Tag Archives: police

Papua New Guinea government intensifies military operations at ExxonMobil plant

Armed clansmen in the town of Komo in Papua New Guinea’s Hela Province. Photo: Michael Main

John Braddock | World Socialist Website | 7 April 2017

The Papua New Guinea government of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill is moving to intensify its massive police and military operation against villagers in Hela province, where the $US19 billion ExxonMobil liquefied natural gas (LNG) is based.

In January, the government deployed 150 troops and police near the ExxonMobil site in response to what it claimed was a spike in tribal violence that had left dozens of people dead. Security forces were ordered to seize and destroy illegal weapons after police raised concerns about a build-up of high-powered guns.

Police Commissioner Gari Baki proposed last month that the government recruit 500 retired ex-servicemen to help enforce “law and order” in Hela. Baki said the former police, soldiers and warders would be on a six-year contract to train new police officers. Baki announced the plan while overseeing the destruction of over 500 firearms, mostly home-made, surrendered by locals during an amnesty that started in January.

Hela Governor Francis Potape admitted that the amnesty, which was extended twice into March, was largely unsuccessful. Police commander Samson Kua told the media on March 7 that hundreds of weapons still remain unaccounted for. Security forces would be ordered to take “tough measures” to recoup the guns and arrest the owners, Kua declared.

The actual purpose of the police-military buildup, which will involve 300 people, including public servants from the law and justice sector, is to protect the giant LNG project, which has been subjected to protests and blockades by traditional landowners.

Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari said securing the LNG site was a “critical” aim of the operation. “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.”

Construction of the ExxonMobil operation was originally bankrolled by the US Export-Import Bank. The project is viewed as economically vital by the major Wall Street shareholders that have backed it.

In February, the Singapore-based InterOil Corporation announced a $US2.5 billion deal approving ExxonMobil’s acquisition of the company. It includes interests in six licenses covering four million acres of the PNG highlands. One undeveloped gas field, Elk-Antelope, is among Asia’s largest and will be used to vastly expand ExxonMobil’s footprint.

Landowners in Hela are meanwhile still waiting for royalties, development levies and dividends from the project to be paid. In February, more than 1,000 protesters from four villages gathered at the ExxonMobil site to demand the payments, estimated at over 1 billion PNG kina ($A400 million). A spokesman said the government had promised to pay royalties but never kept its promises. It was the second major protest affecting the LNG project. In August 2016, landowners blockaded the entrance to the plant and disrupted gas supplies over the lack of payments.

Michael Main, a PhD student at the Australian National University, told ABC Radio on March 10 that “after four years of operation and windfall profits for the project’s joint venture partners,” the project had “delivered almost nothing of benefit to landowners.”

“In fact,” Main declared, “it has, in important ways, made life worse for the majority of people living in the project area.

Under the LNG Project Umbrella Benefits Sharing Agreement, signed in 2009, ExxonMobil agreed to pay 700 Kina (US$216) per hectare per year for land occupied by the project. The government promised specific additional development programs, such as road sealing and township development. Landowners were told they could expect, according to Main, “the project to deliver tangible improvements to their lives and to the lives of their children.”

However, during the seven months Main conducted fieldwork in the province, he witnessed “a life of immense frustration, disappointment and palpable anger at the absence of benefits.” “What I encountered was abject poverty situated alongside one of the largest natural gas extraction operations in the world,” he explained.

Rampant corruption is a major issue. Main cited the township of Komo, near the LNG plant, which contained a newly built hospital that stood empty with no beds, no staff and no fuel for its generator. This was one of several “white elephants” built at inflated prices by companies owned by PNG’s politicians.

“Promised developments, including road sealing, power supply and schools, had all failed to materialise,” Main said.

The complex clan-based society of the highlands region, with a history of disputes over land and possessions that can be traced back over many generations, has been made worse, according to Main, “by the frustrations of a population hammered by the broken promises of the nation’s largest resource development project.” He described constant outbreaks of fighting by “heavily armed clans, young men gunned down by military assault rifles, and many dozens of houses shot through with holes and razed to the ground.”

Main noted that since the beginning of the ExxonMobil project, PNG’s ranking on the UN’s Human Development Index has fallen by two places to 158, having been overtaken by Zimbabwe and Cameroon.

“Far from enhancing development indicators, the largest development project in PNG’s history, has coincided with an unprecedented downgrade in the country’s development status,” he concluded.

PNG still has one of the lowest levels of GDP per capita in the region. Real GDP growth has dropped from 11.8 percent in 2015 to a forecast 2.8 percent in 2017. Government revenue has fallen sharply due to the precipitous decline in global commodity prices. LNG prices are less than half what they were in early 2014. The price in 2016 dropped as low as $US6.45 per million British thermal units (Btu) from a peak of $19.70 in 2014. Asia’s LNG market fared worse than slumping oil markets, plummeting by 67 percent.

The O’Neill government has responded by slashing spending, targeting health and education, by up to 40 percent. Austerity is fueling explosive social antagonisms and anti-establishment sentiment. Sections of the working class are becoming more restive over the government’s vicious attacks on jobs, living standards and basic rights. Early last month, National Civil Registry office workers in Port Moresby stopped work and locked the premises, demanding overdue wages. Workers alleged that they had not been paid for over two years.

The government is increasingly mobilising the police and armed forces to suppress deepening unrest. On March 28, armed police intervened to disperse a large crowd outside the provincial assembly in the East Sepik capital Wewak as Governor Michael Somare, PNG’s first prime minister under formal independence in 1975, was preparing to retire from official politics. The crowd had gathered to demand payments for various projects, activities and past “loyalty” to Somare.

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PNG premier calls for Australian Federal Police intervention to quell gun violence ‘crisis’ threatening LNG operations

PHOTO: Tribal fighting is a persistent problem in Hela province. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

PHOTO: Tribal fighting is a persistent problem in Hela province. (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

ABC Radio | 2 March 2017

The premier of Papua New Guinea’s Hela province is calling for an Australian Federal Police intervention to quell an outbreak of lawlessness he says has reached crisis point.

Key points:

  • Premier says province is awash with arms, including high-powered weapons
  • Describes situation as crisis with resource-rich province on the brink of failure
  • Says external help is essential, claiming some police are smuggling weapons for warlords

Premier Francis Potape said an escalating wave of armed violence exacerbated by some police officers was threatening critical liquefied natural gas and oil resources.

“Police in Hela province are good but there are also a few individuals who are rogue police and they assisted war lords to bring in weapons from the neighbouring highland provinces. And also, also they have supplied bullets to warring tribes,” he said.

“This accumulation of weapons came to a stage where it is, that part of the province, of the country, is coming to a failed, crisis situation and we need someone from the outside.”

Police were refusing to act on arrest warrants against scores of suspects and high-powered weapons were amongst those smuggled into the country, he added.

Tribal fighting in the province is a persistent problem in Hela province but flared up dramatically last year.

In response, a joint PNG police and military intervention was launched to gather as many illegal weapons from local people as possible, reportedly with mixed results.

Exxon-Mobil’s PNG LNG project in Hela — the country’s largest resources venture — has been repeatedly disrupted by incursions and blockades from disgruntled landowners, who complain they have not duped on promised royalties.

Mr Potape did not say if he had run his rather extraordinary request past PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

Australian Federal Police representatives could not be reached for comment.

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Police say LNG protests illegal

PNG police have no respect for people's right to protest

Exxon-Mobil says it respects people’s right to protest – unlike PNG police who love to label any attempt at free speech as “illegal”

Freddy Mou | Loop PNG | February 20, 2017

Provincial Police Commander for Central Province, Superintendent, Laimo Asi has condemned the protest by landowners of portion 152 at the PNG LNG plant site today.

Asi said there is no approval given by authorities to stage the protest.

The PPC, who was at the site this morning told Loop PNG that he had warned landowners not to cause any damage to the plant site but to allow the operation to continue as normal.

He had advised them that the protest was illegal and while the landowners have been reluctant to back off, they promised to do it peacefully.

Asi said his men are on the ground to protect facilities and to ensure the protest does not turn rowdy.

As of the writing of this report, landowners have not taken any action except the sit in protest with placards under the heat of the sun.

The villagers are from Boera, Porebada, Rearea and Papa.

They claimed that the government hasn’t paid their royalties since the first shipment of the LNG in May 2014.

They are demanding the government to look into this and provide answers to their demands.

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LNG army call-out unsuccessful

Photo: AFP

Post Courier | February 16,2017

THE CALL-OUT operation in Hela Province has not been successful because high powered firearms have not yet been surrendered since the operation started two months ago.

This has forced the Hela provincial government to look at ways to introduce a provincial executive council decision to have a buy-back gun program.

Hela Governor Francis Potape said that more than a month has passed but the gun surrender was not happening in Hela, adding that only homemade guns had been surrendered.

Commenting on the issue, Police Commissioner Gari Baki said while he is unable to give the number of weapons returned, police would be moving in to confiscate weapons from known owners, when the moratorium expired.

“We have intelligence reports on all people in possession of firearms that have not surrendered.”

“We will go directly to them, if they still have weapons within the vicinity of their areas, we will arrest them, whether they are leaders or ordinary people, that’s the arrangement we are taking now.”

Commissioner Baki added that he did not think that the rate of factory made weapons returned was a success and that was why the police needed to take a different approach.

The moratorium should be an ideal environment to have all factory made weapons returned”, he said.

Meanwhile, PNG Defence Force Lieutenant-Colonel John Manuai confirmed that they were not able to do their work effectively when funding was not coming on time to assist them with logistics as required by soldiers and police in such operations, besides allowances.

“Allowance is just one aspect but the operational requirement is another thing that will make our work effective to achieve results,” he said.

Lt-Col Manuai who flew to Port Moresby yesterday said that he would follow up on the issues including timely release of funds and the requirements for the operations when he meets with the Chief Secretary.

He said it would be better if the funds are released for the police or the defence force to control.

Meanwhile attempts to contact the Prime Minister’s department, Mr Lupari and Director National Security Advisory Council coordinator Tony Kaip have been unsuccessful.

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Government allocates additional K2m for Hela LNG Operation

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

Police and soldiers wait to board a flight to Hela Province  (ABC News: Eric Tlozek)

NBC | One Papua New Guinea | 4 February 2017

The National Government has allocated another K2 million for the special law and order call-out operations in Hela province.

Governor, Francis Potape, revealed to NBC News that the K2 million adds to an initial K11 million allocation for the operation.

Mr. Potape says, the additional funding is to cater for local police who were overlooked in the initial funding.

“The callout operations is going good so far.

“We had 200 manpower, 150 are policemen and 40 or 50 soldiers.

“So bulk of the security forces are in Tari but we have a team in Koroba and also in Komo and Magarima.

“We had 3 gun surrenders. Some highpowered guns have been returned. Those are not the guns that we are expecting. We want more guns to come out. We wanted it to be faster but its bit slow.

“So the provincial government in consultation with the security forces we’ve set a deadline for each LLG’s, and all the guns and all the warlords from the LLG’s must surrender your weapons on that day. And it will start on the 13th.13th of February in Hulia and 14th for South Koroba and 15 so we have 13 LLG’s so everything starts on the 13th”.

Weapons surrendered during the call out will be destroyed on the 27th February while the first phase of the call out is expected to end on the 28th.

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PNG military warns of round-up if amnesty not heeded in LNG Province

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Radio New Zealand | 1 February 2017

A senior military official in Papua New Guinea has urged warring tribes to surrender their firearms or face the law at the end of the month.

PNG’s The National reports Lt Col John Manuai was speaking during the surrender of weapons by a tribe in Hela province at the weekend.

An amnesty is in place in the province for illegal firearms after months of tribal fighting and a build-up of high-powered weapons.

The defence force Joint Task Force Commander said the military would round people up on 28 February if they were still holding onto weapons.

On Saturday, a leader from Kikita Number Two village, Buka Minape, surrendered his high-powered weapons in the presence of police and defence force personnel.

The National reported he then called on his rival John Tipa to bring forward his group’s weapons.

The two groups had been fighting for four years over a $US3 million payment for the Tari Airport.

A similar ceremony took place on Friday at North Koroba where the Pumayu tribe handed in their weapons.

The weapons included a factory-made pump action gun and two homemade guns.

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Illegal firearms at Exxon-Mobil LNG a concern

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

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

Ramcy Wama | Post Courier | January 24, 2017

THE building up of illegal firearms at the Exxon-Mobil LNG project sites in Hela Province is alarming and leaders have raised concerns that it might affect the LNG project.

Hela Governor, Francis Potape when welcoming the police and PNGDF soldiers said there are alot of illegal firearms that are building up at the projects sites and security forces, leaders and the people have to work together to curb the building up of illegal weapons at the project sites and the whole of Hela Province.

He said the amount of illegal firearms at the projects sites is alarming and can affect the LNG project.

“The amount of firearms at the LNG project sites is alarming and has the potential to affect the PNG LNG Project in Hela,” Mr Potape said.

He said the ‘call-out’ in the province is very important and urged leaders not to politicise the whole operations but let the security forces carry out what they are assigned to do.

“We don’t want the call out to be involved with the politics of Hela leaders and politicians in the province. The outcome of the security operation must be police and soldiers driven and not politics,” Mr Potape said.

He said the people of Hela want the operation to be successful and the end result must be positive.

“We don’t want a third call out in the province. If this operation fails, I don’t think the third operation would work out for the province.” Mr Potape said.

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