Wednesday, January 27, 2010

PNG pipeline clash story - tribal feud or Exxon whitewash?

A READER has picked up on the remarkably contradictory reports by local Papua New Guinean news media linking a bloody feud between Southern Highlands tribes with tension over profit-sharing about the $15 billion gasfield and international media coverage - reported far from the conflict area, and downsizing the development conflict issue. He noted the contrast between one story from the front page of the Post-Courier, blaming the royalties tensions over the liquefied natural gasfield and pipeline, and a Radio Australia item, saying it was "lonstanding tribal dispute". (This RA report was also filed by a PNG journalist while other news agencies later carried even stronger ExxonMobil denials of profit-sharing problems):
...two stories on the same topic. And they remain two very different stories.
The lack of coverage in the next few days didn't make the situation any clearer. Café Pacific believes that the influence of the Exxon publicity machine had a lot to do with the international wire service "playdown" stories, conveniently cashing in on the hasty police statements. Take your pick:

Version # 1: Post-Courier, 25 January 2010
Raid said to be caused by tension from benefits agreement

By Mohammad Bashir

Eleven people were gunned down in an early morning raid on Pawale village in the PDL4 area of the PNG LNG project in Southern Highlands.

As a result, the government and developers have been given 48 hours to step in and restore order.

In a gang style attack, four groups of young men from the neighbouring Imawe Bogasi clan armed with high powered guns reportedly staged the raid, killing 11 young men and injuring many villagers.

Hundreds of women and children who fled are unaccounted for after 270 houses and other properties were destroyed.

Southern Highlands provincial police commander, Superintendent Jimmy Onopia last night confirmed the fighting but he could not provide details of the deaths and destruction to properties.

Pawale village in Simberigi,
Erave district in the Southern Highlands Province was a home to the Toroko, Haukerake and Ase Tipupurupeke clans.

The raid was believed to be in retaliation for the killing of an Imawe Bogasi clansman before the December Licensed Based Benefit Sharing Agreement (LBBSA) forum.

Spokesman for the Tipurupeke clan, Steven Paglipari, confirmed the killings yesterday, saying the situation on the ground was tense.

During the LBBSA, Pawale villagers of PDL4, who were the principal landowners, did not take part in the forum because of threats and intimidation.

Pawale council president Max Apua said the Bogasis refused K5000 and 14 pigs given two weeks ago as "bel kol" at a mediation ceremony chaired by Erave's first judge Justice Nemo Yalo.

Justice Yalo appealed to the warring clans to put their differences aside.

Moloko Tiburua Peke, ILG chairman Apiko Pelipe and Mr Apua called on the government and the developers to step in immediately and address the situation.

Speaking on behalf of the six clans of Pawale, Mr Apua said they would not hesitate to take the law into their own hands if the Government and the oil and LNG developers failed.

An updated version of the above story was carried by Pacific Scoop.

Version #2: Radio Australia, 25 January 2010
Eleven people have been reportedly gunned-down in the Papua New Guinea highlands over a longstanding tribal dispute.

Police in the Southern Highlands say they lack the resources and manpower to go and stop it, or prevent more casualties.

The province houses gas fields that will form PNG's Liquefied Natural Gas project, and the project's lead developer, Exxon Mobil says they are monitoring the situation very closely.

But PNG's Southern Highlands Police Commander, Jimmy Onopia, says the fight is between two tribal groups in the Erave district over the death of a villager from one of the waring tribes.

Presenter: Firmin Nanol

Speaker: Jimmy Onopia, PNG's South
ern Highlands Police Commander

Some other items:

Deadly PNG clash not linked to LNG project: police (AFP)
Exxon Says PNG violence tribal, not related to its LNG venture (Bloomberg)
ExxonMobil denies links to PNG deaths (Sydney Morning Herald)
ExxonMobil says clash in PNG had no link to LNG project (Radio NZ International)
PNG LNG 'not linked to clash' (Upstream Online)

Meanwhile, the mystery woman who posed as a human rights lawyer in the daring "great escape" when 12 hardened criminals broke out of Bomana prison earlier this month, has been described by police as "a beauty" (identikit picture). And warders were so gob-smacked that they were "distracted" from their usual jail screening protocols.

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