Officials: Investors did not breach laws

National, Normal

The National – Thursday, February 17, 2011

A FOUR-man team flew into PNG in a Boeing jet on Tuesday and was spirited to Wewak in the government falcon to meet the prime minister to discuss possible investment in agriculture industry in East Sepik, the team’s sponsor and former MP Thomas Negints said yesterday.
The team was to have discussed a 110,000ha oil palm estate stretching across Ambunti-Dreikikir, Maprik and Wosera Gawi districts.
Led by the chairman of the Siva Group, a diversified Indian company, the team was reported to have had an aerial tour of the project site over Ambunti-Dreikikir, Maprik and Wosera Gawi districts before returning to Port Moresby.
Their entry was not without controversy as a news report alleged yesterday that the foreigners were in the country without proper papers and had claimed that Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare had granted them immunity, or right of passage, into the country.
Immigrations and customs officials said yesterday, however, that the team complied with all formalities and applied, paid for and were issued business visas.
Minister for Trade and Industry Gabriel Kapris and Negints expressed anger at the report after returning from East Sepik with the investors.
Negints said that the five foreigners entered the country and were issued visas upon arrival, which is a normal practice.
He said that they had to pay K2,500 for the five executives as their K500 individual visa fees.
Head of Customs in PNG Gary Juffa said: “I understand that visas were granted upon the delivery of a sponsor’s letter which was in order and satisfactory to migration.”
He said there was no waiver as claimed in the other daily.
Negints said that the report was wrong, misleading and defamatory, and even worse when the name of the prime minister was used. 
He said the government was aware of the group’s travel but the prime minister did not give immunity to bypass all immigration processes.
The prime minister’s office also denied the claims.
Kapris said that the report was frustrating and demeaning for the people of East Sepik who had waited for well over 20 years to find a possible investment partner.
The Siva Group, an industrial conglomerate, is involved in technical project management, communication, media, wind energy, catering, realty, education service, bio-fuel, real estate and agro-products export businesses in India and abroad.