NATIONAL Court judge Justice Ambeng Kandakasi yesterday asked a lawyer representing the 14 Fijians employed by Simberi Gold Company Ltd to provide documents to prove that they are in the country legally.
“That is the first basic question which must be answered before we can proceed any further,” Justice Kandakasi said.
He told the lawyer from O’Brien Lawyers, representing the Fijians: “If your clients are lawfully in the country, then that is a different case.”
The defence maintained that the Fijians are being unlawfully detained.
The State submitted that they were illegally in the country because they did not have valid work permits. However, they were detained by Immigration officials and kept at a Port Moresby motel under the authority of the Immigration Act and its bylaws.
Justice Kandakasi asked the defence lawyer to return to court this morning with all his clients’ passports and accompanying valid and legal documentation to show that they were here legally.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that the managing director of Simberi Gold , Mark Caruso, who made a public statement defending the hiring of 14 Fijians at the mine in New Ireland, may himself be working in the country illegally.
The Department of Labour and Industrial Relations (DLIR) has filed papers in court which say apart from the 14 Fijians, Mr Caruso also has no valid work permit.
DLIR Assistant Secretary Dr Rona Nadile said in papers filed early this week that their investigations with the PNG Immigrations Service show that Mr Caruso has been entering the country on business visas.
This raises questions about the public statement Mr Caruso has been making about the Fijians and the purpose of their presence at the mine.