By SHEILA LASIBORI
THE Fiji High Commission says it was not aware of the 14 Fijians coming into the country because “their employer” Allied Gold did not inform the commission.
Although this was not mandatory, the High Commission said it had always encouraged its citizens travelling to PNG to register with the office.
Allied Gold owns and operates the Simberi gold mine.
Yesterday morning, the 14 men were flown to Port Moresby from Simberi gold mine area, located among the Tabar Group of Islands in New Ireland.
A High Commission staff, speaking on condition of anonymity, denied public claims and allegations that the men were “mercenaries”.
The staff said Allied Gold had advised the High Commission (after it enquired) that the men were hired to undertake a security assessment and design a training programme for local security personnel.
“They are former soldiers (Fiji military) and police officers,” the staff said.
Police Commissioner Gari Baki yesterday confirmed brief police involvement in the investigations carried out by Government authorities including Immigration.
“There was a Government team that went to Simberi to investigate the presence of the Fijians. We (police) helped and sent a team from Tomaringa to Simberi with instructions to go and support (the investigations),” he said, adding issues surrounding the Fijians presence in the country were immigration in nature and not criminal for police to deal with.
Some police officers from Tomaringa’s mobile squad escorted the men to Port Moresby where immigration officers where on hand at the airport to pick them up.
The Office of Security Coordination and Assessment (Osca) was in charge of coordinating dealings with the Fijians.
Osca, when contacted yesterday, said it was not able to comment on the Fijians until such time Immigration officials had completed processing travel documents for the men.
The 14 men arrived in the country in groups of seven – first on Jan 4 and later on Jan 7.
The presence of the Fijians in New Ireland was first raised by New Ireland provincial police commander Supt Ephraim Tomonmon in a brief to Islands regional police command and Police Headquarters in NCD.
New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan had also raised concerns about the Fijians and called on authorities to investigate their presence at Simberi.
Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Sam Abal had earlier said the Fijians entered the country on business visas, adding the men did not have work visas although they were engaged to work at the mine.
He also expressed concerns at the conduct of the company and the manner in which it brought in the Fijians.