Hela ‘no Bougainville’, says former PNG defence force chief Singirok

Police and soldiers in Papua New Guinea wait to board a flight to the Hela Province highlands. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Police and soldiers in Papua New Guinea wait to board a flight to the Hela Province highlands. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

Catherine Graue | Asia Pacific Report | January 12, 2017

As hundreds of police and soldiers begin their work in Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province this week, there have been comparisons made with the civil war in Bougainville in the 1990s.

The defence forces are in Hela as part of a government security call-out with concerns warring clans are using high-powered guns, while landowners are also disgruntled as they have not received royalty payments from the PNG LNG project.

While there was no once single cause for the Bougainville war, the Panguna mine played a central role; with the mine’s operations and sharing of its revenue a major sticking point between Bougainville and the PNG government.

Jerry Singirok was commander of the PNG Defence Force during the Bougainville crisis, which lasted for a decade and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

He said it was not fair to compare Hela with what happened in Bougainville and said the situation in Hela should be easy for security forces to contain.

Pipe Dreams … a warning in 2012 about the future violence in Hela.

Pipe Dreams … a warning in 2012 about the future violence in Hela.

PNG Mine Watch reports that in December 2012, the anti-poverty advocacy group Jubilee Australia published a report warning that the Hela development would lead to increased violence in Papua New Guinea, PIPE DREAMS: The PNG LNG Project and the Future Hopes of a Nation.

The report examined in detail the potential costs and benefits of the Exxon-Mobil LNG project and concluded “it is very likely the project will exacerbate poverty, increase corruption and lead to more violence in the country.”

In one part of the report, the authors, Luke Fletcher and Adele Webb, canvased the serious possibility the LNG project would likely fuel clan violence or, even more seriously, conflict between local people in the Hela Province and security forces representing the Government in defending the project.

“With these scenario’s now being played out on the ground and army and police units being deployed to Hela Province it is poignant to revisit the report and two pages in particular,” PNG Mine Watch reports.

2 Comments

Filed under Financial returns, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

2 responses to “Hela ‘no Bougainville’, says former PNG defence force chief Singirok

  1. Perhaps it is imperative to also remember that Jerry Singirok also stopped the hired killers, Sandline Mercenaries, who intended to kill, maim and murder the people of Bougainville. Thankfully, with the backing of his PNG Defence Forces and the people of Papua New Guinea (PNG), the hired killers were stopped. Yet, the Prime Minister at the time, Sir Julius Chan, who was kicked out by the voters, still insists in his book that, “if he had been allowed to continue with the infamous Sandline operation to put down the Bougainville civil war in 1997, he would have been able to bring the island under control.”

    It is thanks to Jerry Singirok and others in PNG that PEACE finally prevailed for the people on Bougainville. Jerry Singirok also confessed that, he believed the main problem was that “political leaders thought that there could be a military solution to what was really a political conflict.”
    Currently, it is very sad that Jerry Singirok refuses to see the similarities of the current war in the Hela province and Bougainville.
    Today’s news in The National (PNG) newspaper, in the business section, it states: “EXXON MOBIL PNG Limited says the safety of its staff and community is the company’s priority”.

    Yet, just like the Panguna mine landowners in Bougainville, the landowners of the Exxon Mobil PNG Limited project area in the Hela province, are denied their land rights, their royalites and dividends, as well as tolerating the environmental devastation of their lands.
    So, who is more important?
    The Exxon Mobil PNG company or the landowners of the Hela Province.

    Could it perhaps be that Jerry Singirok prefers that the PNG Defence Forces to be deployed to the Hela Province rather than private security and mercenaries?

    Right now, the war is on in the Hela Province, where people are dying once again, thanks to greedy capitalist gas and mining companies, who consider money and profits before human beings.

  2. Dear Adjunct Professor Glynn Cochrane,

    Considering you are located at the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining which is under the wing of the University of Queensland’s “Sustainable Minerals Institute” and that your background has been an adviser for Rio Tinto, most intelligent people possess abilities that go beyond your limited and divisive concepts, ideas and intentions.

    And you want people to pay $29.95 (Australian dollars) to buy the first chapter of your book? You must be joking when even the Abstract is totally INCORRECT. You fail and your academic record is worth NOTHING knowing you work as an advisor for Rio Tinto.

    Abstract
    Former Papua New Guinea (PNG) Prime Minister Somare said that Rio Tinto had been complicit in the conduct of the war, a charge the company denied. In 1988 Francis Ona resigned his job at the mine and formed the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), and Sam Kauona, Ona’s right-hand man, broke into the mine’s magazine, stole dynamite and blew up electricity pylons, and shot at and wounded Australians, leading to a closure of the mine in 1990. In dismissing allegations that mine owner Rio Tinto was responsible, Cochrane says that the way the Australian colonial administration acquired land for the mine and disposed of its wealth plus the fact that Bougainville considered itself to be part of the Solomon Islands rather than PNG were contributing factors.
    http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-50310-3_2

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