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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 29, 2001 - The National/PINA Nius Online)---A law firm in Port Moresby has received instructions to start legal proceedings against the joint venture partners involved in the tuna loining factory in Wewak, East Sepik.

The instructions were issued by Nick Artekan, principal and chairman of Nusa Fishing Group in Wewak, for environmental damage, Ralph Saulep of Saulep Lawyers said.

The joint venture, South Seas Tuna Corporation (SSTC), involves Angco and its overseas partner StarKist of the United States territory of Guam.

Mr. Artekan said from Wewak that he had been forced to take legal action after the East Sepik provincial government failed to respond after repeated attempts to bring the plight of the Wewak islanders to the venture’s attention.

"They do not care about us one little bit. The provincial administration is hell bent on serving the needs of people who have lost touch with the needs of the grassroots and the resource owners," Mr. Artekan said.

Mr. Saulep said that under section 46 of the Environment Act, an interested person may apply for an order restraining a government authority from issuing necessary permits or licenses for level 2 and level 3 activities which may cause environmental damage.

He said the restraining order would prohibit carrying out these activities until an environmental permit has been granted in accordance with the Act. An Environmental Permit, as far as Nusa Business Group and Bismarck Fishing Company Ltd. are aware, has not been issued.

Nusa and Bismarck are both companies which are 100 per cent owned by Papua New Guineans.

SSTC, with the support of the powerful U.S. Tuna Foundation, is currently lobbying for access to provisions of a multilateral fishing agreement that PNG has with the US fishing industry. This is so that funds would be made available to start the Wewak project.

The PNG Government has, however, refused to discuss the issue with the U.S. Tuna Foundation.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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