Hou: What the Board of the Central Bank has done is basically stopped further advances and credit to the Government. Lending from the Central Bank to the Government is governed under our law and this law requires us to lend to the Government to a certain limit only. We have reached that limit and that's what the Board has decided. We are not here to break laws, we are here to operate legally and do things within our means but ensuring that we don't break any laws. If you ask me why people still saying there may be an answer, well I don't see a lot of answers except to cut down expenditure.
Garrett: Solomon Mamaloni has come up with one answer which is to change the laws so that the Central Bank can lend more money. In other words he will legislate to raise the ceiling. That's his answer.
Hou: That is a very quick answer and a very short term one and I think anyone should know that what is being proposed here is just for the Central Bank to open its doors to more lending and as such what will be happening is us printing more money. Everyone knows that when we start printing money where the value of this money is going to be. It is going to be more and more worthless.
Garrett: Your own personal situation is a little bit uncertain because Solomon Mamaloni has made it quite clear that he would like to get you out of the way. He sees you as an obstacle at the moment.
Hou: I don't know how seriously he is, I mean everybody has heard him say he is going to establish a tribunal to investigate the way I have been conducting affairs in the bank. I am looking forward to answering what ever questions the tribunal would ask me.
Garrett: In the midst of all this in the hills above Honiara is the office of the BRA, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army. It's unofficial but it's tolerated. There are about 2,000 Bougainville refugees in the Solomons. The BRA Embassy is in a big house next to the one owned by the previous Prime Minister, Sir Francis Billy Hilly. There is contact with Bougainville three times a day. I'm talking to Joseph Kabui, vice-president of the interim Government.
Garrett: Hullo, this is Kirsten Garrett from ABC radio, Background Briefing in Australia. I'm in Honiara. Can you tell me what the mood is in Bougainville since the two Papua New Guinea soldiers were killed a few days ago.
Kabui: (Not understandable - crackly two way)
Garrett: He says the Bougainville Interim Government will never give up. To Paul Keating he has a message that Australia is in a proxy war in Bougainville, a war that will not be won. Australia should stop providing arms and military aid and training to PNG. The Bougainvilleans would have won a long time ago, he says, if was not for aid from Australia.
Garrett: Martin Miriori is in charge here and lives with his wife and children. He's on a United Nations passport and his position in Honiara is sensitive.
Miriori: For that reason we have always tried to play a low key on the BRA side.
Garrett: Nevertheless Julius Chan could not be happy with you being here. Has the PNG Government tried to get rid of you.
Miriori: They have tried to in the last two, three years, continuously asked the Solomon Islands Government even to the extent of signing an extradition treaty to get me out from here and also on a number of occasions there have been hit squads being sent up here to try and get at me. In fact I can cite one incident where an army officer crossed the border with an m16. He was caught and thrown into prison and his assignment was to get at me.
Garrett: So a PNG army officer came across the border into the Solomons and his assignment was to kill you.
Miriori: Yes. That is correct. But anyway that mission failed. That man ended up serving nine months down at the prison.
Garrett: Your office here is quite well set up and you obviously have all sorts of contact with people all over the world. Where does the money come from to keep you here?
Miriori: I am a very, very strong Christian and Bougainvilleans are by nature very strong Christians. If we stand for justice, if we stand to protect the rights of the people, the good Lord provides that, it naturally just comes to us. I think that is how I can answer that question.
Garrett: Martin Miriori at the command of Solomon Mamaloni is no longer allowed to be broadcast on Solomon Islands radio, though Mamaloni has said he won't send refugees back across the border until there are no more hostilities. Mamaloni has also said that the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation isn't allowed to broadcast anything about logging in the Russell Islands. News of the murder of Martin Apa, for instance, was not in the Solomons press till five weeks after it happened. Journalists have been sacked for not taking a correct line on logging stories. Mamaloni's dictatorial and idiosyncratic ways have been a problem for the Australian Government for years. Last September, Gordon Bilney gave a speech in Melbourne warning that Australia may be about to take a tougher stand.
Bilney: Thank you very much indeed, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Garrett: Gordon Bilney said that many things have improved but ..
Bilney: There has been progress made but there is a lot further to go and it's a sad fact that in some countries of our region greedy, destructive resource harvesting still goes on, often by unscrupulous foreign firms which do not have a commitment to the welfare of the people of the region, in the forestry sector in particular.
Garrett: A bit rich it has been said given that Australia is not unblemished in its business activities in Melanesia.
Bilney: But it follows from this that our aid support will increasingly be directed to those countries where Government policies reflect a serious and a responsible approach to economic development and resource management and nobody should be surprised if in future Australia is less and less willing to assist those countries in the region which are laying waste their economies and squandering their own resources.
Garrett: Some of the loggers talk through the Solomon Islands Forest Industries Association, though the majority of companies aren't members. Their spokesman is an Australian, Eric Kes. He came to the hotel in Honiara with Ronny Teo, of Earth Movers group of companies, one of the big loggers in the Solomons. But Kes did the talking and on the record through him the loggers are conciliatory.
Kes: The industry is aware of the criticism which is levelled at the forest industry and the Solomon Islands. However, the industry is of the view that it is here to do a job within given parameters and there can be no question that this industry as is very often portrayed highly destructive and the Solomon Islands Forest Industries Association which does not comprise all the companies, only the major companies, has stated time and again that it supports the concept of sustainability and the industry wants to be involved in the determination of sustainable logging.
Garrett: A figure that is used in most reports that I've seen related to this is that sustainable logging in the Solomons is probably around 300 - 320,000 cubic metres per year and the reason that there is such a lot of anxiety and concern about it all is that estimates are that the moment its up to 800,000 a year.
Kes: Yes, the figure of 325,000 at this point in time is rejected by the industry. It may be anything between 300 and 500,000 cubic metres per annum. However, the exact figure has not yet been determined and negotiated. The level of 800,000 cubic metres is exaggerated. Last year's exports was 623,000 cubic metres and this year is expected to be of similar magnitude.
Garrett: That's still twice the sustainable amount and it's estimated that there is about a 25 percent under reporting of the number of logs actually going onto the ships anyway and as well of course they're under priced and under taxed.
Kes: We are fully aware of the fact that in the past there might have been instances where things could have done better but this Association is of the opinion that it does not help to dwell on the past but look positively into the future and this Association is initiating a number of initiatives in order to be pro actively involved in the development of a sustainable forest industry. Just to keep on accusing this industry doesn't get us anywhere. But we reject sinister and cynical accusations, very often unfounded, and as such that is all I can say.
Garrett: The Industry Association says that it agrees with Mamaloni that the AusAid figures are no good and says that no inventory has been done to use as a benchmark. But it has. It cost Australia $4.5 million and it was finished in 1994. But Solomon Mamaloni shelved it.
Garrett: Meanwhile, far out in the Coral Sea the logging boats come and go and the bulldozers roar. The night lights keep the logging going 24 hours a day. We go to Loura, one of the Russell Islands and home of the group that has been most active in trying the stop the Maving Brothers logging on Pavuvu Island. Bartholomew Apa is their chief.
Bartholomew Apa: People plenty no like logging.
Garrett: Why not?
Bartholomew Apa: (not understandable)
Garrett: Are you saying that it is really part of your land?
Bartholomew Apa: Yes (rest not understandable)
Garrett: Bartholomew Apa, the chief on Loura. His son, Martin Apa, also talked to Background Briefing that day, as you will hear. But Martin Apa was murdered some weeks later, his neck broken and pierced by a sharp object, and his body was found in the sea, near the harbour at Yandina. So far no one has been charged with his death, but the circumstances point to it being a way of intimidating the community. Earlier in the year Martin Apa was one of a group that had gone over to Pavuvu one night and burnt three bulldozers on the logging site. As he talked, six weeks or so before his death, you'll hear his pet baby parrot curious about the microphone.
Martin Apa: We tried to put a stand on it. We cannot do it because the Government at the same time bring military force in there. We went there several times. Every time they see me there they wanted to push me out from that place but I told them, how come you want to push me out from this place while this land is mine. That is what I always tell them.
Garrett: When you say they chased you out, who is they?
Martin Apa: (not understandable) police in the field force.
Garrett: So they were sent out by the Government to protect the company.
Martin Apa: Protect the company. We feel we are not the ones that the Government (not understandable) the Russells but he only saves the company, the Malaysian company, the foreign company. He doesn't want to listen to us. We did it because the Government provoked us, saying that the Russell Islanders were not doing anything to that company. They have no guts to do it. That is why we did it.
Garrett: To show that you did have the guts.
Martin Apa: To show that we did have the guts, that's right.
Garrett: Was there, did they come and get you, what happened afterwards? We heard about it Australia but we did not hear what happened to you the people who did it.
Martin Apa: Police came and took some of them. So when they didn't want to tell them the police have to slap them, some of them, put them in the cell for a couple of hours and they threatened them to punch them until they can say something but most of the other boys didn't want to say anything because we told them we will talk in court.
Garrett: Martin Apa didn't get to court. He was murdered last October and police are still investigating.
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