Bougainville Freedom Movement
On 12 January 2016, Papua New Guinea’s prime minister, Peter O’Neill, took on the portfolio of Bougainville Affairs in his latest cabinet reshuffle. Mr O’Neill says this is because the autonomous region is a top priority for the government as it heads towards a referendum on possible independence.
The Leader of the Opposition Don Polye queried the motive behind the Prime Minister Peter O’Neill giving himself the Bougainville Affairs Ministry in light of the looming vote on a referendum. Don Poyle then described the minor reshuffle as ‘self-serving and not in the best interest of the country.’
Then on 21 January 2016, Papua New Guinea opposition MP Sam Basil warned about the prime minister Peter O’Neill’s interest in the Panguna mine in Bougainville.
“Mr O’Neill last month (December 2015) met with the president of the autonomous Bougainville region, John Momis, over a reported government proposal to purchase 53% of Rio Tinto’s shares in Bougainville Copper Limited.
Mr Momis, whose administration has been in recent discussions with BCL about a possible re-opening of the mine, rejected the proposal. The prime minister has since denied that the government is interested in buying in on Panguna.”
But Mr Basil says Mr O’Neill’s latest move to appoint himself Minister for Bougainville Affairs is ominous.
“With his actions, in terms of dealing with other mines – Tolukuma and Ok Tedi – I think the people of Bougainville should be very wary of the prime minister’s actions, and they should be very careful on how they allow the prime minister to deal with their mine. So we should be very careful with Mr Peter O’Neill. He has lied to us many times.”
It is very interesting now that the President of Bougainville, John Momis doesn’t mind that Peter O’Neill is the Minister for Bougainville Affairs because “the advantage is that the buck stops with Mr O’Neill, so there can be no excuses”.
But O’Neill has already stopped the bucks.
On 29 December 2015, John Momis said many millions of dollars is owed to Bougainville as per the peace agreement concluded with PNG in 2001.
“In a lengthy statement, Mr Momis says his government estimates that PNG has underpaid Bougainville for the recurrent unconditional grant and owes at least US$33 million dollars, which must be paid immediately.”
“The president says Bougainville is owed another US$207 million under the Restoration and Development Grant. Mr Momis says the national tax office is also failing to hand over taxes collected in Bougainville.”
Is the PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his government holding President John Momis and the people of Bougainville to ransom?
Are Rio Tinto and Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) influencing the PNG Prime Minister?