RD Tuna Drops NGO Lawsuit February 2008
RD Tuna has dropped the lawsuit they filed against a local NGO and their technical advisor.
In September 2003 RD launched a defamation suit against the Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG), a Madang based non-government organisation (NGO).
In addition to BRG and its techncial advisor, the tuna company had also filed suits against the landowners of Kananam represented by the Idawad Association, their chairmen, vice chairmen and Sek/Kananam Ward Councillor James Sungai, the elected representative from the area.
The tuna company initiated action against the six defendants in an attempt to silence their criticism of the company, its employment practices and evironmental damage. Among the claims from RD Tuna was that the defendants had created and distributed a website (www.rd.green.net.au)
Two months after initiating the suit against the landowners RD was forced to agree it had no legitimate claim and discontinued the court against.
The landowners however claimed the company should be held responsible for its "bullying actions" in trying to intimidate them. They returned to court to express these views finding a sympathetic court which ordered RD to pay all the costs of the landowners and ordering no further proceedings be brought against them.
RD also attempted to drop proceedings against the Bismarck Ramu Group on two previous occasions, but the NGO refused opting to have their day in court. However in May last year BRG agreed to allow the case to be dropped.
Official Notice of Discontinuence was filed in May 2007, but the orders where not received by BRG's lawyers until this week. When contacted BRG Coordinator, John Chitoa said the suit had no merit at all. He said RD was simply trying to invoke a slap suit - which is a suit brought by companies against those they want to silence.
He said since the "bogus" lawsuit was filed by RD the company has been delisted by the European Union (EU) from exporting to EU countries for the very reasons the RD workers and BRG had brought to the public's attention for years. RD Tuna Canners had no comment.
RD Tuna Concedes Defeat February 2008
Filipino company, RD Tuna has admitted defeat in its attempts to stifle criticism of the environmental and social impacts of its operations and drive out of existence a small local non government organisation that assists landowners to understand and defend their rights.
In September 2003, RD Tuna commenced a defamation action against the Bismark Ramu Group claiming it was the author of a website [http://www.rd.green.net.au/] which publishes detailed evidence of serious environmental pollution from the RD factory in Madang; low pay and unhygienic working conditions for local staff; and the prostitution of local women on foreign tuna fishing boats.
The legal action was seen as thinly disguised attack on the Bismark Ramu Group which has been heavily criticised by foreign interests for its work with landowners in Madang that are critical of RD Tuna and other projects that seek to exploit the local population.
Despite its small size and rural location, the Bismark Ramu Group decided to defend itself against what was seen as an unwarranted and unjustified legal attack. So successful has that defence been, that despite the overwhelming financial resources and political leverage of RD Tuna, the company has now officially discontinued its legal case.
This is regarded by many as an admission by the company that it did not want to go into court and have to try and defend itself against its critics. A hearing in open court would have meant RD had to disclose highly damaging documents about tuna consignments to the United States that were rejected as unfit for human consumption but then returned to PNG.
3000 Kananam People Take Action Monday 20 March 2006
The 3000 strong Kananam community, (a maritime/fishing community on the northern end of the Madang Lagoon, PNG), had gone on a peaceful march into the RD Tuna Fishing PNG Ltd’s Vidar wharfing and cold storage premises, at 10:00 AM today (Monday, 20 March 2006).
This community action should come as no surprise to the Madang provincial government and department heads, including the fisheries authority, as well as the RD Tuna company.
All relevant government and company executives were formally (officially) informed and invited well ahead of time by the Kananam community leaders to their village for a meeting scheduled for 10:00 AM on Monday 13 March 2006, at which the Kananam leaders intended to present a written petition outlining their people’s concerns to the government and company executives.
The peaceful march is a next step (follow up action) that the Kananam people are taking wherein to raise and present their concerns relating to RD Tuna’s operations at Vidar, following the government and company executives’ failure to attend the Monday 13 March 2006 meeting at which the executives would have received the people’s written petition.
Almost all previous meetings organized by the people at Kananam village since 1997 (when the company started operations) have hardly ever been attended by government and company executives even when they were officially invited to attend those meetings.
One thing is for sure: that the Kananam people are clearly focused this time around, and are intent on carrying out a crescendo of planned actions to address their concerns and they are NOT giving up on this. The people are fed up with such nonsense from company and government executives and will not allow anything to get in their way and prevent them from publicly presenting their written petition to the executives and receive positive responses to the petition there and then.
A social impact report on RD Tuna company’s operations has slammed the company for damaging the environment, betraying promises to landowners and failing to provide even a living wage to its workers. The report that was done in 2003 by a team of seven PNG academics, led by Dr Nancy Sullivan, recommends closure of RD operations till all these big issues are dealt with.
From: Sek/Kananam Village Alexishafen Madang 20/03/06
On Monday 6th March 2006, Martin Baleng, Berry Ratengmai, Henry Gatagot and Victor Tamol served notices to RD management and Madang provincial government executives, inviting them to a meeting at Kananam village scheduled for the following Monday.
RD management people and government officials received the 7 days’ notice for the meeting and signed the “acknowledgement or service” forms:
RD’s financial controller (Gaa Autentico) and the Vidar plant manager, Danny Zamudio, CR Manager, Stotick Kamya, were among those RD people who signed the “acknowledgement of service” forms.
The acting governor, Mr Bunag Kiup and the deputy administrator, Mr Augustine Dunsten, also received the notice and signed the “acknowledgement of service” forms on behalf of the Madang provincial government.
The next Monday (13 March 2006), the Kananam community waited for the meeting between them and the RD management as well as the provincial government executives to take place at Kananam village. However that meeting did not take place because the two invited parties (RD management and provincial government officials) did not turn up.
The community found out only much later that the RD management and the provincial government officials, for their part, were at the provincial assembly hall that day, as organized by the provincial government. That arrangement was never made known to the Kananam people, and yet the two parties expected representatives/leaders from the village to attend that meeting at the provincial assembly hall that same day.
The following Monday (20 March 2006), the entire Kananam community (3000 people) protest marched to Vidar where after a long five hours of waiting, they hand-delivered their petition to Sir Peter Barter, minister for inter-government relations, who turned up.
On Friday 24th March 2006, a government delegation led by chief secretary of state, Joshua Kalinoe went down to Kananam village. There the people presented some more of the issues of concern to the delegation. There wasn’t any reply from the government delegation except for the land issue which the chief secretary said was a non issue and that the matter should only be discussed over with the government and not with RD Fishing company.He also said the meeting at Kananam was not a technical one and a more technical meeting was to be held the very next day (25th March 2006) at the Madang Resort Hotel.
The government delegation included: .
Joshua Kalinoe – chief secretary .
Joseph Dorpar – Provincial Administrator .
Killian Anosa – Prime Minister’s Department .
Provincial Police Commander .
Someone from the Attorney General’s Office .
Someone from the Trade and Industry Department .
And some others.
Some of the issues raised at Friday’s meeting were: .
Land issue . The sea/harbour – traditional fishing ground .
Environmental issues .
Spin off (benefits) businesses (SOB) .
On Saturday 25/03/06 the three parties met at Madang Resort and green light was given for the issues except for the land and industrial issues. Fourteen (14) days was also given for a draft MOU (to be drafted by the government team) and to be seen and signed by all parties involved. And the road sealing project was to kick start on Monday 27/03/06.
Time is ticking closer and closer to the 14 days deadline and because the people are fed up with so many empty promises by the government for far too long, with no actioning whatsoever, the people are intent on blocking the passage (into the Doilon Harbour) which is within the people’s traditional fishing ground.
The Idawan passage happens to be the only way in and/or out of the Vidar wharfing facility, which is why the move to blocking the passage will definitely prove devastating to RD Fishing, whose fishing vessels (catcher boats and mother boats) have no other way in nor out…. No accessibility for RD’s fishing boats means no business for the entire RD Canning and Fishing company for the duration or the “blocking” action.
The people’s plan still remains such that if nothing (positive) happens from the side of the government after the 14 days are up, they will definitely block the Idawan passage. What the people need and are seeking right now is advice from (their) lawyers, before next Monday (10/04/06) which is the 14 days deadline.
The 3000 strong Kananam community had planned and had staged a peaceful protest march to Vidar on 20th of March 2006 and then waited for five long hours only after which time did Sir Peter Barter (on behalf of the government) arrived and was hand-delivered a written petition of the people’s concerns.
Blocking the Idawan passage is highly likely, and would not require as much energy nor organizing skills to implement, as was required and employed for the peaceful protest march to Vidar.
Legal advice therefore is very URGENTLY needed and sought in order to inform the community who are intent on blocking the passage after the 14 days deadline.
Francis Gem (Mr) Idawad Chairman
FILLIPINO DOGS BITE- INJURING SKULL OF A 4 YEARS OLD CHILD.
On the 10th July 05-The Three (3) German Shepherd dogs owned by Filippino Staff at the Vidar RD Fishing had done a near Fatal Injury to the Head of a Kananam Child aged 4, removing the hair and skin of the forehead. The local eye witness and relatives were shocked to see their child’s skull. The Dogs also bit deep into the thighs of the child who is now admitted at Modilon Provincial Hospital in Madang. The frustrated relatives said they will resort their own style of "conflict resolution." One way would be to physically kill the 3 Dogs if the owners cannot compensate the child. "Even Compensation is not enough, we have to get rid of the RD Fishing on our Land and Marine area," a concerned Idawad member said.
PROSTITUTION-A WAY OF LIFE RD - FISHING CREWS-VIDAR WHARF-MADANG.
Two local girls (minors) 13 years of age who were attempting to engage in sexual acts with two Filippino crewmen at Vidar Wharf, were caught red handed by Kananam boys who later questioned and found out what the girls were up to. The two young girls were cooperative and revealed that it was not their Free Will but that of their parents who had pressured them to involve get involved. The parents told the girls to go and offer sexual favours to the crewmen for cash. According to Idawads this is happening because of the RD Tuna Development. Prostitution is becoming a way of earning a living. This incident occurred on the 17th of June 2005. On the 22nd June 05-RD Tuna Community Relations Officer-**** went into Kananam and yelled at the parents of the two girls. "Why do you have to send your daughters to have sex and get money?" The CRO told the community not to let such things happen with the RD Ship crews. However, this is becoming obvious. Such is a new phenomenon created mainly by the RD Tuna Company’s presence and operations. Who should be blamed? The Idawads could partly be correct in blaming the Filippino company.
In an unprecedented decision, the National Court has backed village landowners in a case brought against them by RD Tuna Canners and RD Fishing (PNG).
In September 2003 RD Tuna launched a defamation action against the landowners of Kananam represented by the Idawad Association, their chairmen, vice chairman and the Sek/Kananam Ward Councillor James Sungai, the elected representative from the area.
The giant tuna company launched a defamation action against the group in an attempt to silence their criticism of the company, its employment practices and environmental damage.
Among the claims from RD Tuna was that the defendants had created and distributed a website (http://lorikeet.and.com.au/RD/rdtuna.html) which was defamatory to RD Tuna.
Two months after they initiated the proceedings the company was forced to agree it had no legitimate claim against the landowners and discontinued the court action.
However the landowners were not satisfied. They felt the company should be held responsible for their "bullying actions" in trying to intimidate them and their legitimate concerns. They returned to the Court to express these views and to seek costs from RD Tuna.
National Court Judge Paul Mogish agreed with the landowners arguments yesterday ordering RD to pay all the costs of the landowners and ordering no further proceedings be brought against them.
Frances Gem, chairman of the Idawad Association expressed his obvious satisfaction with the decision but noted the issues concerning RD Tuna are very much alive and need to addressed. "We are pleased with the Court decision, of course, but the issues revolving around RD Tuna haven't gone away. We will continue to address these issues. The Court has let RD know they will can not silence us when our concerns are legitimate."
Ward Councillor, James Sungai, also a defendant in the case was also pleased with the decision. "What always bothered me besides the claims being untrue - was that when the (ex-parte) injunctions were put in place against us - the people of Sek/Kananam had no spokesperson. This seemed very unfair to me - for a foreign company to come in here and prevent the local people from having a voice."
Gem added there were several messages which comes out of the case, "firstly we were unfairly accused by RD Tuna and they were attempting to silence us with this lawsuit, but another message is that companies can not try to silence landowners anywhere in PNG with lawsuits when the landowners have legitimate complaints and the right to express them."
RD Tuna Canners had no comment on the judgement.
FOREIGN COMPANY TAKES LOCAL VILLAGERS TO COURT
RD tuna, a Philippino based company which has a smelly cannery outside Madang, is well known to sell "animal food" grade tuna in its Diana tins for Papua New Guineans, at the same time offering high quality white meat tuna for export. Madang residents know well its existence because of the horrible smell from the cannery that permeates the air night after night.
RD's fishing vessels for years have engaged in a "sex for discarded fish" trade in Madang harbour and is now documented that RD's factory and ships are polluting the Madang lagoon, once a world class diving destination.
It is mainly women who will accept the low wages offered by the cannery. RD charges the women even for their basic required safety gear, which is quite expensive considering that they work for near minimum wage.
RD's onshore location is a token way of claiming downstream processing when the fast majority of its fish caught in PNG's waters never see a tin within PNG. Any claims by RD tuna that it is beneficial to the community must be weighed against the above, and a critical eye to the substance and follow up of how they are supposedly saying.
That the local Kananam landowners want RD tuna, jobs and all, out of their area is strong testament that all is not well in Madang paradise. Any one who makes light of the problems RD has caused should really come to Madang, visit the villages, and hear the first hand stories of local women being induced into prostitution by the Philippinos on board the RD ships. The tragedy and sadness in back of this supposed development is real and it affects people's lives. It is easy to push those realities aside if you are viewing them from afar.
However, if you go and learn for yourself what is happening in Madang with RD Tuna, you may come to feel in your heart and conscience what is happening to people in the area. Those who have seen these things with their own eyes have become fortified to not let RD Tuna get away with what it is doing to the people around Madang.
The most outspoken critics of RD Tuna have been the peoples of the Sek/Kananam area who claim it is their land that is being used and misused and who never consented to RD using their land. They formed an association called Idawad several years back to address the constant problems which have arisen since RD began operations. These local landowners have been relentless in their criticisms of RD and the problems they have created. They have NOT been able to be bought off by RD.
Early last year Idawad chairperson Francis Gem had said that the strong push for economic development by the government had pushed aside concerns for the village people as well as the environment. The environment may be embraced by overseas greenies in recent years but for Papua New Guineans living off their land, the environment was life and survival well before any greenies came to PNG. When a company pollutes your environment so that local women can no longer without worry catch seafood from near the coast in their canoes, that is a problem for your life. The same is true when prostitution on RD fishing vessels muddies the social environment of the village. Is AIDS being transmitted through these encounters? If so, the repercussions extends to people whose only crime is to live in a village close to RD Tuna.
Francis Gem welcomes anyone to come and see for themselves the situation at Vidar point and interested people from the Madang area and elsewhere in PNG have taken him up at his invitation and seen the horror for themselves. As people all around the world have begun to assist the Kananam people simply by spreading the word on their plight with RD and their activism to do something about it, the word has begun to get out. RD Tuna Canneries does NOT want the word to get out and has now filed a defamation suit against local landowners, the local level government representative and a non-profit company in the Madang area to stop the flow of information so that the cannery can continue to operate with impunity as it has up to now.
The lawsuit is believed to be the first time in PNG where a foreign company has taken landowners to court in order to force the landowners themselves to shut up about the actions of the foreign company. Previous cases have seen landowners taking companies to court, but not the other way around. As part of this court case of "RD Tuna against the people," an injunction was obtained against the landowners and all other defendants in the case. As a result, the villagers have been banned from telling their side of the story.
Fortunately, Friends of Kananam is not an organisation per se but a group of anyone and everyone who cares and wants to do something to stop the stinking mess that RD tuna has created in Madang. The current lawsuit by RD will no doubt be widely publicized both in PNG and abroad. The Idawad landowners association and the local level government representative have laid down the gauntlet recently by taking out advertisements in two local newspapers (31 July) announcing the lawsuit, stating they welcomed the opportunity and they would strongly be defending the charges against them. They also announced they would be representing themselves in the case.
Too often in PNG, people and groups are taken to court as an intimidation action, a way to force costly legal fees upon the innocent and thus encourage them to shut up so that the court case will be dropped. We are pleased to get the report from Madang that the landowners are strongly motivated in a belief that they are right concerning the statements they have made. Although they cannot now talk about any specifics regarding the upcoming court case (RD has effectively shut their mouths for the moment), they do want the world to know those statements about the misery RD Tuna is perpetrating on the people in the area, and in due course, are hopeful that this information will be publicized throughout the world.
Among the claims from RD Tuna is that the defendants had created and distributed a website (http://lorikeet.and.com.au/RD/rdtuna.html) which was defamatory to RD Tuna.
Please consult that website and see if you see anything defamatory contained within it. I suspect that RD tuna will have a very interesting time proving that any website was created by local landowners who to the best of my knowledge, do not even have access to computers, much less the money to host such a site.
The power of doing something as an individual to help others you see need help, is that it forces culprits like RD Tuna to find out in the end that they are not facing a few disgruntled individuals who want a payoff. Instead, they're facing the people themselves who are angry, fed up, and determined to do something about the problem.
Please become a Friends of Kananam merely by passing this information on to your friends. I suspect that the Kananam people will appreciate your words or actions of support, whatever you can offer, if you believe their cause is just and want to give them an encouraging word.
Believe me, if these landowners had the primary intent of seeking a payout or compensation, they would have settled long ago for the promised projects or under-the-table money. They haven't and it has now been years of struggle against RD Tuna.
by A Friend of Kananam