On the 22 February Oil Search Limited, a major stakeholder in PNG LNG, announced their end of year results. Their presentation also touched upon recent events in Tumbi.
Confirming allegations made by LNG Watch, Oil Search Limited acknowledges that both they and ExxonMobil helped manage the investigation into the landslide, which predictably declared that "heavy rainwater" triggered the hazard rather than the ExxonMobil quarry.
Would it be acceptable if the O'Neil government allowed Rabaul Shipping to help manage the Commission of Inquiry currently investigating the Rabaul Queen disaster? Clearly not. Having suspects involved in the management of investigations presents a clear conflict of interest.
However, of equal concern is the claim that the project operator's key focus in the aftermath of the landslide was supporting/assisting local communities. This contradicts the evidence given by landowners.
For example, the following report was published by RNZI on the 16 February:
In seperate report, Joseph Warai further explained the situation:A Hela landowner Joseph Warai claims that government and disaster officials, as well as police and military, told locals that the five million US dollars in disaster response funding promised by the government was conditional on the road being cleared:“There was a certain level of intimidation or they said that if you really want to get that ten million kina that the Prime Minister has promised, then you better let us do the roads, and if you clear the roads then ten million kina may come direct to you.”
The claims of Joseph Warai are supported by the facts to date. No bodies have been recovered from the landslide, no money earmarked for humanitarian aid has been released to victims, instead all efforts have been focused on clearing the road.A Hela landowner Joseph Warai claims that government officials are anxious that the road be clear to allow the Liquefied Natural Gas project operations in the area to proceed.“How do you really approach this type of sensitivity? In a sense, yeah, people need to have access to the road, the project must go on, but at the same time there are 25 bodies and none of them have been recovered so we’re talking about a whole sensitivity and then there are concerns and issues that must be addressed by all parties involved.”
Indeed, Martin Mosa the acting Director of the National Disaster Centre acknowledged last Wednesday that of the K10 million emergency assistance set aside by the O'Neil government, K3 million will be used for humanitarian purposes. The rest, it would appear, is being used to clear the road for ExxonMobil and their project partners.