MAC: Mines and Communities

The National - 23 November 01

Published by MAC on 2001-11-23

The National - 23 November 01

Australia, miner to blame for conflict: Momis

BOUGAINVILLE - John Momis yesterday blamed Australia and its multi-national company Conzinc Rio Tinto, which operated the Panguna Mine, for the Bougainville conflict.

"This crisis was something that was created by the Australian colonial
administration and multi-national company Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia," Mr Momis told Parliament during debate on the Bougainville peace agreement. "In their zeal to raise revenue and to enable PNG to be independent, they dismally failed to take into account the importance of rights of people to land and to own resources and to participate actively in work that the mine created.

"The colonial administration and Conzinc Rio Tinto must accept the blame for the imposition of this problem on PNG. "They were not prepared to listen to the duly elected leaders of Bougainville. "Their only motive was a profit motive. They did not prepare this country well for independence. They did not prepare this country well to establish our own indigenous entrepreneurs.

Conzinc Rio Tinto was very successful in exploiting resources. It provided to the enclave, and paid little consideration to the people in the villages, and by doing so they marginalised the people.

We must listen to the people, the resource owners, because they have no other resources except the PNG resources. Unlike multi-national
corporations who have tentacles all over the world, our people don't have anything else.

The Panguna mine was imposed by the colonial administration not for the benefit of Bougainville, but to help Australia make PNG economically viable in the lead up to independence. The compensation and rent offered by the administration for the land needed for the mine was pitifully low.

"If the Australian colonial administration, and the post-colonial PNG
government, had listened more to the concerns of Bougainvilleans about the mine and the related issue of more autonomy for Bougainville, the conflict would never have occurred."

He said the country has finally come to realise that we have to listen to
the people. "In this instance we have listened adequately to the people of Bougainville. We now stand at the threshold of a new political regime, which is in accordance with the very important principle of subsidiarity. The peace agreement responds to the special situation in post-conflict Bougainville. Several thousands people died in the worst conflict in the Pacific since the end of World War II. Many people were willing to shed their own blood for the goal of independence for Bougainville. If we are to end that conflict for good, we need to offer those people something special, something closer to independence."

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