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Friday, 30 August 2013

Reopening of Panguna copper-gold mine in PNG: risks and benefits

Recently there's been a lot of talk about reopening of the Panguna copper-gold mine in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea (PNG). Established in the early 1970s by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, the mine was one of the world's largest copper-gold mine and generated significant revenue for PNG’s economy until mining operations were suspended due to militant activity in May 1989. This conflict led to a 10 year civil war and caused the deaths of an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people. A peace agreement was eventually signed in 1997, followed by an amendment to the PNG Constitution. After all these years, the mine is set to reopen.

If the Panguna copper-gold mine is going to reopen, it will need to gain approval and support not only from the local people of Bougainville, but also from the PNG National Government (National Government). Gaining community support will be a major hurdle for not only BCL but any other company wanting to conduct mining operations on Bougainville Island. The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) is proposing to introduce new mining laws which would allow landowners and the ABG to share rights to sub-surface minerals. Traditional landowners would share mineral rights with ABG.

The proposed laws would likely be supported by many people, both on Bougainville and the mainland of PNG. The idea of handing over national government control of PNG’s mining resources to customary landowners isn't new. During 2011 and 2012, there was much debate about the Natural Resources Ownership Bill (Kondra Bill). The Kondra Bill attempted to amend existing mining and petroleum legislation by replacing the word “State” with either “Customary Landowners” or “Landlords”.

Despite many attempts over the years, PNG’s mining and petroleum regime remains the same. The formal position with respect to both minerals and petroleum can be seen in Section 5 of the Mining Act 1992 which provides:

“All minerals existing on, in or below the surface of any land in Papua New Guinea, including any minerals contained in any water lying on any land in Papua New Guinea, are the property of the State.”

When the Kondra Bill was provided for public comment, it wasn't supported by the mining industry. The mining industry believed that the Kondra Bill was “extremely naive” and unworkable[1].

Although the PNG Constitution was amended to allow the Autonomous Region of Bougainville to make laws in relation to mining, such laws aren't necessarily guaranteed. Section 292(3)(a) of the PNG Constitution provides that even if ABG passes the proposed mining laws, the National Government would still need to agree with the legislation, otherwise the law won't take effect until a dispute resolution process reaches a final determination.

If the National Government is to support the proposed mining laws, then it will need to consider if the proposed mining laws will be in PNG’s national interest. Some of the issues that the National Government is likely to consider are whether or not the proposed mining laws will increase the perception of sovereign risk to foreign investors in PNG, and whether or not this could impact on existing and future projects. On this point, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had previously reported that PNG's government is not about creating sovereign risks for foreign investment in PNG.[2]

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Australia complicit in PNG's Bougainville blight

Ellena Savage | 01 August 2013

The PNG Solution is in breach of international law. It does not serve the best interest of the asylum seekers it will affect. And the Department of Immigration and Citizenship is taking grossly insufficient responsibility for the safety and security of its detainees on Manus Island. But the PNG Solution is just another in a long line of 'border control' solutions which are in breach of legality and morality. There is nothing new about it.
Much has been made of PNG's poverty and gender-based violence, but even more disturbing is its military and police human rights record. Evidence of abuses in the form of a military blockade, massacres, rape and torture during the Bougainville Crisis, the civil war that spanned the 1990s, are well-documented.

This conflict was sparked by what local communities saw as profound environmental and economic damage perpetrated by Rio Tinto's copper mine at Panguna. What began as civil disobedience quickly descended into civil war, and Rio Tinto was subsequently taken to a US court, accused of genocide.

In 1990, the island was subject to a state-sanctioned blockade that lasted six years, during which time no trade in or out of the island was permitted. This prohibited the import and export of information (media blockade), energy, medical supplies and clothing. A generation of young people were denied formal schooling, and preventable illnesses killed young and old in the thousands.

Councils and organisations emerged to provide education and natural medicine, hydro- and coconut-based power was ingeniously created, and radiowaves were hijacked by rebels for communication. Yet accounts from this time paint a terrifying scene. One witness wrote that the scarcity of clothes led some elderly people to remain inside their homes for over a year because they were ashamed of their nakedness.

'Corruption', which is well-documented in PNG, sounds empty. But its outcomes are disturbing. State corruption produces a culture of corruption at every level. People with power are not held accountable. In times of disaster, people with power who are not held accountable are liable to perpetrate violence against vulnerable people.

The Bougainville Crisis made exiles out of many civilians. Some fled to Port Moresby or Australia if they got out early and had the right resources. Others sought asylum in the Solomon Islands. In documentation of the conflict, witnesses recall the PNGDF gunning down Red Cross boats as they smuggled people, clothing and medical supplies to and from the Solomon Islands. These violations have yet to be acknowledged by the PNG government. This tragedy happened right under our noses. What's more, Australian funding was used by the PNGDF to perpetrate it.

This morsel of history makes two important points. Firstly, that the PNG government is not capable of caring for its most vulnerable citizens due to systemic corruption. Secondly, that when human rights abuses occur with our complacent knowledge, we acquire some moral responsibility.

A few days ago I sat and listened to an older Aboriginal woman tell stories about her life. Throughout her childhood, she had been terrified of being stolen from her mum, as her mother had been stolen from her grandmother. She spoke of her lifelong struggle to trust people who had not shared her experiences growing up. She said that her children suffered as a result. The point is that clever, crowd-pleasing policy that is predicated on the suffering of others today will have negative impacts for generations.

Bernard Keane argued in Crikey that the left's answer to asylum seekers is to 'let them all in' at any cost, and that this is in contradiction to any reasonable policy outcome. His argument draws asylum seeker rights as simply vain, empty gestures of the left, rather than the legal and moral entitlements of survivors of persecution. If it is culturally impossible to develop policy that is democratic and respectful of people's right to safety and dignity, then we simply need to give up on the idea that we live in a liberal democracy.

The management of asylum seekers in Australia is a question of careful policy, but policy-making is not a zero-sum game. Do we remember the Stolen Generations as a careful maintenance of the bottom line?

History will not be kind to us. The details of mass human rights violations have a habit of coming to the fore eventually. In the future, perhaps after an inquiry, maybe a formal apology, our antecedents will wonder: how did they let this happen?

Ellena Savage is a Eureka Street columnist, arts editor at The Lifted Brow and politics editor at SPOOK Magazine. She has written about literature, feminism, and political culture for publications including Overland, Australian Book Review, Right Now, Arena, and Farrago, which she co-edited in 2010. Her 2012 essay 'A Man Like Luai' won the Tharunka Non-fiction prize. She tweets as @RarrSavage


Sunday, 25 August 2013

Bougainville Presentation on Mining Progress in Madang

Leonard Fong Roka

A three day community relations workshop for mining areas held at the Madang Lodge from the 12 to 14 of August saw Bougainville represented for the first time in such a gathering of high level mining talks where mining officials turn to share each other’s experiences with locals and the industry around them.
Bougainville had a team of four officers from the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) mining division lead by former mining engineer Mr. Joseph Pangkau who is now the director of the Development & Coordination Division of the ABG department of mining who cordially invited me to attend the meeting.

In a half full conference room, the team highlighted the mining experience on Bougainville; the mining created conflict; suffering of the landowners in Panguna before the conflict; the suffering Bougainville economy and the political future of the island and ABG wishes for the re-opening of the mine and the costly exercise of working towards the possible re-opening.

Mr. Joseph Pangkau firstly highlighted the history of the ABG Department of Mining. The department, he said, was created in the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA), the Bougainville Constitution and the PNG Constitution which directs to give Bougainville several powers that include mining, oil and gas.

On 16 November 2006, PNG agreed to give Bougainville powers on mining, oil and gas in a 15 Stages Strategic Framework. Thus the mining department was created to cater for these powers. So far, stages 1 and 2 have being reached and currently they are in stage 3 that is Negotiations for Panguna Mine.

For the ABG, the question of ‘why re-opening Panguna mine’ was answered with 5 points. Firstly, Mr. Pangkau said that Panguna has proven and known minerals; secondly, the mine life is known; thirdly, Panguna infrastructure is there and needs only maintenance; then, Bougainville economy will be stimulated with commencement of construction and lastly, he said that ABG needs to be fiscally self reliant to run its affairs.

He claimed that lessons of the past about the mining operation at Panguna are at the heart of the ABG. Thus landowners will be the major players in the decision making over the mining this time around with equitable benefit sharing and effective environmental impact management scheme.

Currently the ABG is focused on, (1) establishing landowner associations, (2) running public forums to collect Bougainville-wide opinion, (3) facilitating baseline study of Panguna mine areas, (4) assessing consultancy work relating to technical evaluations/feasibility studies, etc, (5) conduct studies in mineral resource/ore body modeling of Panguna and (6) conduct financial modeling and economic, budgeting, etc.

He stated that so far, Panguna has 9 landowner associations of which 6 are well set up and functioning. All these have an umbrella body, The United Panguna Resource Owners Association that will be the key player in the re-opening negotiations with each having a start-up funding from the ABG.

ABG has now the duty to support landowners and their association establishments; capacity building of these associations; preparing these groups for negotiations; recruitment of advisors and consultations with BCL, ABG and the PNG government.

ABG has also committed itself to wider consultations across Bougainville. It had run consultative forums in Central, North and South Bougainville. He said that these all-inclusive forums as roughly cost around K300 000 kina of the public funds each. All, he said, had run for about two days each and attendance and participation real positive.

To face the PNG government, the two governments had several structures in place, he admitted. On the 17 October 2012, Joint Panguna Negotiation Coordination Committee (JPNCC) was established under the Joint Supervisory Body. JPNCC comprises of ABG, BCL, landowners and the PNG government.

In August 2012 a joint ABG and National Government Scoping Mission conducted a study to determine the type of “baseline studies” that will need to be conducted to provide information on environmental, social & economic conditions of the people in Panguna. Terms of Reference (TORs) for social and environmental baseline studies   are in progress through the JPNCC.  

One important issue of negotiation under JPNCC is the ‘Bel Kol’ money issue. This is a kind of an appeasement that must be paid to Bougainville for it is not only the Panguna people that have suffered in the conflict before BCL attempts to return. Forms of payment however were not reached as yet.

There was also a negotiation structure in place. Bougainville Executive Council (BEC) approved a Negotiation Structure to ensure input into negotiations by all Bougainvilleans, and specific opportunities for input by groups including landowners and ex-combatants. Overall direction for negotiations will be provided by a Negotiation Forum made up of the President, Vice President and ABG Ministers; Landowners, ex-combatants; and senior ABG officers. This is an all inclusive structure that will ensure that the views of all Bougainvilleans are represented.

Challenges to the ABG are showed to be, (1) Institutional Capacity of the ABG Department of Mining, (2) Preparations for and conduct of Negotiations; (3) Funding estimated K15 million per annum that only donors are helping with and (4) Bougainville mining legislations that need educated Bougainvilleans to help.

Finally he did concluded the presentation with a few significant remarks about Bougainville history that after the Panguna uprising it is evident that companies throughout the country are putting more emphasis on the social license to operate; the ABG wants to make sure that this time around, affected and impacted landowners play a key role in decisions about the mine. And all Bougainvilleans know what is going on and have an opportunity to express their views and concerns; and that due to the conflict the process is both unique and complex with valuable lessons learned so, with the right information; Bougainvilleans will reach a decision on the future of the mine.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

‘Forth World’ of Divine Word University

Leonard Fong Roka Pictures

Since entering Divine Word University, I was awestruck by the different world that surrounds it. In this institution, they say that creates the brains of the future Papua New Guinea leaders, there is a world of the under privilege people that scavenge to survive.

There are two squatter settlements, Guv Store and Wagol that surrounds our tiny world of intellectuals. Our world is a world of the upcoming high class PNG citizens that is promising these poor that by 2015, in this Millennium Development Goals (MDG)s, they will be free from suffering!  

We live in residential homes that these PNG citizens can only dream about; we eat food that these handicapped PNG citizens can hardly attain in a day; we walk in polish boots and neckties, whilst these poor people run bare foot beside us.

But these poor, I believe as a Bougainvillean, does it all! They shoulder the burden of our irresponsibility and laziness.

The poor around the university I attend are mostly from the two Sepik provinces of PNG. They have left their homes so far away in search of a better life in the urban Madang settings because their provinces cannot provide them with the grace of progress.

Does Sir Michael Somare in East Sepik and Hon. Belden Namah in Sandaun have any idea that, as they grow in fame and wealth, their own people are not benefitting with them? I wonder.

To make life easier, these people scavenge in the Divine Word University’s grounds, as the university students most of the times laugh and ridicule them; sometimes, they chase them blaming them of stealing.

I really hate this culture to happen in my Solomon Island of Bougainville. Bougainvilleans, be responsible to your life and future, and not allow our future to have this poverty happening in country, PNG, that holds us in its claws.

Every Cultural Day, the university I am in hosts every year in late August, I am saddened so often to watch the moments after the closings.

Shown here, are these poor people that scavenge for sustenance, after this year (2013) Cultural Day.
Too young to be scavenging
Child Labour in PNG
Woman breaking the rules to survive but she has a reason
They should be in school. PNG has a signiture on children rights in the UN. Are we doing anything to protect these kids?
The poor does it all! DWU lawn cleaned by these poor
The state does nothing for this people in the Madang slums so, in regard to the MDGs, what is the state doing to improve their lives?
They dismantle and bring pieces to the slums to improve their lives
They walk low from the DWU intellectuals
Women suffer to make ends meet. What is the state doing to improve their lives?
Children, what is their role or where is their place with the UN MDGs that will be checked in 2015?

Friday, 23 August 2013

Papua New Guinea’s carcass, Bougainville, on Culture Show

Leonard Fong Roka Pictures

Nowhere in the South Pacific does a ruling state ignorantly undermine the dignity of its subjects as in Papua New Guinea. PNG mistreats the Bougainville Island in the Solomon archipelago that it rules since 1975.

In 1899 Britain sold Bougainville to Germany and since then, Bougainville and its people were mistreated. PNG, from 1975, subjects purposely the Bougainville people to indoctrination, exploitation and genocide.

Today, as part of the Divine Word University’s cultural day, the suffering Bougainville students show-cased their cultures in the sea of redskins that stared in shock for Bougainville culture is strange to this Papua New Guineans because Bougainvilleans are ethnically and geographically Solomon Islanders.

Bougainville Highlights in Pictures:

Bougainvillean kovi (kaur) entering the showground led by the dangko pair, Hansel Patol (Buka) and Joel Tauko (Bana)
Bougainvilleans, bravely breaking through the crowds
Bougainville flag, shy and low in the midst of its haters
Proud to be a Solomon Islanders of Bougainville
Bougainville on the performance arena
Bamboo Band (in PVC pipes this time) is a unique Solomon music on set here in Madang, PNG
Bougainville 'Dangko' crew on arena
Bougainville's main performers on arena
Bougainville in position to rock
Performance arena, Bougainville in play
Bougainville hit with the first kovi dance with the bamboo band waiting for its moment to quake
Bougainville breaking it
Crowds of Papua New Guineans gather around the Bougainville dancers to have a view of the Solomnese people their country rule, exploit and indoctrinate
Under the dirty claws of Papua New Guinea and its people we, in Bougainville call them as redskins, our future is in danger of extinction so keep us in your prayers as we will vote in a referendum between 2015 and 2020 to determine our political future.
Bougainville Island in its God given place in the Pacific. Bougainvilleans are Solomon Islanders

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Killing a retard at Enamira by the PNG Army

Leonard Fong Roka

In 1989, having satisfied their appetite with all the burning of most villages along the road in the Panguna’s Tumpusiong Valley, the Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF) began careful infiltrations into areas uphill or away from the roads accessible by vehicles.
Anthony Imako
One such hamlet that had a visit from the PNGDF was Enamira that was situated on the foot of Panguna’s main Catholic Mission of Deumori.

But the unique fact about this desolated hamlet, situation on the ridge, directly above the main entrance of the Panguna mine’s Pit Drainage Tunnel,  is that it was home to Arenama, a mentally retard person who had abandoned his wife and children under this condition. Arenama was a blood brother of one of the key leaders in the old Panguna Landowners Association and currently is one of the main advocators of the reopening of the Panguna mine, Michael Pariu.

Formerly, Arenama was a catechist at Deumori. But later got sick and was mentally handicapped. However, despite in this state of mind, he loved his recluse stash. He kept it clean by sweeping the entire lawn daily. He planted flowers; did his own gardening and always hated noisy visitors. But he was harmless.

But one thing known to him was that he dug little holes under his little hut and defecated there and buried his waste.

On that fateful day in 1989, Anthony Imako (pictured), a militant and his mate passed through the hamlet whilst his uncle was still asleep to observe the deserted Deumori Catholic Mission which two days earlier the PNGDF had shot at them as they shouted and condemned them from their hiding place on a ridge.

After having satisfied their hunger with ripe bananas further away from Enamira on gardens left behind by relatives who had fled to care centers in Arawa, they tracked downstream to get to the cliffs that hold the Catholic mission above; their intention was to climb the cliff-face where the PNGDF would not bother to watch.

But half way in their climb, looking down on the forested stream that runs near Enamira further upstream, they spotted an unexpected patrol of the PNGDF tracking up along a trail sourced from the Kavarongnau hamlet, home to the then North Solomons Provincial Government Premier Joseph Kabui which they had burned earlier.

They immediately left to try and persuade Arenama to escape from the patrol.

When they arrived at Enamira, Arenama who was then in his mid-50s, was preparing to cook his breakfast.

They calmly talked with chatted with him and told him that there is a patrol of killers approaching them. Then, Imako and his mate, both unarmed, left to observe the progress of the infiltrators so they returned back to Arenama who had now a burning fire with a pot on.

They told him to move out which he agreed as he chuckled and told them to go ahead.

To that, the pair left down the rugged rocky brae locally known as Katoma on trial that was only the fastest access to the highway below at the entrance of the Panguna mine Pit Drainage Tunnel.

But as they neared, below was a parked convoy of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) trucks with PNGDF soldiers. They change their course to a safer spot and halted and kept their eyes on the PNGDF men below.

They remain there for a few minutes when just above them, at Enamira, guns began rattling. They immediate knew, their relative was the target. Imako was confused whether to go and check or remain. But they remained as it was getting hot with the midday sun.

But the noisy crows above the trail from Enamira were their awareness that the PNGDF was moving down the track they had followed for this waiting convoy.

But as they remain stealth, Imako without any knowledge that the tobacco scent does travel got his smoke-pipe burning to the awareness of the alert PNGDF men that there was a foe nearby. The PNGDF recklessly fired rounds at their direction so they darted uphill towards Enamira in a different direction since the group departing from Enamira was also firing guns.

Upon arrival on ridge top, they observed from the nearby bushes; seeing it was clear, they moved on the lawn. There, the old man’s pot of rice was smashed up; his little hut destroyed and his few belongings burning on the lawn.

Imako felt happy thinking his uncle had escaped. But marching towards the edge of the lawn to look down at the Pit Drainage Tunnel area, there was blood on the ground and on a bush rope piece left behind.

They slowly tracked down; there it was blood everywhere. Since the terrain was so difficult to carry someone, they did roll Arenama downhill. At spots, grass were bend as if a heavy drum rolled over them, but they had blood.

A few step-stones had blood with ants feasting and flies hovering. Further down, the pair saw parts of his skin against some broken sharp bamboos on the track that he might have being dragged over. Imako was so sad that they immediately left back for the village as the convoy of BCL trucks and the PNGDF left at dusk.

The next morning, the militant relay the story to Arawa where their relatives were in the old Arawa’s colonial plantation era fermentary building where most of the Tumpusiong Valley people were kept including the late Arenama’s wife, children and grandchildren.

They hesitated for a few days in fear of the PNGDF and police who were always harassing the hospital staff of the Arawa General Hospital. But later ordered Michael Pariu and a few elders to negotiate with the PNGDF at the hospital and were allowed to identify the body.

They searched the refrigerated shipping container piled with bodies. Arguments broke over the death story of Arenama as they searched. But later identified the body of their relative; the body was disfigured but his feet helped to confirm that it was the body of the late Arenama.

He was brought back home and buried where he was shot with fired cartridges inserted into the concrete block over his tomb to indicate he was killed by the gun.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Day Siuema went up in flames, I was born in 1989

Leonard Fong Roka

Andrew Ami told me that, ‘The day our village was torched by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) in 1989, I was born in the bushes close to our village but safe from the flying bullets that the army was firing everywhere though they were not being shot at by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) who only belonged to the Panguna area so far away from our home.’
Andrew Ami
The Siuema village is in the landlocked Avaipa area of what is now the Evo-Torau Constituency in Central Bougainville. A number of ranges forking out of the Crown Prince Range isolates it from the Panguna District thus every rivers system of the Avaipa area drains onto the Koiare area of the Banoni coast.

The villagers heard of fighting in Panguna; saw a few refugees from the Panguna area arriving in their midst, but never witnessed who the PNG army was; or who the BRA was. Life was innocent in this jungle covered area situated hundreds of kilometers west of the Panguna mine over a myriad of unforgiving mountains.

Maria Napari, Ami’s mother was pregnant with him and because of the fighting in the Panguna area; she had no hope to travel to Arawa to deliver her child in a hospital but was willing to give birth at home. She also feared the fact that the hospital in Arawa was packed with those wounded and killed in the fighting in Panguna, Arawa and Kongara.

Despite all the stories of war in the distance, Siuema kept calm for the people knew they were not landowners of the Panguna mine but the wild jungles and mountains that surrounded them was their life that kept them occupied.

According to Andrew Ami, his home was not developed.

‘Then we had no homes with roofing irons,’ he told me. ‘Every home was made of materials provided by the jungle and our village was made up of hundreds of sago thatched houses founded on a flat piece of land situated along the banks of the Naniuka River.’ 

From here, people walked for hours across rivers, swamps and a series of mountains to reach the nearest place with road systems for vehicles and that is the area now known as Tumpusiong Valley of Panguna in the south-east.

But the harmony was infiltrated in one of the final months of 1989 by the PNG army.

As usual the villagers woke for a Sunday service with the local catechist whilst a few naughty ones wandering off for fishing trip down by the rivers so secured in the canopy covers of the jungles from the flying PNG army helicopters that were said to be attacking some places in the Kieta area.

‘My mother, with me in her womb, woke late that Sunday,’ Ami said. ‘My father left her at home and marched towards the centre of the village where the church was.’

The people began their service well with the service leader completed their procession to the alter area of their church in a relaxed and faithful mood and air.

While the church was there talking to God, out there along the Naniuka River, the fisherman one of whom was inborn Ami’s elder brother discovered the footprints made by hundreds of boots.

They did not wait but darted back to the village in time to let the villagers know and order and evacuation.

As people began rushing here and there to get hold onto a few of their belongings, the army also indiscriminately began firing at the confused people; with bullets dominating the air, people were off into the jungles that surrounded the village.

Maria Napari was also running at her own pace through some massive tangle of undergrowth when labour pains struck her and a few of her relative came to her rescue.

Andrew Ami laughs, ‘Some women directed my mother under some huge rotting boles that they thought was safe from the bullets. There they make sure her mouth was blocked with a woman’s open palm over it to avoid her from screaming; and I was born on the run.’

With the successful delivery, the woman called him ‘Ami’ for ‘Army’ that was attacking them.

In the midst of their jubilation of adding another man in their clan in the jungle, out there, their village was being torched from end to end of the village.

‘Till this very day, ‘Ami says, ‘my people wonder why the PNGDF burned our village to ashes. Our people are not landowners of the Panguna mine area; there was no one in the village that had joined the militants in Panguna in 1989, thus we were innocent.’

He told me that more than fifty sago thatched homes went up in an inferno that the people never had seen before.

‘Because our houses were so close to each other,’ Ami said, ‘people say maybe a few were torched but the wind connected the fire to other house and our whole villages was consumed.’

Andrew Ami feels good about the background of his name. He says his villagers remember their nightmare in 1989 when the called his name.

Her dear mother really valued the name she and her helpers gave her son and even spoke about it on her death bed as she passed away recently living behind her special son, Andrew Ami.