President Chief Dr. John Momis has dropped a bolt from the blue with his recent remarks in Tabago of Buin in South Bougainville. Speaking at the ordination of a Catholic Priest last Sunday, President Momis let in on what would be significantly his most controversial move as President. “Panguna will be reopened by force” said the man whom on the other hand has always said he believes in non-violence.
Attending the ordination were many dignitaries who without a doubt heard the President’s remarks on this most contentious and controversial issue. What was certainly surprising for all was, beside the fact he dropped the bombshell at an occasion where it was not expected, the ABG President has proven his commitment to making sure the mine will reopen, by any means necessary.
He further went on to criticize the Panguna Landowners Association for being unreliable in fast tracking the process of reopening Panguna, and that so much resources and trust has been put on the association all to no avail in terms of outcome.
Most attendees were shocked to hear their President’s remarks and they could not grasp the intention of making such comments at an occasion that was not appropriate for it. If the region’s President has the intent to reopen the mine by force, this will definitely throw the whole region back to where it was 17 years ago – knowing that most factions have not given in their weapons. This will undermine the painstaking peace and reconciliation process that is already taking longer than the given time.
Much reconciliation is yet to be done throughout the island and yet President Momis is pushing for the mine to be opened without looking at the possible consequences. Even yet, mining consultation has reached a stalemate due to the Bel Kol controversy. The containment of weapons by peacekeepers was not successful and many factions continue to hold their weapons exactly for the reason of another situation such as what the President mentioned during his speech at the ordination.
What also came out clear is the President’s technique in creating division within the region by saying different things to different audiences. Not so long ago Dr. Momis was addressing the Panguna Landowners Association at their Inaugural Forum where he had not a problem with the members of the association which he has criticized now in Buin.
If this is going to be the intent of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, then it surely has defeated its purpose when it was first created. Chief Dr. Momis is now undoing the work of his predecessors. Moreover, though claiming to have achieved more than the previous two ABG presidents, Bougainville has become even more reliant on aid and grants from outside. The autonomous region’s economy is becoming highly dependent on aid and there is no alternative income generating avenue for ABG, something the Momis government has miserably failed upon due to all the resources put into one potential basket, the mine reopening.