MAC: Mines and Communities

Ona: No, No - 'close B'ville Govt And Let Me Run It'

Published by MAC on 2005-07-01
Source: Postcourier ()

After a long silence - during which he has definitely been affected by delusions of grandeur - the fomentor of the Bougainville rebellion, which led to the movement to secede from Papua New Guinea, ex-Rio Tinto employee, Francis Ona, has said, once again, that the Panguna mine will never re-open. Well not quite judging by the statement quoted from him below.

At the same time the US legal team, which wanted back in the late nineties, to sue Rio Tinto on behalf of land owners damaged by the mine, is arriving in the new autonomous state. to try to do a deal on behalf of their clients - which may or may not see the revival the mine as one of the cash-cows placed on the table.

ONA: NO, NO - 'Close B'ville Govt and let me run it'

Postcourier

1 July 2005

The re-opening of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville is a no, no! Self-styled leader of the unrecognised Me'ekamui government and recluse Francis Ona in an exclusive interview with our Gorethy Kenneth in his Guava village outside the mine site on Tuesday said suggestions to re-open the mine to finance the Bougainville Autonomous Government would be resisted.

'Let me run B'ville government'

By Gorethy Kenneth

The re-opening of the Panguna Mine will be a no, no and the decision will have to come from the people and the landowners, reclusive Me'ekamui leader Francis Ona said on Tuesday.

And whoever is talking about re-opening of the Panguna mine that caused the loss of 20,000 lives "must be out of his/her mind" Mr Ona said.

Further, Mr Ona said if there was no money to run the Autonomous Bougainville Government, he wants it closed down and let him run Bougainville.

In an exclusive interview with the Post-Courier in his Guava village on Wednesday this week, Mr Ona said if the mine had to be re-opened by the people it would be facilitated by the Me'ekamui government. Mr Ona was responding to questions as to whether he was supportive of negotiations to re-open the Panguna Mine.

"My people and I won't allow the mine to be re-opened. Twenty thousand lives were lost and this is how we can compensate their lives? Kabui (Autonomous Bougainville Government President Joseph Kabui) or anyone talking about re-opening the mine must be out of his/her mind . . . (Mr) Kabui and his government must find other means of earning money and not try to use this mine to get loans from the World Bank. If you don't have the money, then close the government and let me run it. Me'ekamui has all the funding available and ready," Mr Ona said.

"At this point, Panguna is not going to be opened for the remaining short term as it is associated with too much pain and suffering.

"The leaders of PNG and the autonomy truly believe opening such a mine as this one will be okay when so many alive today are still suffering because of the deaths of their parents, brothers and sisters, its way too soon.

"No, I will not support that, it's entirely up to the people and if they decide to agree on the re-opening then Me'ekamui will have to facilitate it.

"However, as we go along in our established sovereignty and independence, it is maybe the case later. Who knows, that will be a decision of the people not mine, the House of Lords, the House of Representatives, landowners and others will then have to decide but now its not possible.

"I know since the closure of Panguna, it led to the whole international mining community changing its operations and approach to landowners, especially in terms of what today is considered as environmentally friendly mining that we have to be aware of but in terms of Panguna, tell Mr Somare (Sir Michael) and other leaders I will bring the orphans and the widows to him if he wants to come look in their eyes and say 'hey profits to PNG matters not what you lost'.

"I am not going to do that, leadership is about respecting the people you represent and respecting yourself."

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