TEN INJURED IN CLASH AT PNG COFFEE PLANTATION

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PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Sept. 24) - More than 10 men in
Papua New Guinea’s Western Highlands are in critical condition after clashes
at one of the country’s biggest coffee estates.

Continued management, legal and landowner conflicts relating at
the Gumanch Coffee Plantation near Mt Hagen City sparked more fights yesterday
and the loss of millions of kina in company assets.

Of the 10 injured yesterday, one man lost an eye and another was
chopped with an axe on the shoulder. 

Observers fear more injuries and possibly deaths this week if
issues are not settled.

Gumanch plantation ranks as the biggest coffee plantation in the
southern hemisphere and is Papua New Guinea’s flag carrier in the coffee
sector, but this pride is being overshadowed by landowner issues. 

Landowners, who include the Ronis, Kimkas, Rumdis and Rolgokas,
say they own the land and will not allow the new management company, Macoes PNG
Ltd, to take over management. They claimed it was because royalty and
shareholder issues have not been properly settled by the management company.
They would instead want a more established company to take over the
management. 

Owner of Macoes (PNG) Ltd and Western Highlands based lawyer and
businessman Simon Norum has denied there were any shareholder issue problems,
adding he had legal rights over the land and that he would go ahead to develop
the land. 

Mr Norum could not be reached yesterday for comments but he told
the Post-Courier earlier this month that his company (Macoes (PNG) Ltd) won the
tender for the project at a cost of K1.2 million after a consultation and
screening process with Bank South Pacific in Port Moresby. 

Mr Norum said he was requested by the bank to make a deposit of
K200,000 before a rehabilitation phase of the project continued. 

Mr Norum said the deposit was made and when his company went to
develop the land, landowner issues came into play. He said shareholder issues
were already settled but he has not been given the opportunity to develop the
land. 

He said Macoes (PNG) Ltd would continue to develop the land
until the court case set for September 26 whereby the four tribal landowner
factions have challenged the issue in court asking for BSP to withdraw the
tender decision awarded to Mr Norum and his management company. 

Police are keeping a close watch on the situation. 

September 24, 2003

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

 

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