Eric Tlozek | ABC News
The Papua New Guinea Government has announced it will deploy the military to stop violence near the country’s biggest resources project.
The PNG Defence Force will be deployed to Hela Province in the highlands where dozens of people have died in tribal conflict recently.
Landowners in the province were also threatening to attack Exxon-Mobil’s PNG LNG project over ongoing complaints about royalties and equity in the project.
PNG’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, said the military would work with police to conduct security operations in the province.
“These problems have the potential to impact on the upcoming election as well as the operation of important projects in the area,” he said.
“Police will have full powers to ensure law and order and to deal with people who seek to cause trouble.
“This includes the immediate arrest of people seeking to initiate violent acts or make threats against Government officials or projects in the province.”
Mr O’Neill said the military call-out would last six months, taking it past PNG’s national elections next year.
He said the Government would ask Exxon-Mobil and Oil Search — the two main companies involved in the PNG LNG project — for logistical support to help the security operation.
Tribal violence is often a problem in PNG’s highlands but it has escalated dramatically in Hela over the past year.
Last month, two men were shot dead when the provincial governor’s convoy was stopped by armed men.
Police responded by burning houses and gardens in an attempt to flush out those responsible.