ANDREW ALPHONSE in TARI
THE National Government and developer ExxonMobil will not bow to threats from a few individuals and failed politicians who use a minority to try to sabotage the PNG LNG project, Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru said at the weekend.
Mr Agiru was referring to the incident in Tari last Thursday, when he and a delegation of ministers and MPs were pelted with stones as they waited to address a crowd at the Andaija Oval.
Police fired several shots into the air to prevent what could have been a nasty situation. No one was injured.
The delegation included ministers Patrick Pruaitch (Finance and Treasury), William Duma (Petroleum and Energy), Arthur Somare (State Enterprises), Peter O’Neill (Public Service), Philemon Embel (Sports), James Marape (Education) and MPs James Lagea (Kagua-Erave), Pr Isaac Joseph (Mendi), Francis Awesa (Imbonggu), Francis Potape (Komo-Margarima) and John Kekeno (Koroba-Lake Kopiago).
Mr Agiru returned to Tari on Friday and was with the people from 10am until 4pm. He told thousands who had gathered that ExxonMobil had his “110% support” to drive the LNG project forward.
He said a wealth and future generation fund would be set up for both Hela and Southern Highlands provinces, so surplus money generated from the LNG project was saved for use in future. This would follow the same principle as the sovereign fund model being proposed by the National Government.
Some protesters returned and held placards and banners asking for equity in the LNG project, demanding the dole system, protesting unfair PDL boundaries, lack of electricity in Tari, and non-representation of Hela in the umbrella Benefits Sharing Agreement and the current licence-based benefits sharing agreement (LBBSA) forums.
The huge crowd braved the midday heat as Mr Agiru outlined the project and its benefits.
The governor also blasted certain leaders and failed politicians whom he said had “bought beer” for youths to stir up the incident last Thursday.
He said their equity was raised from 2% to 7% during the BSA in Kokopo in May.
“This comes on top of billions of kina in impact projects for both SHP and Hela over 10 years,” he said.
Mr Agiru said regarding the unfair PDL boundaries, neither he nor the State had any jurisdiction over the matter as it was the developer, ExxonMobil, that determined the PDL boundaries.
He said all the other points raised in the protests were valid and he was actually “fighting that fight” to get maximum benefits for Hela and SHP.
On the dole system, Mr Agiru said he would totally oppose it as it would only make people lazy, “like the Aborigines in Australia who live on pension and squander it on beer”.
After his address, he mingled with the crowd and shook their hands, and also met and talked to the protesters.