The Government has taken absolute control to do whatever it wants with the land and environment in Papua New Guinea says NCD Governor Powes Parkop, a lawyer and former human rights advocate.
Parkop says the new amendments to the Environment and Conservation Act 2000 also allow investors to by-pass due process and obtain from the director a certificate that on granting was absolute proof of compliance with all environmental laws, process and standards. The law also effectively removes the rights of landowners and others to challenge decisions to harm the environment either under civil law, statute and even customary law.
“This in effect is absolute powers vested in one person and is a big concern as the law also attempts to remove the powers of the court to review the exercise of such powers — As a parliamentarian, a lawyer by profession and as a person who has advocated for the rights of landowners and protection of our natural environment for the best part of my professional life prior to entering Parliament, I write to express my objection and deepest concerns at the passing of the above Bill last Friday, the May 28, 2010,” Mr Parkop said in his letter to Environment and Conservation Minister Benny Allan on Monday (Powes’ letter).
“As you would have probably noticed I was not in Chamber when the vote was taken last Friday. I had left the Chamber to obtain and peruse a copy of the proposed Bill to appreciate it before I could cast my vote as I was not aware of your intention to move for the passing of the Bill that day and did not bring my copy.
“While in the process of locating a copy, Parliament had voted on the bill and passed it by a majority of 73 to 10. Having perused the proposed Bill (now law) and appreciated its content, I would have no doubt voted against the Bill had I remained in Chamber when the vote was taken”.
He added that while this power was vested by the new law in the director, “as you are aware the director is none other than the Secretary of your department and this therefore magnifies the concerns about objective exercise of almost absolute powers provided in the new law that cannot be challenge by anyone
Mr Parkop touched on many issues that provided the grounds for his objection to the new law, adding that the minister should delay the implementation of the law with a view to repealing it or amending it so that the powers of the director were not as absolute as in the present form.
“You can recommit the Bill to Parliament under s.130 of the Constitution to make alterations or amendments so that a fair law is passed rather than the current one,” he said.