Punjas Lautoka factory burnt down

  • 24th February 2003
  • 2003
  • // Display comment count + link

A Punja and Sons factory was razed by fire on Wednesday night, a day after claims in the High Court in Suva that the company had financed the May 2000 coup.

The Ocean Soaps Company building, which was 50-years old, on Sautamata Street, in the Namoli industrial area, was completely destroyed, causing millions of dollars in damage.

Police force are investigating the cause of the fire, although they have not ruled out foul play. Police could not establish whether the property and its contents were insured.

The premises were well secured with security officers manning the gates on a 24-hour basis. The building was well fenced and workers were doing shift work inside when fire broke out at about 11:30 pm.

Workers on the night shift and the security officer on duty were taken in for questioning.

The Managing Director of Punja and Sons Nitin Punja said they did not have access to the site and as such were not able to access the full extent of damage and did no say anything on the future of workers in the soap factory.

The Company claimed they had been receiving threats after Salesi Tuitagalele, a witness in the treason trial of Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu, made allegations linking the company along with C J Patel as financiers of the May 19, 2000 coup.

Public reacted strongly to the allegations and staff of Punja and Sons were continuously sworn at and verbally abused on the street, a day after the allegations were made in Suva’s High Court.

The employees who could not handle the insults went home and changed out of their uniforms. Punja and Sons had advised all their staffs not to wear the company uniforms or carry Punjas logo for their personal safety.