Bougainville News Alert : Push for late 2020 Bougainville PNG referendum ?

Radio New Zealand  and RADIO Australia are reporting  that an advisor to the autonomous Bougainville government says Papua New Guinea’s national leaders will likely set the date for the Bougainville referendum on independence.

LISTEN RADIO Australia Interview

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Anthony Regan  (pictured above) says there’s been relatively little focus among PNG’s national politicians on the approaching window for the referendum, which is to be held between 2015 and 2020.

“And as that date has to be agreed between the two sides, Papua New Guinea can effectively set the date as late as it likes up until 2020 so I think there’s a sense in Port Moresby that that’s probably what will happen. Although Bougainville can of course request an earlier date, it’s most likely that it’s going to be late.”

Anthony Regan was in New Zealand last week to give a lecture on Bougainville at Victoria University.

He says as Bougainville moves into this critical phase, there will be a need for considerable help from the international community over the range of complex issues that need to be negotiated with PNG in this phase

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Bougainville Tourism News July 2014 : Bougainville developing its tourism sector

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The resource-rich island of Bougainville is preparing to welcome more tourists after its decade-long civil war.

The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is hoping tourism will help it get back on its feet after a decade of civil war.

Tourism authorities on the island are launching an initiative aimed at selling the island to the world.

Bougainville also has a website featuring the many tourist experiences the island has to offer.

Lawrence Belleh is chief executive officer of Bougainville Tourism and organises many Festivals like the MONA  and Siwai Festivals (see image Below)

SEE BOUGAINVILLE TOURISM”s  NEW WEBSITE

He told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat that the country has many attractions that will be a draw for tourists.

“We have the still rawness in the natural environment and everything people would want to see especially with the ecotourism that is around here in Bougainville,” he said.

“The people here are very, very friendly.

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Mr Belleh says the island’s natural environment is still in tact after the 10-year conflict and is suitable for tourist activities.

“So many things like lakes, the mountains, the volcanos… you see crystal clear water everywhere, it’s good for diving, snorkelling, swimming, fishing,” he said.

Example of Ecotourism Manee Via Arawa

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Zhon Bosco : Bougainville Experience Tours

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Rotokas Eco tourism operators Follow on FACEBOOK

Rotokas

 

There remains much wariness among the locals over reopening the copper and gold mine because of what they experienced at the height of the civil war.

The mine, which was one of the world’s largest, was closed in 1989 after it caused the civil war on the island.

“One of the things we are trying to avoid is to reopen the mine and that’s the sentiment that we have here especially the people of Panguna where what they would like to do is to do tourism,” Mr Belleh said.

“Rebuilding their lives, they want to build it through ecotourism, that’s what people have openly said.”

A recently released film Mr Pip – which is set during Bougainville’s civil war period – has also generated global interest in the island.

The movie is based on a novel by New Zealand author Lloyd Jones.

“Some of the actors and scenes you see in the film is actually the experiences people had experienced during the height of the crisis,” Mr Belleh said.

The government is already seeing an increase in tourists and making room for them.

“There are so many things that are happening and because of the film, there are so many people now that are coming to see where the film actually took place,” Mr Belleh said.

“With the people as well, there are facilities that people are now building like guest houses.”

A good example the Arawa Visitors centre

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And the recently upgrade Kuri Village Resort in Buka

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Bougainville News: President questions if Bougainville ready for referendum: Mining law update

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By Anthony Kaybing

A recent statement by the Autonomous Bougainville Government President Chief Dr John Momis on Bougainville’s readiness to hold its referendum to decide its political fate has come into question. President Momis had stated earlier that Bougainville in its current state was not ready to hold its referendum due to insurmountable socio-political factors affecting the region at present.

SEE also below: A DRAFT mining bill transferring powers from the Papua New Guinea Government to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) could “adversely affect” the mining rights held by Bougainville Copper, the company has warned.

Public outcry over the President’s blunt statement has questioned his intentions on the determination of Bougainville’s future to the extent of also questioning his loyalty to Bougainville.

But he explained the reason for his outburst that Bougainville has to meet a certain criteria to ascertain its future to attain higher autonomy or move toward total secession and gain independence from Papua New Guinea.

“This is a fact and we cannot continue to disregard this, it’s a reality and we must man up and face it and do something about it if we really do care about the future of Bougainville,” he said.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement exudes President Momis’ concern on holding the referendum at a time when Bougainville has not yet quite met the expectations of the BPA on good governance and total weapons disposal.

The President pointed out that Bougainville is yet to achieve fiscal self-reliance, weapons disposal and the lack of unity amongst Bougainvilleans are the prime cause of his concern on holding the referendum too early which may prove detrimental.

“We cannot hold the referendum right now because we have yet not met the criteria of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and might I remind you, the outcome of the referendum depends on the ratification by the National Government so we will definitely fail should we do so right now,” the President said.

“You cannot have a nation when you don’t support your government, you can’t have a nation when there is disunity and law and order problems and you simply cannot have nation with a minimal educated populace,” the President also explained.

“When I say this it does not mean that we will not have the referendum or that I am against it, we will certainly have it but at a time within the ten year Referendum period and at a more suitable time when the government is ready so we should not make haste,” he said.
Having explained this the President also said that the Autonomous Bougainville Government has been working tirelessly to ready Bougainville for the ensuing Referendum period which must and only be held anytime between 2015 and 2020. This has been evident with the ABG legislating laws to strengthen its autonomy institutions to create a more conducive environment that is on par with international best practice on good governance.

 From Alison Middleton PNG Industry report June 27

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A DRAFT mining bill transferring powers from the Papua New Guinea Government to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) could “adversely affect” the mining rights held by Bougainville Copper, the company has warned.

Bougainville Copper confirmed it had been provided with a Draft Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Bill by the ABG.

The company said the bill appeared to be in accordance with the ABG’s stated objective to draw down powers from the PNG national government and obtain the transfer of powers relating to mining.

Bougainville Copper holds a number of resource tenements in Bougainville, including a special mining lease, various leases for mining purposes and several exploration licences.

The Rio Tinto subsidiary has been eyeing a resumption of mining of the giant Panguna copper deposit in the early 2020s, after the mine was closed in 1989 due to civil war.

“The SML entitles the company to explore and mine for copper within the SML area,” Bougainville Copper said in a statement.

“The SML is governed by the Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA) and the Mining (Bougainville Copper Agreement) Act.

“The draft bill, in its current form, if passed into law, may adversely impact on the mining rights held by Bougainville Copper.

“The draft bill purports to repeal the BCA Act. The company does not concede the draft bill – if passed into law in its current form – does or can have that effect.

“Bougainville Copper is taking appropriate advice regarding the bill as drafted and will seek to liaise and meet with representatives of the ABG to discuss its concerns.”

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Bougainville News: The ‘lost generation’ of Bougainville: the women speak up

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SABINE ELVY | World Vision International

THE Autonomous Region of Bougainville seems like a true paradise: turquoise waters, palm trees and smiling faces. But this area has a troubled past.

Civil war waged in Bougainville for nearly 10 years in the 1990s displacing around 70,000 people and killing thousands. Over a decade later, the legacy of the war continues to leave its devastating impacts upon a new generation, including children born post-conflict.

Cecilia Naguo, 44, is a midwife from Buin District who knows that civil war costs more than just lives.

Cecilia was 23 years old and had just graduated from nursing college when the civil war started. She runs World Vision’s nutrition project in Bougainville, Good Food to Support the Growth of Children, funded by World Vision New Zealand.

Children’s health is something Cecilia is passionate about and she is familiar with the history. She describes a generation of people who missed out on basic health and education during the conflict, labelling them as “the lost generation”.

“During the civil war, children never had any basic health services”, Cecilia says. “It was very difficult to get medical supplies to treat any childhood illness.

“War also had a huge impact on children’s immunisations, because there was simply no way of procuring vaccines. Many children died from preventable diseases.”

Unfortunately, illiteracy and lack of basic education – a legacy of the conflict – is a significant challenge in breaking the cycle of disease and malnutrition, as skills have not been learned and passed on.

Tragically, child health is in a dire state. Children born post-conflict continue to die before they reach their fifth birthday, many deaths due to complications at birth, as well as preventable diseases as such as pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea.

This is something that women at the Buka markets appear to agree upon and are more than happy to speak up about.

Genevieve, 41, is a mother of four and understands too well that lack of awareness – stemming from lack of education – is a big issue that needs addressing in Bougainville.

She explains that many children in Bougainville are malnourished and therefore susceptible to falling ill, and she wishes that there were more awareness about children’s health at the community level.

“Unplanned pregnancies are a problem here”, she says. “We need to educate our youth.  Many do not have the skills required to look after children.”

Gorethy, of South Bougainville, agreed that many children suffer from neglect. What they need, she says, is “love, support and balanced meals”. Genevieve, who is expecting her fifth child, rubs her belly and nods.

“Children should have three balanced meals a day, but they often miss lunch”, adds Jenny, a 28 year old woman from the west coast. “Sometimes it’s because of food shortages, but other times women just have too many chores.”

The effects of the conflict are far reaching, but so are the positive effects of educating the future generation to raise healthy, strong and happy children. With the right approach to children’s health, all is not lost.

You  can help the lost generation with education tools such as Kindles by donating here:

On the first July 2014 we have 5 kindles (with up to 1,400 books) on the way to Buin Primary School

But we need 20 for the 200 students

www.bookgainville.com

 

Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

 

 

Bougainville News: Australian Government discusses future of Bougainville in Senate Estimates

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Papua New Guinea PM Peter O’Neill visits Bougainville in January 2014 as countries seek reconciliation following civil war

The following is a transcript from the Commonwealth of Australia Foreign Affairs Senate Estimates: Canberra June 2014

SUMMARY

Under the Bougainville peace agreement, to which Australia was a witness, the signatory is the central government in Papua New Guinea and the established Autonomous Bougainville Government. They agreed to a referendum window of 2015 to 2020 for there to be a question or questions put to the people of Bougainville about the future status of that province. One of those questions has to address the issue of possible independence for Bougainville. The Bougainville authorities, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the authorities in Port Moresby, the Papua New Guinea National Government led by Prime Minister O’Neill, have been in discussions with each other. Those discussions have waxed and waned. I think we have noticed recently, as we get closer to the opening of that referendum window, that there has been some new positive and very welcome, from our point of view, momentum behind those consultations.

Those consultations, obviously, involve a range of players both from Bougainville and the central government, including the three Bougainville representatives who sit in the National Parliament in Port Moresby. The leader from the Bougainville side is the leader of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Mr Momis. There are in the Bougainville peace agreement references to a number of things that should happen as we approach the referendum window. I emphasise there is no certainty on dates within that quite wide five-year window.

The question of timing for a referendum is one under the agreement that needs to be settled between the National Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Similarly, the conditions and arrangements for that referendum have to be settled in that way.

Our aid program in Bougainville is increasing as well as part of our broader aid program to Papua New Guinea. Minister Bishop is determined, as we approach 2015-2020, to use the aid program further in support of creating the conditions for future stability in that province and future prosperity for the people of Bougainville

 

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Chair. In 2013, USAID issued its Bougainville stability desk study and issued warnings about instability with regard to Bougainville. In 2008, there was an AusAID report called Market chain development in peace building: Australia’s roads, wharves and agriculture projects in post-conflict Bougainville that also warned that re-opening the Panguna mine on Bougainville was a high risk operation that could generate significant instability. Does the department accept this view? What is the current position with regard to reopening the mine?

Ms Klugman: I will just get to the right notes. Your question mentioned agriculture and a few other things and stability, but your question was about the future of the Panguna mine. You should rest assured, Senator, that both sides of the debate on the future of Bougainville—that is, the sovereign government of Papua New Guinea as well as the autonomous province of Bougainville—are fully aware of the role that both land and other issues around the Panguna mine played in the troubles. They are very focused on the future of that mine.

The future of the Panguna mine is quite clearly a matter for the government of Papua New Guinea through its arrangements with the autonomous Bougainville government, the resource sector being one of the areas of autonomous power being drawn by the autonomous Bougainville government under the Bougainville peace agreements.

Senator RHIANNON: So do I take from that that the Australian government does not have a position if it should be re-opened or do you have a position if it would be beneficial to Bougainville and PNG if the mine re-opened?

Ms Klugman: That is a matter for PNG and Bougainville.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the department aware of allegations in the British Journal of Criminology, volume 52, issue No 4, page 705: ‘Testimony from senior Australian Government officials is presented which strongly suggests the Australian Government supported PNG defence force operations on Bougainville during 1989 to 1992 and to that end provided direct military assistance, including ADF officers who helped plan the counter insurgency campaign.’ Is the department aware of these allegations and has any follow-up occurred since that article was printed?

Ms Klugman: I am not aware of that article. I am happy to take that question on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

Senator Brandis: I am not aware that the department of foreign affairs regularly subscribes to the British Journal of Criminology.

Senator RHIANNON: Senator, you are aware that was my question. But as it involves Australian government officials who were named as being quite senior, I thought it may have come to their attention. I am happy for it to go on notice.

Senator Brandis: Who was the author of the article?

Senator RHIANNON: You will be able to find all that out. I have not got much time; so I would like to move on.

Senator Brandis: You just cannot come in here and without—

Senator RHIANNON: Last night you told me I could not ask questions. Now you are saying I cannot come in here.

Senator Brandis: If I may finish, please, without being interrupted. You cannot just come in here and quote from an article that nobody has ever heard of and which has no bearing upon the work of DFAT and when you are asked to identify the author, decline to do so. These are serious allegations made against Australian personnel in the area and you will not cite your source.

Senator RHIANNON: This is the opportunity to clear the air.

Senator Brandis: You are the person who has raised the scandalous allegation.

Senator RHIANNON: Surely that is what estimates is about.

Senator Brandis: You will not even identify your source.

Senator RHIANNON: I have identified the source and I gave it to you right down to the page number.

Senator Brandis: Who was the author of the article?

Senator RHIANNON: I am happy to put it on notice later, the whole article.

Senator Brandis: So you have made a scandalous allegation against members of the ADF.

Senator RHIANNON: No, I have not made a scandalous allegation. I have repeated something. So you are saying—

Senator Brandis: You won’t even tell us who was making the allegation.

Senator RHIANNON: That it is not a reputable source?

Senator Brandis: It may not be a reputable source. It may not be a reputable person.

Senator RHIANNON: Again it is your time-wasting exercises.

Senator Brandis: Until we know who was the author of the article, how can we make a judgment about its reputability?

 

Senator RHIANNON: A freedom of information request was lodged by the Corporate Responsibility Coalition in Britain. It appears that the Australian government, from the information that was released, joined with their British counterparts to lodge an amicus curiae brief in support of Rio Tinto after it was sued under the alien tort statute for human rights abuses on Bougainville. Given this helped to block victims of war crimes from obtaining a potential remedy in the US courts, can the department explain why the Australian government decided to oppose the legal action?

 

Senator Brandis: Again, this question is even more foolish because your question is based on an assertion. It appears—from whom?

Senator RHIANNON: No, it is from a freedom of information—

Senator Brandis: From?

Senator RHIANNON: The Corporate Responsibility Coalition in Britain put it in. It is there on notice.

Senator Brandis: So someone—

Senator RHIANNON: Again, it is an opportunity to clear the air. What is wrong with that?

Senator Brandis: So some lobby group in a foreign country of whom nobody has ever heard has put in a freedom of information request. On that extremely slender basis, you are making allegations against the Australian government. What is your source?

Senator RHIANNON: Ms Klugman, will you take that on notice, please?

Senator Brandis: No, we will not take that on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: You will not even take it on notice?

Senator Brandis: We will not even take it on notice. We will not dignify it with a response because it is absurd.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Chair. It says it all, coming from the minister.

Senator FAWCETT: Can I just follow up on Bougainville since we are on that topic. Ms Klugman, I am assuming you are probably the one to ask. You are obviously aware of that peace agreement which led to the understanding that there could be a referendum on independence between 2015 at the earliest and 2020 at the latest.

Ms Klugman: That is correct.

 

Senator FAWCETT: Could you update the committee on where we believe that sentiment is at in terms of desire for it and particularly a couple of the requirements that are being discussed? One is weapons disposal, particularly from the BRA, and also requirements for better governance before we move down that path.

 

Ms Klugman: Yes, you are quite correct. Under the Bougainville peace agreement, to which Australia was a witness, the signatory is the central government in Papua New Guinea and the established Autonomous Bougainville Government. They agreed to a referendum window of 2015 to 2020 for there to be a question or questions put to the people of Bougainville about the future status of that province. One of those questions has to address the issue of possible independence for Bougainville. The Bougainville authorities, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the authorities in Port Moresby, the Papua New Guinea National Government led by Prime Minister O’Neill, have been in discussions with each other. Those discussions have waxed and waned. I think we have noticed recently, as we get closer to the opening of that referendum window, that there has been some new positive and very welcome, from our point of view, momentum behind those consultations.

Those consultations, obviously, involve a range of players both from Bougainville and the central government, including the three Bougainville representatives who sit in the National Parliament in Port Moresby. The leader from the Bougainville side is the leader of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Mr Momis. There are in the Bougainville peace agreement references to a number of things that should happen as we approach the referendum window. I emphasise there is no certainty on dates within that quite wide five-year window.

The question of timing for a referendum is one under the agreement that needs to be settled between the National Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Similarly, the conditions and arrangements for that referendum have to be settled in that way.

I referred to some new momentum. I think I had focused in particular on a visit that was made two months ago to Bougainville by Prime Minister O’Neill himself. That was the first visit by Prime Minister O’Neill to that province. Indeed it was the first time a Papua New Guinea Prime Minister had been to Bougainville for many years. There were some reconciliation ceremonies and events that preceded that visit, which are important in the context of the history of the conflict in that place.

For our part, Australia, as a neighbour, as a close friend of Papua New Guinea and, by the way, as a witness to that peace agreement, have been stepping up, through Ms Bishop our dialogue with the leadership in Papua New Guinea on those questions, the questions of referendum, the questions of Australian assistance with economic development activities in Bougainville as part of our broader aid program in Papua New Guinea.

I think we are in a phase, I would say, of stepped-up interaction and dialogue with the two principal players in this matter, which are the government of Papua New Guinea and the government of that autonomous province.

 

Senator FAWCETT: I guess my question goes to the issues that were the pre-enabling conditions, which were the governance and the weapons cell. Given the consequences for Australia of instability in Bougainville should things not go well, I am just interested: are we committing resources in terms of people or funding to assist with those two particular elements around increasing governance or monitoring or facilitating weapons control

Ms Klugman: Yes, we are doing both of those things. You mentioned two issues which are prominent in the agreement itself. In the letter of the agreement, they are not conditions for a referendum but they are very much pre-conditions for a referendum but they are important conditions for a successful and peaceful act of successful and peaceful referendum in that country.

There is still a lot of ordnance left over. You mentioned the weapons disposal but there is also a lot of UXO disposal which we have been involved in, in particular through the role of the Australian Defence Force in Operation Render Safe, which is an operation that goes beyond Papua New Guinea but there is a particular focus on Papua New Guinea. Its purpose is to clean up damaging ordnance left over from the Second World War.

Our aid program in Bougainville is increasing as well as part of our broader aid program to Papua New Guinea. Minister Bishop is determined, as we approach 2015-2020, to use the aid program further in support of creating the conditions for future stability in that province and future prosperity for the people of Bougainville

Bougainville News: Bougainville Govt told to change approach to mining re-start

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Panguna landowner chairman says the Bougainville Government is going about the reconciliation process in the wrong way.

The man heading the Bougainville land owners group where the Panguna Mine is sited says the government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province is going about the reconciliation process back to front.

The ABG, headed by President John Momis, wants the mine to re-open, to help quickly stimulate the economy as the province begins to consider a vote on possible independence.

The mine was at the centre of the province’s civil war and has been shut for 25 years.

The ABG spent much of last year consulting with the communities on renewed mining, and holding reconciliations.

But the chairman of the Osikaiang Landowners Special Mining Lease, Lawrence Daveona, told Don Wiseman before any of that can happen there has to be reconciliation within his own village, Guava.

 

 

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He says then there could be a wider reconciliation and Bel Kol – the Bougainville cultural practice of giving compensation.

Originally aired LISTEN HERE  Dateline Pacific, Thursday 5 June 2014

LAWRENCE DAVEONA: And the reasoning behind this, through customary practice, is that the conflict started in Guava and the leaders of Guava have to officially authorise our President Momis and his Government to take over the preparation and actual staging of Bel Kol on Bougainville. And again under our arrangement with ABG, the Panguna Negotiation Office and the Mining Department, the process we have to do is, after the Guava and my family reconciliation, President Momis will make a visit to Guava Village, because it was in Guava Village after Francis Ona [ leader of the separatist movement during the Civil War] invited him after his capture by BRA [Bougainville Revolutionary Army] rebels in Tinputz. So the people of Guava Village looked after President Momis and President Momis has promised to come and visit Guava Village and then say thank you to the Guava Village community. Upon his visit here the leaders of Guava and chiefs will officially, through customary ritual, hand over authority for this Bel Kol staging by ABG as our Government on the ground. And as I said before the Bel Kol the Panguna Landowners and the Guava Village must have their own reconciliation with ex-combatants because that is how the conflict progressed on. From a Guava Village internal family feud to the involvement of Panguna Landowners and then the involvement of the militants which then developed into the ex-combatants.

DON WISEMAN: You could understand the ABG perhaps being a little bit confused because as they see it, they have gone through extensive consultations already with the community and they have had extensive reconciliations but you are saying that that counts for nothing at this stage because they have got it the wrong way around.

LD: That is correct. That is correct. That is correct. It is common understanding from north, south and central that the crisis originated in Guava Village and Panguna Landowners and it has to go back to the root of where it all began and work outwards. Not the top down approach as the ABG has been approaching it.

DW: So once it got to that point, once you can go through the Bel Kol as you have described it, then discussions could begin on a possible re-opening of the mine.

LD: After the staging of the Bel Kol, BCL [ Bougainville Copper Ltd] will have its presence in Arawa as has been agreed to and BCL will begin its restoration programme but not in regards to the re-opening of Panguna Mine. There are outstanding issues that they have to attend to in terms of restoration programme, displaced villagers in the Panguna mine lease areas and also to the communities of the whole of Bougainville, through human resource development, like assisting with vocational schools. There is a package involved in the Bel Kol exercise, so BCL will be on the ground after the staging of the Bel Kol. Now the date has been postponed until some time in July for this exercise of Bel Kol.

DW: As we said the President is very keen for the mine to be opened because he sees this as the way in which the economy can quickly get going so that it is in a viable state in time for the vote on viable independence after next year, or from next year onwards, but the way you see it, that is not going to be possible, it is going to be many years down the road before there can be any re-opening of that mine.

LD: Well people cannot just want the Panguna are opened. Oh no no no, they can’t. The need to be compensated and their outstanding compensations for Panguna landowners and even the loss of lives – between 15 and 20 thousand people – is an issue that our Government, ABG, is really not addressing. It is going to take quite some time because the Panguna landowners position is that the ABG should take ownership of the restoration package for the whole of Bougainville and this package should deal with a lot of the issues – such as compensation for the deceased, the restoring of burned down villages, the infrastructure, so that our people can be in their right mind before they can talk about opening the Panguna Mine.

DW: So many many years?

LD: Oh I can’t answer that because as it is – I know I keep saying I know where our President is coming from. He thinks we can start negotiating from the end of this year. I don’t see it that way. Maybe next year. Maybe mid next year about Panguna. The problem is on the ground. You can’t just walk in and open the mine. A lot of villagers here are not settled and we have got a lot of issues that the government, the ABG Government is not really addressing.

Bookgainville NACCHO 3

 

Bougainville political news: Growing concern about PNG mines,debt and governance

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MOODY’S ratings agency has reaffirmed Papua New Guinea’s B1 sovereign rating, but warns that despite the potentially “transformative” flow of gas that began last month, growing government debt threatens a downgrade.

In a detailed new overview, it says it has “a poor assessment of governance” in PNG, and stresses the lack of diversification in the economy.

And it says the government’s takeover of the Ok Tedi mine last year “has raised concerns regarding the risk of expropriation” — echoed this week by the circulation of a claim by Bougainville President John Momis that PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill talked with him in February about taking over Rio Tinto’s 54.6 per cent control of Bougainville Copper.

Mr O’Neill strongly denied this claim, however, and said the future of the Bougainville mine was in the hands of the local ­people.

Moody’s says the Ok Tedi takeover is related to “myriad complex issues” over 20 years, and thus “may not necessarily reflect the broader state of play” — adding that the completion of the LNG project benefited from “pragmatic government policy and engagement with the private sector”.

But it ranks PNG’s institutional strength as very low, next to last on a scale of 15. It says that “transparency surrounding off-budget and public-sector enterprise borrowing is lacking”, so that its debt levels are not clear.

The agency says liquefied natural gas exports will increase PNG’s economic growth — now in its eighth year of growth above 6 per cent, except for a slide in 2013 to 5.1 per cent — and the government’s fiscal position, as well as the balance of payments.

It forecasts gas-fuelled growth to soar to what will probably be a world-beating 21 per cent next year, and says that the successful implementation of the PNG LNG project paves the way for further energy and mineral projects.

However, at the same time it notes “a marked deterioration in (PNG’s) fiscal and debt metrics over the past two years”.

Funding pressures have been muted due to the government’s reliance on low-cost domestic sources of financing, with liquidity ample. Government spending rose sharply from 30.7 per cent in 2010 to 37.1 per cent in 2013.

Moody’s says that “fiscal rules have been continually amended to accommodate the consequently large increases in debt, eroding the country’s earlier track record of fiscal prudence”.

It says that the government’s $1.2 billion loan from UBS for its 10.1 per cent stake in Oil Search, PNG’s biggest company, increases its direct burden to more than 45 per cent of GDP, from 34.3 per cent last year, breaching the 35 per cent debt cap. The agency says that if the government can manage effectively the gas windfall and the consequent high growth, to ­ensure relatively low inflation and sustainable external payments, that would be “credit positive”.

However, if the government is unable to restore fiscal discipline, or funding conditions turn ­adverse, making it hard for the government to service its debt, this would result in “downward pressure on the sovereign rating”.

Political instability has returned this year, with “substantial ministerial turnover”. But this “does not yet pose a significant threat to the country’s near-term growth outlook”.

Income levels in PNG, Moody’s says, are expected to reach just $3200 per person a year in 2016 — “indicating relatively poor human capital”.

It says: “Amid poor infrastructure and persistent concerns ­regarding order and security, PNG’s competitiveness remains limited, and will weigh on the country’s ability to attract labour-intensive investments” it needs as its population soars

Bougainville News: Regional member for Bougainville JOE LERA welcomes invitation

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By Aloysius Laukai in Tonu
The regional member for Bougainville, JOE LERA has acknowledged the invitation from the Chairman of the Uvistract system, NOAH MUSINKU and his brother MISACH AUTAHE for Bougainville leaders for a round table conference to talk on the future of Bougainville .
MR. LERA told New Dawn FM in Tonu today after visiting the Uvistract headquarters.
He said that Bougainville leaders need to come to a round table so that they can come to some understanding on how they can compromise and work together.
MR.Lera said that NOAH MUSINGKU also wants unity but wants a conference with all leaders of Bougainville .
He said that he will sponsor the meeting of Bougainville leaders once they have identified the venue and make arrangements with the leaders.
MR LERA said that a neutral location will be identified to have the meeting before the end of the year.
New Dawn FM understands that the call by the ABG advisor on Weapons Disposal and conflict resolution, CLYDE PARRIS for Bougainville to address the five different governments before referendum could be resolved by having this meeting.
Ends

By bougnews Posted in News

Bougainville News: US applauds Bougainville women for their contribution to peace building

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The United States government has recognised Bougainville women for their contribution to peace building before, during and after the Crisis.

EM TV reports that a two year $US1.5 million, ‘Women’s Peace Building Initiative Project’ is to be implemented in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province, to support more inclusive, sustainable and transparent economic growth.

The US Aid Regional Director Maurice Knight says that Bougainville women are effective peacemakers, community leaders and champions of civil and human rights.

He says Bougainville women have been at the forefront of steering recovery efforts and influencing policies such as the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.

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Above: Maurice and the US Ambassador recently visited Bougainville and met with Arawa Women’s Training Centre board

Under the funding, a series of grants are to help counselling for victims of violence and programmes to improve living conditions.

Background Maurice Knight

Maurice Knight is an Adjunct Senior Research Fellow with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and currently under appointment as the director of the Pacific Mission of the United States Agency for International Development based in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

As a senior member of USAID’s staff, he is directly responsible for ensuring USAID’s full portfolio (environment [terrestrial and coastal/marine], climate change, health, economic development, conflict mitigation and HIV/AIDS [in PNG]) is meeting its objectives in the Pacific including the countries of Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

He reports directly to the US Ambassadors in the region, and to the USAID Mission Director in Manila, Philippines on progress of all USAID Pacific programs and projects.

As its Chief of Party (team leader), Maurice in January 2014 completed the 5.5 years Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP), the largest component of USAID’s support to the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF).

Bougainville poltical news: Troubles in PNG and Bougainville should not be ignored

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“The eventual peace accord created special autonomy for Bougainville and involved a commitment to rid the islands of weapons. The deal also required a referendum, to be held sometime in the five years after 2015, for the people of Bougainville to decide whether to remain part of PNG or go it alone.

That independence ballot, once a distant dream, is now a dawning reality.

The sting in the peace deal was the referendum result must also be ratified by the PNG Parliament. The Australian government will be in an awkward bind should the people of Bougainville vote clearly for independence, and yet the politicians in Port Moresby present an upraised middle finger in return.”

From The Melbourne Age

A border patrol of Papua New Guinea soldiers came under fire from Indonesian troops a few weeks back – and not for the first time. No one was injured, and the PNG soldiers did not shoot back. But this jungle skirmish followed an earlier PNG complaint in April about trigger-happy Indonesians hunting for rebels who cross from neighbouring provinces of West Papua.

Alarm bells ought to be sounding in Australia. Here was an ugly episode that could easily have turned into something far worse. PNG has plenty of problems, and tension with Indonesia is just one. Australians should pay more attention to what’s going on up north, not least to understand that foisting an asylum seeker camp on Manus Island has created extra pressure in an already-fragile country.

Far from the border with Indonesia, PNG has its own separatist trouble. Passions on the resource-rich islands of Bougainville are threatening to flare. Close observers believe the central government in Port Moresby is simply in denial about the likelihood Bougainville will vote to cut ties with PNG in the next few years.

No one is talking about a return to armed rebellion. At least, not yet. But the window for independence is about to open and the shock of a breakaway province could lead to rash decisions and unforeseen consequences.

It all comes back to the details of a peace deal in 2001 that officially ended what is seen as the bloodiest Pacific conflict since World War II. Fighting in Bougainville in the 1990s cost perhaps as many 20,000 lives, although the exact toll is not known and is probably lower. Suffice to say, the fighting was vicious, drawn out, and devastated the local population.

It started with local anger about Bougainville’s huge copper mine, Panguna. Then run by Australian company Rio Tinto, locals complained about the environmental burden and that the riches were not fairly shared. At the time, Panguna singularly comprised the biggest slice of the PNG economy outside Australian aid donations, so when rebels shut down mining and demanded independence, the fight was bitter.

The eventual peace accord created special autonomy for Bougainville and involved a commitment to rid the islands of weapons. The deal also required a referendum, to be held sometime in the five years after 2015, for the people of Bougainville to decide whether to remain part of PNG or go it alone.

That independence ballot, once a distant dream, is now a dawning reality.

The sting in the peace deal was the referendum result must also be ratified by the PNG Parliament. The Australian government will be in an awkward bind should the people of Bougainville vote clearly for independence, and yet the politicians in Port Moresby present an upraised middle finger in return.

A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in November warned such an outcome would be ‘‘destabilising’’. I’d go with disastrous.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop went to Bougainville in opposition and is alert to the problem. But the challenge for Australia is how to get the PNG government more engaged in its restive province before the ballot is held and not ignorantly stumble into a crisis. Canberra’s influence has never been as strong as often assumed, but the need to keep Port Moresby onside with asylum seeker processing on Manus Islands has reduced Australia’s leverage even more.

The independence ballot does not yet have a date. In Bougainville, some would like the vote to be in June next year – the first date available under the terms of the peace deal. In Port Moresby, the few that even think about Bougainville would prefer as late as possible, in 2020.

Or perhaps not at all. The peace deal also stipulates the disposal of weapons, and some in Bougainville are still hesitant. A former rebel fighter was quoted last month, arguing the guns should be retained for posterity.

“Our land would have [been] for the PNG government and people if we did not take weapons and chase them out,” Chris Bitunau has said. “We cannot throw away our Bougainville history; the future generations have to see and feel these guns, they have to know the owners of these guns in pictures and in stories.”

It seems the two sides are on a collision course. The mood of PNG’s government is not one of compromise. The country is awash with cash – last week the first shipments of liquefied natural gas from a $US19 billion project left for Japan. The Panguna mine doesn’t stand alone any more as a source of income. And Prime Minister

Peter O’Neill has bragged the refugee deal he signed with Kevin Rudd gave PNG greater control over Australia’s aid, too.

But it would be dangerous to assume PNG would be willing to let Bougainville go without reconciling to the prospect long before. Should tempers erupt again, there is no guarantee the soldiers won’t shoot back.

Daniel Flitton is senior correspondent

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-troubles-in-png-australia-cant-ignore-20140531-zrqji.html#ixzz345wMRo5L