Oil minister: Personal disputes caused LNG rioting [Archives:2007/1037/Local News]

March 29 2007

By: Mohammed Al-Jabri
SANA'A, March 27 ) Minister of Oil and Minerals Khalid Mahfoudh Bahah condemned the rioting that sparked Sunday at Yemen's Liquefied Natural Gas site in Balhaf, Shabwa governorate, located in southeast Yemen, after a French engineer allegedly defiled the Qur'an, describing it as a personal dispute.

Bahah said the rioting was done intentionally due to personal disputes, regretting the behavior of workers who were enraged into rioting without realizing the personal motives and unseemly goals behind the incident.

The Joint Meeting Parties in Shabwa governorate condemned the Qur'an's desecration by the company's French engineer. In a statement, the JMP demanded the company apologize, terminate the engineer's contract and deport him, holding the company responsible for what happened.

Approximately 400 LNG workers rioted Sunday over a French engineer's alleged defilement of the Qur'an, damaging several vehicles as well as superficially damaging some on-site service facilities. The company's chartered helicopter also was set ablaze. A peaceful demonstration after a “dispute with one of the engineers” turned violent when protestors attacked some of the project's assets.

“The incident initially was triggered by a personal dispute between a French engineer and a Yemeni employee both working for one of the company's subcontractors. Due to a misunderstanding of the incident among a few workers, the occurrence unfortunately escalated into violent rioting,” LNG stated Tuesday.

No casualties were reported during the unrest, as the project's security force quelled the rioting.

A committee immediately was formed to probe the incident, including representatives from security authorities and the Social Affairs and Labor Office, as well as the governorate's local authorities.

Shabwa Governor Ali Al-Maqdashi said investigations are ongoing, with the investigation committee having questioned both the French engineer and the Yemeni employee about the incident and the two are being withheld, according to the ruling party web site Al-Motamar.net.

LNG currently is constructing a natural gas liquefaction plant on the coast of Balhaf in Shabwa, as well as a 320-km. pipeline that will connect gas processing facilities in Marib's Block 18 to the liquefaction facilities located approximately 400 km. east of Aden.

The construction currently involves approximately 4,000 people in Balhaf and nearly 1,000 more along the pipeline. Yemen LNG has appointed two major contractors to complete the construction. In turn, these contractors have appointed various subcontractors to assist them in implementing portions of the project.