Former PNG Defence Force Commander, Major General Jerry Singirok, has issued a stark warning that the Exxon-Mobil LNG project could lead to a civil war in PNG bigger than the Bougainville crisis.
“If they are not careful with what is happening in the LNG project area, the situation there can be much larger and far worse than Bougainville,” says the man who masterminded the departure of mercenaries hired by the Government to put down the Bougainville rebellion 13 years ago.
“My greatest fear right now is that we are now setting the stage for another Bougainville crisis in Southern Highlands because all the right conditions are there”.
Singirok says the government has failed to heed lessons about allowing foreign security companies to work in PNG, especially in big resource projects.
“Now with the LNG project in the Southern Highlands, the Government has allowed developers to bring in foreign-owned security companies [like G4S, the world’s largest security company, which has recently established itself in PNG] that have no appreciation of the local customs, cultures and the people.
“These companies are dismantling the police and Defence Force by recruiting their best men to work on the project sites with promises of better pay and conditions,” Gen Singirok said.
“With lousy pay and service conditions, police and Defence Force personnel are living below poverty line. That is why they are taking up offers to work as security personnel for foreign-owned security companies at the LNG project,” Gen Singirok said.
“Has anyone done any due diligence checks on these foreign security companies?” he asked.
Gen Singirok said the foreign-owned security companies came here with one purpose, to use maximum force against landowners or anyone who tried to frustrate work on the project.
“The presence of foreign-owned security companies in PNG poses a great threat to the country.
“I want to know what their rules of engagement are, what types of firepower they have and who authorised them to have high-powered firearms.
“The use of foreign private security companies happens in countries where the state has failed to provide the needed security.
“Conditions are ripe for a major crisis if the Government is not careful.
“Firstly, there is a serious breakdown of law and order in Southern Highlands province right now.
“Secondly is the massive build-up of illegal firearms as a result of lack of control by State law enforcement agencies to contain the influx of these firearms.
“Thirdly is the lack of border control on the PNG-Indonesia border as well as the PNG-Australian border.
“The fourth issue is the obvious lack of Government investment in Defence Force, police and Correctional Services.
“These are the concerns that all add up to what I call a very serious threat to our national security by governments in office,” Gen Singirok said.
Archive for indigenous rights
Porebada villagers from Central Province in Papua New Guinea have increased their compensation demands to Exxon Mobil for the killing of four youths, injuries to several others and destruction of food gardens over a land dispute along the corridor road to Exxon’s Liquified Natural Gas plant site.
Angry at the company’s failure to meet a 14 day deadline for compensation the villagers have begun blockading the Porebada/Boera road – again disrupting preparatory construction work for the LNG plant – and have upped the compensation demand from K700,000 and 50 pigs to K2 million and 100 pigs.
According to Porebada villagers’ spokesman, Colin Morea the purpose of their peaceful sit-in protest was to force Sir Moi Avei, his Boera people, Exxon Mobil and the National Government to pay their compensation claim because the deadline had lapsed.
“We gave them 14 days to respond but they failed to meet our demand therefore we decided to halt the PNG LNG project,” said Mr Morea.
He said from yesterday onwards their new demand from Sir Moi and Boera people, Exxon Mobil and the State would be K2 million plus 100 pigs from previous demands of K700,000 plus 50 pigs.
Mr Morea said they would continue with their sit-in protest, blocking the road until their demands are met.
BARNEY ZWARTZ in The Age
Environmental vandalism by loggers in Papua New Guinea is destroying the nation and its people while Australia makes futile promises to try to influence logging policy, according to a former missionary and a landowner.
Brother Jim Coucher worked in and near Vanimo on the north-west coast of PNG for 43 years until five years ago. Just returned from his first visit since, he was utterly horrified at the changes, he said yesterday, the speed of destruction caused by logging and corruption, and the plight of the local people.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised at December’s Copenhagen conference on climate change that he would try to persuade his neighbours to reduce logging.
”I don’t think anyone has an idea of the extent of logging, and I don’t think anything can be done,” Brother Coucher said. He does not want his religious order identified for fear of reprisals against members still working in Papua New Guinea.
A PNG landowner now living in Australia said yesterday that loggers came on to his land without consultation or compensation, and stockpiled logs there. The landowner, a sub-clan chief, said loggers destroyed a creek that had provided fish for his villagers.
They bulldozed breadfruit trees, sago and coconut palms, and built a wharf in the harbour that meant villagers could not fish. They hired almost no villagers, he said. Instead, they brought in unskilled Asian workers.
”Malnutrition is rampant. It is horrible to see young mothers who are skin and bone. There is no sanitation, no running water – it is a time bomb,” the landowner said. ”They are logging Vanimo to its death.”
Brother Coucher said the villagers were worse off than 20 years ago, because the logging companies and the government don’t put anything back.
Soldiers and police guard the logging camps under corrupt arrangements, prostitution and AIDS had become rife, and people could not support their families, he said. Logging practices by Malaysian companies in PNG have long been of international concern, but Brother Coucher said matters were much worse in Vanimo and Sandaun Province because it was so remote.
”You can only get in by sea or air, and there’s one coastal road. To calm the locals, the main landowner in an area might be given a vehicle and he supposedly keeps the villagers quiet,” he said.
”At first they welcome the loggers because they think it might mean money, but in fact they get very little out of it. The loggers don’t do any replanting or clearing up at all … and they give no benefits to the people. They use bulldozers to drag the logs, which creates all sorts of problems with erosion.”
In all the years the loggers had been in Sandaun there had been no development, Brother Coucher said, except for some work by AusAid on a hospital and putting bitumen on the road.
An AusAid spokeswoman said Australia and PNG were working together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, having signed a forest carbon partnership two years ago.
This included an initial $3 million to tackle policy and capacity challenges, plus a commitment to tackle illegal logging and a program to help PNG manage its forests sustainably.
While major resource projects continue to extract millions of dollars of oil and minerals from the ground, life for ordinary Papua New Guineans just gets worse and energy giant ExxonMobil’s new liquified natural gas project looks set to continue the trend .
Already work has been suspended on the gas liquefaction plant in Port Moresby after four local villagers were killed in a tribal dispute and extra police and troops are being rushed to the Southern Highlands to quell tribal violence at that end of the project.
With rising maternal mortality rates; increasing poverty and only 45% of children finishing primary school it seems corruption will ensure this latest large-scale projects will only benefit the rich – as Al Jazeerah reports in this new video.
The United Nations has reported that the Cholera crisis in Papua New Guinea is going from bad to worse as health officials and non government organizations still struggle to cope without adequate government funding. The government’s failure to contain the outbreak and provide promised funding is just one more example of the endemic corruption that is destroying the nation.
IRIN: Cholera continues to spread in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where government health officials are now describing the disease as a major national public health concern.
“Things are going from bad to worse,” Victor Golpak, the government’s national response coordinator for cholera, told IRIN on 5 February. “This is now a national public health concern. We cannot ignore it any longer,” he said.
Since the first case was reported in August 2009, more than 2,000 cases have been confirmed nationwide, including 577 in Morabe Province, 885 in Madang and 602 East Sepik Province, the country’s National Department of Health reports. As of 5 February, 45 people have died.
Much of Momase is now affected. There have also been single cases reported in the country’s Eastern Highlands Province, as well as the capital, Port Moresby, in late January. “The disease is very much mobile,” Golpak said. “Tragically, the government has not woken up to this fact yet,” he said, referring to a lack of funding so far to curtail its spread.
On the move
Cholera was first detected in Morobe Province, and a national response team was set up by the Department of Health, supported by the National Disaster Response Centre, the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international partners. In October 2009, cholera was detected in the northern province of Madang, followed by another outbreak in East Sepik in November.
Despite that, resources to curtail the disease’s spread are in short supply. Of particular concern is the situation in East Sepik, with cholera cases reported in Wewak, Angoram and Ambunti districts, as well as around Murik Lake – the home of Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare. There, provincial health authorities have joined forces with staff from Oxfam New Zealand, Save the Children PNG, WHO, and Médecins Sans Frontières, to help contain the disease’s spread. Provincial health officials, together with NGO partners, have set up cholera treatment centres in affected districts, but time is of the essence, aid workers say. Of the 602 cases treated thus far in East Sepik, there have been 16 deaths, Oxfam said on 4 February.
“We are getting more reports of deaths coming in from the rural areas that we have yet to confirm,” said Andrew Rankin, Oxfam’s Sepik programme manager, who also described the situation around Murik Lake as particularly bad.
Clean water at a premium
According to health experts, cholera, an acute intestinal infection, is fuelled largely by poor sanitation practices and inadequate access to safe drinking water. About 58 percent of the country’s six million inhabitants do not have access to safe drinking water, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) reports. “People paddle for miles to fetch water. There is hardly any fresh and safe water around,” Rankin said. Although water tanks, buckets and other essential items have been distributed to affected communities, they are useless without any rain. Many residents continue to use water from the Sepik river – PNG’s second largest and a primary source of water for both drinking and washing. In November, WHO confirmed large traces of the bacteria vibrio cholerae in the river. “We found cholera in the water in more than one location and the bacterial results were very high,” Daniel Bleed, an epidemiologist with WHO, told IRIN at the time.
But even more worrying now is how to curtail the disease’s spread – and not just along the Sepik river. “Madang and Morabe also have big river systems, but we have yet to test the water there,” Golpak noted.
On the ground, Sibauk Bieb, the operations coordinator for the government’s cholera task force in Madang, says time is running out to stop the spread. With resources largely depleted, and unable to pay his own staff, he is appealing directly to international donors for help. “What other choice do I have?” Bieb asked reluctantly. “I continue to make representations to the government at the provincial and national level, but so far no funding is forthcoming. We need help and we need help now.”
In September, cholera was declared a public health emergency by the government, which committed more than US$4 million to combat its spread. As of 5 February, however, just US$900,000 had been released nationwide, leaving provincial authorities and NGOs struggling to cope.
Four more Papua New Guinean’s are dead and two are in a critical condition after further violent clashes between ingigenous groups fighting over land ownership and benefits from the huge ExxonMobil liquified natural gas project in Papua New Guinea.
These latest deaths, close to the capital Port Moresby, follow the reported killing of up to eleven people in tribing fighting over benefits from the project in the Southern Highlands about a week ago.
The latest deaths occurred over the weekend in a dispute between the Boera and Porebada villages over who owns the site where the LNG project liquefaction plant, storage and shipping facilities will be built at a cost of some US$7 billion.
Although the contract for the initial construction work has already been awarded, to a Japanese company, these latest deaths seem to confirm that ExxonMobil has failed to do the most basic preparatory work with local landowners and that there will be plenty of further violence as the project is implemented.
A mobile police unit is now trying to restore calm in the area but in the meantime road construction works have been stopped. There is no indication from ExxonMobil about whether it is satisfied it has the prior informed consent of local people and what steps it will now take to improve the situation on the ground, both in Port Moresby, where the shipping will take place, and the Southern Highlands where the gas is located.
In the meantime, unless urgent steps are taken, the LNG project seems destined to further rubbish the human rights record of the oil, gas and mining industries when operating in PNG and other less developed countries.
Further report in the Sydney Morning Herald – http://bit.ly/c4FaW0