by Bethanie Harriman – EM TV, Madang
Over 2,000 men, women and children have signed a petition calling for the government to stop the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone (PMIZ) from happening.
Today, the petition was presented to the Madang provincial government despite opposition from a group backed by a former politician who is pushing for the project to happen.
The group opposed to the petition have support from former Maprik MP, Gabrielle Kapris, who was at the handover of the petition today. Kapris was Minister for Commerce in the Somare-led government when the project was proposed, and has been behind it since it began.
The presentation of the petition today at the Madang provincial government headquarters started peacefully. The placards clearly stated the landowners’ intentions of wanting the government to stop the PMIZ project.
But by the second speaker’s turn, a group of men supporting the PMIZ project interrupted proceedings. The crowd of over a thousand angry landowners reacted, but were quickly subdued by police at the scene before a fight could erupt.
The landowners say they felt insulted when the group led by this man told them to pack up and leave. Members of the Provincial Executive Council and the administrator received the petition to the national government. Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather and Madang Governor Jim Kas, who were absent, are expected to take up the matter in the next parliament seating.
Today’s petition comes against a backdrop of protests and demonstrations carried out by people from six villages within the impacted areas of the PMIZ project. They are against the PMIZ project, because they want to protect their environment, women and children.
While the educated elite pushing for the project say it will bring economic benefits, the simple fishermen say they want their ocean left alone, because the K5 received for every catch is more than what they would make in labour for a tuna company.