Friday, February 5, 2010

Clan killings at Papua New Guinea gasfields


FIGHTING has claimed 16 lives over the past week at villages near both ends of a planned 600km pipeline down which will flow Papua New Guinea's great new economic hope, its $16.5 billion gas project.

As a result, project leader ExxonMobil has suspended road building work by Queensland-based Curtain Brothers for the liquefaction plant near Port Moresby.

A second, $8bn project was announced recently by InterOil, which is based in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada, and is largely operated from Cairns.

The first of the latest killings came in an early morning raid by villagers from Erave district in Southern Highlands, against an enemy clan that lives in an area without road access. The attackers used high-powered guns to kill 11 people.

ExxonMobil and the police denied the incident was directly related to the gas project, but it took place close to the area of the gasfields, from which the gas will be piped 600km to Port Moresby.

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The second attack came in an area where deadly tribal fighting has been almost unknown for decades, between local Papuan clans within Port Moresby. Villagers from Porebada launched a raid on Boera village, near the site of the gas liquefaction plant.

Police Superintendent Andy Bawa told The National newspaper that the fight, in which five people died from gun shots, appeared to be over land ownership. Massive compensation payments are expected to be made for access to land for gas projects.

The heightening of expectations from LNG projects is intensifying conflicts over land, and over access to the massive flows of wealth that are anticipated. It is only weeks since the projects were given the go-ahead, yet the construction phase will take several years - during which such pressure from landowners, and from the large proportion of unemployed young people, is expected to keep building.

Despite receiving revenues from a succession of resource projects, PNG languishes at 148th out of 182 countries in the UN's human development index.

The police commanders of the five Highlands provinces met a few days ago to discuss plans to combat law and order problems expected to result from the LNG projects.

Acting divisional commander Thomas Eluh said these issues might include changes in attitudes of people living in the affected areas, illegal immigrants, money laundering and terrorism, and that increased police resources would thus be needed.

Wilson Kamit warned in his handover speech this week after a decade as governor of the Bank of PNG about LNG "hype".

"We should not spend any money until we have actually received it," he said. "Let's not borrow against expected income until we have realised it."

He urged the central bank be allowed to manage the revenues from these giant projects, through a fund protected from political pressures "to ensure it does not become a petty cash box for anyone".

Source:theaustralian.com.au/

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