MAC: Mines and Communities

Marchers against mining's "environmental vandalism" face arrest in PNG

Published by MAC on 2010-07-09
Source: The PNG National, Postcourier

Proposed new legislation for Papua New Guinea would provide the government with unprecedented powers to waive existing environmental rules on behalf of extractive companies, and penalise protests against mining projects. See:

Even as citizens marched on June 30th against the new law in Madang province (site of proposed submarine tailings dumping from the planned Ramu nickel mine), they were threatened with arrest by the Attorney General, who declared:

"There will be no more talkback radio programmes and interviews, no more advertisements, no more letters to the editor, no more public meetings and, above all, no public demonstrations or protest marches".

In turn, PNG parliament's opposition leader, Sir Mekere Morauta, has condemned the prime minister and his government as being "environmental vandals".

Also a video documentary produced by the Bismarck Ramu Group in Madang, Papua New Guinea has been published on the Internet. (It covers arguments around the project itself, as well as the recent changes to the PNG Environment Act. The film is available in 3 parts on YouTube:

Environmental vandals

By Alison Anis

The National

1 July 2010

OPPOSITION leader Sir Mekere Morauta has labelled Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and the government as "environmental vandals".

"They are putting their interests above the interest of the country in passing the amendments to the Environment Act.

"The law is not in the natural interest of the people who are dependent on the environment for their livelihood," Sir Mekere said.

"The prime minister and his government had become environmental vandals engaged in environmental vandalism," he told a press conference last week.

He said it was clear the law served the interest of foreign investors and "there is now growing opposition nationwide against the amendments".

"Ask this question: How many people in the rural areas are dependent on the environment for their livelihood and will continue to live in that environment for many centuries to come?

"Somare and his government are destroying the environment for businesses that are finite in their terms.

"Forestry companies would not be here for long but in the process, he (Sir Michael) had helped to destroy the environment where people would live for many years," Sir Mekere said.

"It is vandalism of the highest order by a government which had completely lost the people's interest.

He urged all landowners to come together and challenge the decision and fight for their rights.

"I am glad to hear that Western Governor Dr Bob Danaya is taking legal action through the provincial executive council on the issue," he said.

Madang marchers face arrest

By Jeffrey Elapa and Ronald Bulum

The National

1 July 2010

POLICE in Madang are awaiting instructions from their superiors and the attorney-general and state lawyers to execute arrests on ringleaders of yesterday's protest march against the Environment (Amendment) Act 2010.

Provincial police commander Supt Anthony Wagambie Jr had earlier on instructed protest leaders against staging the march as the matter was before court and was sub judice.

However, yesterday, hundreds gathered and staged a peaceful and vocal demonstration against the amendments at an open field near the provincial administration buildings.

Wagambie said it appeared that the protest march was organised by both Madang-based and overseas non-governmental organisations. He said police would only execute arrests and file contempt charges if the necessary documents by state lawyers were in place.

Following the filing of a Supreme Court reference disputing the amendments, state lawyers also argued successfully for the matter to be ceased.

Attorney-General Ano Pala later explained that as such, "there should not be anymore discussions, comments or references conducted in the media, or elsewhere".

"There will be no more talkback radio programmes and interviews, no more advertisements, no more letters to the editor, no more public meetings and, above all, no public demonstrations or protest marches," Pala stated in a public notice.

The people, mainly town residents, were joined by villagers from Rai Coast, Trans Gogol and the Karkar and Bagbag islands who are members of the Madang People's Forum and the Bis-marck Solomon Seas Indigenous People's Council.

Nearly the whole student population of Divine Word University, who had foregone the PNG University Games currently underway at Unitech in Lae in preference of starting their second semester, left classes to take part in the protest, a protester said.

The protesters congregated at the Laiwaden oval and carried placards that said simply: "No no no" or, in a message to Environment Minister Benny Allan and his colleague MPs: "Yu yet gat graun" (you are a landowner).

They were planning to march on the road to the provincial headquarters when Governor Sir Arnold Amet arrived.

"He came escorted by police," organiser George Ireng said.

Ireng said he asked Sir Arnold to take the lead and march with the people but the governor declined.

Sir Arnold could not be reached for comment.

"He opted to clarify the amendments but we did not want to get any clarifications. It was clear he was trying to defend National Alliance and not the people."

Parliament had, on April 28, enacted a piece of legislation outlawing third parties from suing developers.

The landowners of Basamuk Bay in Rai Coast felt it was "a direct insult" on them having given Allan and Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu a 21-day ultimatum on April 10 to reply to their petition.

Their petition had called for an independent study of the effects of deep sea mine tailings from the Ramu nickel mine.

They felt that the disposal would adversely affect the marine eco-system from Rai Coast to Karkar and Bagbag islands in Madang to Siassi in Morobe.

Wagambie said all available police manpower in Madang, including a section of the MS14 (riot police) personnel based at Bogia, were dispatched throughout the town asking residents not to stage the protest march.

Don't give in to developers too easily

Postcourier - Letter to the Editor

11 June 2010

I refer to the report "DSTD to go ahead despite public outcry".

In this report the Minister for Environment and Conservation, Benny Allan, was quoted as saying "the government will ensure that the DSTD will not affect your village life. The examples we saw happening to Misima and now Lihir has not affected them since we have not heard any noise from them".

It is insulting for me as a Lihirian coming from a village affected by the Deep Sea Tailing Placement (DSTP) system to read that Mr Allen has made a cheap reference to my people to cool down the tempers of the Raicoast villagers.

The DSTP system has poisoned the Lihir marine life and the livelihood of my people. We are seeing dead fish and turtles with ulcerous wounds on their skins washed ashore every week. Bleached corals, uncontrolled seaweed-invasion of coral reefs and inexplicable reduction in reef fish population are now common sights on the island.

Now minister, does that sound like DSTP has no environmental impact on Lihir Island to you? How can you guarantee the people of Madang that DSTP will not affect their village lives when clearly your department has failed to monitor and contain the destruction done to our marine life due to DSTP?

Mr Allen and his other 73 cohorts have voted to amend the 2000 Environment Act, outlawing third party lawsuits against resource projects as in our case Lihir Gold. Resource owners of PNG have been gagged and made to accept environmental destruction in the name of development by the government they voted in.

JM Wasa
Sunanio, Lihir Island

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