August 28, 2008

Papua New Guinea Landowners Attack Expat Chinese

Text of report by Papua New Guinea newspaper The National website on 27 August

[by Kevin Pamba and Jason Som Kaut] Three Chinese employees of China Metallurgical Construction Company (MCC), the developers of the Ramu nickel resource [in Madang Province, northern mainland Papua New Guinea] were savagely attacked by about 100 armed landowners at the Basamuk project site at Rai Coast last Sunday morning [24 August]. They are recovering in Madang town.

Work at the Basamuk refinery and wharf site had been stopped and police and senior company officials are in the area to control the situation.

In a separate incident, Papua New Guineans working up at MCC's proposed nickel mine site at Kurumbukari in Usino-Bundi have stopped working while Chinese nationals working there have been evacuated to Madang town in fear of attacks over the weekend.

The three Chinese injured at Basamuk were evacuated to Modilon General Hospital in Madang where they were treated. One of the Chinese, Mike Chai, has been admitted while another two were treated and discharged.

An interview by The National with Mr Chai at his intermediate ward bedside yesterday afternoon was terminated after his superiors, contacted by two-way radio by his Chinese caretaker, instructed him not to speak to the media.

Doctors at the hospital said Mr Chai's condition was stable and he would be discharged when he fully recovers. He sustained injuries to his right hand, legs and back.

The motive of the attack on Mr Chai, who is a coordinator for security operations, and his colleagues could not be ascertained yesterday. It is believed five locals have been arrested in connection with the incident.

The disgruntled employees at Kurumbukari are demanding for better pay and working conditions. Several of the employees fronted up at the company's head office in town between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. yesterday and had a near confrontation with Chinese officials.

A scheduled meeting yesterday did not eventuate and is expected to be held this morning.

Another Chinese employee of the project developer sustained injuries from a work-related accident at the construction site in Madang town, where the company is building a four-storey head office and office blocks. The injured worker was flown to China for urgent medical attention on Monday.

A doctor who attended to the injured Chinese construction worker said he had a broken arm, injured back and hip after falling from a building.

Madang Governor Sir Arnold Amet said yesterday Basamuk landowners fronted up at the gates of the mine and said they wanted a welding machine to weld shut the gates but were refused by the Chinese security guard.

The Basamuk and Coastal Pipeline Landowners' Association had decided to stop all operations.

A police contingent was dispatched from Madang on Monday after receiving reports of the incident. It returned yesterday afternoon with five suspects.

Sir Arnold was expected to visit the mine tomorrow to meet with the disgruntled landowners and community leaders. He has directed developer MCC to address the situation.

"The continued delay in a review was the source of frustrations including concerns for spin-off benefits, an independent environmental study and working conditions. They have progressively raised these concerns and were hoping that it would be addressed soon," Sir Arnold said.

Originally published by The National website, Port Moresby, in English 27 Aug 08.

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