The temporary delay of work in the upstream gas field areas by the operator of the LNG project, ExxonMobil, because of lawlessness and threats to company workers, is a serious concern the Government must address immediately.
Your paper reported the concern raised by landowner leaders Larry Andagali (Hides), Mark Sakai (Kutubu) and Edward Alina (Moran) (Feb 17).
My question is, as leaders on the ground, what are they doing to control their people because the Government gave them K180 million late last year to mobilise the people and initiate people-based projects on the ground.
The Government, ExxonMobil and Oil Search must be prepared to shoulder the blame for the threats on the LNG project because they have either individually or collectively planted the seed of discontentment and rebellion in the landowners’ hearts.
Let me qualify my statement by giving a number of examples of the failures of the Government, ExxonMobil and Oil Search in respect to managing landowners’ issues.
First, in the Hides project, everyone knows that Mr Andagali is not a legitimate landowner. He is not even from Hides but Oil Search is recognising him and using him as the principal mouthpiece of the landowners.
The company is giving similar recognition to Libe Paridali, who claims to be a landowner and chairman of the Hiwa Tuguba Landowners Association, when he is not.
The majority of the Hides people have rejected both men because of their past unscrupulous deals in the Hides electricity project.
The State, too, is entertaining these two men and legitimate landowners are furious about this. This is the truth.
For example, Mr Andagali was said to have been paid about K10 million from the K180 million the Government paid to some 10 individuals late last year in the name of MoA funds while Mr Paridali was said to be paid more than K6 million as reported by the two local dailies.
The small people are fed up, especially when principal and core landowners are marginalised by the State and the oil companies.
There is trouble in Hides now due to the killing of a councillor and an Oil Search employee recently.
Where are Mr Andagali and Mr Paridali?
What have they done to prevent these killing?
Are they living in Hides or are indulging themselves in the luxuries of life in Port Moresby?
Secondly, in Kutubu, Mark Sakai was said to be paid K10 million out of the K180 million by the Treasury Department through his company, Red-skin Consulting Services.
People are watching and they can rebel by unleashing their anger if the State is not genuine with the small people on the ground.
Thirdly, in Northwest Moran oil project, the State and Oil Search recognise Mr Alina as the principal landowner leader when, in fact, he is not a legitimate landowner.
Mr Alina is a “real issue” in this project because his blood brother, Mek Mully, is disputing his role and mandate.
Mr Alina and Mr Mully are brothers from the same father but different mothers and the issue is that Mr Alina is forcefully claiming land rights in Mr Mully’s mother’s land (or his uncle’s land) where the NW Moran project is located.
I urge the media to do more independent investigative research on these issues because the State is not addressing these matters as it is supposed to do while the oil companies are not genuine in working with the legitimate landowners.
A lack of proper social mapping and landowner identification studies is one of the main reasons legitimate landowners are losing out.
If one were to do a thorough investigation into the payment of the K180 million, he or she will fully understand the truth because it stinks.
Senior public servants and ministers have collaborated with so-called landowner leaders to defraud the State of millions of public funds.
This is a recipe for trouble.