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Fix the Landowner Issues

JAMES MONDOLAME

The $16 billion Exxon Mobil-led LNG project is hyped to double PNG's gross domestic product with at least 30 years of gas sales to Asian buyers once it comes on line after 2014, but now we hear there is carnage and continued tension amongst landowners. Only yesterday the National reported that a raiding party consisting of frustrated landowners who were overlooked for employment and spin-off benefits raised fears about this project when they attacked and burnt equipment belonging to a company tied with the developer.

This raises a lot of questions to everyone including myself, was there proper social mapping done to ensure everyone who lived on the project were accounted for? We need development, we do, but development that is carried out without properly assessing everyone affected affects us all. Since the Oil in Kutubu started flowing out of the Southern Highlands Province in1989, we have not seen anything as a footprint left by the oil and gas giant Chevron. Nothing major to account for the vast barrels of oil that were shipped out.

The landowners get their benefits. The provincial government does the same along with the national government. But the problems still remain. The funds raised from these resources are not used to develop any community projects within the province. The resources come from Kutubu, Moran, Gobe, East and West Mananda and Hides gas. The funds generated so far have not been put to good use to help improve the people’s lives. The new discoveries at Angore and Juha plus others in Gulf and Western provinces will soon add more power to financially support people in the country. So far, Southern Highlands lacks special projects to improve the province.

Now coming back to my point where I started, we will continue to have violent attacks as long as the government ignore the calls by communities surrounding the project area. As long as they keep terrorising them with their private police and private army, people will rise up and take matters into their own hand. We are reminded just this year at Jacksons Airport when a band of frustrated landowners attacked the group that was favoured by the developer. In broad day light in Port Moresby.

We can draw our own conclusions, Gulf Province is a failed province, so is Southern Highlands, do we really know how many firearms are out there in these areas. We know there has been a continual arms trade in these areas thanks to the drugs for arms trade that has been occurring in the past 20 years. So if you read that the attack staged a few nights ago in the cover of darkness was done with high powered weapons don’t be shocked. This area is full of them.

As long as the majority are silenced and the minority enjoy the benefits we will have trouble and more trouble is coming, this is the beginning of what is to come.