Tag Archives: James Onartoo

Bougainville: Australia positions itself as chief new coloniser ahead of referendum

The controversial Panguna mine which land holders are fighting to stop being re-opened for foreign profiteers.

Susan Price | Green Left Weekly | June 14, 2019

A spokesperson for the Bougainville Hardliners Group has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to explain why the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were at the controversial Panguna mine site in central Bougainville on June 5.

AFP officers were seen taking GPS readings at the abandoned copper mine site. James Onartoo, a former leader of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, said the community has a right to know why they were there and what they were doing.

“I think the public is owed an explanation as to what is happening,” said Onartoo. “To the best of my knowledge the AFP were ousted in 2007 on suspicion of spying on the ABG and the people of Bougainville by the former President, late Joseph Kabui.”

He suggested that their presence could be linked to the mine’s controversial reopening.

“Their presence at Panguna, which is the site of so much controversy and disagreements plus issues of sensitive nature stemming from proposed reopening by ABG, raises serious questions considering the fact that, in the past, Australia has always supported military intervention by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to regain control of the mine.”

Onartoo said if the AFP can raid the ABC, “they are capable of anything”, including gathering intelligence “for the purpose of regaining control of Panguna and restarting the mine with use of force”.

The June 11 ABC Radio Pacific Beat said the AFP confirmed that members from the Papua New Guinea-Australia Policing Partnership did visit the site to “undertake an assessment of capability development for support to the Bougainville Police Service”.

Onartoo said Australia’s interest in the mineral deposits at Panguna has never declined. He has criticised Australia’s advice that the ABG prioritise mining over agriculture, tourism, fishing and other sustainable industries.

Several companies, including of Australian origin, are vying to reopen the Panguna mine, which was shut down in 1990 after a brutal battle against mostly indigenous landholders who received none of the huge profits generated by the mine. More than 20,000 people were killed during the 10 year civil war.

The Bougainville Hardliners Group has been actively resisting attempts by the ABG to weaken the Mining Act to give foreign companies exclusive rights to large-scale mining. It opposes further large-scale mining in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region, saying the focus should be on sustainable alluvial mining.

Bougainville is scheduled to hold its independence referendum in October under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement. The referendum outcome then has to be ratified by the PNG parliament.

The ABG has expressed its desire to reopen the Panguna mine.

Legislation to amend the Mining Act is currently being debated in the PNG parliament. According to landowners, the proposed amendments would effectively remove customary ownership of minerals and remove landowners’ veto rights over mining projects.

Onartoo has said that Bougainville’s 350,000 people do not need large-scale mining, and that the changes being proposed are in breach of sections 23 and 24 of Bougainville’s constitution as well as the Mining Act which provides protection from a repeat of “the ownership of minerals on the island by colonisers”.

A report by Papua New Guinea Mine Watch in January said Australian businessperson Jeffrey McGlinn of Caballus Mining is pushing for the act to be amended. A Radio New Zealand report said McGlinn “wanted to shortcut a number of what it calls complicated requirements in the act to fast track vital infrastructure development in Bougainville and boost employment ahead of the referendum”.

However, other reports suggest that he is more focussed on seizing control of major mineral deposits across Bougainville ahead of the referendum.

The Osikaiyang Landowners group has referred the government’s mining plans to the Papua New Guinea Ombudsman.

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Photo confirms AFP officers visit to the Panguna mine

Australian Federal Police take photos at the site of the abandoned Panguna mine.

AFP PRESENCE AT BOUGAINVILLE MINE RAISES SUSPICIONS

The Chairman of Bougainville Hardliners Group and former combatant turned businessman, James Onartoo has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Police Minister to explain what the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were doing at the site of the controversial Panguna mine on Wednesday, June 5.

According to Mr. Onartoo, members of the communities around the mine site became suspicious when they saw the Australian police taking GPS readings at various points around the mine. This points included the one where the mining company BCL considered building an airstrip in the early part of the Bougainville crisis, to bring in aircraft supposedly to evacuate expatriate mine workers and their families out of Panguna.

“I think the public is owed an explanation as to what is happening. To the best of my knowledge the AFP were ousted in 2007 on suspicions of spying on the ABG and the people of Bougainville by the former President, late Joseph Kabui.

“Their presence at Panguna, which is the site of so much controversy and disagreements plus issues of sensitive nature stemming from proposed reopening by ABG, raises serious questions considering the fact that in the past Australia always supported military intervention by Papua New Guinea Defense Force to regain control of the mine.

“If AFP can raid ABC office in Australia itself then they are capable of anything including maybe gathering intelligence on ground for the purpose of regaining control of Panguna and restarting the mine with use of force,” Mr. Onartoo said. 

Mr Onartoo said that it is a well known fact that Australia’s interest in the mineral deposits at Panguna never declined and Australian advisors to ABG have denounced agriculture, tourism, fisheries and other sustainable industries saying that only mining is able to finance Bougainville’s independence. Several companies which are vying to reopen the Panguna mine, which was shutdown by landowners in 1990, are also of Australian origin. 

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AFP PRESENCE AT BOUGAINVILLE MINE RAISES SUSPICIONS

Presence of the Australian Federal Police at Panguna is being questioned

Chris Baria | June 8 2019

The Chairman of Bougainville Hardliners Group and former combatant turned businessman, James Onartoo has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Police Minister to explain what the Australian Federal Police (AFP) were doing at the site of the controversial Panguna mine on Wednesday, June 5.

According to Mr. Onartoo, members of the communities around the mine site became suspicious when they saw the Australian police taking GPS readings at various points around the mine. This points included the one where the mining company BCL considered building an airstrip in the early part of the Bougainville crisis, to bring in aircraft supposedly to evacuate expatriate mine workers and their families out of Panguna.

“I think the public is owed an explanation as to what is happening. To the best of my knowledge the AFP were ousted in 2007 on suspicions of spying on the ABG and the people of Bougainville by the former President, late Joseph Kabui.

“Their presence at Panguna, which is the site of so much controversy and disagreements plus issues of sensitive nature stemming from proposed reopening by ABG, raises serious questions considering the fact that in the past Australia always supported military intervention by Papua New Guinea Defense Force to regain control of the mine.

“If AFP can raid ABC office in Australia itself then they are capable of anything including maybe gathering intelligence on ground for the purpose of regaining control of Panguna and restarting the mine with use of force,” Mr. Onartoo said. 

Mr Onartoo said that it is a well known fact that Australia’s interest in the mineral deposits at Panguna never declined and Australian advisors to ABG have denounced agriculture, tourism, fisheries and other sustainable industries saying that only mining is able to finance Bougainville’s independence. Several companies which are vying to reopen the Panguna mine, which was shutdown by landowners in 1990, are also of Australian origin. 

The AFP party, which comprised of three policemen and two civilians including a doctor were escorted on their visit to the autonomous region by the Bougainville Service Commander, Francis Tokura and police personnel. They are also said to have visited the proposed border posts sites at Koromira and Kangu Beach.

Mr Onartoo said he had nothing to say about AFP visiting other parts of the Autonomous Region.

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Indigenous Rights Advocacy Group says ABG President Momis is not telling the truth

Prime Minister O’Neill has written to the ABG President raising concern over proposed changes to the Bougainville Mining law; concerns Momis is trying to downplay using ‘misinformation’

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.

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“ABG IS BEING RUN LIKE A PRIVATE BUSINESS”, HARDLINERS

Chairman of the Bougainville Hardliners, James Onartoo says ABG has neglected its role as a government and is operating like a business

Starizons Media | March 5, 2019

The Chairman of Bougainville Hardliners and former combatant turned businessman, James Onartoo has has raised concerns that ABG has not performed its functions of preparing Bougainville adequately for referendum vote on independence for Bougainville. Speaking at a meeting of representatives from Ex-combatant Core Group, No Mining Group, Central Bougainville SMEs and concern citizens yesterday afternoon in Arawa, Mr. Onartoo said that the unnecessary delays and postponement of referendum is the result of ABG not being prepared. He said that it should have had alternate funding plan in place already to cater for the funding delays but instead ABG has wasted time chasing after mining which apart from dishing out bribery has not started operating yet.

He went on to add that ABG has become more like private business of politicians and bureaucrats who care little for the consequences of their dealings especially with mining companies that are making unrealistic promises to them.

“There is general lack of transparency and wider consultations through out Bougainville and with those who are to bear the full brunt of the effects of mining whether they be environmental, social, economic, cultural or otherwise. Instead ABG is going outside Bougainville to discuss business and taking away handpicked people who they feel will open doors for them. Some key members of the Ex-combatant core group have also been lured away with promise of cargo and cash and are now associated with ABGs business and mining interests.

“This is quite sad because it is through the core group that dialogue was established with every known faction on the island. This ongoing dialogue has shown promise of uniting the whole island. However, lack of funds have slowed down core groups’ work throughout the autonomous region.

“The recent upsurge in violence and killings can shows that peace process has stalled because the ABG has got it’s priorities wrong.

ABG should continue to fund the core group so it can complete it’s good work instead of drawing away its members to chase after money” he said.

Mr. Onartoo also called on Simon Pentanu to explain why the three mining bills were read in Parliament without adequate scrutiny of the house of representatives through discussions and debates. Mr Onartoo also questioned why Jeffery McGlinn, a foreigner and not a member of the house allowed to speak in the chamber as if he were one making mockery and debasing the sanctity of the seat of people’s government.

“It is time worshipping and bowing down to foreigners who come treat us like fools in our own house, must stop as we paid a very high price for that house” he said.

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Rights group trying to stop large scale mining on Bougainville

Inside the pit of abandoned Panguna mine in Bougainville Photo: supplied

Radio New Zealand | February 8, 2019

The chairman of a rights group in Bougainville is trying to stop amendments to the island’s Mining Act which would give a foreign company exclusive rights to large scale local mining.

James Onartoo, who chairs the Bougainville Hardliners Group, said the island’s civil war was caused by foreign control of large scale mining on the island.

Mr Onartoo said his group is opposed to any further large scale mining in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region.

His comments come as the region’s government plans to re-open the long shut Panguna copper mine.

It is seeking to change the Mining Act to accommodate an Australian investor with whom they plan to start a new company called Bougainville Advance Mining.

Their plan is for Bougainvilleans to be the majority owners of the company.

But Mr Onartoo says this is in breach of sections 23 and 24 of Bougainville’s constitution as well as the Mining Act which provide protection from a repeat of what he called “the ownership of minerals on the island by colonisers.”

Mr Onartoo said Bougainville’s 350,000 people don’t need large scale mining which only stands to benefit foreign entities.

He said the focus should be on sustainable alluvial mining which can be more easily regulated by the autonomous region’s government.

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Former BRA Commander Denies Signing a Resolution to Reopen Panguna Mine

Chris Baria |  Bougainvilleans United Against Mining* | 23 August 2017

Former BRA commander opposed to the reopening of Panguna mine, James Onartoo has denied claims by the media and by the ABG Vice President, Raymond Masono that he and his group had signed a resolution with pro mining BRA Commanders, Ishmael Toroama, Sam Kauona and Glyn Tovirika paving way for the reopening of Panguna.

Mr Onartoo said that while he represented the silent majority who believe that mining was not the answer to Bougainville’s future, he had no authority to sign anything that will take away people’s resources and their rights to their land.

“I am one of the many who don’t support BCL or mining in Panguna or anywhere in Bougainville but I cannot claim to have the authority to sign a resolution or an agreement on their behalf, to reopen the mine at Panguna. The reports that you have seen in the Post Courier and in the statement by ABG Vice President are untrue,” he said

Mr. Onartoo also said that he and his group which includes, women, landowners and the ex- combatants of South and Central Bougainville remain firm that Panguna must not be reopened. He pointed out that ABG is weak and lacks laws and systems to effectively regulate and to deal with a large scale mine. He said that without these mechanisms in place mining will cause more harm than good to the region.

“Mr. Masono’s claims that only a minority opposed reopening of Panguna mine is totally untrue because, the silent majority are with us and our call for “no mining” in Bougainville is gaining popularity. More and more people are beginning to realize that mining can easily strip Bougainville of it’s independence by taking control of ABG and is already causing divisons among us the ex-combatants and landowners,” Mr Onartoo said.

Mr. Onartoo appealed to BRA commanders and ABG Vice Present not to mislead the people of Bougainville regarding sensitive issues such as mining. He said that leaders must act responsively give factual information to avoid confusion that disunity.

Meanwhile, ABG efforts to reopen Panguna were dealt another blow last week when ex- combatants and officers of Panguna Mine Negotiations (PMNO) under the influence of alcohol threatened a community volunteer worker, Theonila Matbob and her family. The threats were made over the hosting of a referendum awareness program with the help of visiting Melanesian indigenous rights advocacy group, MILDA. The program was move to Arawa following the encounter with pro mining elements in Panguna.

* Bougainvilleans United Against Mining

This group is comprised of South and Central Bougainville ex-combatants, women, landowners and members of the civil society who are opposed to mining. This the group which was involved with the women in successfully stopping the MOA signing to reopen the Panguna mine

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