Fijian villagers continue to say no to Newcrest Mining

In another unprecedented meeting that took place yesterday in Waivaka Village, Namosi, government officials led by the head of Mineral Resources Department (Malakai Finau), got gob-smacked by very clear, strong and bold Namosi landowners.

Having prepared for the meeting by putting their daily chores on hold, the entire Waivaka village of some 200+ waited patiently for the arrival of the MRD delegation to start the meeting at 10am (time set by the visitors – who arrived after 11.45am). Present at the meeting were – MRD (Malakai Finau), Lands, Fiji Police Force, Provincial Council, PWD Engineers and the Villagers of Waivaka. The visitors were met by the community protest banners flying proud and high in their village – ‘NO MINING’, ‘SAVE OUR PARADISE’.

The agenda was set by MRD on the behest of global mining giant Newcrest under Namosi Joint Venture – the issue: the blocking of access to NJV by the landowners pending grievances that have not been resolved over the past 12 months. The community hall was packed to capacity with men, women and youth (and children) ready to hear from MRD With regards to the lifting of the ban, and why it is important for landowners to play ball – by letting NJV continue access for their work. What happened was nothing short of awesome and inspiring on the part of the non-formally educated landowners who took the delegation to task from the word go – literally.

In a tag-team effort, the landowners intercepted the agenda, hijacked it and left the delegation looking askance and uncomfortable – again.

First off, the spokesman, demanded to know why the delegation was late. That as villagers, there is a lot to do in a day rather then sitting around waiting for a delegation who set the meeting time and they were told that if they say 10am then be there at that time and have some respect for the villagers.

From the response of the engineer who was there (the bridge that they crossed needed surveying) the agenda was thrown out the window and the landowners had a field day dictating the direction of the meeting. Not happy with the response from the engineer, the spokesman then turned to the Provincial rep berating him for jumping to NJV’s whining while it is them who have the real greviances. The Provincial rep was asked ‘who do you work for?’ to which he of course, hung his head in shame. At this point, the Hall began emptying with villagers not wanting to waste anymore time listening to flimsy excuses and further lies from those who are now seen to be doing NJVs’ bidding.

In an attempt to salvage their meeting agenda and one supposes, their collective pride, the delegation then handed over the meeting to the police rep (who hid his badge number) for him to bring out the main gun – lift the ban or be taken to jail. It was noted that the police rep spoke strongly about the illegality of the ban put in place by the landowners. But he was speaking strongly to a steadily emptying community Hall.

The final comment of the day came from the Turaga-ni-Mataqali or the clan headman, an old catechist with a lot of passion and growing confidence who straightened himself up to sitting position, looked coldly at the police officer and said to him ‘I am the landowner, are you threatening me? If you want to remove the ban, then you remove it. But hear me today – we are not going to remove the ban and allow access, not today not ever. You want to take us to jail, go ahead and take all of us. You say that what we are doing is illegal – what about what NJV is doing to us – their lies, their illegal activities that has breached our agreement; is that legal? Why are you not arresting them, why do you come here to us?’.

After this statement to which he needed no response, the old man stood up and left the meeting Hall to go and have lunch.

And here is the kicker – in a Fijian village, the visitor is hailed and feted and if they are from Government, the more effort is put in. Yesterday, Malakai Finau, Head of MRD in Fiji was made to look a fool with his Government friends. At the end of the meeting, all that was left in the previously filled Hall were the Government delegation and two school-boys who were kind enough to stay and taki their kava. The rest of the villagers – having waited and heard nothing but threats and more NJV strong-arming, went back to their homes and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.

Overheard by one villager was the NJV rep asking the police rep, on their way out, about the success of the delegation in getting the Company access again. The villager overheard the police rep saying ‘no, not now’.

The war rages on.

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21 Comments

Filed under Fiji, Human rights

21 responses to “Fijian villagers continue to say no to Newcrest Mining

  1. wesely

    This article is ridiculous
    Why ?
    Its not that the villages want to ban mining.
    They want some thing else in exchange.
    That’s clear from the report that access to the mine site is denied by land owners “pending grievances that have not been resolved over the past 12 months.”
    Typical of land owners, they don’t care about the nation, merely their own personal interests.

  2. James Sereti

    Good on them! It’s not just this village, but over the last three months its been the same. Good on Mine Watch for telling the Fijian story also.You people continue to impress – and always focussed.

  3. Kaikoso

    It is true, everyone wants something! In this case all us Fiji citizens would like clear and transparent discussions about the costs and benefits of such a massive mine. Hopefully with the new openness of the regime we will be given much more time to understand what the options are and help government, villagers and all citizens to get the best for Fiji and us all. Certainly we cannot trust a mining company in this matter! Vinaka Minewatch and all contributors!

    • wesely

      Actually, the miner is not the party you need to watch.
      It’s the government tthat will be the problem.
      It’s a three legged stool.
      Take one leg away and it will fall over.
      The people also need to organize them selves.
      They need to develop expertise related to management of their interests both with respect to the mining operations and governance issues.
      They can not expect to simply assume that others will look after their interests.
      This is the way of the world.
      Information is important in this process and without a frank, open, and constructive exchange in communications there can be no progress for any of the three parties.
      It also requires good will.
      Each of the three parties must be held to account by the other two parties.
      This is not happening in PNG.
      My observation is that conflicts between landowners and miners are more often than not caused by government failure to observe their obligations.
      Case in point in PNG, Simberi.

  4. NamosiNOw

    Wesley, you miss the point and bigger picture. The fact is; THEY ARE PROTESTING AND STANDING UP TO THE PAPER SHUFFLING, THIEVING people who work for the government under the guise of “working for the people”.
    The small step in a long journey one hopes.

    • wesely

      NamosiNOw
      No, I didn’t miss the point at all.
      The point is simple.
      If you want some thing, say so.
      If you don’t want some thing, likewise.
      But treat all humans with respect and don’t play games.
      The greed and need is on both sides.
      Balancing these interests is the key to better outcomes.

  5. As Wesley rightfully points out, the villagers are negotiating for a better deal for themselves. I wish PNG villagers had a bit more brain cells to do likewise instead of settling for “liklik sispop”

  6. wesely

    Yes, good on them but what?
    No one seems to know what they want.

  7. j kross

    Typical Melanesians playing hard to get but they often crack when opportunity can no longer be suppressed. I’ve been to numerous such meetings in PNG where landowners talked like superman, intimidated and abused government and company officials but were clueless as to what they really wanted. What normally happens is that a section of the group finally breaks the solidarity, enters into negotiations and the project goes through. Missed opportunities for royalty, employment and compensation will become too tempting for some to resist and they will cave. Those banners will burn.

    • wesely

      Yes, its a pretty poor way of getting an outcome.
      But standing in the shoes of the land owners, they have no expertise on their side and no understanding of the bigger picture.
      In Australia land owners are organised, have highly skilled negotiators and consultantans, and generally get good outcomes for their communities.
      They are very much ahead of the game now days.

    • wesely

      j kross
      Must say that it is very much the usual case that the “Melansian Way” dicates a lot of emotion and noise with very little thought and consideration.
      Thats very much why, despite the introduction of open government and democratic process, and every opportunity to advance the lives of their constituents, these states nearly always remain on or over the borderline of “failed state” status.
      The same in PNG, unfortunately save in the case of the Highlanders who seem to be vastly more adaptable and focussed on social and community advancement.

  8. You don’t need to tell the landowners..ask them..if they want it..good..if not..then leave..simple..the ball is in their court..To me..the future generation is the key..they survive on the land and that is what they live on..planting their food and other basic neccessities will also make them suffer..that’s the bottom line..GOOD ON YOU LANDOWNERS..STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS!!!

  9. Grant Bridger

    My love and power to you in your fight. Money is the root of all evil and more than enough indigenous life in all forms is being thwarted and raped and pillaged. GREED IS A DEEPLY UNATTRACTIVE TRAIT. I celebrate your courage and know it must ne a dangerous mission. i will pass this onto my FACEBOOK friends. Are you getting support from organisations in NZ?

  10. wesely

    Grant
    All you comment is emotion.
    Same response is made by the mis-informed in Australia by the coffee and chardonnay sipping idealist re Aboriginal Land Rights.
    For years there were voices like yours squealing about the injustice of mining on customary land.
    The only problem was that aboriginal people, who had for the last 60,000 years, been condemned by their circumstance, to suck the bile and gastric juices from kangaroos, and to drink stagnant green water to survive, did not agree with the green left.
    Far from it, they had struggled to survive in a hostile environment whilst, in the latter part of the 20th century your ilk would have them remain in the desert as living museum like objects to satisfy their bizarre and discriminatory beliefs.
    And now, in another context, we have the same mentality being expressed in relation to this story.
    We want the benefits of others sacrifice, we like to drive to town in a car, nice corrugated iron roof in the wet season, we like to have the benefit of electricity and first class western medical services to ensure that the infant mortality rate is minimal, we like to think we can send our ids to a good university in a first world country, where, perhaps, they may reside and earn a good income and send some back home, but when it comes to being part of that world it’s NOT IN MY BACK YARD.
    But it’s OK if it’s from someone else’s back yard.
    It’s OK if we receive vast amounts of assistance from others as long as we don’t have to contribute to any one else’s community.
    Its ok to use the words “rape” and “pillage” as long as it’s in some one else’s back yard.
    Farmers are the ones who have raped and pillaged the natural envionment, not the miners in a ration of about 100,000 to 1.
    So do we brand farmers then the rapers and pillagers of the land???
    Grant, grow up.

  11. Randi Siafo

    And believe me Grant when it comes to ignorance and stupidity this “Wesely” fellow is an expert!

    Don’t worry about anything he says – no one else does.

  12. wesely

    Randi
    Stop being a purile selfserving twat.
    I have been working for land owners, for the last 30 years.
    Go hug a tree idiot.

  13. kwaca na vatu

    hahahha..Good one ….Turaga ni mataqali….thats it..stand up for your right and tell them straight…..we don’t need their money, just leave our land alone…..

  14. wesely

    kwaca
    If you bothered to read anything I have said you woould realize just how stupid it is to assert that I have any particular interest in supporting mining on land under customary title.
    If you don’t want mining thats your decsiin and thats exactly what I have been saying all along, IF ANYONE BOTHERED TO READ MY POSTS.
    I am very much of the view that if people enjoy a customary life then they should not be expected to want change.
    They should not have to foriegn aid and mining royalties forced on them.
    These are the things which erode customary title and culture.
    Indeed, foriegn aid is the very last thing you should accept.
    The last thing cutomary title owners should want are those things that erode tradition.
    I personally advocate of the withdrawal of all forms of aid.
    I belive that traditional societies should be preserved as they are.
    You don’t needs cars, money, health services, televisions, electricity, galvernized iron, education, nor rugby.
    You should be left alone, as you were for thousands of years.
    Let the rest of the world pass you by.
    Your community is not ready for the radical change that mining might bring.
    Nor do you need christianity, you should be left to practice your old ways as tradition demands.
    Thats my take on the whole thing.

  15. Richie

    Wesley,

    “Some thing” is one word champ.

  16. Pingback: Social Concerns Notes – January 2012 | Social Concerns

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