Romulus Masiu | Post Courier
THE proposed “Bel Kol”, appeasement ceremony between Bougainville Copper Limited/Rio Tinto and Panguna landowners planned for this month has been put off indefinitely.
The postponement followed threats by disgruntled ex-combatants who are calling themselves Central No-Go Zone Hardliners in Kieta district, Central Bougainville.
The group had issued a five-page ultimatum ordering the postponement of the ceremony which was to also involve the Bougainville Autonomous Government in Arawa.
James Onartoo, who claims chairmanship, said it is an organised group made up of women, youths, community leaders and former combatants who oppose any “Bel Kol” negotiations between the Panguna landowners and Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL). Their protest letter has been copied to Bougainville President John Momis and other Bougainville leaders.
It reads, in part:
“We give this notice of order to all who planned the Bel Kol with BCL and Panguna landowners. As the hardliners who stood behind the late Francis Ona to see Bougainville set free from foreign exploitation, we feel we have been sidelined. We remind the people of Bougainville that having earned Bougainville Freedom through sweat, tears and blood, we humbly step aside and make way for our community and political leaders to lead us.
“We also know that it is our responsibility to ensure that all we sacrificed for during the war is not lost in the quest for profits by foreign exploiters. That is the purpose of the war why we lost our comrades, our families, our brothers and sisters throughout Bougainville is kept in our focus by our leaders, that is to regain our stolen rights. We see Bel Kol as a diversion from that focus.”
The group said that by custom it is right to initiate the Bel Kol.
“We haven’t met our brothers from PNG yet. Therefore, we order that the program be stopped until we reconcile with our PNG brothers and sisters. Anything to do with Australia, CRA and BCL follows on from there.
“We give an order that the Bel Kol be halted and everything planned put off immediately. We represent those who are against Bel Kol to reopen the Panguna Mine throughout Bougainville. Any further move to continue with Bel Kol will leave us with no option except to stop the event ourselves by any means,” the letter read.
BCL is understood to have been informed about the postponement, saying it would leave the matter to the Bougainville Government to sort out. President Momis was not available for comments.