PNG GOVERNMENT SHOULD HEED GAS PROJECT MALAISE

Editorial

The National The PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct.4, 2010) – On Sept 28, Gulf provincial police commander Snr Insp Reuben Giusu provided a brief to J Frank, commander of police Southern region on the raid, shooting and destruction at Kaiam in Kikori and at Gobe in the Southern Highlands.

He highlighted the fact that landowners in the area had threatened to disrupt early works on the LNG pipeline unless their calls for spin-off businesses and contracts were entertained. He said such threats had been passed on to the government.

Giusu also referred to another incident in April when five frustrated youths stoned the Kopi camp and chased contractors over jobs and contracts.

He had visited the Kopi-Kaiam camp following that April incident, had talked with the community and with Esso Highlands’ community affairs coordinator on the ground and came off with the distinct impression that the stoning was only a lead-up to something bigger.

He alerted police and the company to the same.

Giusu was not idle himself. He deployed five men to Kikori to maintain peace and order. He said he had to withdraw them six weeks later after no support was given by the company’s special projects unit.

Following the recent Kaiam camp raid, Giusu is planning to fly five men to Kikori, but he requires funding support from the company or from police HQ. He is in the process of shipping a vehicle to Kikori but has been delayed because there are too much cargo on Kikori-bound boats.

Giusu wrote to Sam Koyama, manager lands and community affairs of Esso Highlands alerting him to the perceived dangers and police’s under-capacity to effectively cover the area.

He told Esso Highlands that he required K1.15 million for a three-month special operation in the area.

The money would be used to buy vehicles and a dinghy and fuel, pay for allowances and air transport costs, accommodation and extra manpower support from Port Moresby.

Ordinarily, The National would take a dim view to state agencies begging money off companies to fulfil their constitutional duties. We have said it often in the past that this was a shameful thing to do.

Yet, we do sympathise with the position that Giusu was placed in.

He is the man on the ground. He has done his duty in personally attending to areas of unrest at the first hint of trouble. After talking with all concerned, he had provided intelligence briefs and passed them up the command structure as is his duty, alerting of problems in the area.

We have heard of the same kind of work being done by the provincial police commander in the Southern Highlands.

Both reports had received scant attention and, certainly, no action.

Giusu had taken independent action, within the means available to him, to post five individuals after the first stoning incident and is willing to do the same now, but he does not have the means.

And, here is the million-kina question: Just who do the police turn to for help in situations like this when police HQ and the government remain silent?

The PPC is taking the only course of action available to him. He is marching, hat in hand, to the project developer.

The government must pump several millions, or whatever it takes, into the police department to create and maintain a special response unit just for the LNG project. It has gone through all manner of trouble commissioning this project. Now, the onus is on the government to complete the job by protecting the investment.

The company had actually asked to maintain its own private security force to attend to law and order problems.

ExxonMobil operates in some of the biggest trouble zones on the planet. It knows how to protect its investment.

The government insisted that the PNG police force was sufficient. We agree with government. The PNG police force is up to the task. The only problem is that it is hopelessly under-resourced.

That responsibility belongs entirely to the government.

The PNG government has the Bougainville experience to draw from, and it had better start doing that now.

Many warnings were given by landowners following repeated failures by the government to review the Bougainville copper agreement.

Panguna landowners turned from words to threats, to an impossible demand of K10 billion in compensation and then to open violence. Still, the government and the company took no notice until it was far too late.

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