MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2001-11-30



30 November 2001

The President of Mekamui National Congress, Mr Francis Ona [1], has written to the Morauta Government to withdraw its objection to the class action by the people of Bougainville against Rio Tinto now before the United States courts. The case was filed twelve (12) months ago on behalf of all Bougainvilleans, including victims and survivors of the Bougainville conflict who suffered injury, as well as those whoose land and livelihoods were damaged by the operations
of the Panguna mine.

The action was initiated by the people themselves without help from political leaders in Papua New Guinea. Mr Ona has urged the Government not to use diplomatic leverage to block or hijack the ongoing court proceedings. The case has been progressing well in parallel with, and poses no threat to the peace process contrary to assertions contained in the government objection.

Mr Ona said comparatively speaking, Bougainville is 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.

Mr Ona has especially appealed to all Bougainville leaders from the whole spectrum of Bougainville politics to join forces and stand united against CRA's [2] political conspiracy which seeks to remove the lawsuit from America, considered the best neutral forum available to Bougainvilleans.

Mr Ona has especially appealed to governor John Momis and Mr Kabui, President of BPC [3], to maintain a united stand for the cause of the lawsuit which seeks just and fair compensation for every Bougainvillean man, woman and child who has suffered by reason of the 10 year war and twenty five years of mining and mine related environmental and social disruption on the island.

The President would like to thank all leaders including members of the Bougainville Peoples Congress, Bougainville Interim Government, and Bougainville PNG Parliamentarians who have signed statements with our lawyers supporting the case in America. These leaders deserve our highest commendation for resisting pressure from foreign influence to politicise the case. He adds that anyone who opposes the case is really the enemy of peace and an enemy of our struggle to obtain justice for our long suffering people. Thousands of Bougainvilleans have signed up as plaintiffs for this case.

Mr Ona also wishes to allay fears that only he will benefit from the lawsuit or that he alone will control proceeds from the case. He would like to reassure everyone affected by the Bougainville crisis that they will all benefit should judgement be awarded in our favour. Even the rest of Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific generally stand to benefit from a successful suit.

Mr Ona would also like to remind everyone that much effort and resources by our lawyers and our people has gone into ensuring that this case is prosecuted successfully. Work has progressed to such a stage that everyone involved with the litigation is confident of victory.

The only thing that now stands in the way of victory is political interference promoted by Rio Tinto, the perpetrators of the injustices on Bougainville.

Mr Ona's final appeal goes to all the people of Bougainville, including community leaders, civilians, BRA, MDF [4] and Resistance Members, to maintain calm and peace throughout Bougainville at this critical time, when CRA [2] and the PNG Government have joined forces, in a concerted effort to remove the lawsuit out of the US courts.

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

Mr Ona has issued 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. Our hospitals are full of people dying of radiation-related diseases like breast cancer, courtesy of CRA's chemical pollution of the environment".

"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", concluded Mr Ona.

Francis Ona

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