By ANGELINE KARIUS
A 30-STRONG police squad will be redeployed at three LNG project construction sites today to ensure work continues on schedule, The National reports.
The national executive council met in an emergency session yesterday afternoon and approved the immediate release of K10 million for security operations.
Police Commissioner Gari Baki said last night that police from Port Moresby would be sent at first light to Gobe in Southern Highlands and Gulf’s Kikori and Kopi where construction of facilities were underway for the laying of the pipeline from the gas fields to the coast to Port Moresby.
The police redeployment was to quash fears among investors, especially developer ExxonMobil and its construction contractor Clough Curtain Brothers Joint Venture (CCBJV), of growing landowner opposition over employment opportunities, working conditions and outstanding land pay issues.
Infrastructure activities at Gobe, Kikori and Kopi included camp construction and site clearing, wharf and laydown at Kopi and bridge and road works on northern and southern logistics routes.
Baki said he gave a briefing on the security situation to the NEC which was chaired by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, who had flown in from Cairns, and attended by Internal Affairs Minister Sani Rambi, who had also flown in from Brisbane, Finance Minister Peter O’Neill, Arthur Somare (Public Enterprises) and Paul Tiensten (National Planning).
The meeting was called about 4pm amid growing concerns that investors were seriously considering their options in the multi-billion-kina project, which was scheduled to begin production in three years.
The construction phase had been targeted by the burning of equipment belonging to CCBJV at Kopi, strike at Komo airfield construction site and last Friday’s stop-work by 108 employers at two pipeline sites.
Baki said police personnel from the Port Moresby-based task force division would be deployed for an indefinite period.
Police had withdrawn from selected sites during the year because of lack of funds.
Rambi confirmed Baki’s statement, adding that the K10 million would be drawn from the K101 million set aside last month for special police operations, including resource areas.
He said police presence was to restore law and order and, secondly, to instill public confidence in the project, especially among the expatriate workers.
The NEC intervention yesterday was forced by events of the past week when villagers stopped early construction work on pipeline from Kopi to Kaiam and Mubi crossing.
The villagers, many of whom were employed by CCBJV, had petitioned the prime minister to address their grievances such as poor salary and bonuses, among others.
So far, ExxonMobil had not commented on the strike.