Bougainville News :PNG cash shortage hurts Bougainville referendum prep

 

PNG

“Through the Bougainville Peace Agreement, most of the funding from the national government through restoration development grants… guaranteed under the Bougainville Peace Agreement. But the national government has not paid 630 million kina so far.”

Aloysius Laukia, spoke to Johnny Blades Radio New Zealand about the funds shortage and its impact in Bougainville.

Picture above the PNG Prime Minister /Minister for Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Dried-up funds from Papua New Guinea central government have prompted the Autonomous Bougainville Government to put all payments to service providers on hold.

A circular from the Acting Secretary for Finance, Brenda Tohiana, informed public departments that it has no option but to stop all commitments and payments until the cash flow situation improves.

A journalist with New Dawn, Aloysius Laukia, spoke to Johnny Blades about the funds shortage and its impact in Bougainville.

ALOYSIUS LAUKIA: All commitments will be on hold until further notice until they get funds from the national treasury in Port Moresby,

JOHNNY BLADES: Any explanation why.. just that there’s no money coming?

AL: Yeah. Since last year there was a lot of problems getting money from central government. And then suddenly instead of accounts opening (at the start of the 2016 year), they put a stop to all payments, all their commitments so as to make sure  there is no commitment made until they have the money.

JB: And what does this mean for the departments and the public services on Bougainville?

AL: It’s actually a big problem now for suppliers, for a lot of  business deals and a lot of work that contractors do for thr government. Instead of getting paid, all of them will be waiting for such time when there will be funds available for making the payments to the suppliers and contractors.

JB: Getting funds from Waigani has been a problem for the ABG for years now, I understand.

AL: Yeah and through the Bougainville Peace Agreement, most of the funding from the national government through restoration development grants… guaranteed under the Bougainville Peace Agreement. But the national government has not paid 630 million kina so far.

JB: Do you think this current situation, does that make it harder for Bougainville to prepare for this upcoming referendum in the next few years?

AL: Yes, it’s actually making it difficult for the Autonomous Bougainville Government to deliver services to the people and to prepare for, prepare people for the referendum. There’s no awareness in the villages on the Peace Agreement, on the referendum, a lot of issues. Most of this is because of the funding problem.

Breaking Bougainville News: PM Peter O’Neill takes on ministerial responsibilities of Minister for Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Outcomes

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has today announced a minor cabinet reshuffle that will better position the National Government to take advantage of current and emerging development opportunities.

Ministerial changes announced by the Prime Minister are:
PM Peter O’Neill takes on responsibilities of Minister for Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Ben Micah-Minister for Petroleum and Energy;
William Duma-Minister for Public Enterprise and State Investments;
Nixon Duban, Minister for Transport and Infrastructure;
Justin Tkatchenko, Minister for Sports and Tourism;
Steven Kama, Minister Assisting Prime Minister on Constitutional Matters.
The Prime Minister said minor changes to Cabinet positions are important in order to maintain administrative flexibility as the global and national economy evolves, and ensure ministerial skills and capabilities are well targeted.

Bougainville mine: PNG attempt to buy Rio Tinto’s shares in Australian mining company ‘completely unacceptable’

BCL

The Papua New Guinea Government wants to buy Rio Tinto’s shares in the Australian company Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), according to Bougainville’s President.

Reporting ABC       By South East Asia correspondent Liam Cochrane

Such a move would be “completely unacceptable” to Bougainvilleans and would be “potentially a source of conflict”, according to a series of leaked letters obtained by the ABC.

Key points:

  • Leaked emails show PNG, Bougainville governments met with Rio Tinto to discuss future of Bougainville Copper Limited
  • PNG expressed interest in buying Rio Tinto’s shares of BCL
  • Bougainville President says Panguna mine’s tortured history would make such a deal unacceptable to Bougainvilleans

BCL once operated the Panguna mine, which sparked a decade-long civil war in 1989 and remains a source of tension between the autonomous island of Bougainville and the PNG mainland.

Rio Tinto holds 53 per cent of shares in BCL and the company still holds an exploration licence for the now-derelict mine area.

The ABC has obtained correspondence between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) President, the PNG Government and Rio Tinto regarding BCL’s future.

“I refer to the Monday 8 December discussion in Kokopo with you [PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill], and other ministers concerning proposals for National Government to purchase Rio Tinto’s equity in BCL,” Bougainville President John Momis wrote to Mr O’Neill, two days after the meeting.

“You emphasised a need for urgent purchase for fear Rio Tinto might otherwise sell the equity to some other entity.”

Given the tortured history of the Panguna mine it would be completely unacceptable to virtually all Bougainvilleans if that 53 per cent equity were to be transferred to the National Government.

Bougainville President John Momis

He also voiced concerns in a separate letter to Rio Tinto’s managing director Sam Walsh.

“[PNG State Enterprises] Minister Ben Micah has advised that following a series of meetings with Rio Tinto, PNG wishes to purchase Rio’s equity in BCL and is seeking ABG agreement,” Dr Momis wrote on December 4.

It is no secret the mining giant is considering its options, launching a review of its stake in BCL in mid-2014.

On December 10, Rio Tinto’s chief development officer Craig Kinnell assured Dr Momis that no deal had been done.

“The review has not reached any final conclusions, but as you would expect Rio Tinto has engaged further with interested parties since we met earlier this year,” Mr Kinnell wrote to Dr Momis.

The PNG Government said its main priority was to rebuild Bougainville’s broken infrastructure and deliver services, but confirmed it was involved in talks about a sell-off.

“There has been some discussion between the ABG, the National Government and Rio Tinto about the possible divestment of Rio Tinto’s interest in Bougainville,” Mr O’Neill told the ABC.

It would be political suicide for the ABG, and potentially a source of conflict, if the ABG were to agree to the National Government becoming the majority shareholder in BCL.

Bougainville President John Momis

“But again this is a decision on which the land owners and the people of Bougainville will have to guide the National Government.

“We have no interest in owning the mine or reopening the mine.”

Dr Momis has warned Mr O’Neill of the possible consequences of a deal that was perceived to favour the mainland.

“Given the tortured history of the Panguna mine it would be completely unacceptable to virtually all Bougainvilleans if that 53 per cent equity were to be transferred to the National Government,” he said in a letter to Mr O’Neill.

“It would be political suicide for the ABG, and potentially a source of conflict, if the ABG were to agree to the National Government becoming the majority shareholder in BCL.”

The suggestion of conflict is a serious one, considering the large number of weapons still on the island and the highly factionalised population.

Questions over why PNG Government wants the mine

The once-lucrative open cut mine has been abandoned for more than two decades and will need an estimated $8 billion to $10 billion investment to restart operations.

Some commentators, including Matt Morris, an associate with the Australian National University’s Development Policy Centre, have questioned PNG Government’s interest in Panguna, given the nation’s current financial state and its poor track record managing other mines.

“I think the main questions are why does the Government want to buy the mine, what is the value added that the PNG Government would bring to a shareholding in BCL and thirdly what would be the political implications?” Mr Morris told the ABC.

“The last year has been a pretty awful year for the PNG Government’s finances with the collapse of the commodity prices and that’s led to rising debt levels and the PNG Government’s had to cut back on expenditure for things like health and education and infrastructure.

“So it’s not really clear how the Government would go about finding the funds to purchase the company or where it would find or borrow the billions of dollars that would be required to reopen the Panguna mine.”

John Momis

In addition to operational costs, any restart at Panguna would have to deal with demands for compensation from locals and expectations of an environmental clean-up around the mine site.

But the potential revenue it could bring is central to Bougainville’s political future.

As part of the peace agreement that ended the civil war in 2001, Bougainville will hold a referendum on independence from PNG some time in the next five years.

Dr Momis told Bougainville’s Parliament in December that “real autonomy” would only come when the island became financially stable and that would probably mean a large-scale mining project.

“If Rio’s decision is to divest itself of the equity then the ABG’s considered view is that it is most unlikely that any potential responsible developer will be able to find the $US6 billion to $US7 billion needed to reopen the mine,” he said.

“It is therefore most unlikely the mine will reopen in the foreseeable future.”

Bougainville News: Report from PASSA Inc (Parliamentary Service Staff Association

PASSA Inc_Page_1

It makes sense to defy advice or rules that don’t make a lot of sense, or that seem incongruous with the natural order of things. The most satisfying proof and way of acknowledging success, big or small, in these circumstances is to laugh a lot about it. We laughed, and laughed and threw happy tantrums in the grounds of Parliament by the cliff side at Kubu, 17 December 2015.

The celebrations were happy and peaceful. The occasion was the delivery of four Hauswins followed by parliamentary staff end of the year Christmas barbeque and drinks and coconut juice.

Jointly funded thru Speaker’s support grant, PASSA and parliamentary service funds Parliamentary staff from the cleaner, to the casual Chamber attendant, the drivers to the Clerk of Parliament right up to the Speaker and Deputy Speaker celebrated this small but a very satisfying accomplishment that grew from ground level up.

The seed for this initiative was planted at the first staff meeting called by the Speaker following the inauguration of the new Third House 15 June this2015.

The first seeds have germinated, grown and the fruits and nuts are ready for the picking. We realize the predicament with money in our Bougainville public sector. Sometimes we understand it, sometimes it is hard to understand.

We complain and talk about millions that are supposed to come but don’t come or are supposedly still on the way.

When our Parliament request falls on deaf ears or when ignored as if we do not exist, the experience is like getting blood out of a stone in a system whose accountability and response is tardy and poor.

But complaining and doing nothing is not a solution.

We have to take initiatives, think outside the box and get by as capably as we can.

Everything, including big and small ideas, grows from the ground up.

This was the catalyst that motivated us to take matters into our own hands rather than wait and waste valuable time.

So, on Thursday afternoon 17 December 2015 we celebrated and thanked ourselves and some village carpenters for seeing through the completion and delivery of four hauswins that you see in this photograph.

Except for the ridge caps, nails and bolts and the paints to spruce up the looks, the hauswins are largely of bush materials (sawn timber, sago leaves for the roofing and bamboo for the walls) which put some money in the hands of villagers that supplied these local materials.

Our Members  started using the four hauswins for refreshments on Monday 21 December when the Parliament convened for the budget meeting. This was also be the last meeting of the House of Representatives for this year.

It has been a short parliamentary year but a lot of the settling in after the inauguration on 15 June has been completed by members, ministers and our Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

We are very proud of our four women parliamentarians in the way they have started to engage in their parliamentary roles in the House, in their constituency responsibilities and in representing Bougainville at meetings and conferences they are invited to participate in abroad.

We need to do more to help and guide our three former combatant regional representatives.

From the parliamentary staff, the Clerk, Deputy Speaker and the Speaker we all hope we will begin 2016 parliamentary year on a firm foothold in our core business of serving our elected leaders.

Equally as well, we hope we can deliver on other “from-the-ground-up” initiatives in projects and deliver facilities that will make the working environment more convenient and worthwhile for our elected members.

We ask all Bougainvilleans to do likewise and not just criticise.

The Speaker, Deputy Speaker and staff wish all Members of the House a merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year.

All photos: Paul Wagum

 

Bougainville News 2016: Momis raises concern on PNG Government takeover of Bougainville Copper Limited

Momis2016

ABG President, Chief Dr. John Momis says that he is very concerned at the discussions been held between RIO TINTO and the Papua New Guinea Government to purchase RIO’s 53.83 percent shares in Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL)  for $100 million.

In his address to the ABG House this week, President Momis said that he has been approached by several senior National Government officials including the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill  the last time during the December’s JSB meeting in Kokopo.

President MOMIS said that the people of Bougainville must be assured that the ABG has made no deal with PNG.

Instead we are putting a very strong Bougainville position to both PNG and RIO that environmental clean-up is now the key issue and that if there is any transfer of RIO’s shares, it must be to Bougainville.

President Momis said that the minerals in Bougainville belong to Bougainvilleans as our blood has been shed over those Panguna Minerals, yet PNG wants to buy RIO’s shares so that it can own Panguna and its minerals.