IN light of last week’s strong stance by the mine-impacted communities against Morobe leaders and the developer of the Hidden Valley mine in Papua New Guinea, the Union of Watut River Communities (UoWRC) and Bulolo MP Sam Basil now want Morobe Governor Luther Wenge to fulfil his commitments. They are also discouraging the governor from engaging a new toxicologists, lawyers and register any new court case which they believe would duplicate the current efforts undertaken by Bulolo district.
Basil and UoWRC president Rueben Miti denied claims that they failed to make submissions to his office regarding the severity of the Watut River pollution and that they did follow formal procedures in making submissions to get the provincial government’s assistance, and also formally invited the governor to last week’s forum, where his and Huon Gulf MP Sasa Zibe’s absence triggered an avalanche of criticism from the affected communities in Huon Gulf and Bulolo districts.
“The governor’s office is not functioning like the office it should be,” Basil said. “There is no internet, no telephone, no fax and he also does not have a mobile phone. You can not correspond with him, you have to track him down physically in order to do that.”
Miti said there should be no excuse for their absence as forum invitations were hand delivered and faxed two weeks in advance to both offices in Lae and parliament in Port Moresby. “It shows that the officers of the Huon Gulf MP and governor were not doing their jobs in these high public offices.” He also said they produced the first submission two days after the governor requested them to do after making the first commitment at Middle-Watut on Nov 29 three years ago, and after repeated another commitment to the Wampar people of Huon Gulf early last year, and went one step further by creating another Watut River union which in contrast to the UoWRC has politicians as executives.
“Damage has been done to our environment and we are not playing politics,” Miti said. “We want to know whether the governor will honour these commitments or not, it seems like he is trying to duplicate and divide the genuine authorities and the bodies already in place.”
Basil said the UoWRC did their part and Bulolo district after asking the governor’s office used K50,000 as legal fees for the mid-year litigation case which prominent lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr will represent the affected communities, while another K50,000 was also spent to engage top Morobean toxicologist Gama Gamato to examine the level of pollution in the river. “Whether you like it not, you must support our lawyer, our chemist and you must support the people of Morobe.”
The UoWRC organised forum last week agreed on a 21-day ultimatum and now awaits the position of the governor regarding his commitments and appealed to the departments of Environment and Conservation, Health, Mining and Mineral Resource Authorities to seriously look into the matter.