MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Don't object to lawsuit - Ona

Published by MAC on 2001-11-30

Don't object to lawsuit - Ona

Postcourier - 30 November 01

The president of the "Mekamui National Congress" Francis Ona has written to the Morauta government asking it to withdraw its objection to the class action in the name of the Bougainville people against mining giant Rio Tinto now before the US courts. In his letter, Mr Ona urged the Government not use "diplomatic leverage" to block or hijack the court proceedings.

The case was filed 12 months ago on behalf of all Bougainvilleans, including victims and survivors of the Bougainville conflict who suffered injury, as well as those whose land and livelihoods were damaged by the operations of the Panguna mine. Mr Ona said the case had been progressing well and posed no threat to the peace process, contrary to assertions contained in the Government objection. Mr Ona said Bougainville was today one of the most peaceful places in the Pacific, safer than even many street corners of Australian cities and much safer than Port Moresby and other urban centres of PNG. He urged Bougainvilleans, including community leaders, civilians, BRA, MDF and resistance members, to maintain calm and peace throughout Bougainville at this critical time when CRA and the PNG Government had joined forces in a concerted effort to remove the lawsuit out of US courts.

"We must maintain peace at all costs. Our adversaries would no doubt like to see us once more at each other's throats so that they can manipulate the situation and control events on Bougainville," Mr Ona said. "I am confident, that God is with us and that if we remain united, victory will surely be ours."

Mr Ona has issued a strong caution that "if the Government's objection does effectively influence the court's decision and the case gets thrown out of US jurisdiction, it will amount to another total economic blockade of Bougainville."

"And if my people's suffering is deliberately prolonged by the PNG Government, our plight will only continue to haunt the rest of Papua New Guinea in more ways than what many people would like to imagine," Mr Ona said. He has appealed to all Bougainville political leaders to join forces and stand united against CRA's political conspiracy, which seeks to remove the lawsuit from America, considered the best neutral forum available to Bougainvilleans.

Mr Ona also appealed to Governor John Momis and BPC president Mr Kabui to maintain a united stand for the cause of the lawsuit. He said the lawsuit sought just and fair compensation for every Bougainvillean man, woman and child who had suffered because of the 10-year war and 25 years of mining and mine related environmental and social disruption on the island.

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