"We declare our first goal to be for every person to be dynamically involved in the process of freeing himself or herself from every form of domination or oppression so that each man or woman will have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others".

- Papua New Guinea National Goals and Directive Principles

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Remembering Another PNGDF Call Out

The International State Crime Initiative’s Dr Kristian Lasslett draws on his research into the Bougainville conflict to analyse the government’s recent decision to deploy PNGDF troops in the Southern Highlands.

It is almost twenty three years ago to the day, since the PNGDF was sent to Bougainville by Papua New Guinea’s National Executive Council. They were deployed to help the RPNGC restore law and order, following an anti-mine uprising.

The PNGDF was, it is to be admitted, reluctant participants. By the late 1980s, soldiers were sick of being shuttled around the country to suppress their own countrymen; after all, it was not what they had signed up for. Nevertheless, they dispatched their duties – alongside the RPNGC’s Mobile Squads – with considerable force.

A mining executive at Bougainville Copper Limited – whose copper and gold mine lay at the centre of the crisis – recalls, ‘forty, fifty villages, and the crops [were destroyed]. The villages were varying from five or six houses to twenty or thirty houses’. A senior PNGDF officer involved in the law and order operation explains the logic behind these actions,

I think that the aim of the burning down of houses, was for people to come back, and say look sorry I have done wrong, can you people [the national government] help...they [the security forces] were not heavy handed, but they just went out and I think they were doing the right thing by burning down several [sic] houses.
Those displaced were placed in crudely constructed ‘care centres’, where they were denied contact with the outside world. Indeed, local priests Fathers Tangin and Woerster were badly beaten by the security forces when they attempted to speak with their imprisoned congregation. Landowners were also brutalised. In one sobering incident during April 1989, the wife of a local leader was raped by masked Mobile Squad officers.

Given the heavy weight of the past, one would assume the government’s recent decision to call out the PNGDF– following a landowner blockade in the Southern Highlands – was not taken lightly. It would be interesting to know what Prime Minister O’Neil’s predecessor, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, thinks of the decision; he was the one unlucky enough to be in the box-seat during 1988-89.

Back then Sir Namaliu was a somewhat reluctant belligerent. Like his Bougainvillean Minister for Provincial Affairs – John Momis – he preferred to do things the Melanesian way, through dialogue, patience and compromise. But Sir Namaliu was under immense pressure from a variety of groups, not least Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia, who had threatened to withdraw all investment from Papua New Guinea, unless he acted ‘decisively’.

Of course, we do not know what is behind the O’Neil government’s decision to deploy troops in the Southern Highlands. Whatever we are told in the next few days will be at best palatable spin. The real calculations informing this serious move will be kept a carefully guarded secret, as will the conversations that preceded it.

Naturally, speculation will be directed at Esso Highlands (Exxon’s PNG subsidiary), whose operations lie at the centre of recent landowner protests. The company’s all-to-cool public persona, seems to belie the more chaotic reality on the ground, if recent media-reports are anything to go by.

Indeed, the company appears to be pulling out all stops to ensure production at the massive LNG project begins, as promised, in 2014. This urgency has led to a less than adequate response to the recent Tumbi landslide. Like with the present impasse at Hides 4, Tumbi landowners had blockaded PNG LNG construction work, after dozens of villagers were killed by a massive landslide, which local leaders blamed on a PNG LNG quarry.

According to a number of recent media reports, the National Disaster Committee warned displaced villagers to lift the blockade, or else humanitarian assistance would be denied. Adding muscle to this threat was the presence of the Mobile Squads. Hey presto the blockade was lifted, and according to Catherine Wilson, “villagers watched as workmen bulldozed a road across the landslide on top of their villages and the bodies of those who died”. Now displaced families living in tents by the landslide site also watch while trucks rumble over the bodies of their loved ones.  

Of course, in defence of Esso Highlands these humanitarian issues are not the domain of resource operators. Nevertheless, resource operators make it their business when they become complicit in the state’s activities; say by supplying resources and logistical assistance to government agencies.

According to the PNG LNG’s independent monitors, under a memorandum of agreement signed with the RPNGC, Esso Highlands can provide certain types of assistance to the RPNGC including “food, lodging, fuel, vehicles, travel”. It is not clear whether this patronage can be extended to the PNGDF.

While Esso Highlands have asked the RPNGC to abide by “voluntary Principles for Security and Human Rights”, the fact remains the RPNGC’s recent record is a chequered one. Reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch would suggest the Mobile Squads, in particular, have failed to heed the lessons of Bougainville. Amnesty International claims “between April and July 2009, police officers of the Mobile Squad burned down at least 130 buildings in Wuangima [near the Porgera mine], with local community members reporting many more being destroyed”. These tactics hark back to the 1970s when the RPNGC first began to quell tribal fighting in the highlands.

Human Rights Watch’s findings are even more gruesome. They report:

On March 12, 2004, at around 2:30 or 3:00 in the afternoon, armed mobile squad  officers burst into the Three-Mile Guesthouse in Port Moresby, where a live band was  playing. Present were sex workers and their clients, band members, women selling betel nut, food, and drinks, and others listening to the band. Nearly thirty witnesses testified that the officers rounded up all of the women; hit some of them with sticks, bottles, iron bars, gun butts and rubber hoses; poured cooked food,  beer, and soft drinks on them; and spit red betel nut juice on them. One woman told Human Rights Watch that a policeman hit her with his gun butt on her vagina, “then put  it in my bum.”  Another officer, she said, “pissed into a half-full beer and made us  drink a sip.” A sixteen-year-old girl told Human Rights Watch that as police officers  rounded her up, one shouted: “We want the youngest ones to have sex in front of all of  us. . . . Have sex right in front of our eyes. We want to see the real action.”
If Exxon (via Esso Highlands) extend patronage to the combined security forces as they ‘restore order’ in the Southern Highlands, they are at real risk of assuming partial responsibility for the latter’s conduct –  which if the above examples are anything to go by, could be brutal in the extreme. Indeed, according to the International Commission of Jurists Expert Legal Panel on Corporate Complicity in International Crime:

...There will usually be a sufficiently close link in law between a company’s conduct and gross human rights abuses if the company’s conduct has “enabled,” “exacerbated,” or “facilitated” the abuses.  If a company helps to cause gross human rights abuses in these ways, the company or its officials enter a zone in which they could be held legally liable, under criminal law as an aider or abettor of a crime or as a participant in a common criminal plan, or under the law of civil remedies for intentionally or negligently causing harm to a victim.
Of course, it is early days; perhaps this is all a storm in a tea cup. Lets hope so. But it is important to remember, it only takes one bullet to let the genie out of the bottle, and once blood is spilt the genie is very hard to put back.

The Garamut Blog Dissects the current PNG LNG Crisis

For those wishing to understand more about the background to the current crisis in the Southern Highlands, there is a great post on The Garamut ': http://garamut.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/exxonmobil-landowners-the-state-taking-a-closer-look-at-a-defective-partnership/

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Leaders warn against SoE

The National, Wednesday 28th March 2012

THREE landowner leaders in the PNG liquefied natural gas area warn that a proposed state-of-emergency (SoE) by the government will not solve their problems.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had last Sunday mooted the idea after project developer Esso Highlands demobilised its workers at Hides 4 in Komo, Southern Highlands, following interruptions by the landowners at the site forcing the stoppage of work.

He said it was to protect the multi-billion kina PNG LNG project.
The national executive council is expected to meet today to decide on the state-of-emergency issue in the Southern Highlands province.

PDL 7 landowners Henry Parillia from the Taguali Kamia clan, Tom Ekanda, from the Tukuba Takopali and Ega Ango from Kele Takaya clan said there was no need for a state-of-emergency.

The landowners said their demands had been given to the relevant authorities and a state-of-emergency would only be seen as intimidating.

They said it would not be in the best interest of the people as the government should have addressed their grievances.

They claimed the government was protecting the interests of foreign investors. They wanted O’Neill to sack the petroleum and energy minister for his lack of direction.

Security chiefs refer SoE to cabinet

The National, Wednesday 28th March 2012

The National Security Advisory Committee has met to discuss the proposed move to impose a state-of-emergency in Southern Highlands province.

However, government sources said last night the committee had decided to refer the matter to the National Executive Council which is expected to meet today.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said there were serious law and order issues in Southern Highlands that needed to be addressed immediately.

He said the national government was concerned about the progress of the PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project and would move quickly to effectively deal with lawlessness and disorderly behaviour by the landowners.

O’Neill had proposed to declare a state-of-emergency following the forced closure of operations at Hides 4 by landowners.

Consequently, Esso Highlands Ltd responded by suspending operations and demobilising its workers at Hides 4 because they could not work.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

There is still no justice for the Tumbi Quarry landslide victims

By Prof Dave Petley
Wilson Professor of Hazard and Risk in the Department of Geography at Durham University in the United Kingdom. 
(Originally Posted on the Landslide Blog)

NZ Herald ran a story over the weekend about the Tumbi Quarry landslide in Papua New Guinea, which killed at least 25 people (and possibly as many as 60 people) in January.  As a reminder, the landslide occurred at the site of a quarry that has been providing aggregate for a LNG pipeline being constructed by Exxon-Mobil.  It remains unclear as to whether the quarry played a role, but to date, despite promises, there has been no announcement of the actual instigation of a proper independent inquiry.
The journalist, Catherine Wilson, visited the site last week and interviewed the local landowners and villagers.  The report highlights the injustice felt by those affected by the landslide that the road has been reopened across the landslide without the bodies of the deceased being recovered.
Also of interest is a description of the landslide by Jokoya Piwako, chief of Tumbi and Tumbiago villages:
“Early in the morning, I woke up to go to work around 5 o’clock. I went out about 1km; then I heard the landslide come [about 5:45am]. I heard a big sound of smashing of the stone.  All the rocks and everything went up in the air and the big wall of water, the rivers came in. Then after that, all the trees and stones and rocks up in the air came down and covered all the houses and children.  I just couldn’t believe what had happened to my village, because all of my family, children, everything was gone with the house, everything.”
Chief Jokoya lost two wives, four children, several uncles and 15 to 20 visitors who were staying in his guesthouse at the village.
Catherine sent me some images of the landslide that she took during her visit to the site, and has graciously allowed me to post them (but note that she retains the copyright).  This is Chief Jokoya standing in front of the landslide that killed two of his wives and four of his children:
And this is the landslide scar itself.  Note the road bulldozed across the landslide mass:
I will revisit this image, together with the eye-witness description of the failure event in the NZ Herald article and thepre-landslide aerial photos, in a post in a couple of days.  I think together they provide a better understanding of what happened at Tumbi Quarry.

Monday, 26 March 2012

LNG Watch Opposes the Deployment of the PNGDF in Hela Province

LNG Watch opposes the deployment of the PNGDF or other paramilitary organs (including RPNGC mobile squads), to deal with landowner protests against PNG LNG in the Hela Province. We also call upon Esso Highlands Ltd to clearly oppose this measure, if they fail they will be morally and legally liable for any atrocities committed in their name by PNG's security forces.

Any student of PNG history will spot the frightening parallels that are developing (we have noted the parallel before). The civil war which tore apart Bougainville for most of the 1990s, began when landowner leaders issued 'unreasonable' compensation demands (similarly Prime Minister O'Neil has labelled the PNG LNG landowner demands as 'unreasonable'). In the case of Bougainville the Panguna Landowners Association demanded K10 Billion.

To suppress the Bougainvillean landowners, the government declared a State of Emergency in June 1989. The PNGDF and the RPNGC mobile squads, then proceeded to burn villages and force displaced civilians into detention camps, where numerous human rights abuses occurred. Hundreds of people died as the security forces bombed, mortared and fired upon civilian areas. They then supplemented these brutal military tactics by placing a blockade around the island. No humanitarian aid was allowed in. This  killed thousands of innocent villagers.

Children killed in a PNGDF Mortar Attack on a Church in 1996

Since the end of the conflict, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the security forces have modified their ways. The fact not one soldier, police officer or more importantly Commanding Officer was ever charged for the crimes committed in Bougainville speaks volumes. Nor have those who were politically in charge, been held to account.

Sadly, the Southern Highlands are likely to be a greater powder keg, with arms readily available to landowner groups if attacked.  

The Prime Minister should not confuse the interests of the nation, with the interests of Esso Highlands. Nor should the public be surprised by recent elevation in landowner discontent. For those who have cared to listen, landowners affected by the PNG LNG project have been making their grievances known.

Moreover, as the recent case of Tumbi aptly demonstrates, the national government is prepared to  disregard the rights of PNG citizens, when they come into conflict with PNG LNG. Indeed, to date the families displaced by the landslide are living in tents next to the debris, while PNG LNG truckles rumble over the bodies of those buried.

Violence and force is not the answer to landowner grievances. PNG LNG production deadlines should not dictate the government's response. Patience and dialogue are the only solution to the current impasse.

PM Threatens to Send in the Troops to Protect PNG LNG

The National, 26 March 2012.

THE government last night vowed to implement tough measures – including the declaration of a state of emergency in a province – as a PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project developer Esso Highlands began withdrawing workers from its site.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill will call a National Executive Council meeting today to discuss the measures to be taken as the developer of the PNG LNG project in Southern Highlands started pulling its workers from the Hides 4 area.  Landowners had stopped work at the site over compensation demands which the developer, Esso Highlands, had been trying to resolve. 

A source said the developer began evacuating its workers from the project sites in three chartered aircraft yesterday. The source predicted it would be the end of the project if the closure continued this week.

It could not be confirmed last night how many employees had left. Company spokeswoman Rebecca Arnold will issue a statement today. O’Neill told The National last night tough measures were needed to protect the LNG project.

“I am calling a special cabinet meeting (today) to make tough decisions to protect workers on site and to protect the interest of the nation,” he said.

The landowners had stopped all LNG-related activities at Hides 4 in the Southern Highlands. Vehicles hired by Esso Highlands and the contractors had been returned to their owners because the companies could not continue to pay when they are lying idle.

O’Neill said: “I am aware of the landowner issues around the project area and concerns have been expressed to the government about the security of the project as a result of certain groups putting in demands that are outside the UBSA (umbrella benefits sharing agreement) and LBBSA (licensed-based benefits sharing agreement).”

He said some of the measures the council would consider today
included the declaration of a state of emergency in the Southern Highlands, the deployment of PNG Defence Force troops there, additional police manpower and additional funding for the exercise.

“The demands are unreasonable and unfair to the nation. I appeal to landowners to reconsider their actions which are undermining the project,” O’Neill said.

He said the government had already made the decision for a call-out of the PNGDF and troops should be deployed immediately. “We will ensure the security of the project is protected,” he said.

The source said officials from the department of petroleum and energy and ExxonMobil had been sent to the site but could not resolve the landowners’ grievances.

The landowners have demanded K99 million from Esso Highlands as compensation for the different projects activities in the area. Other demands include the upgrading of the:
-Para Health Centre to a referral hospital; and
-Para Community School building;
-Hides-Komo road to start immediately.

They also wanted employment and contracts be given to locals plus a permanent water supply for the people. Hides 4 Landowner Umbrella Association Inc chairman Chris Payabe had said landowners wanted the government to immediately take ownership of the project and address their concerns. He maintained that the project would remain closed if their demands were not addressed. 

PNG LNG will end up worse than Bougainville warns landowner spokesperson

Radio Australia, 26 March 2012

Landowners in Papua New Guinea's Hela province have threatened to step up their protest against the liquified natural gas developer, Esso Highlands. Work at the site has been stopped in recent weeks, after the landowners allegedly threatened staff.They want more compensation for the use of their land, saying the project will remain closed unless their demands are met.

A former MP and spokesman for the landowners, Sir Alred Kaiabe, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that workers have been taken advantage of.

"It will definitely get worse. Far worse than the Bougainville crisis. We are Highlanders and we are known for fighting. Fighting is a way of life and we will fight to the day to protect what is theirs if they have been cheated." he said

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has called a special cabinet meeting today to discuss the crisis. 

Sir Alred is advocating a renegotiated settlement to the dispute. "Now the government and developers are dealing with iliterate landowners, people who are not fully educated, so its a way out", he said.

Esso Highlands has denied it is evacuating its workers from its site in Hela Province amid concerns for their safety.

Spokeswoman Rebecca Arnold confirmed some employees have left the area, but only because they're unable to work.

    To listen to the interview see: http://www.radioaustralianews.net.au/stories/201203/3464031.htm?desktop

Friday, 23 March 2012

Journalist Exposes Crimes Against the People of Tumbi

Double anguish for landslide survivors

Near Tari, in remote Hela Province in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the landslide which hit the villages of Tumbi and Tumbiago on January 24 has left a lunar landscape of destruction. Rivers meander around haphazard hills of rock and earth, and trees have been tossed like matchsticks, buried head first with roots sprouting toward the sky.

In a matter of minutes, all trace of two villages that had lived in harmony with the surrounding green fertile mountains for 13 generations was obliterated.
The landslide occurred two years after the start of the US$15 billion ($18.5 billion) PNG LNG Project.
The nation's largest liquefied natural gas project, which plans to start deliveries to Asian buyers in 2014, is operated by Esso Highlands, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil.
After the nine-hour drive from Mt Hagen across rocky unsealed mountain roads, I instinctively scoured the earth for the smallest sign that human life had thrived here.
Jokoya Piwako, chief of Tumbi and Tumbiago villages, who escaped the landslide by minutes, reminded me we were standing on top of the home and remains of his family.

Still deeply traumatised more than a month after the disaster, he recounted what happened.
"Early in the morning, I woke up to go to work around 5 o'clock. I went out about 1km; then I heard the landslide come [about 5:45am]. I heard a big sound of smashing of the stone.
"All the rocks and everything went up in the air and the big wall of water, the rivers came in. Then after that, all the trees and stones and rocks up in the air came down and covered all the houses and children.
"I just couldn't believe what had happened to my village, because all of my family, children, everything was gone with the house, everything."
Chief Jokoya lost two wives, four children, several uncles and 15 to 20 visitors who were staying in his guesthouse at the village.
The PNG Red Cross says 60 people died and 42 homes were destroyed.
Women, such as Nogole Toja, are grappling with the loss of children.
"I lost my two sons and I'm grieving," she said, "I am out of my mind and I can't eat and sleep well."
For those who survived, grief is now mixed with discontent over what they believe caused the landslide.
As we stood above the location of his village, Chief Jokoya pointed to the broken wall of the Tumbi Quarry several hundred metres uphill.
In the quarry, which contains the Tumbi Quarry River, Esso Highlands and its sub-contractor, MCJV/CCJV, were extracting aggregate last year to build a 5km airstrip at nearby Komo.
Villagers say the sub-contractor used explosives and chemicals at the headwaters of the Tumbi and Tumbiago rivers.
The chief also alleges that quarry workers restricted and changed the course of the Tumbi Quarry River, against his advice. He believes the waterway became blocked, gradually increasing pressure on the quarry.
Esso Highlands' spokeswoman Rebecca Arnold said: "No blasting was ever done by the project contractors at Tumbi Quarry ... The project contractor completed work at the Tumbi Quarry in August 2011."
Dr Kristian Lasslett, PNG co-ordinator of the International State Crime Initiative and lecturer in criminology at the University of Ulster, commented: "What has become evident is that Exxon Mobil has underestimated the legal, political, cultural, social and environmental complexities associated with a large-scale resource operation in Papua New Guinea, and it is at risk of not meeting the production deadlines.
"Indeed, we have seen the project's independent monitor claim the current emphasis on project schedules is eroding safety at PNG LNG."
In March last year, concerns about project safety in the Tumbi Quarry were highlighted in a report by independent environmental and social consultant D'Appolonia, which said work was behind schedule, there was inadequate project stewardship and the "quarry requires substantial modification to be safely operated".
But Arnold says the consultant's recommendations on "enhanced project stewardship" were adopted, and in August last year, the consultant had said "the Tumbi Quarry appeared to be well operated".
Relatives of those who died remain unconvinced.
"We've been here for 600 years in our villages, and we have never seen that type of landslide," Nelson said.
But if the landslide was devastating enough, relatives of the deceased faced a second shock soon after.
A section of the road vital for project access to Komo was blocked by the avalanche. Still homeless, without any state assistance and with no attempt made by any agency to search for or recover remains of those who perished, villagers watched as workmen bulldozed a road across the landslide on top of their villages and the bodies of those who died.
According to Esso Highlands: "The road was reopened following repair work undertaken by the Department of Works and the PNG Defence Force corps of engineers.
"The Government consulted with the leaders in the local community about access to restore the road and they were allowed to proceed."
But relatives of those who perished said they were not given any say in the matter.
They claim they were threatened by Esso Highlands and the National Disaster Centre with repercussions if they tried to prevent the roadwork.
"In our culture, when a body is dead under the rock, there should be no-one going in there," Chief Jokoya said, "We respect our dead, but the government and companies they did not listen. They just did the road on top of the bodies. They used force."
Said grieving mother Sandy Toja: "My son is down there and on top the vehicles are running. How can this be? The companies know all the peoples are down there. They shouldn't be doing this I am really angry."
Weeks after the road was completed that anger has not dissipated. Relatives from both villages, which did not receive any benefits or services from the LNG Project, have resolved to seek an independent investigation or commission of inquiry.
"If the Government doesn't do anything about it, I'll get a court order and I'll stop the company so it is not to do the LNG Project in our area," declared Chief Jokoya.
"They are concerned about the income or revenue, but they are not concerned about the lives of the communities."
By Catherine Wilson

Monday, 19 March 2012

ExxonMobil halts LNG work

The National, Monday 19th March 2012

US OIL giant ExxonMobil had been forced to stop work in an area of its US$15.7 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) project due to another land dispute with locals, the company said last Friday.

Esso Highlands, the Exxon subsidiary which operated the LNG development, stopped work in the Hides region of the Southern Highlands after locals demanding additional compensation from the company for their land threatened workers at the plant, Exxon spokeswoman Rebecca Arnold said.

Work on the project, which was expected to produce 6.6 million tonnes of LNG that will be exported, was also delayed in 2009 due to landowner concerns.

“Work has been temporarily suspended in the Hides area, but is continuing throughout the rest of the project area,” Arnold said, adding the stoppage would not delay the project’s startup date of 2014.
ExxonMobil led a consortium building the project which was PNG biggest-ever resource undertaking and which could boost GDP by 20%. Arnold said the police were now involved in the dispute and the company had “taken steps to engage with the group to understand their concerns.”

Landowners in the Hides region recently blamed ExxonMobil for a landslide which took place at the site of quarry that had been used by the company. Arnold said the recent landowner claims were unrelated to the landslide incident.

The LNG project is a joint venture between ExxonMobil, Oil Search, Santos, Japan’s JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration, a unit of JX Holdings, and the PNG government.
Arnold, meantime, could not give the latest when contacted last night.

More Legal Headaches for PNG LNG

Post Courier, 19 March 2012 

A SUPREME Court decision favouring a Boera land group has paved the way forward for aggrieved landowner parties contesting the LNG development at Papa Lealea.

A three-man Supreme Court bench ruled last week to cancel a National Court order of October 2009 be quashed and replaced with a new order granting them a judicial review at the National Court over the acquisition of their sea and seabed area for the LNG project.

The National Court decided in October 2009 to grant leave for judicial review of Behind Compulsory Acquisition of Traditional Sea and Seabed Area between the State and the landowners from Boera village in the West Hiri area of Central Province.

This was the order that has been cancelled by the Supreme Court and replaced with a new order. The new order keeps the decision to grant leave but restricts the grounds of judicial review and the relief sought so that they fall within the National Court’s jurisdiction. A three-judge Supreme Court bench announced its decision last week (March 9) in a 22-page judgment.

The four respondents in the appeal are citizen companies and individuals from Boera had successfully sought leave to review a declaration made pursuant to Section 5 of the Land Act; a decision largely responsible for alienating over 1200 hectares of traditional sea and seabed area.

In response the two appellants, Pepi Kimas (as Delegate of the Minister for Lands) and the State, took out a stay order in April 2010 and appealed to the Supreme Court. 

Lawyer Peter Donigi of Warner Shand Lawyers, counsel for the respondents said in that appeal, they raised 19 grounds arguing that the National Court judge had erred in granting leave to Boera Development Corporation Ltd, Apau Besena Company Ltd, Igo Namona, and Oala Moi. However, the Supreme Court accepted only 6 of the appellants’ grounds of appeal and included these in its court order.

The four respondents, who are also the plaintiffs in the judicial review case, will now proceed with their judicial review proceeding at the National Court. 

Mr Donigi said their argument is grounded on their lease-leaseback (LLB) application which was submitted to the Department of Lands and Physical Planning one day after the making of the Section 5 declaration. 

“The LLB application was made to register over 27,000 hectares of the traditional sea and seabed area situated between Boera and neighbouring Papa village". 

“The area covered by the LLB application also encloses 1200-plus hectares of sea and seabed. It is the 1200-plus hectares of sea and seabed area that was declared by the Minister’s delegate not to be customary land. 

“Apparently this declaration led to its portioning into Portions 2457C and 2458C, and which have been used to construct the PNG LNG causeway and jetty,” he said. Portions 2457C and 2458C are situated next to Portion 2456C where the gas plant is being built. Portion 2456C was portioned out of the former Portion 152. The balance of former Portion 152 became Portion 2459C. Portions 2456C, 2457C, and 2458C were granted as state leases to Esso Highlands Ltd in 2009.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff group for the judicial review case is expected to grow as a result of the Supreme Court decision. 

There are villagers from Boera, Lealea, and Porebada that had made separate attempts in the past to join. 

Their attempts were not entertained at the time because of the stay order and Supreme Court appeal which has now been decided in favour of Boera Development Corporation Ltd, Apau Besena Company Ltd, Igo Namona, and Oala Moi. 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The bell tolls for Exxonmobil - watch out PNG LNG investors!

For almost two months, the family members of those who perished in the Tumbi landslide have been demanding an arms length, independent inquiry into the disaster. Their demands, to date, have been denied. LNG Watch has argued this inquiry would not simply give the families a sense of closure, it would also ensure that allegations over the quarry were either confirmed or disproved once and for all.

In the latter case, the matter would end and people would get on with their lives. In the former case, Exxon would need to enter into mediation with the families in order to determine adequate compensation, while the RPNGC would need to consider whether any criminal laws had been breached. 

Nevertheless, the powerful have chosen to ignore the cries of relatives, believing they could be bought off with 60 pigs, and humanitarian aid (which has yet to arrive, two months later!). In this light, the PNG government and PNG LNG investors would do well now to observe events in Bougainville. Owing to the impunity of Peter Sharp and Rabaul Shipping - following the tragic ferry sinking - family members have been forced to take the law into their own hands and they have destroyed three Rabaul Shipping vessels (unlike Tumbi a Commission of Inquiry has been launched on paper, but the finances for this Commission have moved slower than tectonic plates). 

The last thing anyone wants to see is PNG LNG facilities being destroyed, their construction work ground to a halt, and their forward sales contracts dishonoured - yet this is precisely what could happen. 

Most of us lobbying for an independent inquiry figure the reluctance of the national government and ExxonMobil to launch an arms length investigation is due to the fact they know something, we suspect, but cant confirm - i.e. PNG LNG works was a central causal factor (after all if everyone has clean hands, surely an inquiry is in everyone's interests). If this is the case, it would make greater economic sense to come clean, pay compensation, face the law, and get on with the LNG project, which will make a lot of foreign investors very wealthy, as well as feathering the nests of the national elite. 

As the case of Bougainville Copper Ltd exemplifies, those multinationals who come to PNG, believing they are above the law, and then proceed to act with impunity, will eventually lose their rights to be judged by the law. Exxon's investors and creditors will not want to see this happen, so we implore all those in power to heed the lessons of past examples and launch a Commission of Inquiry into the Tumbi landslide immediately.  

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Hypocrisy thy name is ExxonMobil

Ah so a company who is above the law (re Tumbi!!), now wants the law to protect its operations, we wonder can Exxon have its cake and eat it too?

Hides Gas Plant Shuts

Post Courier, 16 March 2012

ESSO Highlands Limited (EHL), the operator of the multibillion kina PNG LNG Project has suspended its early works at the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant (HGCP) site.

EHL media and communication adviser Rebecca Arnold yesterday confirmed the suspension and said EHL has requested a group of people in the Hides area to cease the illegal stop-work activities they are undertaking.  “Work has been temporarily suspended in the Hides area, but is continuing throughout the rest of the Project area. The matter has been referred to the police,” Ms Arnold in an email when asked to confirm the stop work and suspension of early works.

EHL also maintained that the PNG LNG Project encourages continued co-operation between communities, the Government and the Project to constructively address issues as they arise, without impact to ongoing Project activities. “We have taken steps to engage with the group to understand their concerns, and it is disappointing that they have taken these actions. The community is also being impacted, as people are unable to work due to threats made to our workforce. The group is aware that there is a formal grievance process with respect to land access, where adjudication can be made by a Chief Warden.

“The benefits that flow from the Project will have a broad, positive impact on the country, and it is important that the Project is completed on time,” she added. Landowner leaders from the Hides yesterday confirmed that the early works at the Hides 4 PDL7 and PDL1 areas have been interrupted on Monday.

Landowners spokespersons Henry Parilia and Hides 4 Gigira Joint Venture Chairman Willie Ayule respectively told the Post Courier yesterday that the reason for shutting down the early work were mainly to do with the Government payout of the IDGs to Hela Transitional Authority (HTA). “The payment was hijacked by HTA and we are not sure if the money allocated for PDL 1 and PDL 7 will ever reach us. 
We know elections are around the corner and because of local politics, this money will not build any schools and health centres at the project areas,” Mr Parilia said.”

Mr Ayule added that HTA was not a signatory to the LNG agreement and was total stranger to receive affected areas’ funds. They said at Hides that every time, landowners want payments for outstanding commitments by Government and EHL, impacted landowners are left out of the payments and people who do not understand the needs of the landowners receive the money and do not implement infrastructure projects in the impacted areas. They said that the project was forced to shut down because EHL had not delivered on its promise to deliver temporary water tanks for villagers affected by contaminated water living near the HGCP at Hides 4. They stressed that 250ha of land has been developed for the project and the environment consequences of the development had not been properly addressed. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

LNG project funding audit finds hundreds of millions wasted

Reposted from Malum Nalu.

Hundreds of millions of kina borrowed for state equity in the LNG project have been squandered, according to Public Enterprises Minister Sir Mekere Morauta, The National reports.

He said yesterday (Thursday) that the national executive council had considered an audit of the International Petroleum Investment Corporation (IPIC loan) that is being used to pay for the state’s equity in the LNG project.

“Independent experts have audited the transaction, under which Papua New Guinea, through IPBC, borrowed $A1.68 billion from the Abu Dhabi Government’s International Petroleum Investment Company,” Sir Mekere said.

“The independent audit has revealed just how bad the transaction is for Papua New Guinea. It was conducted by the former Minister for Public Enterprises, Arthur Somare, and his former Independent Public Business Corporation (IPBC) management.

“The audit found that the transaction was neither transparent nor appropriate, and that other options had not been explored. “The initial borrowing was enormously wasteful – the funds became available to IPBC eight months before they were needed, resulting in IPBC having to pay interest of $A56 million for absolutely nothing.

“Then the Australian dollars had to be converted to US dollars, leading to another loss of $A300 million. “The result of this financial incompetence is that the national government has had to borrow a further K900 million to ensure that Papua New Guinea can retain the level of equity that it wants in the LNG project.

“Finally, the audit and other investigations have found that the transaction imposes many restrictions on how the state’s revenues can be managed, and how public enterprises are administered.” Sir Mekere said NEC had decided to explore the possibility of refinancing the loan. “This does not mean that it will automatically be refinanced, but this is one option that should be looked at,” he said.

“Refinancing could provide an opportunity to obtain more affordable and fairer finance and remove restrictions on the government’s ability to manage its own revenue and its own public enterprises. “It is essential that we maintain our level of equity in the LNG project, but at the same time ensure that we get the best deal for the people of PNG.”

Exxon claims PNG LNG is on Schedule

Post Courier, 15 March 2012

ESSO Highlands Ltd (EHL), the ExxonMobil Corp’s subsidiary operator of the multibillion kina PNG LNG Project is adamant that the engineering and procurement construction (EPC) activities are on target to meet its scheduled project deadline.

Media and Communications Adviser for EHL Rebecca Arnold told reporters during a media workshop and tour at the Portion 152 LNG plant site outside Port Moresby that despite hiccups, the project remains committed to deliver on schedule.

Ms Arnold said the LNG project led by ExxonMobil will have its first LNG shipment by 2014 as schedule to its energy hungry Asian markets. Messrs Sam Koyama and Michael Smith from EHL’s External Affairs Department and Ms Arnold briefed the media on the project activities and updates.

Ms Arnold said certain segments of the ECP works have been completed including the Hides Wellpad B earthworks, Hides telecom tower and Hides landfill cells while Hides Wellpad a earthworks has just commenced by EPC4 contractor CBI Clough Joint Venture.

Also at the Hide Gas Conditioning Plant (HGCP), the first drilling rig arrived in PNG last year and is being mobilised to its first drilling location. The commissioning of the second drill rig is completed and preparing for shipment to PNG while the first well spud or physical drilling is to begin this year. However, only 50 percent of earthworks for the Komo Airfield is completed while the installation of the first foundation for the terminal building has just commenced.

Asked what the purpose of building Komo Air Field was, Ms Arnold responded, “to bring in heavy machineries and equipment for the HGCP”. Further queried wether it would fulfill the purpose of building the airfield when it was just half completed and on time to complete the HGCP, she insisted, “we will. All within the project schedule.”

They stressed that in 2012, they expect the first plane to fly out of Komo Airfield. They said the heavy machineries and equipment for HGCP would not be transport from Lae and the EPC contractor McConnel Dowel and Consolidated Contractor Group Offshore Joint Venture is working on to complete the airfield.

For the pipelines, more than 160 kilometres were welded while installation of fiber optic cable is continuing for the onshore segment while 135 kilometres offshore pipe laying completed to date among other activates along the offshore segments.

Other aspects of the project as updated, all drilling to commence in 2012 while pipeline from Gobe to Kutubu on scheduled to complete while all LNG tanks at Portion 152 is scheduled to complete.

Ron Gregory, business manager for EHL at Portion 152 said the pipe installation for gas Train 1 and steel work progressing while work on Train 2 is progressing with steel erection. He said more than half of the maritime jetty piles installed while work on LNG Tanks has their foundation completed while tank erection just commenced while other related works were still in progressing.