Radio New Zealand | 31 March 2017
A human rights group in Papua New Guinea is sticking to its allegation that a Canadian mining company is behind a police raid near the Porgera gold mine last weekend.
The Akali Tange Association now says about 50 houses were burnt down in the operation and that police raped and assaulted villagers.
The mine co-owners Barrick Gold deny any involvement and dispute the number of homes that were destroyed.
Barrick says the operation was conducted under warrants issued by the Porgera District Court after drugs and evidence of other illegal activity was found there.
The company says police had notified individuals the temporary structures would be removed in advance of the operation.
It says its investigating the incident and encourages the Akali Tange Association to produce names of victims of abuse.
The association’s Chairman Langan Muri talked to Jo O’Brien.
LANGAN MURI: Barrick-hired police have burnt down the houses up there, around 50 houses almost. That same village has been burned down previously and it adds up to more than a hundred. We believe that area belongs to Barrick. Any operation or whatever happens in that area has to be reported to Barrick. Barrick is supposed to know in advance before the police operations in those areas. So that operation up there in Wangima village is illegal and it’s abuse by the police personnel and Barrick.
JO O’BRIEN: Barrick are now saying that 18 structures were removed and that they didn’t know anything about the police operation?
LM: They should say 18 but it’s like they want to cover up the previous houses burnt in that same village. And now the incident happened again, and the police broke into the area and they seem to be saying that the Magistrate of Porgera has given them an order but it’s nothing to do with PNG Government because that area is leased area of Porgera Joint Venture. And Porgera Joint Venture is supposed to be giving instructions to policemen to walk down into the area, to burn down, do any operation in there. But why should the Magistrate of Porgera giving orders to burn down that village. Barrick is giving us false information that it’s Government that’s doing it, but actually it’s not Government. I want Barrick to relocate the entire village living around the area. Let the mining activities go ahead, people and pets, children playing around the mine site and company seems to be saying illegally trespassing and police every now and then shooting people, raping people, burning down houses. And I strongly call on the national Government and Barrick to relocate the people living around the areas.
JO: Your association initially said there were 150 houses burnt down. Do you mean that was including previous operations as well or was that all on the weekend?
LM: Exactly total previous up to 150 plus.
JO: So you’re saying there were 50 houses burnt down at the weekend is that right?
JO: The allegations about rape and violence, what can you say about that as to what happened over the weekend?
LM: Police walked into the houses while they were sleeping and they raped. The victims are still coming every day to report to us. Some school girls were being raped inside the houses while they were fast asleep.
JO: Do you have an idea of how many people were raped or beaten?
LM: Three have reported already to us, three school girls who have been raped. I couldn’t give you the exact number because people are still coming and when I am finalised with how many people were assaulted and raped I will give you figure.
JO: Barrick are saying that they were not aware that this operation was happening. But how do you know then that they are responsible?
LM: Barrick seems to be saying that permission was granted from a Magistrate up at Porgera but that area is a special mining lease for Barrick. Police officers, mobile squad and they are hired by Barrick so they are living in Barrick camps. It’s believed that Barrick has done is given a command to these employees because they are hired, paid and they are sleeping in the camps and it’s like employee of Barrick.