Oro Governor Gary Juffa blasts PNG government over the deportation of NZ Catholic missionary Douglas Tennent. Video: EMTV News
Pacific Media Watch News Desk
Oro Governor Gary Juffa has condemned the Papua New Guinea government for “hypocrisy” and “double standards” over the controversial deportation of New Zealand Catholic missionary Douglas Tennent.
Acting Chief Immigration Officer Solomon Kantha told EMTV News that Tennent’s deportation last week related to “visa conditions”.
However, Juffa, who has been vocal about foreign investors in the country during the election campaign, said the move by the Immigration Office to deport Tennent was illegal and not in the best interests of Papua New Guineans who were being marginalised on their own land by big foreign companies.
If the current PNG government was interested in the people it would support Tennent and say, “let us fight this corruption and deal with this on behalf of the landowners,” Juffa said.
The PNG Immigration Department is reviewing its decision to deport Tennent, reports Cathnews.
Kantha said Tennent’s visa had been cancelled by Immigration and Foreign Affairs Minister Rimbink Pato because of his alleged involvement in landowner issues, the NZ Catholic news service reported.
The acting immigration head said the decision was based on a “complaint” from landowners in East New Britain.
The Sikite Mukus palm oil project has been a “hive of landowner dispute” between those who want the project and those who do not want the project, EMTV News said.
The Post-Courier reported that Kantha had told the archbishop of Rabaul, Francesco Panfilo, that Tennent could reapply for a new visa and work permit.
However, the archbishop has refused to do so unless he receives reassurance from PNG’s Foreign Affairs Department that Tennent could return.
He is also demanding to know who lodged the complaint letter.
The managing director of the landowners’ umbrella company, Memalo Holdings Ltd, has denied being responsible.
Wesley Pagott said although the members of Sigite Mukus Integrated Rural Development Project (SMIRDP) disagreed with with what Tennent had been doing, they were surprised to hear that he was deported.
Memalo Holdings was originally incorporated listing six separate landowner companies as shareholders.
They were all incorporated on the same day. Two have since been delisted.
Memalo controls the land on which the SMIRDP is being developed by the Malaysian logging company Rimbunan Hijau Group (PNG).
The group has a diverse set of interests that encompass forestry, timber processing, palm oil, transport, media, retail and property development.
It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Rimbunan Hijau, a company based in Sarawak, Malaysia.
Governor pledges support
The Acting Governor of East New Britain, Cosmas Bauk, has pledged his support for Tennent, Cathnews reported.
He said he would do everything in his power to make sure that Tennent could return to continue on with his work.
Bauk said he was disappointment at the manner in which the current government had been doing its business without regards to the people’s fight for justice and what they rightfully claimed as theirs.
He commended the church for their efforts in assisting the people in Pomio and East New Britain and would stand with the church in this fight.
The Papua New Guinea 2017 general election is June 24 until July 8.