BARNABAS ORERE PONDROS
EFFECTIVE leadership and communication are an absolute necessity for the multi-billion kina PNG LNG project to succeed, in order to ensure that Papua New Guinea realises its full potential and gains the envisaged results without much turbulence.
Effective leadership and communication will ensure the transition from potential to reality is achieved without a rough ride.
In the next 40 or so days leading up to the final investment decision (FID) by developer ExxonMobil and its partners on Dec 8, effective leadership and communication will play a crucial part in the negotiations and how things pan out.
In the last few weeks, there have been unfavourable events which point to the absence of these key ingredients.
On Oct 16, hundreds of landowners converged on the ExxonMobil head office in downtown Port Moresby to express anger against a service agreement deal between Esso Highlands Ltd, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, and the Hides Gas Development Corporation (HGDC).
Two days later, there was a repeat, throwing traffic into chaos and hindering business operations.
Later that week, an executive of the developer was allegedly beaten by the same group, moments before a roundtable discussion was about to be held to discuss the issue.
In the subsequent week, in an unrelated case, two landowner leaders of the Foe people of Kutubu, Asi Ibusubu and Sese Vege, were bashed by rival landowners and supporters of former Southern Highlands governor Hami Yawari.
Sadly, this melee occurred in the precincts of the Supreme and National courthouse at Waigani.
Not only do such events defy the laws of peace and justice but they are also shameful and disgraceful and portray a negative image of the country to developers and investors abroad.
Such wanton disregard for due process showcases the absence of effective leadership and communication.
Landowner leaders must ensure that they lead and communicate the right message to their flock to avoid acts of violence.
It is uncalled for, unhealthy and should be condemned it the strongest terms.
Leadership is the process where one influences thoughts, attitudes and behaviour of others.
Leaders set the direction for the rest of us and help us foresee what lies ahead, they inspire and motivate us to achieve desired and positive results.
Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma condemned the landowners’ actions and urged them to exercise patience and raise their grievances using the right channels and proper avenues.
There are and there will always be avenues to discuss and solve disputes, and violent protests and assaults must not be repeated, in the best interests of this project.
On that note, let us shift our focus to the Government.
As the mandated representative of the people, it has the utmost responsibility that information of relevance is communicated to all stakeholders, importantly landowners.
Communication is a two-way process involving an exchange of ideas.
If you try to make it one-way, you prevent this exchange and will eventually frustrate the other person.
You may also frustrate yourself, if you read the other person’s lack of verbosity as disinterest in the conversation, rather than an inability to get a word in.
The hallmark of effective communication is the coherent verbal projection of your ideas, so that your listener receives the message that you intend to send.
By observing these two rules, you will reduce miscommunication and misunderstandings.
The Government must make it clear to the landowners that such wanton disregard for processes and the violence that stems from lack of leadership and lack of communication will only damage the project’s prospects.
There is an old saying that a person leading is not just someone who walks in front of a parade, but someone who knows where he is going.
Walking in front is not really leadership unless the person in front is choosing the direction, making the right choices and communicating effectively with his followers.
Let us not lead for our own gains but lead to achieve positive results for the benefit of the majority.
* Barnabas Pondros is a reporter with The National.