Chairman of a human rights organization, Bougainville Indigenous Rights Advocacy (BIRA), James Onartoo, has raised concerns that the ABG President Momis is deliberately trying to spread misinformation to push his government’s proposal to amend the Bougainville Mining Act.
Mr. Onartoo was responding to a draft letter of response by President Momis to concerns expressed by the Prime Minister in his letter to the President on the proposed amendment. The letter in which the President downplayed the Prime Minister’s concerns was posted recently on social media.
Mr. Onartoo said that the proposed amendment drew wide opposition because it removed protection of customary landowners’ rights and attempted to replace it with vague benefits and entitlements that lacked detail.
“You cannot remove and replace existing protection of the rights of customary landowners with imaginary rewards that may never materialize in the end,” he said.
Mr. Onartoo was also critical of the way ABG was handpicking people to drum up support in the mine affected areas to help push through the amendments. He said the ABG had never obtained “free, prior informed consent” (FPIC) in the mine affected areas and instead it has tried to avoid those who opposed mining, causing further divisions in the mine affected communities.
“Under FPIC the people have the right to say no to mining and the government should respect the wishes of the people and support them. Instead the government has gone abroad to make a deal and it is now trying to involved the landowners after the laws are drafted along with the proposed amendment to cater for monopolization of mining by a single mining company ”, Mr Onartoo said.
The Vice President, Raymond Masono and Finance Minister Robin Wilson left yesterday for Port Moresby to hand deliver the letter from President Momis to the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill.
Meanwhile, ABG Parliamentary Legislative Committee’s inquiry into the amendment bill continues in Central Bougainville and according to it’s Chairman and member for Kokoda constituency, Rodney Osioco, there is a growing opposition from all stakeholders and the general public, to the proposed bill by the ABG to amend the Bougainville Mining Act.