FOREST Minister Belden Namah has dismissed claims that proposed amendments to the Forest Act will strip the provincial forest management committees of their powers.
He said the Eco Forest Forum was trying to mislead the people with such assertions.
The proposed amendment to sections 70, 71 and 72 would not do away with the powers of the committees or vest them with any individual, he told a press conference in Port Moresby yesterday.
“(The move) is not intended to make the (National Forest) Board more powerful or promote the interest of an industry participant, the board or the minister for that matter.
“It is aimed at ensuring that the process of selecting a proponent or timber developer in a tender
is consistent with public policy,” he said.
He said the amendments were merely to clarify:
* Certain ambiguity in the three sections of the act which the Supreme Court had ruled was correct;
* The application or implementation of the new interpretation as per the Supreme Court ruling; and
* The process by which the committees and the board would take during the course of an impasse as a result of the new interpretation.
Mr Namah said he was open to comments that would help him to make the right decisions as a minister.
He said NGOs such as the Eco Forest Forum and Greenpeace, politicians and resource owners were welcome to his office to discuss forestry issues or any matter of national concern.
“If there is anything that is against the spirit of democracy of this country, I will vigorously oppose it.
“And if this forestry amendment bill was intended in that way, I can assure the people that I would not have even brought it up to the Cabinet in the first place.”
Eco Forest Forum executive director Thomas Paka and chairman Ken Moidai, however, maintained that the amendments would “rob” the committees of their powers.
They also felt that the committees should have been consulted before the amendments drawn up.
Mr Paka said the committees were set up to act as a watchdog and to advise the National Forest Board.
The amendments are being finalised for the parliamentary sitting next month.