EXXONMOBIL’s business development adviser, Noel Wright, was allegedly beaten up by frustrated landowners near the carpark of the Holiday Inn Hotel in Port Moresby yesterday after an argument over the recent signing of the “service agreement” between Esso Highlands Ltd and Hides Gas Development Company (HGDC).
The meeting between ExxonMobil and Southern Highlands landowners to discuss the dispute concerning the agreement did not turn out well when Mr Wright was punched to the ground by several landowners while in the process of discussing the issues.
Chairman of the Hiwa Tuguba Landowners’ Association, Simon Ekanda, who was at the scene, said the landowners had demanded that Mr Wright withdraw the agreement but he insisted that the agreement was already signed and could not be withdrawn.
Aggrieved by that response, the landowners allegedly punched Mr Wright, who fell on the concrete carpark area of the hotel.
The hotel security guards immediately intervened and chased the landowners away.
They then assisted Mr Wright to a waiting vehicle.
The aggrieved landowners are believed to be from Juha, Angore, Komo, Hides 4 and pipeline areas in Tari, Southern Highlands province.
Chairman of Juha, Harry Kumunu Hengene, said the landowners had not received any response from ExxonMobil on whether the service agreement would be withdrawn or not.
He said if ExxonMobil insisted on keeping the deal with HGDC, then HGDC would be regarded as the umbrella company for Hides 1 and not all the other landowner groups.
The landowners did not proceed with a proper meeting and were chased away after they assaulted Mr Wright.
Attempts by The National to contact ExxonMobil to check on Mr Wright’s condition were unsuccessful.