Tribal violence surges again in PNG's Hela

10:39 am on 23 November 2017

Deadly tribal fighting is surging again in Papua New Guinea's Hela province.

Hela Province Tribesmen

Hela Province Tribesmen Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

A man was shot dead in the Highlands province yesterday, sparking a revenge attack later in the day.

The former mayor of Hela's capital Tari, George Tagobe said there was significant disaffection in the province over government's failure to pay royalties from the LNG gas project.

He said while this year's election was widely believed to have been rigged in Hela, tribal fighting in the intervening three months is not related.

"The warlords are hunting their enemies, hunting them down. They're driving around and shooting down people, killing people just like nobody's business. Just yesterday a young Hela man was shot down. And unconfirmed reports I got last night say three were shot at Koroba in relation to payback for the killing that happened yesterday."

Meanwhile, Exxonmobil has withdrawn non-essential staff from its LNG Project operations in Hela amid increased security risks.

Earlier this week the company was able to negotiate the release of one of its expatriate staff who was reportedly taken hostage by a group of Hela landowners.

The landowners are understood to be frustrated at repeated stalling over non-payment of funds committed to them by government under the project agreement.

It's not believed that this group is linked to landowners in Hela's Hides area who have given the national government an ultimatum over LNG gas project commitments.

Hela province, Papua New Guinea.

Hela province, Papua New Guinea. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Although the multi-billion dollar venture has been exporting gas for over three years, landowners in the project's hub say they have seen no committed benefits yet.

The government says commitments can't be fulfilled until a clan vetting process is completed to identify correct landowners who would receive the benefits.

Not the first ultimatum they have extended on this matter, Hides landowners have given the government until next week to complete this process.

They are also demanding that by next week government honour an $US11 million commitment it made in August.

If the demands aren't met, the landowners have threatened to shut down the project again.

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