Home > Human rights, LNG, mining, Papua New Guinea > Military expansion to guard foreign corporations not protect PNG citizens

Military expansion to guard foreign corporations not protect PNG citizens

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

From PNG Mine Watch

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 para-military 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.

  1. piango
    February 20, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    I don’t understand the arguments of articles like this one. Does the author think the “huge foreign corporations” should just be left to the ravages of local mobs? Does he/she think that if some citizens of PNG are unhappy about something, they should be allowed to assault, sabotage, destroy, damage or whatever, at will? If some citizens don’t like what the author writes, does he/she think it is okay for them to come to his home and destroy his laptop? That is what he/she seems to be implying.

    In PNG there are laws. People who break the laws, whether they are “huge foreign corporations” or “dissatisfied local communities” should be charged with an offence under the law. Otherwise the whole place will descend into chaos, which on a bad it looks like it already has.

    The article states, “A number of para-military 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”. This is a mixture of fact and fiction. The PNG police have mobile units on duty around the gas project sites – have they assaulted anyone in their role of protecting these sites against constant theft, trespass and usually drunken assaults of workers (who happen to be form the same community as the assailants)? I think not. They have assaulted drunken husbands who when asked nicely not to beat their wives, thev tried to assault an officer – not a good idea in PNG. But assaults in their roles as protectors of the gas project; I have heard of none.

    It is ironic that mobile squad officers complain about ExxonMobil requiring them to do human rights courses – they say it stops them being effective, They say they usual beat people because it is quick and effective. But because that is their normal way of dealing with law breakers they don’t know the law very well, so they don’t know what to charge people with and they can’t be bothered with the paperwork that follows an arrest. So they feel dis-empowered by their human rights knowledge!

    G4S is a civilian security firm that does normal security work guarding entrances to camps and work sites. They cannot arrest or hold lawbreakers, nor are they allowed to assault people. There have been no complaints about G4S assaulting people around the gas plants sites. If it can be proved that a G4S employee has assaulted someone they are immediately dismissed.

    The Highlands Highway is a critical supply route to the Hides gas sites. Does the author thing anybody along the road who feels he is not receiving the benefits of the project should be able to block the road, loot the trucks and assault the drivers? If he/she does believe that, then he/she should be very happy, because that is exactly what is happening on a daily basis.Lets hope the next time the author travels the Highway to see what is really happening that he/she is not assaulted or loses their vehicle to these para-criminal gangs.

    The economic inequalities in PNG are obvious and are worrying. But letting the unemployed youths loot and pillage at will is not the solution to the problem.

  2. Wester
    February 22, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I think the author of that article had a bad experience with the military in Freeport’s Mining Operation in what was Irian Jaya, now West Papua. Big difference – their Military is involved in nearly all facets of life there. I would not be surprised if the cross border poachers from Indonesia, recently reported in the papers, are military personnel or backed by them. The TNI were involved with Freeport since the Suharto regime. They have their hands in timber operations as well. For them (na wanskin blo ol), its big business – unfortunately for our Melanesian wantoks and papa grauns. We have never had that problem with our Defense Forces and to suggest that it will happen here is paranoia.

  3. John Bos
    February 17, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I believe the author has completely misunderstood the roles and responsibilities our Defence Force or any other military anywhere in the world play. Firstly, get this straight. IT is the Police that provide protection to large foreign companies in the country, especially logging companies and not the Defence Force as percived.

    Imoprovement in the defence force including increasing its strength are long overdue. It fact, there has never been any real increase since independence (1975), and after the masive Australian funded redundancy exercise 10 years ago. It is the right of any country including Papua New Guinea to access threats, and mitigate appropriate measures to protect its teritory, citizens, and existance.

    We now require a more robust military, especially in light of recent activities along the PNG/Indonesia boarder, influx of illegal boarder crossings, the illegal boat people, and the need to have sufficient capability to partiol our exclusive zone. The author must understand that we have a Defence Force not an Army, therefore a small expansion aimed at building capacilty and response capability is all we need. However, we must also re-aligh our foreign Defence Policy to have an independent Defence Force, free of foreign influence. Military in an institution that is secretive, however in PNG, Australia has penetrated into every core unit of the military, deciding what weapons to buy, what training should be conducted ect..ect.. is a sad story. When will the Defence White Paper address these issues?.. May be in the next 100 years

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