28 May 2002

PNG's Attorney General denies receiving orders from State to stop illegal logging

4:53 pm on 28 May 2002

Papua New Guinea's Attorney General has hit back at suggestions he is protecting a firm accused of illegal logging in the Western province.

Francis Damem says he is angered over claims by environmental group, Forest Watch, that he deliberately failed to appear in court to protect the Malaysian firm Concord Pacific.

Last week, the National Court was to decide whether to lift an injunction which has prevented the government from prosecuting Concord Pacific for illegal logging in the Kiunga-Aiambak area.

Mr Damem, who was to represent the government, did not show up in court and the case was adjourned indefinitely.

Forest Watch says Mr Damem's actions were in defiance of the Prime Minister's stated wishes to stop illegal logging in PNG.

It also says Mr Damem was the lawyer who in 1999 successfully applied for the injunction on Concord Pacific's behalf.

Mr Damem says he declared that conflict of interest when he was appointed Attorney General.

He says his office did not receive any orders from the State to stop illegal logging operations by Concord Pacific.

He says he is currently seeking legal advice on defamatory action against Forest Watch.