Eric Tlozek | ABC News | 9 January 2017
The Papua New Guinea Government has deployed troops and police to stop gun violence near the country’s biggest resources project.
About 150 police and soldiers are being deployed in Hela Province in the PNG highlands in response to a spike in tribal violence that has left dozens of people dead in recent months.
The security forces have been told to seize and destroy illegal weapons, after police raised concerns about a build-up of high-powered guns.
The callout is also to secure the PNG liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, which has been disrupted recently by incursions and blockades from disgruntled landowners.
The chief secretary to the Government Isaac Lupari said the security operation was aimed at stabilising the province.
“We’ve got a law and order problem up in Hela,” he said.
“What do you do when people are running around with guns, causing havoc? [They] have no respect for human life.
“Services have been affected as a result, kids are not going to school, mums are not getting medical attention.
“The Government has been responsible and decided we’d send in a special operation to restore law and order.”
The full deployment will involve about 300 people, and will include public servants from the law and justice sector.
It coincides with an amnesty on illegal firearms.
Mr Lupari said securing the PNG LNG project was also a critical aim of the deployment.
“We’ve got a very important project that is located there,” he said.
“It supports the economy, employs thousands of Papua New Guineans, so we’ve got to restore law and order.”
Landowners of the project area are still waiting for royalties, development levies and dividends to be paid and some claim the Government is not honouring the original project agreement.
But the Government says the payments have been held up because some landowners obtained a court order preventing further identification of beneficiaries.