PNG landowners threaten violence in Esso dispute

Landowners in Papua New Guinea's Hela province have threatened to step up their protest against the liquified natural gas developer, Esso Highlands.

Work at the site has been stopped in recent weeks, after the landowners allegedly threatened staff.

They want more compensation for the use of their land, saying the project will remain closed unless their demands are met.

A former MP and spokesman for the landowners, Sir Alred Kaiabe, told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that workers have been taken advantage of.

"It will definitely get worse. Far worse than the Bougainville crisis. We are Highlanders and we are known for fighting.

"Fighting is a way of life and we will fight to the day to protect what is theirs if they have been cheated." he said

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has called a special cabinet meeting today to discuss the crisis

Sir Alred is advocating a renegotiated settlement to the dispute.

Now the government and developers are dealing with iliterate landowners, people who are not fully educated, so its a way out he said.

Esso Highlands has denied it is evacuating its workers from its site in Hela Province amid concerns for their safety.

Spokeswoman Rebecca Arnold confirmed some employees have left the area, but only because they're unable to work.

Australia Network News

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