LNGWATCH PNG: Global Insights (25/01/2011) predict in the following report that the PNG government are willing to take harsh measures to put down local protests against the LNG.
PNG Government Launches Investigation Into LNG Attack
By Neil Ashdown
The government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has launched a high-level investigation into an attack that led to the closure of a key site in the ExxonMobil LNG project. On 21 January there was an attack on the Hides 4 LNG conditioning plant site in Southern Highlands province. Estimates of the number of people involved vary, but the police said the number was around 200. The attack led to the evacuation of workers from the site. While order has now been restored at the site and the police presence has been reinforced, ExxonMobil today announced that the site will remain closed until the security of its personnel can be assured. The government and ExxonMobil have denied the attack caused serious injuries, with the latter claiming that four workers were treated for minor injuries at the site. The 21 January attack affected the same project that last week was the target of peaceful protests by landowners. It has been reported that the violence was sparked by the death of a four-year-old child, with locals believing that his death was related to the LNG project.
The team conducting the investigation is being led by Don Polye, a former deputy prime minister who is now foreign minister. It also includes the treasury and energy ministers, William Duma and Peter O'Neill, and Tony Wagambie, the acting police commissioner. Indicating the government's priorities, Polye has stated that the team's objective is for the immediate resumption of work at the site while negotiations take place to find a remedy for the landowners' grievances.
Significance:The seniority of the team conducting the investigation is evidence of how seriously the government takes this attack. The LNG project is at the centre of its economic policy and the government would be willing to take harsh measures to ensure its security. However, in doing so it risks alienating the local population and increasing the chance of further incidents.