“Makeshift jobs!” That has been the impression of the Commissioner and the counsels assisting the Commission of Inquiry into Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases. The Commission visted Marrienberg and the Nungawai-Bongos SPABL sites.
On Saturday, the COI Team travelled to Marrienberg in the Angoram District of East Sepik Province.They travelled the thinly sealed Angoram road that has largely worn out and has a large middle section that is largely a dirt track.
At Angoram High School, they turned left into the road leading up to the Marrienberg SPABL site. The main SPABL road is surfaced with limestone and the bridges built with logs. The sight of log bridges did not impress the COI Team.
The first clear-felled area at Marrienberg was about a 2 Km stretch with a with of 100 meters. There were newly planted cocoa seedlings. The Marrienberg SPABL project is supposed to be a cocoa and coconut project. Again, this did not impress the COI Team. The fact of the matter is that the Marrienberg Forest Clearance Authority was granted in 2008 after the SPABL was granted in 20012. Four years later, one does not see 4 year old cocoa plants in the plantation. Instead, there are huge tracts through the forest where the area has been logged largely for Kwila (KWI).
The Marrienberg area is largely a Kwila forest as evidenced by the piles of Kwila at the landing sites and the log pond. 4 years later, one does not see evidence of a site being marked and buildings being constructed for cocoa processing. All one sees are the enabling mechanisms for log export.
Workers at the Marrienberg base camp report that there have been several accidents resulting in deaths. One worker reported a recent death that has not been compensated by the company, Brilliant Investments. Those involved in accidents have not received any compensation.
The company keeps a team of Police at their base camp as its private protection. This is in direct contravention of the orders of Police Commissioner Tom Kulunga to withdraw all police from logging camps.
A basic overview of the project clearly indicates the intention to log and the cocoa planting seems to have been done in recent times, due to the creation of the Commission of Inquiry. Even the road seemed to have been graded just in time for the COI Team to inspect the site. None of the COI Team members were buying the façade created by Brilliant Investments.