Hired guns secure their fortune in PNG – Hot spot closer to home

I can understand writing about the potential economic issues facing the country and the security issues we have in PNG, but sampela taim ol journalist laik lo putim extra gris lo stori blong ol!!

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Source: Sunday Mail (QLD), Edition 2 – State – Main     SUN 23 MAY 2010

By: Gavin King: kingg@qnp.newsltd.com.au

THEY have risked their lives on the world’s most dangerous battlefields, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars working in top-secret roles for private security firms in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now Australian ex-soldiers and hired guns are facing danger closer to home, taking up lucrative offers to provide personal security for expat workers in the violent slum cities of Papua New Guinea.

With the troubled nation’s multi-billion-dollar resources boom fuelling the gap between rich and poor, foreign workers are increasingly being targeted in car-jackings, robberies and home invasions. Queensland man John Ramshaw, 61, is fighting for his life in a Port Moresby hospital after being shot in the back during a robbery at his workplace on May 13.

Friend Wolfgang Bandisch told The Sunday Mail that expats face daily threats of random violence, with another friend shot at and injured in an attempted car-jacking when she stopped at a roundabout last month. Resources companies such as Exxon Mobil and Oil Search are turning to private security consultants with war-zone experience, offering exorbitant salary packages to shadow and protect executive workers and their families. Bidding wars between consultant companies and mining giants looking for top security experts can reach more than $300,000, plus accommodation, a vehicle and other perks.

Many Queensland security consultants hired to protect executives and projects on a range of gold and copper mines are on fly-in, fly-out contracts, a luxury their work in far-flung international war zones never allowed. But the biggest boon for private security will be the liquefied natural gas sector, estimated to be worth between $50 billion and $130 billion.

After four years of private security contracts in Iraq, Brisbane’s James Pomare now works as a security consultant based in Port Moresby. “There are parts of Papua New Guinea you just don’t go because they are too dangerous,” Mr Pomare said.

“Most of the crime there is opportunistic – you really can’t plan for it – which I guess is similar to the work we had to do in Iraq because you just don’t know what’s going to happen from one minute to the next.

“We’re involved in personal security and special operations, particularly when there are disputes between landowners in the more remote areas that some of these projects are based.” Executive Talent International’s Peter Conlon, who specialises in Papua New Guinea, said he was fielding hundreds of applications for security positions.

One of his recruits was last year shot three times in a brazen robbery while guarding a shipment of gold. “It takes a certain type of person to work in these types of security roles, people who just don’t like the mundanities of normal life,” he said.

“There are a lot of good operators sick of working in the sandpit of Afghanistan and Iraq, looking for work closer to home,” he said. “I had a guy in a senior security role being paid $150,000 when he first started, then he was offered $250,000 by another contractor and ended up taking a job with Exxon for $300,000. “The tax rate there is high, but you’re getting your accommodation and car and other things paid for, plus you get the benefits of being so close to home and instead of being surrounded by dust you’re living in a fairly spectacular location. After nearly three decades there, Mr Bandisch describes Papua New Guinea as a war zone. “You are paid well because of the incredible risk to your safety,” he said.

Figures obtained by The Sunday Mail show more than 9700 Australians applied for visas to Papua New Guinea last year, up from 8500 in 2007. Of those, 4100 were for business purposes, the fastest-growing category issued by the Consulate General of Papua New Guinea.

University of Queensland economics associate professor John Asafu-Adjaye, who lived in Papua New Guinea for several years, believes crime will escalate as the government continues to misuse resource revenues and fails to improve living conditions.

“It’s an incredibly tricky situation facing the PNG Government and, in turn, the Australian Government,” he said.

Gavin King | North Queensland bureau – The Sunday Mail

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11 thoughts on “Hired guns secure their fortune in PNG – Hot spot closer to home

  1. Come what may,we Papua New Guineans will continue to have this unfair distribution of Boom that is going on.Such as those that are mentioned above,they will see the benefit of the boom,we simply will not as the Government of the day continue to go it’s merry way down the road to hell.The PNGs are really going to see the difference between the rich and the poor.Crime will claim lives of those who are involve in this act.They are crimes that can be prevented.As it is said they are just opportunistic, individuals who have decided that this is the way for them to earn money.Surely the Government of the day can see the dire need of its human beings all around and about them, in far flung villages,rural areas and all the neglected Provinces of PNG.

    A crime is a crime but PNG it is nothing like the war torn areas of the world.It is time the Authorities in POM need to get real look at themselves and review themselves in the light of the present boom.But then again they will say they do not have the money do this or that.Again it all boils down to the Government of the day.How do they go about doing their annual budget for the whole country and does anyone know how to budget in the Government ? It looks as if nobody has shown them how.Thirty years now and still the whole Nation is still not developed.It’s people are left wandering the streets and the highways and the byways of the society.PNG it seems needs a great BIG RENOVATION ; and it must happen soon.Or else we go down to the dogs as the saying goes.

  2. Emmanuel, on another blog, Peter accused me of setting up straw men to shoot them down. Maybe you’re doing the same with this article. Still it begs the question: If this article isn’t correct, why doesn’t someone write a rebuttal and send it to the paper?

    There was a popular American song about 50 years ago that started out with the words: “It’s good news week!” and then went on to report about bombs, riots and worse….

    ‘Journos’ are in the business of selling their stories through sensationalism and worse. Those who soak up the daily round of offerings in the news are as much or more to blame if they don’t take an interest in trying to get an objective view of the world rather than depending on what they are constantly being fed by those who own the media.

    Afterall, what you read is only someone else’s opinion on what they see. You might see something totally different.

    1. Thanks Paul, no as you say it’s one person opinion and its good to get it out there. I disagree with the statement that PNG is a warzone, since everyone seems to be doing fine going about their daily lives.

      But I found the statistics on Australians getting work visas here and the type of people in security to be revealing and interesting. I think there’s something for everyone in this article, regardless of the delivery.

  3. Of course the economics of the law and order situation in PNG ensures that these Australian security firms thrive and profit, notwithstanding the innocent lives lost through opportunistic criminal activities. Security consultants are having a field day profiting from the so-called “war zone” situation, with the mult-million kina contracts to their names. So what is it they are complaining about? They have the expertise and experience to deal with the security problems in PNG. It really would not make economic sense for them to leave this so-called “war zone” and invest somewhere more peaceful, right? Everybody is here to make as much money as they can and fly-out, whenever they feel like going.

    Also, I think some of these Australian journalists are so uneducated, and overtly racist. Blanket use of the name Papua New Guinea in the Australian media is injustice to some of us outside of Port Moresby, Lae and the Highlands who are living “normal lives”. That is the other side of Papua New Guinea that is misrepresented in this sensationalist reports. I agree with Peter re: rebutting this Gavin King article, but hey, for once a story is told, it cannot be called back right? Once told it is loose in the world, embedded in the minds of your Australian audience. And this siege mentality works well for the PR campaign of security-conscious executives jetting into Port Moresby.

    The sad reality is that Papua New Guineans are very much victims of these opportunistic criminal acts. There is no simple answer to the problems of this country. My concern is that people who are here to make money, so be it – concern yourselves with what you got to do. If it’s too hard for you to bear, this is a free world. Take your money and body somewhere else.

    In the meantime for those of us who survive and live to tell our stories of the humanity we see in our fellow Papua New Guineans, our story is best understood by ourselves. I don’t expect the Australian media and Gavin King to understand that.

    1. In complete agreement with the kavaologist.

      There is no denying that we do have our security issues, but people who do not understand us should leave us alone and stop scare mongering and profiteering from doing that.

  4. I would like to direct everyone to the mess this LNG project has created.
    It is now out of control , people have been promised and contracted payments , but yet the payments cannot be met for every single excuse under the sun.
    The Joint Venture partners have left the PNG Government certain tasks which is a contract to failure.
    UAI funding is ‘ no where’ to be audited , Exxon Mobile is so unorganised they could not run a cat and dog fight in PNG.The Brisbane office could not give a iota.The project has not been enviromentally audited , and the enviiroment and the people of the project areas are the last thing on minds of the JV partners.So instead of managing the project and the country properly , they have decided to leave it be and employ hired guns for protection , what a bunch of soft cocks.
    At least Emmanuel got his wack building there cheap and nasty website.

  5. Just found and read article about hired guns in PNG and how dangerous it was to live anf work there. Where do I sign up? It’s the dnager and excitement that matters, the money is only a way to keep score. HAVE
    PASSPORT, WILL TRAVEL!! TALK TO ME!!

  6. Too funny, the usual claims of sky high salary packages for mercenaries. Sadly it is an industry where those that like to speak out are invariably the ones with no clue. Sure, there is reasonably good money to be made in the private protection game in PNG but there are a few major drawbacks. A few shonky outfits to watch out for, a number of paintball/air soft “soldiers” in the labour pool (yep, true story) and the place is a complete dump but that is no surprise, always has been and always will be. Some wonderful scenery though but difficult to sit back and enjoy when you are on the lookout for rampaging savages. As undiplomatic as that may sound, there is no point glossing over the reality of it.

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