MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Bougainville Seccessionist leader Francis Ona dies

Published by MAC on 2005-07-25


His later years were marked by signs of paranoia and megalomania. However, Francis Ona initiated the rebellion in 1988 against Rio Tinto's vastly damaging Panguna mine on Bougainville, a process which, seventeen tortuous years later, led to an autononmous state.

Once, when asked by an Australian interviewer at the height of the bloody conflict, how the struggle would develop, Ona replied: "Papua New Guinea – we can beat in a week. Australia, Rio Tinto – that will take a little longer…"

Ona is dead - Kabui confirms his death

The National, 25 July 2005

By Bonney Bonsella

SECCESSIONIST Bougainville and Mekamui leader Francis Ona is dead. Mr Ona died at 1pm at his Guava village yesterday.

President of the Bougainville Autonomous Government Joseph Kabui confirmed the death of the reclusive rebel leader from Buka last night.

Mr Kabui said according to information from Arawa, Mr Ona was sick for over a week before succumbing yesterday. The nature of his illness is not known.

President Kabui said it was unfortunate that he was not brought to hospital to be treated earlier.

He said relatives and inner circle friends of the leader relayed news of his death to people in Arawa yesterday. Buka Police also confirmed the death.

President Kabui described Mr Ona as a man who stood up for what he believed in.Mr Kabui said he hoped the passing of Mr Ona would give the opportunity for both the Bougainville Autonomous Government and the faction of the Mekamui under Mr Ona to come together for peace and reconciliation.

He said the BAG plans to have the body of Mr Ona to taken to Buka so that respect can be accorded to him as a prominent political leader.

“Mr Ona and the Bougainville crisis had come hand in hand,” said Mr Kabui.

He said Mr Ona played a prominent role in the crisis and its aftermath, and a funeral service is being arranged by his government.

Mr Ona’s body is still in Guava village, and Mr Kabui said he would liaise with the United Nations representatives in Arawa to have Mr Ona’s body flown to Buka for the funeral, but this would depend on Mr Ona’s inner circle and family.

Mr Ona was the key man who led the secessionist movement as supreme commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in 1988. The crisis forced the closure of the giant Panguna copper mine, which remain closed today.

Thousands, including Bougainvilleans and PNG security forces, were killed during the bloody civil war, which formally ended with the signing of the Bougainville peace agreement in 2001.Mr Ona refused to join the peace process, and recently ventured out of his recluse to urge people to reject the autonomous government elections and to recognise him as the leader of an independent Bougainville.

Sadly, this campaign did not draw much following as Bougainvilleans ignored him and turned out in numbers to elect their new government.

Mr Ona, in his 50s, is survived by his four children - two daughters and two sons - and his wife from Manam Island in Madang province.


‘Biggest rebel with a cause’

The National

26 July 2005

FORMER Chief Ombudsman Simon Pentanu yesterday described Francis Ona as “the biggest rebel with a cause” that has emerged in the Pacific Region.

“I say he was the biggest rebel because he took on a multinational mining company and did what no one has done on such a scale anywhere in the world. He forced the mine to shut down and took charge,” said Mr Pentanu.

He said many Bougainvilleans, particularly the Nasioi people of Central Bougainville, believe he represented a good and justifiable cause on behalf of all Bougainvilleans.

Mr Pentanu said Ona took the task upon himself when in 1989 he confronted the giant Bougainville Copper Mine in protests over issues of environmental pollution, inadequate distribution and unfair management of mining royalties.

He said their concerns were falling on deaf ears of the mining giant and members of his family who were trustees of the royalty moneys from the mine.

He described late Mr Ona as a comitted and relentless leader who stood for his people in what he believed in.

“Francis was a unifying force in a not so obvious way to many outside observers,” he said.


Ona to be accorded a State funeral in Buka

The National

26 July 2005

BOUGAINVILLE secessionist leader Francis Ona, who died on Sunday after a short illness, is to be given a state funeral.

The Bougainville Autonomous Government will also declare a week of mourning, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported yesterday.

The government has sent a senior official to Mr Ona’s village near Panguna, the former mining town in the mountains, to convince his relatives to allow his body to be brought to Buka.President Joseph Kabui said this would allow members of the government to view and pay their last respects

“It will also Mekamui supporters on Buka Island the opportunity to view the body before it is sent home for burial,” he told The National.

He said if the relatives declined, the government would send a delegation to Panguna to witness the burial.

“Finer details will be worked out once information from Mr Ona’s wife and relatives was received,” he said.

Bougainville Administrator Peter Tsiamalili said although Mr Ona, who was 52, refused to join the peace process with Papua New Guinea, he would be honoured in death.

“I think the principle that he stood for was something that every Bougainvillean wanted in terms of the rights for Bougainville, the freedom to choose what they want and all those things that he was fighting for,” he told ABC.

“But the approach he may have taken is something that we all have different views about it.”

Bougainville police chief Asst Comm Joe Bemu reported that the situation was quiet and businesses in Buka and Arawa were operating as usual.

He said he did not expect any trouble.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has announced it will not be sending a representative to the funeral.

However, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Bruce Bilson said a state funeral could provide an opportunity for the people of Bougainville to consolidate the peace process.


Landowners push for BCL share split

Postcourier

19 August 2005

The Autonomous Bougainville Government has been called on to push for state shares in the Bougainville Copper Limited to be transferred to the ABG.

Company secretary of Road Mining Tailings Leases Trustee Limited, a Panguna landowners’ company, Lawrence Daveona said Mining Minister Sam Akoitai was working to have the Bougainville copper agreement reviewed and one of the issues that would be discussed was the state’s interest in this once successful mining company.

“Therefore, we would like to call on the Autonomous Government of Bougainville to push to become a shareholder in BCL,” Mr Daveona said.

“The Bougainville Autonomous Government is well advised to pursue shareholding in BCL first instead of the litigation option which is underway in the United States.” It is understood officers from the Department of Mining are working on a proposal for the review of the Bougainville copper agreement to be presented to the PNG National Executive Council by Mr Akoitai.

This follows a letter to Mr Akoitai by the former Interim Bougainville Provincial Government members to have a review into the agreement.

Mr Daveona said under an equal tripartite distribution arrangement, the National Government’s shareholding of more than 76 million shares should be split one-third each between the ABG, National Government and the landowners.

The one-third split will enable each party to own 25,476,936 shares each in BCL.

On top of that Mr Daveona said there would be tax benefits which would also be shared equally if the proposed arrangement was in place.

Mr Daveona also said the National Government should intervene immediately into the current lawsuit being pursued by the Internal Revenue Commission for tax evasions.

He said the Government’s focus at the moment should be to attract investment from Rio Tinto and not tax than when everyone knew that the Bougainville copper mine had been closed for many years.

President of the ABG Joseph Kabui said on the inauguration day of the government that the future of the Bougainville copper mine would be a priority for the new government and everything would be fast tracked when Central Bougainville MP and Mining Minister Sam Akoitai was still the minister responsible.


Muere Francis Ona, líder independentista de Bougainville

Terra Actualidad - EFE

PAPUA NUEVA GUINEA-OBITUARIO

25-07-2005

Francis Ona, el líder independentista papuano que luchó desde 1988 por la independencia de la provincia de Bougainville, murió en Guava, su pueblo natal, informa hoy el diario 'The Post-Courier'.

Ona, de 50 años, falleció mientras dormía de una enfermedad que se especula pudo tratarse de malaria.

El presidente autonómico de Bougainville, Joseph Kabui, declaró al rotativo que 'estoy muy triste por la noticia, especialmente porque aún no nos habíamos reconciliado'.

Kabui añadió que, de haber sabido que Ona estaba enfermo su Gobierno habría enviado un helicóptero para trasladarle a un hospital, y anunció que el líder independentista tendrá un funeral de Estado en Bougainville.

Ona murió cerca de la gigantesca mina australiana de cobre de Panguna, cuya explotación dio lugar a los enfrentamientos entre los independentistas de Bougainville y el Gobierno papuano.

El conflicto estalló en 1989 cuando los dueños indígenas de las tierras ocupadas por la mina se rebelaron ante la negativa de sus dueños a compensar por los destrozos medioambientales causados por las extracciones mineras.

En 2001, el Gobierno de Papúa Nueva Guinea y los rebeldes de la isla de Bougainville, a excepción de Ona, firmaron un acuerdo de paz para poner fin a un conflicto de más de diez años de duración y que causó cerca de 20.000 víctimas mortales.

El antiguo líder del Ejército Revolucionario de Bougainville (ERB) se puso al frente de un grupo escindido creado ese año y opuesto a negociar con el Gobierno papuano cuando la provincia iba a celebrar el 20 de mayo sus primeras elecciones autonómicas.

Bouganville apostó por la autonomía a pesar de la oposición de Ona, quien dos meses antes de las elecciones reapareció tras un largo exilio para hacer campaña en contra.

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