David Tigavu, Chairman of the Kurumbukari Landowner Association, and one of the main supporters of the Ramu nickel mine in Madang, has been convicted by the National court on three counts of contempt.
The charges related to threats and incitement to violence by Tigavu outside the Madang courthouse against the landowner plaintiffs and their lawyers in the on-going dispute over the Ramu mine’s marine waste dumping plans.
Tigavu was found guilty of threatening and inciting violence against parties to on-going court proceedings; threatening and abusing lawyers involved in the proceedings; and, threatening and abusing persons who may be witnesses.
Tigavu was found not-guilty on a fourth charge of questioning the integrity and impartiality of the judge, although it was found he had described the judge as sympathetic to the plaintiffs which was not complimentary and had negative connotations.
The judge found Tigavu behaved in an angry and aggressive manner and threatened and incited physical violence which was likely to interfere with the administration of justice and had a real potential to stop parties, lawyers and witnesses putting their case and giving evidence freely.
Tigavu is from the area of the mine site, 135km away from the coast where the mine waste will be dumped into the sea. In his evidence to the court Tigavu admitted that his clan, being from the mine site, has nothing to do with the marine waste dumping issue, which he described as a coastal matter, or with the legal case.
Tigavu also said his people displaced by the mine construction have been living in makeshift shelters and feeding on rice and tinned fish for two years while they wait for proper relocation. He said people have no proper source of clean water and are getting sick as a result. He also said a health centre and school have not yet been built and the road network to the villages is only half complete. Tigavu claimed these hardships were being caused by the legal challenge by the coastal people to the marine dumping plans.
Read the full verdict.