“I am calling for an urgent meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body to deal with what is now not just a major dispute between Bougainville and the National Government, but also the gravest threat to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and the future of peace between PNG and Bougainville, in the 15 years since the signing of the Agreement in August 2001
The key issue is not Panguna reopening, or any commercial considerations involved. In fact, given both low commodity prices and sovereign risk issues, there is little likelihood of reopening for a long time.
Rather, the key issue is the future of peace.”
President Momis Photo above Joint Supervisory Body Copyright Bougainville News
President Momis today expressed shock and disgust at a “disgusting and shady deal” between the National Government and Rio Tinto. He said that the National Government was deeply involved in Rio Tinto’s decision to transfer 17.4 per cent equity in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), making the national Government equal shareholder, with the Autonomous Bougainville Government, in BCL.
President Momis said :
“Rio Tinto officials verbally advised me on Wednesday night or Rio’s decision to transfer its shares to a trust, with 17.4 per cent to be available to PNG and 36.4 per cent to the ABG. The ABG has been aware since 2013 that PNG was proposing to purchase Rio’s 53.8 per cent majority equity in BCL.
I advised the Prime Minister on many occasions that Panguna Mine and BCL share issues were deeply sensitive for Bougainville.
I told him that National Government majority ownership in BCL could endanger peace. I expressed the same views to Rio Tinto in meetings in July 2015 and February 2016.
“So I am shocked to find that without consulting the ABG, they have entered a disgusting and shady deal over Rio shares in BCL. Making the National Government and ABG equal shareholders gives the National Government equal power with the ABG over decisions on Panguna. So equal shares is just as offensive as majority PNG ownership.
“This decision is a grave threat to the Bougainville Peace Agreement. The National Government and Rio originally cooperated to force an unjust Panguna mining deal on Bougainville. They now continuing their partnership against Bougainville.
It is deeply worrying that Rio and PNG are again conspiring against Bougainville in this share deal.
“There can be no doubt the National Government was involved. Rio officials first advised me of the Rio share decision around 9.00 p.m on the night of Wednesday 29 June. But a subsidiary of national Government company, Petromin, accepted the Rio Tinto shares the very next day – Thursday 30th June.
I can see no way Petromin could have been ready to jump on 30 June if PNG was not fully involved in Rio’s decision on its BCL shares.
“Yet when I met the Prime Minister to discuss the shares issue two days later, on Saturday 30 June, he said he needed to see the details of the Rio decision, said he had refused to meet the Rio Officials on 30 June, and made no mention of the Petromin acceptance of the shares.
If this is not duplicity of the highest order, the Prime Minister needs to provide a full explanation of the actions of both his Government and himself.
“The Bougainville Peace Agreement is a joint creation of the National Government and Bougainville.
Both committed themselves to work for peace. Rio Tinto and the National Government contributed to the origins of the conflict in the way they dealt with Panguna.
They have no excuse for not understanding the dangers to peace if insensitive decisions are made about Panguna. Neither Rio nor the National Government are free to make such decisions on purely commercial grounds.
The National Government knows the terrible dangers of dealing with Panguna in a way intended to give it greater control over Bougainville. And of course, it is increased control that they want.
“We must all be quite clear here. Giving the National Government equal equity in BCL is a direct threat to peace. The apparent involvement of the National Government in the Rio decision adds deep insult to the clear injury involved in the Rio Tinto shares decision.
“At the same time, I have written to the Prime Minister emphasising that Rio Tinto shares issue still offers us a remarkable opportunity. We can end the Bougainville divisions and conflict for good.
If the National Government agrees to the full dormer 53.8 per cent Rio Tinto equity in BCL going to the ABG, it will be clear that PNG agrees to Bougainville having full control of decisions about Panguna. That will change views of Bougainvilleans.
It will end what are now deep suspicions that, in the lead-up to the Referendum, PNG is seeking to keep control over Bougainville’s affairs. We must not lose this unique chance.
“The key issue is not Panguna reopening, or any commercial considerations involved. In fact, given both low commodity prices and sovereign risk issues, there is little likelihood of reopening for a long time. Rather, the key issue is the future of peace.
“I have spoken with the Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives. He will urgently recall the house to meet, to discuss the issues involved in this unacceptable joint decision by Rio Tinto and PNG.
“ In addition, I am calling for an urgent meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body to deal with what is now not just a major dispute between Bougainville and the National Government, but also the gravest threat to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and the future of peace between PNG and Bougainville, in the 15 years since the signing of the Agreement in August 2001”
John L. Momis
3 July 2016