Panga-Kulu Anda-Harapa | PNG Blogs | April 06, 2018
After hearing Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s response on the floor of Parliament to requests by several MPs for an Independent Inquiry into the cause of the recent earthquake in Hela and 5 other provinces, PNG and all interested friends of PNG can conclude that the O’Neil government is not interested, and will go out of its way to mislead the people of PNG and their Parliament.
In other democratic countries led by leaders mandated by the people, and have concern for their electors, the head of government wouldn’t want to leave any stone unturned and the cause established. In this case it wouldn’t only be in the interest of the O’Neil governments standing and integrity among governments of other civilized nations, but it will be in the interest of future generations of PNG and prevention of the repeat of such a calamity.
To any responsible Prime Minister and his government, alarm bells will be ringing especially when the epicentre of the earthquake is less than 3 km from the processed water re-injection well (at Tokaju, Hides4, Hela Province) of a major Oil/gas project.
The questions-without-notice was simply for the report on the cause of the earthquake to be tabled in Parliament, if any done and if not then an Independent inquiry be set up.
PM O’Neill just brushed off the question saying “…the Australians are doing the investigation” and he further went on to talk about a “ring-of-fire” and tectonic plates etc and declared on the floor of Parliament that the earthquake was not caused by the activities of the natural gas/oil companies operating in Hides, Hela Province.
First of all how can conclusions be drawn about whether the earthquake and its aftershocks were tectonic in origin as PM O’Neill has? and to be fair, how can the opponents (including myself) claim it was triggered by gas extraction and water injection at Hides without a full independent inquiry conducted with inputs from a wide range of specialists from around the world?
The PM informed Parliament that Geoscience Australia (GA) has made the finding that the earthquake was due to natural causes, and that he will provide a copy of that report. Well for the PMs information the GA report is already in the public domain and there is more questions unanswered which is understandable when a reports main or hidden agenda is to hide some truth and sets off from false premise. The GA is an ark of the Australian Government that works Lock step with the mining and gas industry, therefore Independent seismological analysis needs to be carried out before the Prime Minister can make his conclusion.
The constitution of these Independent team needs to include PNG’s own seismologists based at Kokopo and Manam.
Having set up that independent team, the PM need to “guide” it with a Terms of Reference” ie, the parameters within which the investigation is to be carried out. Part of the TOR should include the inspection by the team of Oil Search and Exxon Mobil data.. This is a must for the team because how can induced seismicity be ruled out without detailed independent analysis of on the ground damage and data from Oil Search and Exxon Mobil as to their activities in the 5 years leading up to 24 February 2017.
The team should carryout a detailed independent examination of gas reservoir pressurisation activities and wastewater reinjection activities at Hides.
Independent examination is essential with the help of Harvard University to analyze the earthquake waveform etc in order to confirm the alleged epicentre of the initial quake and subsequent aftershocks which were located very shallow and in close proximity to the Hides gasfield.
The geological and seismological experts must be carefully selected with no conflicts of interest with the gas industry. What guarantee can Exxon Mobil give that future expansion of the gasfield won’t induce seismic damage that could trigger or exacerbate the highly unstable geology of the Hides region? Wouldn’t that be the concern of the Prime Minister????, and SHOULDN’T THAT BE THE ONLY REASON WHY A PRIME MINISTER WOULD WANT AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION???
As it is at the moment PM O’Neill is shirking his responsibility. Period!! He is shifting his responsibility to Australia and elsewhere and doesn’t have the people in his heart to do what ONLY Peter O’Neill as Prime Minister can do. That is the setting up of a Commission Of Inquiry. By law, the PM is the only person in PNG (not even Parliament or the GG) mandated to institute a COI, but it appears that Parliament and PNG has been misled by O’Neill to settle for the second best, which is already questionable given Australia’s financial interest through EFIC in the PNGLNG project.
The Prime Minister cannot rely on anyone else but himself to exercise his legal mandate to establish the truth for many reasons, least of all his concern how the future generation (and history) will judge him regarding how he handled this catastrophe during his watch.
A Commission Of Inquiry needs to be set up by PM O’Neill. The COI should be headed by a Judge of the National/Supreme Court (as has been the practice), with a transparent legally approved TOR, (as is supposed to be the case) housed at and organizational/secretarial support provided by the Department of Prime Minister and NEC, Commission of Inquiry Division headed by Director General Mathew Yuwangu (as is their duty).
Without that, the Prime Minister stands Judged, and weighed to be found wanting.