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Report: Sarawakian logging firms party to Papua New Guinea’s deforestation

January 7, 2020
Malay Mail

By Azril Annuar

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — Malaysian companies from Sarawak are allegedly trespassing while carrying out logging activities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and contributing towards deforestation in the island nation, Sarawak Report (SR) wrote today.

The online investigative portal accused Sibu-based Rimbunan Hijau Group (RHG) and WTK Group as well as Amanab 56 Timber Investments Limited as among those stripping the resources of PNG.

“In August 2019, Sarawak Report toured and filmed the massive tropical timber island of PNG to investigate first-hand how the resource-rich country has been decimated by Sarawakian logging companies,” it said.

“During our investigations in PNG, we documented numerous instances of exploitation, environmental destruction and corrupt practices conducted by the same handful of companies, which first made their fortunes back home in Sarawak under the protection of the [Tun] Taib Mahmud regime.

“Testimonies gathered by SR from numerous stakeholders in PNG demonstrate that vast tracts of land have been handed to Sarawakian loggers through a combination of bribery of local officials and coercion of indigenous landowners, who were not granted their rights to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC),” it added.

It then claimed that the biggest player in PNGs logging industry is RHG, headed by tycoon Tan Sri Tiong Hiew King.

SR stated that the company’s involvement in PNG has long been criticised by both local and international environmental groups such as Global Witness, Act Now!, Greenpeace, and the Oakland Institute.

It claimed that local environmentalists were outraged when Tiong was awarded an honorary knighthood in 2009 for “services to commerce, the community and charitable organisations in Papua New Guinea” and demanded that he be stripped of the title.

“In 2016, The Oakland Institute published a report on the financial records of 30 RHG subsidiaries involved in various activities and services related to logging or agri-business in PNG.

“According to the financial records of 16 of the companies they scrutinised, RHG has been working at a loss for over a decade. The report questioned how the largest logging operator in PNG had managed to operate at a loss for such a long period yet remained in business.

“The report also exposed ‘massive tax evasion and financial misreporting’ allegedly resulting in the non-payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes by the Group.