Bougainville Special Correspondent
Self-proclaimed Me’ekamui Tribal Government of Unity (MGU) and Transpacific Ventures (TPV) entered an agreement in 2013 selling not just Panguna, but the entire island’s mineral rights to the company. Transpacific Ventures, with its Executive Director Renzie Duncan, designed a confidential Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the tribal government which virtually holds no authority on Bougainville, let alone Panguna.
The deal was drafted in the hope of utilizing the now Bougainville Transitional Mining Act. Which despite stiff opposition, was passed in ABG’s House of Representatives on 26th of March 2015.
The MGU’s self-declared president Philip Miriori; who has ambitiously pawned the entire island’s mineral rights for economic investment to the illegal government, emits a long trail of smoke that is getting thicker as the PNG Prime Minister is becoming more involved.
Now it would be assumed that ABG is aware of this agreement whether by formal means or hearsay, nevertheless both governments have an on and off relationship. But if there can be any speculation to this, MGU might be ABG’s ticket to Panguna. And having the so called tribal government being ‘the voice’ of the people of Panguna, will be a pretext to initially kick starting reopening of Panguna.
MGU is one of the many spent shell casings from the once well organised guerilla government that chased out a giant mining corporation, and out-maneuvered an Australian supplied and trained military. Under Late Francis Ona, Me’ekamui was the deterrent from foreign and corporate vultures. This is not the case today.
President Philip Miriori, who has come out as a sleazy operator; has been in the business of forking out from ‘investors’ like as Tall J, United Resources Management, Bill Wang and TPV. His motives may be for personal gain or so to speak, because he has not been able to initiate anything apart from bringing in the district government into Panguna. Presumably his hidden work may be coming undone with the recent spate of activities by the PM O’Neill.
The speculation is Philip Miriori is working closely with TPV as the mining company and the PNG government as a potential funder for the reopening. Hence, the PNG PM is looking at purchasing the 53.83% shares from Rio Tinto, not only that, but has appointed himself as the Minister for Bougainville Affairs.
If this is the case, it is logical to predict repercussion of instability on the island. There are well armed factions that still exist and very much tainted by the issue of mining.
The people of Panguna, since pre-crisis have been misrepresented by their own leaders, relenting too much against the people’s cries on the degradation and destruction of their environment. It is important to note that Bougainville is predominantly matrilineal, and landowner representation at that time were representative-wise contrary. It was not until late leaders, Francis Ona and Perpetua Serero took over the Panguna Landowners Association.
Lest should it be forgotten that men took to arms under Francis Ona as a measure of deterrence and defense. Perpetua Serero’s inspiration had as much influence as well. Women had had enough and demanded their men to take action. And customarily, men are responsible for defending the land of their mothers and daughters. This has been the practice of the people for thousands of years.
What happened afterwards is a history that exposed BCL’s arrogance and embarrassed a government.
Importantly, what can be defined from the region’s past to todays are the same issues of misrepresentation, greed and arrogance. These were key issues that led to the crisis. It is a no brainer to point out these issues with the current leadership.