The National – Tuesday, December 14, 2010
By YVONNE HAIP
FRUSTRATED landowners at one of the rich liquefied natural gas (LNG) project sites in Southern Highlands prevented major construction works from taking place over the weekend, when demanding K10 million from the government.
Early developmental works at the Mubi valve station in Kutubu, especially the construction of a bridge, were put on halt as the angry landowners conducted their strike and prevented workers from working.
They plan to do this until the government responds favourably.
These landowners, who are members of the Munti clan, as well as other locals, claimed a memorandum of agreement signed in 2004 between Oil Search Ltd and the state had not been honoured.
Because of this, they had set up makeshift shelters at the construction site since October, as part of their protest, in order to get the government’s attention.
This protest had been peaceful and had not been of any threat to the multi-billion kina gas project.
On Nov 12, representatives from LNG developer, ExxonMobil, and construction works contractor, Clough Curtain Joint Venture (CCJV), met with the locals and asked them to vacate the area so normal works could continue.
However, negotiations failed as the locals insisted that they would not remove their temporary homes and would remain until a government representative addressed them favourably.
The landowners, and spokesperson and chairman of Irakorahi pipeline license landowners, Sani Kami, insisted that since the government had failed to recognise in honouring the MoA, they would not vacate the area.
He said all they wanted was for the government to honour the MoA and give them assurance that basic services, as well as tangible and long-lasting infrastructural developments would take place in their area.
The landowners had also presented the government with a petition but no response had been given so far, adding pressure on the frustrated locals.
They now want the government to pay them K10 million before they allow early works carried out by CCJV.
It is understood that the locals had been promised several millions of kina through the MoA and to date, these payment were yet to be made.
Mubi junction is in the petroleum development license two (PDL 2) area between Gobe and Kutubu.
Road works and clearance for the gas pipeline, are part of the early works in progress in the area by ExxonMobil and CCJV.