6 May 2014

Exxon's links with PNG police queried

8:58 am on 6 May 2014

Exxon Mobil defends its links with the Papua New Guinea mobile police squads in the Highlands region as Exxon's major LNG gas project is about to start production.

The International State Crime Initiative says serious questions remain over Exxon Mobil's relationship with police in Papua New Guinea where the company's major LNG gas project is about to start production.

This follows revelations in an article published by The Nation last week that PNG's notorious Mobile Police Squads have been used to secure the project in the Highlands region where the gas fields are based.

Dr Kristian Lasslett,
International State Crime Initiative

Dr Kristian Lasslett, International State Crime Initiative Photo: RNZ

The Hela province Police Superintendent Jimmy Onopia said that Exxon Mobil paid for food and living expenses of the Squads as well as weapons.

The State Crime Initiative's Dr Kristian Lasslett says this arrangement is problematic

"And if that allegation by the Police Superintendent is indeed true, that is in breach of a Memorandum of Understanding that Exxon signed with the police force. The Mobile Squad operate through a modus operandi of fear and violence. They come in, they come in hard. They burn down homes, they shoot dead livestock. Sometimes they beat up and kill people, they rape."

Dr Kristian Lasslett.

However, Exxon Mobil says it has never supplied weapons nor any funding for weapons to the PNG police.

It says it has no power to control day-to-day operations or decisions of the police or any other security personnel assigned by the government.

Exxon says that under the terms of the MOU, it may provide support in prescribed areas, for example, transportation.