MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Bougainville to see benefits in five years

Published by MAC on 2002-09-19


Thirty years ago the promise made to newly-emerging independent Papua New Guinea was that Rio Tinto's Bougainville copper-gold mine would launch the country - out of the "Stone age"- into a buoyant twentieth century. In fact many Bougainvilleans experience of the project has become synonymous with all that is most divisive and devastating about big mines in tropical rainforests.

The bloody eight year conflict, generated by mineral extraction and profit mal-distribution has come to an end. The following articles focus on what will hopefully be the penultimate steps before Bougainvilleans attain autonomy (at least) and the equitable prosperity of which they were sorely cheated by the mine [Editors, MAC].

The National (Papua New Guinea) 19 Sept 02


Bougainville to see benefits in five years: Kabui

The president of the Bougainville People's Congress, Joseph Kabui, has expressed confidence that the situation will be a lot better in five years time with an autonomous government that will deliver better services.

"The real benefits will be seen in 10 to 15 years time," he said, adding that development would take on a "Bougainvillean model" just as it had done in the peace process.

Mr Kabui said he was against the opening of the Bougainville copper mine even though small-scale mining could be encouraged if it was properly managed and well controlled. He said the Panguna mine, which still had more than 400 million tonnes of copper and gold-bearing ore, would not be opened "as long as I am breathing air".

However, Mr Kabui acknowledged there were some people in Arawa, not far from the mine site, including former Panguna Landowners Association chairman Michael Pariu, who wanted the mine opened to create jobs and other opportunities.

"This could even be a referendum issue if there is strong popular feeling," he said. "I am really anti-mining now. I'd rather have a crystal clear river flowing out. With mining you get all the chemicals flowing down the river."

Mr Kabui said the future emphasis in Bougainville would be on agriculture, marine resources and eco-tourism.

He said there was "huge potential" in cocoa, copra and forestry, noting that the province had been responsible for more than half the nation's cocoa exports.

Mr Kabui said international buyers favoured locally grown cocoa - output is forecast to rise from 10,000 tonnes this year to 25,000 tonnes in five years - because it "has a special flavour you don't find anywhere else in the world".

"There is a lot of thinking going into downstream processing. We will look at policies for cocoa, copra and timber," he said, while adding that equity negotiations with foreign companies would be done "in such a way that Bougainville must have a major share". The forestry sector, he said, was presently a small cottage industry and "we will encourage it in a big way"

Mr Kabui said that although the potential was not as great as on the PNG mainland there were well-resourced forest areas in south Bougainville and on the west coast. He said cocoa was one crop the province was "going into in a major way" with potential benefits for thousands of households.

The copra industry could also make "a big turnaround" especially if it could be processed as an alternative to diesel fuel for use by vehicles and by generators. "It is very viable and will cost less than imported fuel," he said.


Momis back BCC

The Bougainville Constitutional Commission will give North Solomons Province a chance to develop a truly home-grown constitution, according to North Solomons Governor, John Momis.

"Bougainville has a second chance to develop a truly home-grown constitution that should reflect the ideals of creating a new society,'' he told members of the BCC who had just been sworn into office.

Mr Momis was invited to share his experiences in the constitution development process with the BCC members.

Other speakers included Professor Brij Lal, who was a member of the Fiji Constitutional Committee, Professor Ted Wolfers, who had served with the PNG Constitutional Planning Commission and Tony Regan, an advisor and legal counsel to the BCC.

Mr Momis said the present constitutional development process provided a good chance for the people of Bougainville to decide on the type of society they wanted and the structure of government they wanted to adopt.

"The constitution must free the people to be able to take charge of development instead of being spoon-fed through subjection,'' he said.


Elections for Bougainville autonomy in Nov 2003

By Brian Gomez

An election for an autonomous Bougainville provincial Government should be held by November next year, according to Joseph Kabui, president of the Bougainville Peoples' Congress.

This was based on the assumption that the weapons disposal program would be completed on schedule and a draft constitution for the province is finalised by the middle of next year. Mr Kabui told The National that he was hopeful that the draft constitution for an autonomous government would be completed by the end of January.

The proposed constitution, which needs to be endorsed by the National Executive Council, will be drawn up after the extensive feedback is received from the public.

Mr Kabui said the 25 members of the Bougainville Constitutional Commission would divide themselves into five teams that would travel around the province to obtain public feedback. One of these teams would also visit Port Moresby, Lae and other centres to obtain the views of Bougainvilleans living there.

"The constitution will further enhance the old provincial government constitution," Mr Kabui said, noting that Bougainville had spearheaded the previous system.

He said the main change would be that 90 per cent of powers would be restored to the province. However, foreign affairs, international trade and defence would remain with the National Government.

"We can enter into negotiations with other countries as long as it does not interfere with bilateral relations with Papua New Guinea," he said.

Mr Kabui, who is also chairman of the BCC, said that once an autonomous government is set up, the province would be able to address issues such as the best form of representation for the province in the National Parliament.

"Do we need four members or one member. If so how he's selected will have to be worked out.

"Current feedback suggests having one person there as our ears and eyes and for liaison with the National Government. We will be doing everything down here," he said. Mr Kabui said the planned referendum on independence in 10 to 15 years time "will be very interesting".

"Would people be happy with an autonomous government or to make a total break. This will be a choice for the people.

"My preference will be guided by how people will cast their votes," he said.


Arms disposal by December

By Brian Gomez

The once feared "A" company of Panguna from the "No Go Zone" near Arawa has joined the peace process amidst rising confidence that the second stage of the weapons disposal program should be completed by the end of this year.

All Bougainvillean parties to the 10-year-long conflict briefed the madia last week on the weapons disposal program, disclosing that weapons in the Siwai district in South West Bougainville had been collected and destroyed in a ceremony on December 14 last year. "Peace has certainly arrived and the violence is behind us. There has been on politically motivated violence but recently law and order issues are increasing," said Commander Wayne Jackson, who heads up the peace monitoring group.

Mr Jackson said that the conclusion of stage 2 of the weapons disposal program, when all weapons will be locked in metal containers, a decision would be made on the final fate of these weapons.

"Weapons disposal is not about collecting weapons but about trust that the peace process is here," he said.

Questioned on the decision of the "A" company to joint the peace process, the vice president of the Bougaiville People's Congress, James Tanis, speaking as the group's leader, said the group had been "left out" of the peace process because of two big issues. These were the claim for K10 billion in compensation from CRA Ltd, the owner and operator of the Bougainville copper mine and the issue of independence for Bougainville. The compensation claim was now being addressed in a US court, he said, adding "Francis Ona is taking CRA to court in the US. So why hide in the jungle when we have a court case?"

The peace process has also provided an opportunity to talk about independence, enabling "A" company to accept all obligations under the peace process, he said.

Asked about groups that remained outside the peace process, he said this was a reference to Mr Ona and the Meekamui defence force. They had not done anything to deliberately affect the peace process, he said.

"He has been silent. He may not agree with everything in the process. We leave it up to Francis Ona and Meekamui to choose the best time to join the peace process."

Meanwhile, it was disclosed that people in Siwai were already enjoying the dividends of peace, having decides in December to destroy resistance force weapons. People in Siwai have been able to move around freely without feeling threatened by the sight of weapons. The weapons were destroyed, explained Ambassador Noel Sinclair, head of the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville. It was a very emotional ceremony and I still have the smell of metal being cut in my nose."

Siwai is the most advanced area in terms of attracting investments and facing the real issue of getting on with out lives", said Fred Terry, project manager for restoration and development activities coordinated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

Work had begun in Sivai on town planning, he said. "There is a sense of euphoria as they go bout their daily business without fear," he said. Mr Terry also said the invisible fence blocking off the No Go Zone near Arawa was also breaking down.

"People are looking over and seeing the benefits of peace and development - cocoa projects, ex-combatant training programs and women's development.

"Development is significant in the longer term and will manifest itself in maximum autonomy, " he said.

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