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Campaign Victory – Papua New Guinea: Government Reverses Amendment to Environmental Act

Papua New Guinea’s government announced that it will restore the right of landowners to challenge in court any project they feel could be detrimental to the environment. According to reports in The National The National Executive Council agreed to repeal the Environmental Amendment Act, passed by the legislature in May 2010, which denied landowners this right.

Cultural Survival joins Indigenous landowners in Papua New Guinea in celebrating the government’s decision to reverse the amendments, and we share in the victory. Our Global Response campaign called on the government to revoke the amendments. We thank all those who participated in this campaign by writing letters, sending emails, and sharing the campaign with friends!

The 2010 amendments were rushed through Parliament in a single afternoon with no prior disclosure by the government of former prime minister Michael Somare. They were aimed at landowners along the Rai coast who had just secured a temporary injunction preventing a Chinese company from dumping its mine and refinery waste into the Bismarck Sea. The amendments deprived the Rai coast landowners from seeking redress for any eventual economic losses or health problems that could be blamed on actions of the Chinese mining company.  They also restricted public protests against development projects approved by the government.

The community group ACT NOW! said, “The whole nation will celebrate when these undemocratic amendments that were bulldozed through Parliament…to satisfy the demands of the foreign-owned mining industry, are repealed.”

The repeal comes while the Rai coast landowners await a final court decision on their appeal for a permanent injunction against the dumping of mine and refinery waste into the sea.

In announcing the government’s plan to repeal the amendments, Environment and Conservation Minister Thompson Harokaqveh said, “It is essential that the rights of the landowners to request review by the courts is maintained. I am committed to protecting the rights of landowners to ensure their livelihoods and way of life are protected while promoting environmentally sound economic development which will benefit all Papua New Guineans.”

 See Global Response’s original Action Alert here.