Piracy likely as search fails to find five at sea

National

By ELIZABETH VUVU
FIVE employees of a logging company operating in West Coast Namatanai, New Ireland, are missing in waters between East New Britain and New Ireland in what police believe is the result of piracy.
East New Britain acting provincial police commander Joseph Tabali said yesterday the five missing people departed Sea View in Kokopo last Saturday.
They were destined for the Million-Plus logging camp at Kumin in Konoagil, Namatanai, but went missing between 1pm and 2pm.
They have been identified as Imran Husin, from Indonesia, Lee Sing Tiew, from Malaysia, who is supervisor of the oil palm project, Abom Iga, from Kumin in Namatanai and his wife Pauline, and casual labourer Jackson Wilson, from Morobe.
Tabali said missing was the seven-metre dinghy with 60-horsepower engine, a drum of fuel, and company and personal property.
He said company officials and relatives, upon realising the group had not arrived in Namatanai, suspected piracy.
Tabali said they used four dinghies and hired a helicopter, accompanied by a police officer, to search that day and the next three days but could not locate the missing boat and its passengers.
On Wed, three boats were used to search the Tokua and South Coast area after the missing dinghy was found at Ganai in the Bitapaka LLG,   Kokopo district.
The missing dinghy, however, was guarded by men who threatened the search party with bush knives and axes.  The matter was reported to Kokopo police.
A team comprising Task Force members and detectives went to Ganai and confirmed it was the missing boat and arrested six suspects who are now in custody and are being questioned.
“At this stage, it is not known whether the five missing people are dead or alive. We are not ruling sea piracy and investigations will continue,” Tabali said.
He appealed to people to report to police anything of interest.

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