THE MADANG police commander deployed armed police to the Rai coast on Saturday to protect indigenous landowners who are challenging the marine waste dumping plans of the Chinese owned Ramu nickel mine.
The landowners had been unable to travel to Madang to prepare for their court case today because of threats and intimidation from thugs believed to be controlled by ex-Madang Governor, James Yali.
Plaintiffs Eddie Tarsie, Peter Sel and Farima Siga have been under constant threat over the last week by people believed to be associated with Mr Yali, and had been told they should not leave the Sel village area to attend the trial.
A boat sent to collect them on Saturday was stopped by two boatloads of men armed with guns and knives. It returned to Madang without the plaintiffs and a police task force was later provided to escort the landowners to Madang.
Two weeks ago, in a matter reported to police, Mr Yali tried to approach the landowners’ lawyer, Tiffany Nonggorr, in her hotel room to challenge her over the court case.
Mr Yali told reporters he was acting on behalf of the PNG government, which has been aggressively defending the Chinese mine owners, even changing PNG’s environment law to facilitate the mine’s opening.
“I find this very disturbing,” an observer told PNG Attitude. “One of the defendants is a government we directly give half-a-billion dollars of aid. The other defendant is a joint venture between an Australian listed company and a Chinese company that has bought up a dozen resources companies in Australia.”
Mine construction is currently on hold because the landowners obtained a temporary court injunction preventing the construction of the marine mine waste dumping system that plans to pump five million tonnes of mine tailings into the sea every year.
The landowners’ court case challenging the validity of the environmental permit given to MCC, the Chinese mining company developing the mine, is to start today.
In a further development, the National Court in Madang today is likely to be asked by MCC that indigenous landowners be compelled to find K8 million (about $3.2 million) before the court case proceeds.
MCC wants the K8 million as security for the company’s costs in defending the trial.
As one observer said: “It is an interesting comment on the state of governance in Papua New Guinea that a Chinese owned transnational corporation feels no compunction about using its financial muscle to try and block indigenous landowners from exercising their Constitutional rights to challenge executive decisions by their own government.”
The Chinese legal strategy is being orchestrated by Australian lawyers.
Sources: Ramu Nickel Mine Watch, Ilya Gridneff, Alex Harris