Tag Archives: Mekamui

EX COMBATANTS SUPPORT PANGUNA WOMEN

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

Aloysius Laukai | New Dawn | 30 June 2017

South Bougainville Ex combatants yesterday supported the actions made by Panguna women to block the ABG team from meeting with landowners to sign a MOU to open the closed PANGUNA COPPER MINE.

Chairman of the South Bougainville Ex-combatants Association, DAVID KONGKORI told New Dawn FM that the issue needs proper consultation between all stakeholders and not just the PANGUNA landowners.

He said that the issue could create division and must not be allowed to proceed with one part of the community against it.

MR. KONGKORI said that the ex-combatants view is that the ABG must not push for the re-opening when underlying issues that started the conflict are yet to be addressed.

He said that the GOVERNMENT must not think about how much in Kina they can get out of Panguna but also look at the reconciliation issues that are still outstanding between the PANGUNA landowners themselves.

MR. KONGKORI said Panguna people are still divided with different factions still operating like the MEKAMUI UNITY GOVERNMENT and the MEKAMUI Original government just to name a few.

He said all the people of Bougainville who died fighting for PANGUNA must not be forgotten in any new deals.
MR. KONGKORI said that as fighters of war, we don’t want to fight for the same thing again.

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Renzie Duncan and Philip Miriori team up in another illegal Bougainville venture

PNGExposed | June 28, 2017

Sydney lawyer and mining venture capitalist, Renzie Duncan, is on the prowl again for Bougainville’s mineral wealth, with his old friend Philip Miriori,  the scandal-plagued, self-appointed head of the Me’ekamui Tribal Government. 

This time its through Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, which is in partnership with Australian mining firm RTG Mining.

Company extracts indicate that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited, despite its very local name, is in fact a foreign enterprise.

This assertion is based on the fact it is 50% owned by Australian company, Central Exploration Pty Ltd. 

Central Exploration Pty Ltd’s thriving head office is 266 Burns Bay Road, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia. This leafy address on Sydney’s north shore, is also the registered home address for Renzie Duncan.

Under the Investment Promotion Act 1992, a company which is 50% owned by a foreign entity is deemed a foreign enterprise and must apply for certification to conduct business in Papua New Guinea.

Section 41 of the Investment Promotion Act 1992 states it is an offence to carry on business without certification, punishable by a K100,000 fine. 

There is no record with the Investment Promotion Authority that Central Me’ekamui Exploration Limited has applied for certification, despite the fact it has been clearly conducting business with RTG Mining.

However, this is not the first time Duncan, Miriori and the other Central Exploration Director, Michael Etheridge, have conducted business in Bougainville. 

The last time it was through Transpacific Ventures Limited.

In that case Transpacific Ventures informed investors:

‘In the past 12 months, TPV has negotiated and signed an Agreement (the “Cairns Agreement”) with the Sovereign Me’ekamui Tribal Government on an exclusive basis for 20 years, renewable, to advise customary landowners (the Me’ekamui) in developing their natural resources sector, including potential oil and gas, on the island of Bougainville, PNG and surrounding atolls and marine territories, and to participate with the Me’ekamui in such development and other business opportunities’.

Yes, that’s right, Philip Mioriri and his self-styled tribal government proposed to sign away the natural resources, landed and marine, across Bougainville. Clearly, he had no right to, and Transpacific Ventures had no legal business publishing this information to investors.

Of course the claim by President Momis that RTG mining ‘doesn’t have any money’, is rather ironic given that his preferred operator, BCL, cant even afford permanent staff – and has no means whatsoever to raise the sort of capital to develop Panguna.

But the core point all this squabbling between various minority interests distracts from is this – 98% of the people in and around Panguna oppose mining, under any industrial guise. They have suffered the environment and human loss.

The ordinary people – real landowners – don’t have government support, nor do they have access to the internet or media. Their voice is unheard, except when they protest and resist.

The re-entry of Duncan and Mirori, will be cynically used by the government to label all landowner resistance, simply a plot to bring in an alternative developer by the backdoor. If this is argued, it is a lie.

Landowners throughout the mine area remain opposed, like they have since 1963, when the first rumblings of Panguna began. Journalists will not report this. They don’t leave their offices, much less speak with someone who cant reply in english.

On the rare occasions they do leave their office, they knock on the door of Lawrence Daveona, Philip Mioriori and other individuals, who falsely claiming they somehow speak for all landowners, which they don’t. Of course the colonial powers did this back in the 1960s. Some poor old man, was wielded out to say yes, while the mothers cried no.

History has been a cruel teacher, it is unlikely the mothers of the land will allow the bulldozers through this time.

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Panguna landowners give big tick to mining but no to BCL

Radio New Zealand | 22 June 2017

The head of a landowners group controlling the site of the Panguna mine in Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville says it is keen to see a resumption of mining but will always be opposed to the return of Bougainville Copper Ltd.

BCL was the original operator of the mine and has been blamed for sparking the civil war.

Its former multi national owner, Rio Tinto, last year walked away, giving its shares to the PNG and Bougainville governments, rather face demands for compensation over the environmental and social damage blamed on the mine.

Last week this new look BCL was stopped by a protest march from signing a memorandum of agreement with the Panguna landowners – a move seen as the first move to re-open the Panguna mine and boost the region’s economy ahead of an independence vote in two years.

Not the least of BCL’s problems is that they were not dealing with the proper landowners and legal action has put a stay on the signing of the MOA.

The man they should have been talking to, Philip Miriori, the chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association, says he will never back BCL returning.

Mr Miriori, who also heads the Me’ekamui Government of Unity, explained the SML’s thinking to Don Wiseman.

PHILIP MIRIORI: It is the same legal company with enormous liabilities hanging on its shoulder and some much damage was done during their operations. So it is the same company.

DON WISEMAN: The thing here is of course that since Rio Tinto has walked away – it doesn’t have resources does it? In terms of that  environmental and social deficit that people like John Momis have talked about, this current version of BCL is never going to be in much of a position to do much about that is it?

PM: With BCL the ABG is saying it is a new company, but we don’t think it is a new company, it is the same company,, and the same management. People from Rio [Tinto] are still with the BCL arrangement, even now.

DW: Are there any circumstances under which the Me’ekamui Government of Unity and the SML Osikaiyang Landowners would ever accept BCL?

PM: I don’t think we will accept BCL to come back to Panguna. BCL has said it would attract development partners, but we don’t know this development partner, who is he? maybe it is the same Rio Tinto. They are looking to come back and work with BCL.

DW: So this protest last Thursday and Friday, the protest and the road block, did your people organise that?

PM: The people of Panguna especially the landowners and the women, our stand has always been clear – we don’t accept BCL to come back and with the protest march last Friday it is a common sense that the people have here in Panguna, that by not accepting BCL to come back they had to stand for their rights. So they [The ABG] can make any tricks under the sun but with the records that BCL have in the past it is just not going to work. The protest march was right, you know.

DW: last month you presented a petition to the ABG, more than 500 signatures. What has been the outcome of that?

PM: Well the outcome from the ABG was negative. I presented that petition myself to President Momis. The petition was signed by 550 people from Panguna – the SML [Osikaiyang landowners]. So no response from President Momis’s office, so these are the things that have brought the people together on the signing of the MOA.

DW: You are not opposed to mining are you? You clearly are interested in mining and you have linked up with this Australian miner called RTG. Why have you linked with them? Why have you chosen them?

PM: I am always for mining you know but not with BCL. We have this Australian company. We work with them for some time now and we built trust so we are not opposed to mining opening. We are for. We want the mine to open, to generate prosperity for our people and not with BCL. We don’t want BCL to come back you know.

DW: Let’s say RTG were to get an exploration licence, would you be keen for them to get in there and start doing the EL work, as it’s called, immediately and then the prospect of opening the mine as soon as possible.

PM: If we are given an exploration licence we will start immediately and also make clean up operations around Panguna.

DW: There are a lot of other landowning groups close by aren’t there and it would seem that you are at odds with them, or are you?

PM: Now I want to correct this. The other eight, or whatever, landowner associations – I think at this point in time they are irrelevant. They can come in when the mine is up running. They can make no decision on where the pit is, so right now, for me, it is irrelevant for those other organisations to make a decision over the SML [Osikaiyang Landowners]. The only entity, legal entity, is SML which I am chairman of.  

DW: Your message then to the ABG is that there is substantial opposition among the people who are on the land, or who have the land, around that enormous hole in the ground at Panguna, who are opposed to BCL coming in, but you are very keen on mining and you want to form an association with this Australian company, RTG.

PM: A proper awareness is what is needed now. To go right down to the people, you know, and tell them what is the advantage of re-opening the mine now, and the disadvantage of keeping that mine [shut] for ten years as BCL says. But to us I can see that we start the mine up now, so that we start generating the money and prepare for the referendum or whatever you know.         

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Bougainville Hardliners Against Reopening of Panguna Mine

Romulus Masiu | Post Courier | June 5, 2017

The ‘Bougainville Hardliners’ have strongly opposed the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s decision to re-open the Panguna Mine with Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) as the preferred operator.

This was made known to the ABG delegation led by Vice President and Minister for Minerals and Energy Resources Raymond Masono by ‘Bougainville Hardliner’s’ chairman James Onartoo during the talks on the reopening of Panguna mine in Central Bougainville.

The delegation highlighted in their presentations that they were going to reopen the Panguna Mine to boost Bougainville’s economy and this was going to be done with BCL and a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was going to be signed on the 16th of June 2017, between ABG, the landowners of Panguna and BCL.

The announcement was not welcomed by the general public and ex-combatants present in the controlled forums.

Mr Onartoo said to show their disagreement they will draft a letter addressing it to the Director of Office of Panguna Negotiations Bruno Babato and Peter Garuai to ask them not to proceed with the signing of the MOA with BCL, because they are the ones pushing for the reopening of the mine.

“We have already made contact with the Kingdom of Papala, Original Me’ekamui headed by Chris Uma, ex-combatants from North, Central and South, Bougainville youths and womens groups and we will all sign this letter. This already shows that everybody on Bougainville does not agree with ABG reopening the Panguna Mine with BCL,” he said.

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BRA unites as Bougainville waits for referendum

Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on the Panguna mine in 1996

The National aka The Loggers Times | May 19, 2017
FACTIONS of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army have signed an agreement to work together as the province looks ahead to the 2019 referendum.
Hundreds of people yesterday witnessed a reconciliation event at the Arawa Independence Oval in Buka.
The BRA factions signed a memorandum of joint commitment to work together toward the Bougainville referendum.
On Monday, a reconciliation ceremony was also held at the Roreinang United Church Mission ground. It was where the A company broke away from the rest of the army to form Me’ekamui in 1997.
On Tuesday, there was another reconciliation ceremony held in Panguna. The events were witnessed by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the people of Bougainville.
ABG Minister for the Department of Peace Agreement and Implementation Albert Punghau said the unification of the BRA factions was vital for the region if it wanted to achieve the referendum.
Former BRA Chief of Defence Ishmael Toroama said it was a day to be united and to remember “loved ones we lost”.
“This is the day when the Government declared the state of emergency.
“Today we stand and remember our loved ones during the civil war in Bougainville.
“We remember that we fought to take care of our people and our resources,” Toroama said.

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Rio Tinto walks away from environmental responsibility for Bougainville’s Panguna mine

Silent rusting mine machinery litters the Panguna mine site, abandoned 28 years ago. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Catherine Wilson | Mongabay | 6 April 2017 

The people of Bougainville Island successfully shut down the mine in 1989, but now find themselves left to cope with its environmental fallout.

  • Rio Tinto operated the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville from 1972 until 1989, when local landowners — angered about pollution and revenue sharing — forced the mine to shut down.
  • Rio Tinto divested its share of the mine in 2016, and now believes it has no obligation to address the mine’s environmental legacy.
  • Today, Bougainville — an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea — is devastated by damages wrought by both war and the mine.
  • The Bougainville government is considering re-opening the mine in order to fund a cleanup.

British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto was for 45 years the majority-owner of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville, an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea (PNG). But now it has given up its 53.8 percent stake in the mine’s operating company, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), and announced it rejects any corporate responsibility for environmental damage wrought during operations from 1972 to 1989.

The company believes it no longer has any obligation to address the mine’s environmental legacy because it adhered to PNG’s laws of the day and was forced to abandon the extraction venture due to armed conflict.

“When BCL had to leave the site in 1989, we believe BCL operated Panguna in compliance with applicable laws and standards until 1989 when it was required to leave the country…..Given the lack of access since then, it has not been possible for Rio Tinto or BCL to confirm the nature, extent or cause of any alleged damage or pollution,” a spokesperson for Rio Tinto at their London headquarters told Mongabay.

The controversial open-pit mine, once one of the world’s largest, hit world news headlines almost three decades ago when indigenous landowners forced it to shut down. Angered about tailings and mine-waste contamination of agricultural land and nearby waterways, as well as inequity in revenue and benefit-sharing, landowners used a campaign of sabotage to halt operations in 1989, subsequently precipitating a decade-long civil war.

The mine’s social and environmental legacy

Now, rusting mine trucks and machinery litter the long-abandoned mine site in one of Bougainville Island’s remote mountain valleys, while gutted mine buildings have been resourcefully adapted and reoccupied by local villagers as dwellings.  But rivers and streams in the vicinity remain contaminated, tailings dumps have become unstable and chemical storage areas are deteriorating.

“In terms of the environmental damage and social disruption, it is a moral negligence on the part of Rio Tinto to have caused so much damage to the environment and to people’s lives, and to now walk away,” said Chief Dr. John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Rio Tinto claims on its website that “respect for the environment is central to our approach. Wherever possible we prevent – or otherwise minimize, mitigate and remediate – harmful effects that our operations may have.”

However, the Bougainville Copper Agreement Act of 1967 — drafted when the region was under Australian administration as part of the former Territory of Papua and New Guinea — does not incorporate any significant environmental regulations or liability of BCL for the rehabilitation or restoration of areas affected by mining activities.

“Rio is now deeply hypocritical in its blatant disregard of the higher corporate responsibility standards it says it has adopted,” President Momis declared in a June 2016 media statement, following announcement of the company’s divestment. “Corporate social responsibility means responsible companies accept that their responsibilities go beyond the legal requirements of the day.”

Lee Godden, Director of the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law at Australia’s University of Melbourne, commented that:

“Many of the early agreements between mining companies and the PNG Government did not contain effective clauses for environmental damage remediation….Typically it is not possible to retrospectively amend those agreements in light of subsequent damage or subsequent international law principles that have operated to address some of the balance of power problems in these early agreements.”

The Nasioi people were the first indigenous peoples to force a global mining multinational to flee one of its most lucrative extractive ventures. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Putting pressure on Rio Tinto

Determined that the mining multinational should not escape accountability for environmental and social legacy issues, President Momis has called for “an international campaign to force Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities” and sought advice on taking legal action.

However, taking the matter to court requires considerable funds — which the Bougainville Government, still heavily dependent on international aid and financial support from the national government, has limited access to. “We have financial constraints and these financial constraints make it difficult for us,” President Momis admitted.

And while Rio Tinto’s divestment resulted in the Bougainville Government acquiring an extra 36.4 percent shareholding in the Panguna mine and the PNG Government 17.4 percent  (with the latter gifting its shares to “the landowners and the people of Bougainville”), their value is negligible unless the mine is in production.

Even during the 17 years of copper extraction in Panguna, which generated an estimated 1.7 billion kina in total revenue (roughly US$1.44 billion at the time), only 1.4 percent was granted to landowners, while 61.5 percent went to the PNG Government.  Local resentment about the marked inequity of economic benefits was one of the major factors in the escalation of the civil war.

In 1989, indigenous landowners demanded compensation of 10 billion kina for the mine’s detrimental environmental and social impacts, as well as benefit-sharing grievances. When this was not met by Rio Tinto and BCL, they formed a rebel group, known as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and used explosives to destroy the mine’s power supply and bring the functioning of the mine to a standstill. In so doing, the Nasioi people of Central Bougainville became known as the first indigenous peoples in the world to force a global mining multinational to abandon one of its most lucrative ventures.

The PNG Government responded by imposing a blockade on Bougainville in 1990 and deployed its armed forces to quell the uprising. A civil war then raged between the national military and armed revolutionary groups, wreaking widespread destruction across the islands and leading to an estimated death toll of 15,000-20,000 lives, until a permanent ceasefire in 1998.

Today the long-term processes of post-conflict peace building, disarmament, reconciliation and reconstruction continue to consume the energy and resources of the government, international donors and local leaders and communities.  And memories of the violence, atrocities and injustices of the conflict are still vivid in the minds of many people throughout the region.

An estimated one-third of men and one in five women who were exposed to violence during the war now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while more than one in three men and women believe there is continuing lack of peace in their communities, according to a recent study by the United Nations Development Program.

The abandoned Panguna mine pit, as it is today. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Walking away from the mine

For at least the past seven years, Rio Tinto has been engaged in discussions with the Bougainville Government about the possibility of returning to Panguna to recommence extraction of the estimated 3 million tonnes of copper reserves remaining there.

Rio Tinto’s final decision last year to exit Bougainville has been attributed primarily to both the dramatic fall in commodity prices in recent years and investor risks — including substantial opposition to the company’s return by landowners and communities in the Panguna mine lease area and the region’s uncertain political future.

“During the strategic review that led to the announcement in June 2016, Rio Tinto concluded that it would not be in a position to take part in future mining activities at Panguna and that it was in the best interests of BCL and its stakeholders to transfer our 53.8 percent shareholding to those better placed to determine the future direction of the company,” the Rio Tinto spokesperson stated.

However, the massive environmental legacy is still unaddressed and continues to affect the lives of indigenous communities, especially the Barapang, Kurabang, Basikang and Bakoringku clans who own the mine-pit land.  For customary landowners, “the land is like a mother because we feed on the land. It’s nothing compared to money.  I can always go to the land for food and nourishment,” Panguna landowner, Joanne Dateransi, explained.

Rivers and streams in the mine’s vicinity remain polluted and unusable as sources of freshwater or fish. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

There has been no official environmental assessment of the damage since the mine was deserted. But it is known that around 300,000 tonnes of ore and water were excavated every day in Panguna and the mine tailings were discharged down the Jaba River and into the Empress Augusta Bay, while the spoil and overburdens accrued in waste dumps in the Panguna area.  Local communities claim there has been no fish in the local Jaba and Kawerong Rivers for four decades.

The Bougainville authorities also report that:

“The levy banks built by BCL to contain the flooding of nearby areas arising as the bed of the Jaba River rose (because of the depositing of vast amounts of tailings) were breached by floodwaters over 15 years ago. River water polluted by acid leached from the crushed tailings now floods huge areas of our people’s land all along the lower Jaba.”

And, further, a mammoth delta of tailings extends 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the sea on the west coast of Bougainville Island.

Social impacts include the forced relocation of at least five villages, such as Dapera and Moroni, to land unsuitable for growing crops and supporting livelihoods, while families were provided with cheap, substandard housing, resulting in severe overcrowding and health problems. The original location of the villages is now a barren terrain of waste rock.

Residents of relocated villages, such as Dapera and Moroni, have endured substandard housing and land unsuitable for food production. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Funding a cleanup

President Momis says the government is keen to facilitate an expert environmental assessment.

“We are having discussions with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) about the possibility of organizing such a study and also a social impact study. We are also contacting international NGOs which support third world nations in the interests of preserving history, forests and ecological balance,” he said.

Following this, the most critical question is how a major environmental cleanup, which could cost billions, can now be pursued.

One option, according to the President’s office, is to set up a trust fund with potential contributions sought from the PNG and Australian Governments, as well as Rio Tinto, although, to date, Rio Tinto has not indicated any willingness to support such an initiative.

“World Bank or Asian Development Bank funding is sometimes available for this type of cleanup, but often that will mean a loan to what are impoverished governments which need to meet a range of other socioeconomic needs in their countries,” Professor Godden also advised.

President Momis suggests that “the only other way to fund a cleanup is through the resumption of mining. It [BCL] is now majority owned by the landowners and the Autonomous Bougainville Government and we believe the cleanup could be done concurrently with the reopening of the mine. During our discussions with them so far they have been conscious of their responsibilities.”

However, the capital investment required to reconstruct and reopen the Panguna mine is estimated to be about 20 billion kina ($6.3 billion) and securing investment of this magnitude will be a challenge in the current investment climate.

Gutted mine buildings in the forested mountain valley are now being reused by local communities. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Recommencing large-scale mining is also seen by the authorities and some landowner groups as a way to acquire the sizeable revenues needed to generate economic self-sufficiency ahead of a referendum on Independence from PNG. A major provision in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, the referendum is planned to take place by 2020. At present, only 10 percent of the Bougainville Government’s annual budget of about 300 million kina derives from internal revenue.

Two years ago, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which was established in 2005, passed its first mining law, thus paving the way with a legal framework for large-scale mining to be reconsidered in the region. The Bougainville Mining Act (2015 ) requires mining-lease applicants to protect the environment and comply with environmental policies and regulations, and stipulates that customary landowners have ownership of mineral resources found on their land. But, while they are entitled to consultation about exploration and mining interests, as well as related benefits and employment, the Bougainville Government retains exclusive powers over the granting of mining tenements and distribution of revenues.

Nevertheless, because of the unique history of the Panguna mine and the fact that its territory is controlled by the local Mekamui Tribal Government, comprising many former rebel leaders and combatants, any development or exploitation of Panguna’s resources will require the final consent of local chiefs and landowners. And reports in recent years have highlighted that a significant proportion of landowners in the Panguna mine lease area oppose large-scale mining on their customary land in the near future.

“We don’t need Rio Tinto or BCL,” Lynette Ona of the Bougainville Indigenous Women’s Landowner Association and a Panguna landowner declared. However, she added that a meeting was being planned in the near future so that people across Bougainville, not only local landowners, could voice their views on the question of mining.  If there is majority consent for this to happen, “then we have to bring in a new company after Independence, so that we can fund the economy, but we don’t want mining now,” Ona emphasized.

The “new BCL,” without Rio Tinto, has only begun articulating its future plans. Any provision, in this context, for an environmental cleanup is very unclear, but will come under severe scrutiny by those most affected, given that the history of the Panguna mine, to date, is a lesson in the shortcomings of corporate social responsibility.

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Bougainville’s Me’ekamui dismiss Rio share spat – Full Transcript

Civil War in Bougainville caused by mining devastated PNG’s indigenous peoples and environment. Now the miners have ran away with the profits, paying no compensation.

Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand | 26 August 2016

The leader of Bougainville’s Me’ekamui rebel group, Chris Uma, says the spat over shares in Bougainville Copper Ltd, BCL, is of no consequence.

There has been a war of words between the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville after multi national miner, Rio Tinto, gave its shares in BCL to them.

PNG later gave its shares to Panguna landowners, a move that infuriated Bougainville President John Momis, who says the shares should all go to his Autonomous Government.

But the special envoy for Mr Uma, John Jaintong, told Don Wiseman says it is irrelevant because in Me’ekamui’s view there is no BCL.

TRANSCRIPT

JOHN JAINTONG:  Me’ekamui’s view is that there is no Bougainville Copper, because in 1989 when the mine was closed, Bougainville Copper walked away, got paid off with a large compensation for loss of business and loss of property. And to Me’ekamui, the mine has ceased to exist since 1989. And the land now returned to the people. To Me’ekamui, which represents the landowners who own the land, there is no company. So why get 17.4% of something that they already have 100% of. Who is Rio Tinto anyway to say OK, I give you back 17% of something that they don’t own?

DON WISEMAN: So would the Me’ekamui look at mining projects, anywhere in Bougainville?

JJ: Well, they’re not saying no to mining. But over the last couple of years, they’ve given [outlined] the process to how to handle the issue, leading up to the reopening of the mine. And leaders, politicians simply ignored it. They’re not against the mine totally. All they want is that the processes must be allowed to complete. Like, OK there were twenty-thousand lives lost. All they want to do is… Me’ekamui has to prepare a traditional feast and that can only be hosted by Bougainville chiefs. Now after that has been done, then they can move towards the next process of talking about the mine, whether with Bougainville Copper or somebody else.

DW: This critical issue for you at this point is the reconciliation?

JJ: That’s correct. And Chris has accused PNG and Bougainville leaders of being insensitive to the situation, the critical situation. And to him I think the peace process, that we all worked hard to put together, has been broken because, to him, the leaders of Bougainville have gone back to bed with the enemy – the enemy being Rio Tinto, or Bougainville Copper, for this matter.

DW: Well, it’s all very well for Chris Uma to criticise but this is the elected government. This is what the majority of people on Bougainville voted for, so don’t they have the right to be making the decisions rather than you guys?

JJ: Yeah, that’s true but Chris runs Me’ekamui – that remains outside of the peace process – so it’s a very critical situation. Now, Me’ekamui has still got 100% of the arms. Now this is a very deadly situation that I’m handling. And I speak for the people that if there’s any leader listening, they must know that the situation is very bad and now Chris is saying that the ABG has broken the peace process by going to be with the enemy, they are not listening to the wishes of the people. And these are the people with the guns, that they’re not listening to.

DW: Now in 2019, the province is to have this vote on possible independence. Is this something that the Me’ekamui under Chris Uma supports?

JJ: Well, first thing first. The way they’re going, it looks like more leaders on Bougainville is worried about the economic factors, soemthing like Bougainville Copper should be re-opened. But for it to reopen we must comply with the customary obligations. Don, I’ll give you a background: on Bougainville, the land is owned by the chiefs, and controlled by the chiefs. Whether you are in government, ABG or not, Me’ekamui under Chris Uma are saying no, ABG has no right to deal with land matters. It’s saying land matters completely remains the power that belongs to the traditional chiefs of Bougainville.

DW: If this reconciliation that you’re talking about was to go ahead and go ahead properly, would the Me’ekamui then allow themselves to be fully re-incorporated back into Bougainville?

JJ: Yes, that’s correct, that’s the only thing holding them back. They want to see that’s done quickly and amicably. Now to give you how they want it played out – they want it hosted by Chris Uma on behalf of the paramount chiefs of Bougainville who own the land and the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, but not by ABG. And Chris has been very vocal on this over the last few days in the media that he has not given John Momis the mandate to negotiate with Rio Tinto.

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