"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

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Global power of ExxonMobil spotlighted in new Coll book

Bernard Vaughan, Reuters, 28 April 2012 

NEW YORK (Reuters) - In early 2006, ExxonMobil was caught in the middle of a standoff between the authoritarian leader of Chad, Idriss Deby, and Paul Wolfowitz, the head of the World Bank, journalist Steve Coll says in his new book on the world's biggest oil company.
Deby needed more weapons to defend his African nation against rebels supported by his former ally, Sudan, whose militias had driven more than 200,000 refugees into Chad.
But good governance clauses in loans Chad had procured from the World Bank largely restricted him from arms purchases, and Wolfowitz was threatening to freeze critical bank accounts.
Deby, in response, threatened to shutter ExxonMobil's Chadian operations, jeopardizing billions the company had invested in the country.
No problem. At the behest of ExxonMobil, Coll says, the U.S. Ambassador to Chad helped resolve the situation, following a failed rebel attack. Deby ended up with more leeway on spending on weapons and ExxonMobil continued pumping oil, the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter says in his new study, "Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power."
"By now ExxonMobil had made its own choice clear," writes Coll, now a staff writer for The New Yorker. "It was more interested in the survival of Chad's oil production than it was in the World Bank's experiment in nation building."
Chad was typical of the complex geopolitical and financial dilemmas the secretive multinational corporation faces on a continual basis, Coll explains in his lengthy portrait.
Checking in at more than 600 pages, and based on more than 450 interviews, "Private Empire" is almost academic in its breadth and density. Perhaps nothing less would do for a proper assessment of the largest publicly traded oil and gas company in the world, with operations in more than 150 countries.
Coll delves deeply into the cold pragmatism that reflects the ExxonMobil's activity in dangerous locales, coping with threats from kidnappings to coups and the often spotty human rights record of host countries; its wary approach to global warming and public relations; its dealings with the Bush and Obama Administrations; its commitment, above and beyond all else, to satisfying its shareholders.
"I'm not a U.S. company and I don't make decisions based on what's good for the U.S.," Coll quotes Lee Raymond as saying, citing the burly and brash CEO of the company who retired in 2005 with a financial package worth almost $400 million.
At stake, Coll says, is the fight for proven reserves of oil, which giants like ExxonMobil can exploit for years and represent a critical benchmark for investors as a pointer to the company's future performance.
Unfortunately for Big Oil, these reserves have been and are increasingly found in the jungles and deserts of weak, war-torn nations rife with corruption like Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq and the Aceh region of Indonesia, Coll writes.
"More and more of the world's oil and gas lay in red-shaded transitional countries, as they were marked in confidential ExxonMobil binders," Cole says, describing the corporation's method of dividing nations into three groups: democracies, authoritarian regimes and transitional governments.
The Chad situation was emblematic of a common thread running throughout "Private Empire": ExxonMobil's push-pull relationship with the White House, with which the corporation enjoyed exceptional access under President George W. Bush.
Raymond had known Vice President Dick Cheney for more than two decades; this included Cheney's tenure as CEO of Halliburton, which regularly contracted to do work for Exxon, Coll writes. Wolfowitz was another Bush White House veteran.
ExxonMobil usually sought to keep its distance from the administration, lest it appear to be an arm of U.S. foreign policy. After the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, ExxonMobil resisted State Department entreaties to open an office in Baghdad, Coll says. Raymond, in particular, became increasingly disillusioned with rising instability in Iraq, which was bad for business.
"Throughout his cultivation of the Bush Administration Raymond purposefully kept ExxonMobil at arm's length from the administration's attempts to remake post-Saddam Hussein Iraq," the author says. "It was not in ExxonMobil's interests to become tainted by failed nation-building projects in a country that held one of the world's largest unproduced oil and gas resource bases."
ExxonMobil sets its own agenda. On April 19, 2012, Iraq's oil ministry said it disqualified the company from bidding on a new round of oil exploration rights after it signed a separate deal with the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
But Coll says the corporation wastes no time in leaning on the White House when it really needs it. After a call from Raymond, Coll writes, Cheney called contacts in the United Arab Emirates when ExxonMobil was competing for a stake in a 50-billion-barrel oil field, which would provide the winner with "a substantial boost to its booked oil reserves."
The UAE later awarded ExxonMobil a 20-year contract, citing the company's technical prowess.
"The corporation's executives often claimed that they did not require favors from the U.S. government, did not take direction from the White House, and preferred global independence," Coll writes. "The reality was more complex. The corporation had a direct line to Cheney and negotiated with State and Abu Dhabi as its interests dictated."
Coll's analysis is insightful, though not definitive on every issue. On climate change, for instance, ExxonMobil was criticized in 2005 when it hired Philip Cooney, a former lobbyist with the American Petroleum Institute hired by the Bush White House as an environmental policy adviser. Cooney had just resigned after the New York Times reported that, despite no scientific training, he repeatedly revised government scientific reports to cast doubt on global warming arguments.
"Britain and continental European democracies have already taxed themselves to ease the climate risk faced by future generations," Coll says in a passage many environmentalists would dispute. "In the United States, most of the major oil corporations that had earlier undermined the findings of climate science, including ExxonMobil, now accept, if reluctantly, that a price on carbon is coming, and that it might be justified."
But overall the book is a thorough and useful discussion of ExxonMobil's profitability and political influence during the years of Raymond and current CEO Rex Tillerson, shedding light on the growing power of corporations in the American political and economic system.
"Corporate profits in 2011 made up a larger share of American national income, when compared to workers' wages and small business income, than at any time since 1929, when such statistics were first recorded," Coll writes. "ExxonMobil had evolved into the most profitable corporation headquartered in the United States - and one of the most politically active - in an era of corporate ascendancy."

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Exxon Remains Silent on Alleged Tamadigi Shooting

LNG Watch reported that on the 3rd of April, according to eyewitness testimony, there was a shooting incident at the PNG LNG's Tamadigi Camp involving RPNGC Mobile Squads. Attached to the post were photos of one injured worker and one deceased worker. 

The Injured Worker

ExxonMobil suggested the death had nothing to do with the shootings, indeed they refused to confirm whether the alleged shooting incident even took place.

However, according to RNZI who broke the story, ExxonMobil confirmed an investigation was under way. 

That was 6 April, it is now 26 April. 

As a responsible operator surely ExxonMobil should have made public the findings of its investigation. What was the cause of the deceased worker's death? Did the RPNGC Mobile Squads indeed open fire on LNG workers?

Of course, we assume this is a mere oversight on ExxonMobil's part - they would not after all be sweeping this under the rug, with assistance from a largely compliant press contingent. 

We wait with baited breath for Exxon to go public with its findings.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Landowner Group Balk Development Forum

The National, 25 April 2012

INCORPORATED  land group (ILG) chairmen from Hela’s Petroleum Development License five (PDL 5) area have refused to attend a development agreement review forum with the state.

The meeting held at the Kimininga police barracks in Mt Hagen, Western Highlands province, began last Saturday with landowners and state officials travelling in from Moran and Port Moresby respectively.

It is also anticipated that the state will pay the resource owners a K35 million promised by the government.

The state was represented by officials from the Department of Petroleum and Energy, Environment and Conservation, National Planning, Attorney-General and Pro­vincial Affairs. They were accompanied by DPE secretary Rendal Rimua.

Also present were officers representing Ex­xonMobil, SHP adminis­tration and Mineral Resources Development Company.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Post-Courier Continues to Plagiarise ExxonMobil Media Releases

When it came to investigating the prolonged suffering of communities affected by the Tumbi landslide, the Post-Courier were nowhere to be found. When Mobile Squad officers were alleged to have opened fire on PNG LNG employees, not a peep. But when ExxonMobil issue a media release, the Post-Courier seems to excel at publishing them word for word as 'news'.  

Here are some past examples exposed by LNG Watch:

Sadly this tradition continues. Here is some more Post-Courier style plagiarism, published on 13 April 2012. 

The ExxonMobil Media Release

The Post-Courier 'Report' 
After one year in Japan, nine young PNG engineers have returned home to a new job with the PNG LNG Project.  
“This experience has prepared me for the challenges that lie ahead,” electrical engineer Cain Desiang reported. 
Mr Desiang is referring to the comprehensive training he received from Chiyoda-JGC Joint Venture (CJJV) Project instructors in Yokohama in preparation for the new job that he and the others started at the LNG Plant Site on 1 March. CJJV is the contractor responsible for building the LNG Plant outside of Port Moresby. 
The local engineers started their training at the Chiyoda Yokohama head office in February 2011. For the first two months they learnt basics for all elements of LNG plant engineering including Safety, Health and Environment, LNG Process, Utility Process, Piping and Instruments, Pre-Commissioning and Commissioning, Procurement, Construction, and Engineering IT.
After two months, they were assigned to each engineering department to start their on-the-job training from the basics in disciplines such as piping, mechanical, electrical, instrument, project control and quality control.
Along with these new skills and knowledge, the young engineers have gained confidence to succeed in their careers. 
“The most important thing learned during training is to be committed and to have a willing heart to do my best in any assigned task,” Mr Desiang said. 

“And that is, if I continue to be committed and strive to do my utmost best, I will gain valuable knowledge and experience which may be the solid foundation for any future aspirations.”

Joyce Kopunye, mechanical engineer – static equipment, agreed, saying the training taught her the engineering activities required to effectively and safely perform her job in PNG.
“This experience has provided me the opportunity to be part of a world class project and has been beneficial in expanding my knowledge base about LNG processing and production,” Ms Kopunye said. 
“I believe that with the next two years experience in construction, I will have a bright and promising future in the oil and gas industry.”
Tetsuo Fukuda, Training Coordinator at Chiyoda Yokohama Head Office, coordinated the program. In the year that he and the Chiyoda team spent with the PNG engineers, Mr Fukuda said the team was “impressed by their high motivation, their capacity to study hard, their good manners, great pride and warm hearts.”
Mr Fukuda spent time with the group learning about their way of life in PNG and teaching them about Japanese culture. 

“This training helped us to understand Papua New Guineans and their culture. Also, some of them helped our rugby club to get victories. All Japanese who spent time with them came to like them,” he said.
Mr Fukuda said he hopes the young engineers will further enhance their skills and capabilities in their new roles and make the most of their opportunities. 

“We would like them to play an active role in the engineering industry in PNG or the world,” he said.
That is something Mr Desiang definitely has in mind. 
“My goal is to continue work and contribute towards the development of the oil and gas industry in PNG and maybe overseas,” he said.

Friday, 20 April 2012

IMF - PNG Must Tax Resource Operators

Oxford Business Group, 20 April 2012

Papua New Guinea’s recent surge in natural resource projects has had a spin-off effect on other sectors, thus giving the country a positive near-term outlook for its economy, which is expected to see GDP growth reach 8% this year. However, the government has been advised to tighten its management of revenues from mining and natural gas projects, as well as curtail spending to ensure expansion remains stable moving forward.

In February, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Papua New Guinea (PNG) continues to see high growth due to elevated commodity prices and the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, with the benefits seen in the construction and transportation sectors. The IMF noted this was the 10th year of uninterrupted economic growth, but added that by 2013, growth will likely dip to 4%, as construction winds down and output at maturing mines declines.

The IMF’s confidence is mirrored in the latest regional review by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which noted in March that the economy continued its strong performance during 2011.

“Industry made the largest contribution to growth, boosted by construction of the $16bn, ExxonMobil-led LNG project and high levels of government spending. Spillover from this activity also drove growth in the services sector, including wholesale and retail trade and transport,” wrote the ADB.

However, the bank also noted that increasing prices, driven by high government expenditure, large resource project investments and rising international commodity prices, saw the consumer price index (CPI) growth reach double digits in mid-2011.

Indeed, keeping inflation stable will remain key to maintaining economic stability as major mines close in the coming years and the PNG LNG project comes online in 2014. However, the Central Bank has been praised for monetary tightening in 2011, which helped see inflation fall to an annual headline rate of about 7% at the end of 2011, from close to 10% in the second quarter.

According to the IMF, the economy’s future also depends on Port Moresby’s commitment to ensuring that revenues from the LNG plant and minerals such as gold benefit the population.

“PNG’s resource sector could make a larger contribution to public revenues,” the IMF said. “Efforts to promote this could include strengthening revenue collection, reinforcing the internal revenue and Customs services, streamlining existing tax concessions, as well as an additional profits tax to mining activities, given that the average effective tax take from resources appears to be on the low side when compared with other fiscal regimes across the world.”

Concerns have been raised that the profits of PNG LNG could be spirited away from the country, with the government admitting in 2011 that only 4.5% of the project’s investment flows will be retained in the local economy between 2011 and 2013, as most project costs will be for imported goods and services.

In this regard, the passing of the new sovereign wealth fund (SWF) law by parliament in February is seen as an important step forward. The fund will be managed onshore and fully integrated into the budget and PNG’s fiscal framework, and will follow strict governance, transparency, disclosure, accountability and asset management rules.

To ensure growth, investment will need to continue to flow into the country. However, controversy has clouded Canadian firm Interoil’s plans for a $6bn LNG plant in the country’s Gulf province, with the plant initially expected to produce 5m tonnes per annum (tpa), ramping up in stages to 7.6m tpa and 10m tpa. The PNG government has shelved the plan, stating that the project was “fragmented” and “deviates from the [government] agreement”.

Also expected to impact foreign investment are political uncertainties, with fallout from last year’s stand-off between Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and former premier, Michael Somare, continuing to negatively influence the decision-making process. As a result, tensions are expected to intensify in the lead up to national elections scheduled for June 2012.

The need to spend to attract voters has also been flagged as a potential source of economic instability. In December 2011, the government passed its largest-ever budget at $4.98bn, an increase of 13% over the previous year. “We recommend moving toward a path of steady and affordable real expenditure increases,” said the IMF.

Improving financial management issues, strengthening procurement systems and creating greater integrity in public financial governance will go a long way to securing positive growth in the near term.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Gas Extraction Fuels Abuse in Papua New Guinea

By Catherine Wilson (Inter Press Service)

GOROKA, Apr 16, 2012 (IPS) - Papua New Guinea’s infamous track record on gender-based violence – with an estimated 75 percent of women and children experiencing some form of violence, primarily domestic abuse – is poised to worsen. 

A Highlands-based non-governmental organisation is warning that unless the government takes immediate action to prevent the risk of increased cash flows from the nation’s largest resource extraction project, which is escalating alcohol consumption and eroding family cohesion, violence against women and girls will very likely increase.

Construction of the 15 billion dollar PNG LNG Project is underway at a gas production and processing site near Tari, Hela Province, in the Highlands, and at liquefaction and storage plant on the south coast of Central Province, 15 kilometres from the capital, Port Moresby.

The joint venture between Esso Highlands, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil; Papua New Guinea’s National Petroleum Company; Mineral Resources Development Company; Petromin PNG Holdings and international partners JX Nippon; Oil Search and Santos, is expected to double the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Approximately 8,000 Papua New Guineans nationwide are employed in the preliminary construction phase. According to local sources in the Eastern Highlands, there have been many cases of men leaving employment in public service sector jobs in the province to work for the gas project. After leaving their families to move to project sites, many entered into relationships with other women.

John Ericho, executive director of the Eastern Highlands Family Voice, which addresses social issues including family and sexual violence, warned that the mass migration of male workers and increased circulation of cash from the joint venture will bring social problems.

"Polygamy levels will increase as more money for men means they can afford more wives," Ericho said. "Desertion and neglect will result as men leave their spouses for younger women. Women will also leave their spouses for men with money."

"These issues create the environment for domestic violence and abuse," he continued. "Husbands may fight with their wives if they ‘interfere’ with their relationships with other women, and wives fight with co-wives."

The majority of cases that Family Voice receives involve domestic violence, with 80 percent of clients being women, 10 percent men and 10 percent children. The main causes of domestic violence are rivalry associated with polygamy, adultery and management of money within families, with alcohol a major contributing factor.

"Other issues like HIV/AIDS, which is already an epidemic, may get worse," Ericho warned. "Children, through child abuse and neglect, will be the greatest losers. Their problems are inter-generational with anti-social behaviour and attitudes resurfacing later in life."

Oxfam recently commissioned the LNG Impact Listening Project to gain insight into people’s experiences of the resource extraction project and assist communities to mitigate negative social impacts. The project found that "people thought too much of the money earned from PNG LNG Project employment was spent on alcohol."

"The young men who are being employed are not using their wages in the right manner. They get drunk every weekend from Friday to Sunday night, even Monday morning," reported some participants, adding, "There is adultery at the site. Back at the village, drugs and alcohol, but adultery is the worst problem (as well as) problems with broken marriages. Not much is done to tackle this."

In Papua New Guinean society, customary land owned by clans and their members is the main measure of wealth and status and provides livelihoods for future generations. In contrast, the development of the country’s cash economy is a relatively new phenomenon.

Roseanne Koko, senior counsellor at Eastern Highlands Family Voice, described how the combination of money and polygamy created conditions for domestic abuse.

"Husbands go out with other wives or mistresses, the money disappears and then the mother or wife don’t have money to feed the children," Koko explained, "In some cases, children and mothers go without food because the husband is doing something else."

Alcohol fuels violence

"Men go out drinking, they come home and their wives will ask ‘where have you been?’" Koko told IPS. Such confrontations generally spark violent altercations.

Last year, the report ‘Hidden and Neglected’, produced by the humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (or Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF), revealed the severity of domestic and sexual violence in the town of Tari, near the LNG project site in the Highlands.

MSF reported 99 percent of survivors of family and partner violence retained physical injuries. In the case of sexual violence, 65 percent of cases were at risk of HIV/AIDS, 15 percent involved two or more perpetrators, while 74 percent of all cases involved children under the age of 18 years and 56 percent were children under the age of 12 years.

A spokesperson for Esso Highlands said plans to address domestic violence as a potential social impact of its operations include supporting the Law and Justice Sector’s Alcohol Abuse Symposium and establishing a policy advisory group on alcohol abuse in Papua New Guinea. The company facilitates Personal Viability Training to assist people in project communities to improve livelihoods, manage social problems and budget for family needs.

"The project also conducts marital relationships training for participants in project areas with the support of Population Services International, an NGO that is helping to reduce alcohol consumption, episodes of gender-based violence, concurrent partnerships, and increase school attendance," Esso Highlands claimed.

But Ericho believes the government will need to prepare for a potential rise in domestic violence by better resourcing the Department of Community Development - the national body tasked with addressing the issue - and the police force, while simultaneously funding social NGOs to assist government agencies, and improving the health system.

During her visit to PNG in March this year, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, also highlighted the critical need for improvements to the criminal justice system to enable greater access to justice for women and girls suffering from family and sexual violence.

Equally important, according to Ericho, are long term preventive strategies, including funding the education department to raise the literacy level of the population from 50 to 100 percent during the next 20 years.

The Department of Community Development in Eastern Highlands Province said that meetings with the national government to discuss social issues connected with the PNG LNG Project were planned for after the national election in June. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Story of Two Fatal Events at PNG LNG

On the 5th of April, LNG Watch reported on an alleged fatal shooting at PNG LNG’s Tamadigi camp, after receiving testimony from local workers. Since that post Exxon have publicly denied that the worker was shot-dead by a RPNGC Mobile-Squad unit (no mention has been made of the injured worker, featuring a gaping head wound).

Recently we returned to the PNG News Page (Facebook) post, where a worker at the camp  broke the story with photos, this is the message we received:

So be it. We are now told by Exxon’s spokesperson that the cause of the worker’s death is unknown, moreover, at this stage the company is only prepared to acknowledge a security incident occurred; its nature remains a closely guarded secret.

However, we are promised by Exxon that an inquiry will take place. If you just had a moment of déjà vu, thats because we heard the same thing in January when a landslide killed dozens of people from the villages of Tumbi and Tumbiago. 

In the aftermath of this fatal event – when all eyes were on Exxon’s local quarry – the National Disaster Centre focused its resources on clearing an arterial road blocked by the landslide. As a result, relatives were forced to dig by hand for their loved ones.

Desperate families dig for their loved ones at Tumbi

As families dug amongst the rubble Exxon and the government built a new road so that PNG LNG construction work could proceed at pace. The road was built over the top of the buried bodies, leaving family members in a state of shock (Mobile Squads and the PNGDF were there to 'keep the peace').

The road built over the top of bodies buried at Tumbi

And what about that Inquiry that was promised to the landslide victims by Prime Minister O’Neil, and members of his Cabinet. It, of course, never happened. Now those displaced by the landslide live in tents with no sense of closure. Others, whose homes were not destroyed, continue to reside in dangerous proximity to an unstable area. 

Given the lessons of Tumbi, there are credible reasons to be concerned over the current inquiry into the  fatal incident at Tamadigi camp.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

LNG Worker Claims Witnessing the Shooting of Colleague by RPNGC Mobile Squads

A worker in Papua New Guinea’s LNG Project says he witnessed police shooting one of his colleagues dead after a row at a project camp in the Southern Highlands region. The alleged Tuesday incident at the Tamadegi camp stemmed from a heated discussion between workers at the project and Mobile Squad officers attached to the project. The workers accused the police officers of assaulting local villagers linked to a landowner dispute with the project.

One of the workers for Spiecapag Niugini, who are responsible for pipeline construction, known as Mike, says a fracas broke out after some of the local workers began throwing rocks.

“Then these police got up and then opened fire on all the employees who were unarmed. They didn’t even have any bushknives, they were just only throwing stones. They (police) started firing at an employee, I mean, they didn’t give a warning shot by shooting the bullets away, they just aimed straight at an employee that resulted in one of these employees got shot and then died.”

The LNG project operator, Esso Highlands Ltd, says it understands a man died but that the cause of death is not known. A spokesperson for Esso says it’s also unknown whether the death was related to a reported breach of security at the Tamadegi camp. An investigation is underway.

Exxon deny PNG LNG shooting

Last week LNG Watch published the testimony of two workers present at the PNG LNG Tamadigi camp. Both workers had claimed that RPNGC Mobile Squads officers had opened fire on LNG workers, killing one and injuring another. Photos were provided of the deceased and injured workers. ExxonMobil have hit back at these claims in the following article published on PNG Industry News.

A contract worker associated with construction of the onshore gas pipeline of the PNG LNG project was killed after a security breach, according to project operator ExxonMobil. A spokesperson told PNGIndustryNews.net the security breach was at the Tamadigi area EPC 5A camp 4, operated by pipeline contractor Spiecapag in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands. “Work has been temporarily suspended in the Tamadigi area and there is some damage to camp facilities,” the Exxon spokesperson said.  “Planning is underway to resume work.”

Few details were shed on the fatality. 

“We understand there has been a death of a man working for a contractor on the project,” the spokesperson said. “The cause and whether it was related to the breach of security is not yet known". “We understand there was an initial media report linking gunfire to his death. Information we have indicates this was not the case". “We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and an investigation as to the cause and nature of the incident is underway.”

Late last week, PNG blog LNG Watch reported the worker was shot by mobile squad police officers who were called to the site after a dispute between landowners and police broke out. Landowners had allegedly petitioned the project after they claimed their only source of water had been contaminated by pipeline construction and the local community demanded an alternative water supply.

More than 700km of pipe, including about 407km of offshore pipeline, is required to transport the gas from the Southern Highlands and Western provinces to the proposed two-train, 6.6 million tonne per annum LNG plant near the Gulf of Papua. First exports are expected in 2014. There was another project fatality in February, which occurred at the Komo airfield construction site.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Mobile Squads Execute Critics and Terrorise Landowners at PNG LNG site: Eyewitness Testimony from Tamadiki Camp

The national government has announced it will be delaying elections by six months, citing insecurity in the Southern Highlands as justification for this unprecedented move. In today's post, Mike W Lopele* - a local PNG LNG employee resident at Tamadiki Camp - reveals that it is not lawless landowners who people should be afraid of, but RPNGC Mobile Squads who are terrorising communities opposing PNG LNG, and executing PNG LNG workers sympathetic to the landowners' plight.

On the 3rd of April at approximately 11pm, Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC) Mobile Squad officers opened fire on PNG LNG workers at Tamadiki Camp using live ammunition and tear gas. One worker was killed instantly, while two others were injured.

The deceased PNG LNG worker

This worker suffered injuries, when a bullet grazed his head.

The incidents origins, however, lie in a wider dispute between the local landowning community and PNG LNG (operated by Esso Highlands Ltd, the PNG subsidiary of ExxonMobil. Landowners had petitioned the company, after their only source of water had been contaminated by upstream pipeline construction. The local community demanded an alternative water supply.  

After their complaints fell on deaf ears, the landowners stopped construction work.  Tensions were temporarily diffused following negotiations with one of the project's Community Liaison Officers. Subsequently, the landowners agreed to lift the blockade.

After having returned home to their village, RPNGC Mobile Squad officers questioned locals about the protest. Tensions soon escalated. Landowners, including women and children, were manhandled by the RPNGC, and two homes were burnt to the ground.  

That evening, PNG LNG employees were discussing the Mobile Squads' actions with residents. Angered by the landowners' accounts, PNG LNG workers at Tamadiki Camp, made known their feelings to the Mobile Squad officers concerned.

A heated exchange of words took place between police and workers. Police then proceeded to point their guns at the workers and fired tear gas. Workers, in response, threw stones at the Mobile Squad officers.

The police then opened fire using live ammunition. One PNG LNG worker was critically wounded, and soon pronounced dead in the camp's clinic. Two others were wounded.   

Having witnessed the murder of their colleague, workers began rioting. However, relatives of the deceased successfully calmed the situation, and no further violence took place. 

A funeral was held for the killed worker. Now the body has been flown to Port Moresby, it will then be taken to Tari for burial. Construction work in the area has been shut down indefinitely.  

Workers from PNG, Colombia and Malaysia are united in sorrow for their friend and colleague.

The Mobile Squads have defended their actions by claiming they were simply acting on the orders of company management. These claims have been denied by PNG LNG executives. 


Last week, on this blog, International State Crime Initiative scholar Kristian Lasslett warned Esso Highlands Ltd against supporting RPNGC Mobile Squads, owing to their chequered human rights record. He wrote:

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”...While Esso Highlands has 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...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. 

*This is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of the author.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

One PNG LNG worker dead another injured, after Mobile Squads use live ammunition

The deceased, a PNG LNG worker from Tari

Details are emerging about a shooting which took place on 3 April, at a PNG LNG camp in Moro.

The victims were not in fact landowners, but two PNG LNG workers.

According to posts by a local resident, the two workmen - one from Tari and the other Poroma - were discussing recent landowner protests. The landowners had been asking ExxonMobil for a greater share of project benefits, including employment, business spin-offs and community development, like water supply. ExxonMobil, it is claimed, rejected these demands.

Mobile Squad officers ordered the PNG LNG workers to stop debating the landowner issue, as it served to  reinforce the claims of local residents. The workmen challenged the Mobile Squad officers and a fight broke out.

The Mobile Squad officers employed tear gas and live ammunition. The workman from Tari was shot and died on the spot, while the Poromo workers suffered minor injuries when a bullet grazed his head.

Truckloads of Taris are heading to the project site to hold a Haus Krai for their relative, it is expected that a compensation demand will be issued. As a result, the site has gone into lockdown.

It is reported that Mobile Squad reinforcements have been flown to Moro on two chartered planes. They are 'armed to the teeth'.

We will post any more updates as they come to hand. It must be stressed these are only preliminary reports,  the exact details have yet to be confirmed.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Breaking News: Landowner Shot at PNG LNG

We have just recieved an unconfirmed report from a Sharp Talk contributor that a PNG LNG protestor has been shot at Moro, Southern Highlands. They claim: "PNG LNG project, police shot critically wounding 1 landowner in Moro...Apparently the increase of protestors to stop work started up a commotion where discharge of firearms was used".

Watch this space for more updates, when they come to hand.

Monday, 2 April 2012

PNG Defence Force troops to be sent to Hela and Porgera

Johnny Blades, RNZI, 02 April, 2012

Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers are to be deployed in Hela region and Porgera in neighbouring Enga province to assist police counter rising lawlessness. In recent weeks, illegal blockades by individuals and landowner groups in parts of Hela such as Tari and Hides have disrupted key construction work for PNG’s major liquified natural gas project. And last week, hundreds of illegal miners went on a violent rampage at the Porgera gold mine, seriously injuring several workers and closing operations at the open pit mine.

The government has ordered the callout because, as Prime Minister Peter O’Neill puts it, they cannot allow hooligans to threaten normalcy and vital economic projects. He says such behaviour has placed the lives of innocent people at risk, and disrupted work in the LNG project and at Porgera Joint Venture’s operation which is a key contributor to the national economy.

The Enga Governor, Peter Ipatas, says the mob of over a thousand illegal miners who went on a violent rampage within the grounds of the mine must be dealt with swiftly. “The mine has been given a special mining license to mine. And it is for the government and the people of this country to respect corporate citizens. Those illegal miners, as a result of their conduct, have stopped operations and, in turn, that affects public interest, that’s revenue for the state as well as revenue for the province and Porgera Valley.”

The Defence Force Chief of Staff, Captain Tom Ur, says they are working to determine the number of troops to be sent, but that a number of personnel have been in Hela since the Tumbi landslide in January anyway. “We have people up there, the engineers and other soldiers up there. The Commander just went up and had a quick look over the weekend. He’s back so we’re just going to work on the concept and have the right number of people deployed. It’s an opportunity for us to also do pre-elections operations first.”

An NGO which monitors the gas project, LNG Watch, says that military and police presence could trigger armed conflict in the volatile Hela tribal belt. LNG Watch’s Stanley Mamu has warned about the potential for conflict after Hela locals learnt that defence force personnel will join the three mobile police squads in the area. “The landowners can shoot out in the first place. So they’ll waiting for defence and policemen to shoot out first. They’re prepared, they’re prepared because they heard that the government is sending police men and the Defence Force. Those police men and Defence are there to reopen the project by force.”

However Captain Tom Ur says the army knows how to handle such situations. “Yeah we’ve done many of those before. There’s a big difference between us and the police. The people have no problem with the military. They’re very receptive - they always allow us to get back and provide services. It’s a very complex problem, some they don’t trust the police, some just don’t like the police attitude, it just keeps compounding all the problems. They (police) are more exposed to the people, so they don’t trust them, I think.”

But Isaac Bulube of the Hela NGO, Population Services International, fears that confusion among local people about the callout could turn violent. “Even people, educated and non-educated, they’re so confused about why the military are coming up. The general feeling that people have is they’re not happy with the government sending the military. And some of the landowner reps, they went down to Port Moresby to complain about it. They’re saying it’s not a big issue, why is government doing this? That’s what they said.”

Isaac Bulube has echoed the concerns of LNG Watch and The Institute of National Affairs in saying that some law and order problems could be avoided if compensation owed to landowner groups for environmental damage caused by the LNG project was paid.

While pressure to pay is on both state and developer - which in the case of the LNG project is Exxon Mobil subsidiary Esso Highlands - bogus claims of landownership have only caused more delays for the rightful claimants.

Resource developments cut off from the community

Originally posted on PNG Attitude

UP THERE IN THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS, Exxon Mobil maintains high, double chain link, razor wire-topped fences around its liquefied natural gas facilities.
The space between is patrolled by guards with dogs. No one is allowed in through the gates without a full body search.
When Australia’s shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop said she had been to the highlands and seen the locals and the project this is what she was talking about. 
I don't know whether she actually stuck a toe outside the gates.
The people inside the fences, particularly the Americans, are paranoid about being attacked and murdered.
A couple of weeks ago the police were routed at the quarry landslide site and their vehicles trashed by a bunch of Huli women.
Exxon Mobil closes facilities down and evacuates expatriates by air at the slightest hint of unrest.  An unrelated clan fracas up the road will do the trick.
The project runs very much like the notorious Freeport mine in West Papua. Flying PNG Defence Force troops in will complete the picture.
And there are similar setups operating at other mine sites like Porgera and Ramu.
I predict that the next incident at the LNG project site will be soldiers fighting with the policemen who already there.