Power pylons felled as Hides landowners clash

National, Normal


HIDES landowners fought each other while three power pylons were felled and several trees were cut to block the highway leading from Tari to the Hides gas project area at the weekend.
The licence-based benefits sharing agreement (LBBSA) for PRL 12 was signed last Thursday, but the signing for PDL1 yesterday was delayed.
Angry landowners who missed out on the LBBSA or were frustrated with fellow landowners cut down three power pylons that carry power to the giant Porgera gold mine in the neighbouring Enga province.
Last Thursday night, soon after the completion of the signing of the Hides PRL 12 LBBSA, landowners fought among themselves, with two men needing to be hospitalised at Tari hospital.
Edward Peno and Mai Matialu from the Tugupa Walo clan of Hides PRL 12 told The National from their sick bed in Tari hospital on Saturday that they were attacked by fellow landowners for “assisting the State and PNG LNG project developer ExxonMobil by protecting the position papers and the documents containing the LBBSA agreement”.
The incident happened around 5.30pm last Thursday, after the majority of the 1,233 Hides PRL 12 landowners had signed the LBBSA agreement in the presence of Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, local MPs, Department of Petroleum and Energy (DPE) secretary Rendell Rimua, police and other officials.
Mr Peno said one of the landowners (named) refused to sign and instead tried to tear the LBBSA document.
He said Mr Matialu then snatched the document and gave it to police and DPE officials.
Mr Peno said the landowner and his supporters then fought with Mr Matialu and when he stepped in to assist, he, too, was attacked.
They said the landowners attacked them with sticks and stones and kicked them with safety boots.
They were taken by police to Tari hospital in the night and are recovering.
Several huge trees were also cut and felled to block the road leading from Tari to Hides PRL 12 as angry locals vented their frustration over the LBBSA.
Traffic to and from the LBBSA forums at Hides and Angore was disrupted on the weekend and vehicles were stranded on either side of the road.
Police used electric chain saws provided by Oil Search Ltd at Nogoli to clear the roadblock.
The locals from Hiwanda, Manapa, Kovbalu and Pai Kela villages are angry with DPE and ExxonMobil for excluding them in the PRL boundary for Hides and Angore when they live only a few kilometres away from the project area.
Hides landowner leader Simon Tari Ekanda said yesterday the people of Hela were not party to the LBBSA and that was why they were felling power pylons and trees to show their frustration.