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PNG military expansion is to guard foreign corporations


ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY on the Papua New Guinea government’s plan for a five-fold increase in the size of its military force has painstakingly ignored the obvious.

The increase in military personnel from the current 2,000 to around 10,000 is not a move designed to increase security along PNG’s border with Indonesia, nor to deal with international people smuggling and drug trafficking.

The move to increase the size of the military has everything to do with guarding the huge operations of foreign corporations like Exxon-Mobil and MCC.

These companies operations are coming under increasing pressure from dissatisfied local communities as they realize the promised material benefits are not going to arrive and instead they must bear the social and environmental costs while vast profits are shipped overseas.

Already this week, the government had approved the call out of the PNG military for an initial 12 months deployment to protect the interests of US based Exxon-Mobil.

The troops will be deployed all the Highlands Highway, the only transport corridor leading to the LNG sites, to provide protection for Exxon’s truck convoys.

This is not the first time Exxon has called on the PNG government for military assistance. A number of paramilitary police mobile squads, notorious for their ill-discipline and brutal tactics, are on almost permanent deployment around the LNG sites providing protection alongside Exxon’s own private security contractors – mainly from G4S.

Meanwhile, MCC, the Chinese operator of the controversial Ramu nickel mine, is becoming increasingly nervous about community unrest as it moves into full production.

As well as anger at the dumping of toxic waste just 150m off-shore along the Madang coastline, inland communities are increasingly frustrated about the environmental impacts of the mining operation itself and the failure of MCC to properly relocate displaced families.

The new Yandera mine, also to be built by a Chinese company, China Non Ferrous Industries, and the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone are seen as other potential flash points for community anger directed at foreign corporations.


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Tony Flynn

I saw a program last night on mountain top coal mining in that bastion of the people’s rights, America.

It appears that white people are treating other white people with contempt. Coal mining activities are apparently causing cancers etc., from contaminated water and air.

Democratically elected politicians, who should be looking after the people, have been suborned by political donations and influential lobbyists. Police were manhandling citizens.

PNG should take a lesson from these political / business relationships. Dogs bark and fish swim and politicians and businessmen will get into bed together. The only doubt is as to who is on top.

The only control possible is people action. Race and colour does not make anyone immune to exploitative relationships. Humans are made that way.

It was very difficult to find a "noble savage", it is equally difficult to find a noble civilised person.

I tried for years to get NIDA and later IPA to control foreigners in Reserved Activities. I failed because IPA had no interest and I had no support.

Joe Wasia

Ben - Nice comments there. Brother welcome to PNG Attitude. This is the place to be.

Write more and comment more in your leisure time at school.

David Kitchnoge

Thankyou very much Phil. Very well explained.

I hope our leaders actually read the sensible insights you offer here and start thinking very seriously about our development agenda.

Phil Fitzpatrick

I'm not sure that Papua New Guinea really needs the LNG Project, or the Ramu Nickel Mine for that matter.

In fact, it probably could have done without Ok Tedi, Porgera and Hides (not to mention Panguna).

I can understand the need for a large minerals resource base in Australia because nearly everyone works for wages and jobs are extremely important.

Papua New Guinea is not yet a primarily wage-based society. Estimates vary but I believe something like 85% of the population are still reasonably happy subsistence farmers.

Australia has a vast land mass, much of it extremely arid. This is used to run hard-hoofed stock like sheep and cattle, which create massive environmental damage. Dropping the odd mine or two into this scenario hardly makes any difference.

In fact, in places like Olympic Dam and Prominent Hill in South Australia where I was brought up and worked for a long time the mining companies have bought up pastoral leases and introduced nil or minimal and closely controlled stock numbers. Areas north of Olympic Dam, which have been de-stocked for a while now look magnificent, just like a desert environment should look.

The Papua New Guinean government has never been able to capitalise on its mineral wealth, least of all spreading the benefits to the ordinary people. It is questionable whether it will be able to achieve this with the LNG Project. The bulk of the cash will go overseas to the USA and the royalties will be frittered away or end up in the pockets of a few people. Meanwhile, the local landholders will be left with a devastated and alienated landscape - witness Ok Tedi.

The ordinary people will not get jobs out of it. Once the construction is complete there will only be a few hundred up for grabs.

But do the local people really need jobs anyway? They've managed to feed themselves and live reasonably comfortable lives so far without much trouble. Clan warfare and sorcery have actually increased dramatically through development so they won't lose out there either. Wouldn't it be better if they just made a bit of money selling their agricultural products?

And wouldn't the government be better off concentrating on getting basic services out to the people rather than spending it on beefing up the army so it can protect the miners?

Papua New Guinea is not a large country and its needs are modest. A viable agricultural sector, sustained fishing and carefully and a sustainably managed timber industry with a few small to medium sized mines operating in an environmentally friendly way are all that are needed. New Zealand is very much like that and seems to get on fine.

So why is everyone busting a gut to dig everything up and sell it to the Chinese and Americans like Australia? It doesn't really make sense.

I doubt whether developments like the LNG Project will be the goose that lays the golden eggs and if it is someone else will be collecting them anyway.

Sometimes the universal mantra of development at all costs just doesn't make sense at all. Especially in places blessed with so much else like Papua New Guinea.

Ben Otto

What are they trying to prove? Government should deploy more defence personnel to looking out for drug trafficking and other issues affecting the country and not wasting money hunting down our own people.

Don't be foolish by threatening the resource owner. Not long we will suffer with no development in our societies.

Warren Dutton

Without a shadow of a doubt the decision of the government of PNG to deploy the Defence Force to Bougainville was one of the prime causes of the escalation of the crisis there!

It is purblind stupidity to call out the Defence Force in the Highlands.

Mrs Barbara Short

After a lot of public protest meetings the NSW government is now making it harder for the gas companies to look for coal-seam gas close to houses in NSW.

There must be ways to influence the PNG government to make them come to a better understanding of what is correct when it comes to miners - their exploration and the environmental damage they can cause.

The stakes are high in PNG when we look back at what happened in Bougainville. Surely nobody would want another civil war.

The educated minority in PNG have a big responsibility for educating the village people in the consequences of mining.

The educated people in the media also have a big responsibility in educating those who read newspapers. Same goes for the blogs, TV news, Facebook and Twitter etc.

Leonard Roka

Funny? Very sad that politicians are trying to create a force to protect foreign interests and suppress its own people.

No surprise, anyway, for it is what PNG did to us Bougainvilleans.

PNG is turning itself into a laughing stock!

David Kitchnoge

Perhaps the PNG government should consider creating a new entity called the Department of Managing Expectations.

Its mandate would be to ensure everyone (landowners, investors, government and anyone else with an interest in a project) are realistic about what to get out of whatever it is we are doing.

The government is not in the business of inflating the balloons which would eventually burst and cause havoc.

Joe Wasia

Adam - It's the resource landowners and the government who are solely responsible for any damage or receive little stake on the resource these foreign giants develop. It's not the foreign companies. Blame yourselves.

David Wall

This is another thing that shows how much PNG politicians are in the hands of foreign corporations!

Adam Toth

So the increase of military personal is for the protection of big business in PNG.

How shameful is that if the people would be paid what is owning to them you would not be in this predicament.

When people are promised things and then don't get it, I too would be a bit pissed off.

Also where else in the world can a big company pour out millions of litres of waste from a nickel mine straight into the ocean without it first being processed.

Then they wonder why the people of Madang are angry. How would you like it if they polluted your backyard and killed of your livelihood.

Big companies have a lot to answer for in PNG and should all pull their heads in.

Exxon-Mobil and MCC, shame ,shame, shame for thinking about yourselves and not the lives of the people whose areas you are destroying.

If you would pay a reasonable rate for the product instead of ripping the country off maybe there would be no need for the military and police forces to protect you moneymakers.

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