Special Bougainville Correspondent | ACT NOW!
The people of Panguna are not happy with the way their representative body, the Panguna Landowners Association is carrying out its activities and voicing the peoples’ concerns. Currently, the trend the association is taking is working towards the reopening of the mine. And the main issue repeatedly iterated by women, men, youth and elderly is the association has not been representing the people of Panguna.
One other main concern is the view of general population in other parts of Bougainville that people of Panguna are pushing for the reopening of the Panguna mine.
“Ol manmeri blo narapla hap iting mipla ilaikim displa mine lo open, tasol displa em ibikpla giaman stret (People from other parts of Bougainville think that we (people of Panguna) want this mine to open, but this is a big lie)” village elder Dapera. “Displa association imekim wok we ino makim maus blo pipol blo Panguna o bilong Bougainville tu (This association’s work does not represent the views of the people of Panguna or Bougainville too)” woman leader from Panguna.
Another issue which the people are not happy with is that the association is using people from outside Panguna to speak for them. The women especially are disputing that the representation by the association is fair. Women, who in fact are the landowners, are angered at the way in which the association is operating. A vocal woman in Guava stated….
“Taim yu lukim displa association, em ol liklik namba blong ol man tasol igo pas na oli save painim ol mausmeri blong autsait we igat wankain tingting osem ol bikos mipla ol meri lo hia ino laikim mining (When you look at this association, it is only the few men who are at the fore, and they look for women from outside who have the same interest as theirs because women here are against mining)”
From the many villagers that were asked the same question, most were very much disheartened with the current operation of the association. Most conveyed that the association executives (which consist of executives of the old PLA) have no heart for the people of Panguna who continue to live in the ruins of a poisoned environment. To the people of Panguna, the path of representation may eventually lead to another crisis, and they fear that this time it will be people of Bougainville pointing guns on themselves.
“Kain lidasip ol lidas iwok lo bihainim lo Panguna na lo Bogenvil tu em bihainim rot blo go insait lo narapla pait (The kind of leadership our leaders are following is going down the road towards another crisis)” former combatant Upper tailings, Panguna.
Hence, to question the association’s credibility to be unbiased is very much valid, there is much apprehension and mistrust towards the association that claims to represent them. Moreover, most people are not willing to come out and consult with PLA because of the fact the association is dealing with the corporation that according to the people’s view ‘destroyed the environment’. They believe the association should concentrate on making BCL compensate landowners for damage to the environment and not liaising with the company to reopen the mine.