The National, Monday, May 2, 2011
THE controversial Pacific Marine Industrial Zone project will go ahead, Environment Minister Benny Allan and Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Gabriel Kapris said last Friday.
They said the government was adamant the Vidar land was state property and the project “will proceed as expected” despite outstanding custodian issues over land and environmental impact worries.
It was apparent at Friday’s gathering that those assertions were easier said than done.
Landowners, led by local Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather, highlighted various concerns including land ownership and legal and environmental issues with Fairweather promising to take legal action to stop the project.
Speaking at Sek in Alexishafen, outside Madang, Allan defended his department and the government, saying the project had been “approved by the government”.
“Minister Allan, I want to know if we have an environmental plan for the lagoon?” Fairweather asked.
“Show us the document as we want to see these plans.
“How will the waste be treated and disposed of? We already have RD Tuna polluting the air and, now, we are told that seven canneries will be built and 30,000 people will come.
“I am worried about the fish stock and the pollution that will occur,” Fairweather said.
“I represent the portion of land that is in the Sumkar district and do not want the people to suffer.”
Clearly inciting the crowd with his bold stand against the project, Fairweather’s supporters clapped and cheered.
But they quickly turned to heckling and cat-calls when Allan tried to explain the processes of granting environmental permits and approval in principle as an important process of giving the green light for construction work.
Kapris stressed that the project was important as it would generate more than K6 billion annually, making PNG one of the leading tuna exporters in the world.
Patrick Matbob, a senior journalist and lecturer at Divine Word University, who was one of the last speakers at the three-hour-long meeting, and clearly unimpressed with the ministers responses, said: “Portion 1350 is disputed land which is yet to be resolved.
“I know growing up and have documents to this day that the land is one where my elders used to have numerous conflicts over and were attending court cases for.
“I know, to the best of my knowledge as I have been following this issue for some time now, that the land is still a disputed land.”
The land in question was leased from RD Tuna, which had acquired it from the Catholic church some time back.
Regional member and Attorney-General Sir Arnold Amet was exasperated after he and the other ministers were branded “conmen” by one speaker, Francis Gem.