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16,000 villagers demand 20 years of compensation

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Dec. 19, 2011) - In the midst of the ongoing political tussle, another storm is slowly brewing as the gateway to the country’s multi billion kina Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project site has been under siege since Thursday last week in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

At least 16,000 landowners from the surrounding villagers of the Gobe field engineering site in the Southern Highlands stormed the site demanding that the Government meet their demands of the past 20 years or face its definite closure.

Gobe is the LNG pipeline gateway into the Gulf Province from Kutubu, Moran and Hides but landowners have said that the current impasse has done very little to appease the build up of tensions as a large number of ExxonMobil employees have been forcefully evacuated, leaving a ‘skeleton’ number of staff behind who will eventually be told to leave.

A handful of landowner representatives made up of various ILG Chairman who are currently in Port Moresby, told the media last Friday that it was high time the two factions resolved their issues and agreed on one elected leader to sit with them and discuss these issues or the site would be closed forever.

The landowners, who come from the six surrounding villages, made up of 14 Incorporated Landowner Groups, presented their petition to the Government on the same day they seized the site. "Gobe is the gateway to the outside world and the State needs to consider this," said the Chairman of the Petroleum Development Licence 4, Jerome Kairi.

He criticised the Government for the political tussle that has lasted for the entire week.

He also said that discussions should also include officials from Oil Search, Esso Highlands and the Secretary for Environment and Conservation.

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