"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

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.  

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