Momis makes a predictable attack on ‘Voices of Bougainville’ report

Bougainville President John Momis has come out swinging against a report which reveals deep seated opposition to the reopening of the Panguna mine – and predictably his attack ignores the main findings, misrepresents that basic thesis, is bombastic, and castigates opponents as meddling ‘activists’…

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Bougainville President Momis attacks report on Panguna mine

Post Courier

Bougainville President John Momis has attacked a report on the decommissioned Panguna mine, describing it “misleading and irresponsible”.

The report by Jubilee Australia will be launched in Sydney tomorrow and tabled in the Australian parliament in Canberra on Friday by the Australian Greens Party leader Christine Milne.

Momis said the report was “factually inaccurate, biased and methodologically unsound”.

He said it was “dishonest in claiming that interviews with 65 individuals selected by its authors from the 10,000 or so people in the affected areas allows it to represent the voices of them and the 300,000 people of Bougainville”.

The report claims the voices of mine-affected communities “have been distant from recent public discussion” about the possible reopening of the Panguna and was critical of Bougainville government consultations with landowner which Jubilee suggested had largely excluded communities around the mine.

“Far from being excluded, affected landowners have been at the centre of all discussions regarding Panguna since they commenced in 2009,” Momis said.

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6 Comments

Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

6 responses to “Momis makes a predictable attack on ‘Voices of Bougainville’ report

  1. Harold Gimlet

    Momis has a track record of trying to undermine reports when the findings are inconsistent with his world view. Last year a comprehensive study (part published in the Lancet) reported alarming levels of domestic and sexual violence against women in Bougainville. Momis dismissed it, writing in the Post Courier words to the effect of, “If it had been such a problem, I would have known about it.” The re-opening of Panguna seems to be just another instance of Momis being wilfully blind to the will of the people of Bougainville.

    A question for Regan, did you write Momis’ response? The metadata for the PDF suggests it was written at ANU.

  2. I was unimpressed by the Jubilee report, although it’s attractively presented. There’s actually not much there, and that’s not surprising. I’ve done reseach on Bougainville (before the crisis) and the report cites my work. I know how difficult it is to learn what people of another culture are really thinking, and I don’t in any way accept that showing up as outsiders, asking some questions over a short period of time, coding the answers and claiming to be “speaking” for Bougainvilleans is meaningful.

    The Jubilee people seem a decent sort and I’m completely on board with their politics (mine are distinctly left-wing) but that doesn’t mean I automatically accept their report.

    Look — where are the questions that were asked? That’s the most serious omission in this report. If they’re to be found in the report, I missed them. It’s impossible to take a survey seriously without knowing what the questions were. Common practice is to divulge the questions . . . but they aren’t in the report. Is that deliberate? I hope not, but why aren’t they there?

    Who did the data analysis? Were any of the fieldworkers social scientists? The people who worked with the data — what are their credentials?

    Here’s what I mean. I’m sure I could go back to Nagovisi, in Bougainville, and create a series of questions to get pretty much any response I wanted to. Anybody could; it’s nothing to do with my abilities. It’s not difficult; it has to do with the nature of the questions and the way that they’re asked, as well as of whom they’re asked. It’s basic research design, and research reports that do not divulge the questions cannot be taken seriously.

    Again, I’m on board with Jubilee’s general goals but this smells very strongly to me of “research” meant to buttress a prior conclusion. One should not, as one of my professors (also cited in the report) used to say, design studies to be used as a drunk uses a lamppost — more for support than illumination. Or, putting what Harold Gimlet said a bit differently, pushing reports when the findings are consistent with their world view.

    • Kristian Lasslett

      Don, I must begin the reply with a caveat, I have huge admiration for your scholarship and the work you did with the Nagovisi. It was arguably the most thought provoking from the period, and I have said this elsewhere, many times. Your work offered the most prescient warning of what was potentially coming down the line, and it stands the test of time.

      But I must say your comment here do not echo the rigorous, thoughtful, fair-minded scholar I am familiar with from your work in the 1970s and 1980s. I say this as it begins with a rather uncharitable remark: ‘Although it’s attractively presented. There’s actually not much there, and that’s not surprising’. I must say this is hardly a collegial way to begin any review, especially one you are ‘sympathetic’ to in principle.

      You go on to note: ‘I know how difficult it is to learn what people of another culture are really thinking, and I don’t in any way accept that showing up as outsiders, asking some questions over a short period of time, coding the answers and claiming to be “speaking” for Bougainvilleans is meaningful’.

      There are two distinct problems with this comment. 1) The report never claims to speak on behalf of Bougainvilleans. It only claims to have presented the views relayed by 65 interviewees – that is what qualitative, exploratory work is all about; 2) You assume those issues about parachute research were not intensely discussed, and dealt with in a rigorous fashion.

      ‘Look — where are the questions that were asked? That’s the most serious omission in this report … Common practice is to divulge the questions’.

      See p.50 of the report. for the questions.

      You ask:

      ‘Who did the data analysis? Were any of the fieldworkers social scientists? The people who worked with the data — what are their credentials?’

      The Jubilee Research committee, I sat on that committee. I have a doctorate and have been conducting research in Melanesia for 10 years. My colleagues are also well establish scholars with a record of internationally excellent research.

      Fieldworkers went through an extensive period of training in interview methods, in fact dare I say the process was gruelling. And we met many times when conducting the data analysis, to debate and reconsider coding.

      ‘ It’s basic research design, and research reports that do not divulge the questions cannot be taken seriously’.

      See p.50.

      You conclude ‘Again, I’m on board with Jubilee’s general goals but this smells very strongly to me of “research” meant to buttress a prior conclusion’.

      Frankly no. And we agonised over the questions to ensure this; we were not unaware that if the findings did contradict existing wisdom it would be attacked on this very basis, so numerous steps were taken to ensure the design was rigorous.

      And this project has been 2 years in the making, it has involved extensive deliberations, extensive debate, and frenetic peer review. You seem to insinuate the report says nothing new, or of great worth. Yet the report goes well beyond mining, and delves into a range of complex issues I would have thought you would appreciate.

      How many studies exist which attempt to understand, collate and conceptualise in a deeply qualitative fashion the historical interweave of experiences that emerge from the holistic experience of mining, conflict and transition in the Panguna region. Not many that I am aware of (there has been a couple interesting papers, but not a huge amount).

      As someone who has been working for 10 years on this issue, I found the data compelling; people’s story of historical marginalisation and brutalisation, coupled to a very interesting resilience that emerged during the war years. I also thought the remarks on going slow with mining, allowing time to heal, devoting more attention to memorialisation and truth recovery,to be very thoughtful indeed, and perhaps not surprising.

      I am more than happy to discuss these issues further, email me any time. And I remain an unashamed admirer of your research, and continue to recommend it as essential readings for students of Melanesia.

  3. Hello Kristian —

    Probably this isn’t the appropriate forum for a larger discussion, which I’d be happy to have with you, either privately or publically.

    Here’s the thing: I read the “questions” on p. 50, but these are the general questions that the researchers wanted to try to answer, aren’t they?

    What I was looking for, and did not find, was the protocol used in the field (except on p. 32, “Would you support . . . “).

    I’m not sure what “Key corresponding elements from the interviews” means in practice. Unless the interviews were free-form, and the implication is that they weren’t, then in what way did the interviewers elicit “Respondents’ view of the first approach and establishment of the Panguna mine in the 1960s and 70s?”

    Did they have a written set of questions they meant to ask? If so, what were those questions? Of course no two interviews ever go the same way anywhere in the world.

    And although the report states “The interviews were carried out by two researchers . . . ” I didn’t see the names and credentials of the researchers. I think that’s important. Can you tell me why that is? Field research isn’t something just anybody can do, or, putting it another way, even a first-rate researcher’s skill set might not be appropriate to a particular research setting. I’d like to know whether the two researchers were social scientists, whether they had advanced training, whether they themselves spoke tok pisin well, and so on.

    I didn’t praise the parts of the report that I admired, and I’m sorry for that. The historical narrative and the interweaving of experiences were excellent and I did appreciate them. No doubt about that.

    There’s a general issue that’s been bothering me for a long time, and it’s about inclusiveness. It’s not in any way surprising that many people from the mining are, at most, wary of having mining resumed (how could they not be?) and many are completely against it.

    I don’t know that that’s news. In what way is it surprising that the people who suffered the most from the mine in the main oppose its resumption? In what way is it surprising that an organisation such as Jubilee should and does oppose the mine for a variety of reasons?

    But there are other Bougainvillean voices and they are not heard. I’m unwilling to accept that “Voices of Bougainville” are only voices of Nasioi from the area around the mine.

    The people near the mine have the largest stake in all this, without a doubt. But there are nearly 200,000 other Bougainvilleans. What do they think? (I don’t know; nobody knows.) They have a stake in mining issues as well. They suffered during the fighting.

    It’s all more complex than the report allows for — and yet, almost all press I’ve seen takes the position “Bougainvilleans don’t want the mine!” and the report is even being tabled in the Australian Parliament.

    Much of what I read and see online is not inaccurate but, I think, is incomplete.

    And let’s remember that I was driven to make my comment by the previous condescending comment about John Momis.

    I had better say clearly that I’ve never wavered from my position that BCPL and PNG (and before independence, the Australian Administration) acted very badly — yes, criminally — in connection with the mine.

    And I think the way forward for Bougainville ought to be mainly in primary industry, namely agriculture. I was glad to see (p. 43) that this seems to be a favored alternative.

    I do think that although the resumption of mining is inevitable, Bougainvilleans everywhere have to be hyper-vigilant not to be taken advantage of. The forces they oppose have great power but are not invincible (as it were).

    My wish for the ABG and the groups around the mine is that they find ways to enlist their own “hired guns,” namely consultants, regardless of political persuasion, who are intimately familiar with the rough and tumble world of multinational economics and who work for Bougainvilleans and only them. I’d like to think that when negotiations with any mining company begins, that the corporate types will nervously say to each other, “Looks like they’ve got X on their team . . . this isn’t going to be easy.”

    Central Bougainville — much less the whole island — must not end up being a “company town,” but this can only happen if there are realistic alternatives for young people.

    The last time I was on Bougainville (2001) I was again struck (as I was back in the sixties and early seventies) by the enormous quantity of intellectual and other talent in the rural areas.

    I would like to continue this discussion, Kristian.

  4. Pingback: Bougainville Panguna News : President Momis in depth response to controversial Jubilee report | Bougainville News

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