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.
By Donald Gumbis in The Interpreter
Donald Gumbis is a Lecturer in political science at the University of Goroka and an intern at the Lowy Institute.
Papua New Guinea’s Defence Minister Dr Fabian Pok has announced that PNG plans to build up its military capacity from around 2000 personnel to 10,000.
While it is hardly unusual for fast-growing resource-rich countries to increase military spending as their national ambitions expand, Papua New Guinea has yet to address very significant development challenges in basic health and education. Increased spending on the military in such circumstances must therefore be questioned.
Why does Papua New Guinea need a larger military capacity? One factor in the Government’s consideration could be the land border with Indonesia. The border skirmishes between the traditional people of PNG’s Sandaun Province and Indonesian military spotlight the PNG Government’s inattention to border issues. These issues pose a test for the Treaty of Mutual Respect, Friendship and Cooperation PNG has with Indonesia.
In a Radio Australia interview, former PNGDF Commander General Jerry Singirok noted key issues of concern with the announcement. He said there was no PNGDF White Paper to guide this proposed expansion, the PNG Government has never prioritised defence spending and there would be a substantial cost involved in rebuilding a downsized force.
The ongoing retrenchment exercise of close to 2000 personnel, which began in 1999, is a difficult issue that the Defence Department is still not adequately addressing. Further to that, there are challenges for the PNGDF to raise its performance level and the security of its weaponry. The recent mutiny case, insubordination and misconduct of soldiers all undermine the ministerial statement.
Policy announcements have tended to be more frequent than policy implementation in Papua New Guinea. But if this announcement reflects a serious intention by the PNG Government, it warrants more discussion.
The Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department investigated payments totaling K14,850,105 made to Tom Rangip and his company, Pacific Paradise Foods, for food that was supposedly supplied to PNG Defence Force soldiers based at military barracks around the country.
The Commission concluded: “PPC’s claim for the supply of food to the PNGDF was fraudulent in nature [and] based on falsified invoices. Goods claimed as supplied were either not supplied at all or was short supplied”.
Think about what that K14.85 million could have achieved if it had been spent on our hospitals or refurbishing a police station? Instead it was stolen from the people of PNG by Tony Rangip.
The Commission of Inquiry is not the only body to have uncovered this fraud. An earlier, investigation conducted by the Financial Inspection Services division of the Department of Treasury and Planning (as it was then) also found that claims by Rangip for payment were completely flawed.
That inquiry found:
- Rules on tender procedures, consideration of tenders and awarding of contract were not followed
- Defence Tenders Board exceeded the limits of its financial delegation
- Twice, PPC was awarded supply contracts although it had no financial capacity, facilities and experience in servicing large volume transactions
- Most payments to PPC appear to have been fraudulent and based on fictitious supplies
- Goods covered by a K5,390,855.99 claim under 9 invoices appear not to have been supplied
- Clear suggestions of corrupt practices done in connivance with senior officers of the Department (of Defence) and the Force
An Audit Report compiled by the Auditor General’s office in 1999 also found gross irregularities and concluded that K7,597,782.16 worth of invoices should be disputed.
Despite all these many failings and the two separate earlier investigations which each found serious malparactice, Mr Rangip and his company were able to continue to steal and no action has been taken to recover the monies.
The Commission of Inquiry found that certain Solicitors General have been grossly negligent in protecting the State’s interests in this matter.
Read the Commissions findings on Tony Rangip