LAST week’s protest visit by Greenpeace to the Drina logging camp in Pomio, East New Britain, was illegal, The National reports.
The visit was not approved by the provincial authorities.
Pomio district administrator Pomaleu Langisan said Greenpeace had failed to seek formal approval from police and the provincial government before going to the district to stage its protests.
He said the Pomio district administration, as the immediate government authority on the ground, was unaware of the visit and he and senior officers were turned away by Greenpeace officials when they tried to board the vessel to find out why it had berthed in their waters.
He said the ship, instead, dispatched boats and a helicopter ferrying Greenpeace activists to the village of Mu where they met with landowners who were against the Memalo integrated development project.
Langisan said there was a near-confrontation between pro-Memalo landowners, who numbered nearly 1,000, and the NGO-backed people comprising about 100 supporters.
“I want to thank the members of the police task force who were on the ground at the time and managed to contain the situation, which could have resulted in fatalities,” he said.
Langisan condemned reports published in the Post-Courier, labelling them as biased and mainly concerned with the views of pro-NGO landowners and not truly reflective of the situation that day.
He said the Post-Courier reporter failed to report that the number of people in support of the project was greater than those in opposition.
“I invited the reporter, including other media personnel, to come ashore with me to the Drina logging camp so that they could get a better picture of what was happening on the ground but they refused,” he said.
“I can only understand why the reporting was biased because media officials were accommodated on board the Esperanza and were inclined to report in support of Greenpeace,” he said.
He called on Greenpeace and its supporters in the country to respect authorities and landowners when protesting sensitive issues such as the Memalo project.
The Memalo project covers three concession areas of Ralopal, Nakiura and Pomata and comes under the lease-lease back scheme, which would see logging activities conducted with the cultivation of oil palm forming the agriculture component of the project.