Bougainville Mining News : Rio Tinto walks away from environmental responsibility

When BCL had to leave the site in 1989, we believe BCL operated Panguna in compliance with applicable laws and standards until 1989 when it was required to leave the country…..Given the lack of access since then, it has not been possible for Rio Tinto or BCL to confirm the nature, extent or cause of any alleged damage or pollution,”

 A spokesperson for Rio Tinto at their London headquarters told Mongabay

“In terms of the environmental damage and social disruption, it is a moral negligence on the part of Rio Tinto to have caused so much damage to the environment and to people’s lives, and to now walk away,”

Chief Dr. John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Wherever possible we prevent – or otherwise minimize, mitigate and remediate – harmful effects that our operations may have.”

Rio Tinto claims on its website that “respect for the environment is central to our approach

British-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto was for 45 years the majority-owner of the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville, an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea (PNG). But now it has given up its 53.8 percent stake in the mine’s operating company, Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL), and announced it rejects any corporate responsibility for environmental damage wrought during operations from 1972 to 1989.

Originally Published HERE

The company believes it no longer has any obligation to address the mine’s environmental legacy because it adhered to PNG’s laws of the day and was forced to abandon the extraction venture due to armed conflict.

“When BCL had to leave the site in 1989, we believe BCL operated Panguna in compliance with applicable laws and standards until 1989 when it was required to leave the country…..Given the lack of access since then, it has not been possible for Rio Tinto or BCL to confirm the nature, extent or cause of any alleged damage or pollution,” a spokesperson for Rio Tinto at their London headquarters told Mongabay.

The controversial open-pit mine, once one of the world’s largest, hit world news headlines almost three decades ago when indigenous landowners forced it to shut down. Angered about tailings and mine-waste contamination of agricultural land and nearby waterways, as well as inequity in revenue and benefit-sharing, landowners used a campaign of sabotage to halt operations in 1989, subsequently precipitating a decade-long civil war.

Silent rusting mine machinery litters the Panguna mine site, abandoned 28 years ago. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

The mine’s social and environmental legacy

Now, rusting mine trucks and machinery litter the long-abandoned mine site in one of Bougainville Island’s remote mountain valleys, while gutted mine buildings have been resourcefully adapted and reoccupied by local villagers as dwellings.  But rivers and streams in the vicinity remain contaminated, tailings dumps have become unstable and chemical storage areas are deteriorating.

“In terms of the environmental damage and social disruption, it is a moral negligence on the part of Rio Tinto to have caused so much damage to the environment and to people’s lives, and to now walk away,” said Chief Dr. John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Rio Tinto claims on its website that “respect for the environment is central to our approach. Wherever possible we prevent – or otherwise minimize, mitigate and remediate – harmful effects that our operations may have.”

However, the Bougainville Copper Agreement Act of 1967 — drafted when the region was under Australian administration as part of the former Territory of Papua and New Guinea — does not incorporate any significant environmental regulations or liability of BCL for the rehabilitation or restoration of areas affected by mining activities.

“Rio is now deeply hypocritical in its blatant disregard of the higher corporate responsibility standards it says it has adopted,” President Momis declared in a June 2016 media statement, following announcement of the company’s divestment. “Corporate social responsibility means responsible companies accept that their responsibilities go beyond the legal requirements of the day.”

Lee Godden, Director of the Centre for Resources, Energy and Environmental Law at Australia’s University of Melbourne, commented that: “Many of the early agreements between mining companies and the PNG Government did not contain effective clauses for environmental damage remediation….Typically it is not possible to retrospectively amend those agreements in light of subsequent damage or subsequent international law principles that have operated to address some of the balance of power problems in these early agreements.”

The Nasioi people were the first indigenous peoples to force a global mining multinational to flee one of its most lucrative extractive ventures. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Putting pressure on Rio Tinto

Determined that the mining multinational should not escape accountability for environmental and social legacy issues, President Momis has called for “an international campaign to force Rio Tinto to accept its responsibilities” and sought advice on taking legal action.

However, taking the matter to court requires considerable funds — which the Bougainville Government, still heavily dependent on international aid and financial support from the national government, has limited access to. “We have financial constraints and these financial constraints make it difficult for us,” President Momis admitted.

And while Rio Tinto’s divestment resulted in the Bougainville Government acquiring an extra 36.4 percent shareholding in the Panguna mine and the PNG Government 17.4 percent  (with the latter gifting its shares to “the landowners and the people of Bougainville”), their value is negligible unless the mine is in production.

Even during the 17 years of copper extraction in Panguna, which generated an estimated 1.7 billion kina in total revenue (roughly US$1.44 billion at the time), only 1.4 percent was granted to landowners, while 61.5 percent went to the PNG Government.  Local resentment about the marked inequity of economic benefits was one of the major factors in the escalation of the civil war.

In 1989, indigenous landowners demanded compensation of 10 billion kina for the mine’s detrimental environmental and social impacts, as well as benefit-sharing grievances. When this was not met by Rio Tinto and BCL, they formed a rebel group, known as the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and used explosives to destroy the mine’s power supply and bring the functioning of the mine to a standstill. In so doing, the Nasioi people of Central Bougainville became known as the first indigenous peoples in the world to force a global mining multinational to abandon one of its most lucrative ventures.

The PNG Government responded by imposing a blockade on Bougainville in 1990 and deployed its armed forces to quell the uprising. A civil war then raged between the national military and armed revolutionary groups, wreaking widespread destruction across the islands and leading to an estimated death toll of 15,000-20,000 lives, until a permanent ceasefire in 1998.

Today the long-term processes of post-conflict peace building, disarmament, reconciliation and reconstruction continue to consume the energy and resources of the government, international donors and local leaders and communities.  And memories of the violence, atrocities and injustices of the conflict are still vivid in the minds of many people throughout the region.

An estimated one-third of men and one in five women who were exposed to violence during the war now suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while more than one in three men and women believe there is continuing lack of peace in their communities, according to a recent study by the United Nations Development Program.

The abandoned Panguna mine pit, as it is today. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Walking away from the mine

For at least the past seven years, Rio Tinto has been engaged in discussions with the Bougainville Government about the possibility of returning to Panguna to recommence extraction of the estimated 3 million tonnes of copper reserves remaining there.

Rio Tinto’s final decision last year to exit Bougainville has been attributed primarily to both the dramatic fall in commodity prices in recent years and investor risks — including substantial opposition to the company’s return by landowners and communities in the Panguna mine lease area and the region’s uncertain political future.

“During the strategic review that led to the announcement in June 2016, Rio Tinto concluded that it would not be in a position to take part in future mining activities at Panguna and that it was in the best interests of BCL and its stakeholders to transfer our 53.8 percent shareholding to those better placed to determine the future direction of the company,” the Rio Tinto spokesperson stated.

However, the massive environmental legacy is still unaddressed and continues to affect the lives of indigenous communities, especially the Barapang, Kurabang, Basikang and Bakoringku clans who own the mine-pit land.  For customary landowners, “the land is like a mother because we feed on the land. It’s nothing compared to money.  I can always go to the land for food and nourishment,” Panguna landowner, Joanne Dateransi, explained.

Rivers and streams in the mine’s vicinity remain polluted and unusable as sources of freshwater or fish. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

There has been no official environmental assessment of the damage since the mine was deserted. But it is known that around 300,000 tonnes of ore and water were excavated every day in Panguna and the mine tailings were discharged down the Jaba River and into the Empress Augusta Bay, while the spoil and overburdens accrued in waste dumps in the Panguna area.  Local communities claim there has been no fish in the local Jaba and Kawerong Rivers for four decades.

The Bougainville authorities also report that: “The levy banks built by BCL to contain the flooding of nearby areas arising as the bed of the Jaba River rose (because of the depositing of vast amounts of tailings) were breached by floodwaters over 15 years ago. River water polluted by acid leached from the crushed tailings now floods huge areas of our people’s land all along the lower Jaba.”

And, further, a mammoth delta of tailings extends 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the sea on the west coast of Bougainville Island.

Social impacts include the forced relocation of at least five villages, such as Dapera and Moroni, to land unsuitable for growing crops and supporting livelihoods, while families were provided with cheap, substandard housing, resulting in severe overcrowding and health problems. The original location of the villages is now a barren terrain of waste rock.

Residents of relocated villages, such as Dapera and Moroni, have endured substandard housing and land unsuitable for food production. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Funding a cleanup

President Momis says the government is keen to facilitate an expert environmental assessment.

“We are having discussions with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) about the possibility of organizing such a study and also a social impact study. We are also contacting international NGOs which support third world nations in the interests of preserving history, forests and ecological balance,” he said.

Following this, the most critical question is how a major environmental cleanup, which could cost billions, can now be pursued.

One option, according to the President’s office, is to set up a trust fund with potential contributions sought from the PNG and Australian Governments, as well as Rio Tinto, although, to date, Rio Tinto has not indicated any willingness to support such an initiative.

“World Bank or Asian Development Bank funding is sometimes available for this type of cleanup, but often that will mean a loan to what are impoverished governments which need to meet a range of other socioeconomic needs in their countries,” Professor Godden also advised.

President Momis suggests that “the only other way to fund a cleanup is through the resumption of mining. It [BCL] is now majority owned by the landowners and the Autonomous Bougainville Government and we believe the cleanup could be done concurrently with the reopening of the mine. During our discussions with them so far they have been conscious of their responsibilities.”

However, the capital investment required to reconstruct and reopen the Panguna mine is estimated to be about 20 billion kina ($6.3 billion) and securing investment of this magnitude will be a challenge in the current investment climate.

Gutted mine buildings in the forested mountain valley are now being reused by local communities. Photo by Catherine Wilson.

Recommencing large-scale mining is also seen by the authorities and some landowner groups as a way to acquire the sizeable revenues needed to generate economic self-sufficiency ahead of a referendum on Independence from PNG. A major provision in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, the referendum is planned to take place by 2020. At present, only 10 percent of the Bougainville Government’s annual budget of about 300 million kina derives from internal revenue.

Two years ago, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which was established in 2005, passed its first mining law, thus paving the way with a legal framework for large-scale mining to be reconsidered in the region. The Bougainville Mining Act (2015 ) requires mining-lease applicants to protect the environment and comply with environmental policies and regulations, and stipulates that customary landowners have ownership of mineral resources found on their land. But, while they are entitled to consultation about exploration and mining interests, as well as related benefits and employment, the Bougainville Government retains exclusive powers over the granting of mining tenements and distribution of revenues.

Nevertheless, because of the unique history of the Panguna mine and the fact that its territory is controlled by the local Mekamui Tribal Government, comprising many former rebel leaders and combatants, any development or exploitation of Panguna’s resources will require the final consent of local chiefs and landowners. And reports in recent years have highlighted that a significant proportion of landowners in the Panguna mine lease area oppose large-scale mining on their customary land in the near future.

“We don’t need Rio Tinto or BCL,” Lynette Ona of the Bougainville Indigenous Women’s Landowner Association and a Panguna landowner declared. However, she added that a meeting was being planned in the near future so that people across Bougainville, not only local landowners, could voice their views on the question of mining.  If there is majority consent for this to happen, “then we have to bring in a new company after Independence, so that we can fund the economy, but we don’t want mining now,” Ona emphasized.

The “new BCL,” without Rio Tinto, has only begun articulating its future plans. Any provision, in this context, for an environmental cleanup is very unclear, but will come under severe scrutiny by those most affected, given that the history of the Panguna mine, to date, is a lesson in the shortcomings of corporate social responsibility.

 

Catherine Wilson is a journalist and correspondent reporting on the Pacific Islands region find her on LinkedIn.

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Bougainville #BCL Mining News : Seven reasons why : BCL no longer the ‘devil-we-know’, but the ‘devil-we-own

 

“As the ‘devil-we-own’, and one that is subject to the very tough requirements of the Bougainville Mining Act, BCL is now required to seek new investors into some sort of partnership with BCL, and come up with a deal acceptable to the landowners and to the ABG.

At this stage it is a decision that will be subject to the powers of the mine lease landowners under the Bougainville Mining Act to veto the project if they are not satisfied with the conditions for re-opening.

In addition, it will be subject to the ABG being satisfied – on behalf of all Bougainvilleans – that the project conditions are just and equitable.

As well as other Bougainvilleans may want to understand better why I announced ABG support for BCL. There are several separate but powerful reasons.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis

The Autonomous Bougainville Government’s decision to support Bougainville Copper Limited’s proposal for reopening the Panguna Mine is only in principle.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis said that at this stage it is a decision that will be subject to the powers of the mine lease landowners under the Bougainville Mining Act to veto the project if they are not satisfied with the conditions for re-opening.

In addition, it will be subject to the ABG being satisfied – on behalf of all Bougainvilleans – that the project conditions are just and equitable.

“As well as other Bougainvilleans may want to understand better why I announced ABG support for BCL. There are several separate but powerful reasons,” Momis said.

Momis explained that the first is that BCL is no longer owned by Rio. Rather, the ABG holds over 33 per cent of BCL shares, and the National Government has promised that the 17.4 per cent shares it received from Rio will be transferred to ownership of Bougainvilleans, including Panguna landowners.

This means that BCL is now a different company. It is not a subsidiary of Rio Tinto. Instead it is majority owned by Bougainvilleans.

“As a result, as stated recently by the new Vice President, BCL is no longer the ‘devil-we-know’, but is instead the ‘devil-we-own,” Momis said.

“As the ‘devil-we-own’, and one that is subject to the very tough requirements of the Bougainville Mining Act, BCL is now required to seek new investors into some sort of partnership with BCL, and come up with a deal acceptable to the landowners and to the ABG,” Momis said

Without such a deal, BCL will have little option but to cease existence – to liquidate and to distribute its remaining funds to its shareholders. At that point, Bougainville will be able to seek other potential developers.

A second reason why the ABG supports BCL is that BCL still holds an Exploration Licence over the area of the former Special Mining Lease. While it holds that licence, we must deal with BCL.

A third reason is that BCL is a reputable company, with reputable board members and management.

A fourth reason is that BCL still holds all the drilling and exploration data for the ore body at Panguna.

A fifth reason is that BCL shows willingness to deal with the legacy issues left by the operation when it closed in 1989.

A sixth reason is that BCL has shown responsibility over the past 5 years in working closely with the ABG and the 6 relevant landowner associations to gradually develop responsible and workable arrangements for making the payment of the 1990 land rents and occupation fees etc.

The seventh and final reason is that the leaders of the combined landowner associations have almost unanimously consistently indicated their support for BCL as the preferred company to become involved in re-opening Panguna.

“I emphasize, however, that despite all these reasons for supporting the BCL proposal, there are as yet no guarantees that it will be BCL that re-opens the mine,” Momis said.

“I must repeat the point already made that everything will depend on whether the ABG and the landowners are satisfied with the proposal that BCL eventually puts forward – provided of course that BCL is able to get the funding partners it will need to put forward a viable proposal,” Momis added.

Bougainville Mining News : President Momis announces support for the new Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL)

President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government Chief Dr John Momis has announced his support of the new Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) .

The new BCL is step away from the post-colonial and pre-crisis arrangement that had Bougainville at a disadvantage; it is partly owned by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the National Government, Panguna Landowners and people of Bougainville to develop the defunct Panguna Mine with the landowners for the benefit of Bougainville.

President Momis said the ABG as regulator will work together and support BCL explore alternative Panguna development options that will accommodate the interest of project stakeholders to fast track the development of the Panguna resources.

“Since BCL was invited to formally re-engage in discussions in Bougainville in 2012, the landowners have consistently stated their preference to work with BCL as the developer,” Momis said.

This was recently reaffirmed by the nine (9) Landowner Associations in Buka on 23 February 2017 after the BCL team led by Chairman Rob Burns made presentations to the ABG leaders and the nince landowner association executives and representatives on the new BCL’s development proposal for Panguna.

During that visit the Chairman present to the ABG leaders and the landowners a staed development proposal outlining how different the new Panguna approach will be under the new BCL hich now owned by the ABG, the Panguna landowners, people of Bougainville and the National Government.

Due to the recent majority of shares transferred by the Rio Tinto to ABG and the National Government, the ABG and the landowners now view BCL as not the devil we know but the devil we won.

The ABG and the landowners will now have to take advantage of this scenario and work out a positive strategy for an outcome that will be equitably beneficial for all stakeholders especially the landowners.

The ABG and the landowners have also committed to addressing the immediate challenges to progressing the Panguna project and looks forward to working in partnership with BCL through the project development cycle.

During discussions held this week between the BCL and the ABG, the two parties reaffirmed their commitment in which a way forward can be agreed for the immediate addressing of stage 0- Removing impediments under the BCL proposed staged development proposal presented during 23 – 24 February visit.

In those discussions it was also mentioned for BCL’s consideration to find ways and opportunities in its exploration to project development financing phase to support the ABG’s immediate development agendas as a way of building a long term unwavering development in Panguna.

 

Bougainville Investment News : “We the people own the resources ” Momis promotes investment

 “We the people own the resources, our land however we don’t have the capital.

“The waves of globalization are at our shore , I urge everyone to become part of the worldwide community of globalization.

President Grand Chief Dr John Momis welcomes any interested credible foreign investors who wish to play a pivotal role in the development of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville’s economic growth.

By Tanya Lahies ABG Media

It is becoming a growing concern for the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to seek ways to grow its economy thus, becoming a self-reliant region.

See previous Bougainville News :

Bougainville Mining News : BCL proposes a re-opening mine start up by 2020

The ABG is currently working on an ad-hoc basis to run the nation’s affairs without the needed funding required from the Government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG) as per the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) to restore the region according to the dreams and aspiration of the government.

President Momis explained that the government had plans it would like to see prosper through the Economic Ministry which had an important role to implement important activities.

However, due to no funding from ABG, the region was dependant on funds from the National Government through the Restoration Development Grants; Fisheries; DSIP and PSIP.

Bougainville, functions differently from the GoPNG and Provincial Governments. Many of its functions are governed by the BPA and the National Government has still yet to recognize that.

Momis said that becoming a self-reliant region means, that money received from the national government can recover the economy of the region and that it is able to be independent financially, thus become fiscal self reliant however, to date, there is no funding.

But if we continue to depend on the GoPNG finance, then we are not fiscal self reliant said Momis.

As time becomes another pressing concern, Momis is calling for all Bougainvilleans to be true patriots and be part of the spirit of economic growth by working with the government. “We the people own the resources, our land however we don’t have the capital.”

“The waves of globalization are at our shore.” Momis urged for everyone to become part of the worldwide community of globalization.

The ABG is now leaning towards promoting investment and working with credible Investors who can bring in capital based on good understanding and agreement that can benefit both the ABG and the people thus, can create capital that is very essential at the moment.

Law and order is an impediment to encouraging good investors but we can overcome and find a way to overcome it, Momis added.

Another issue that needed the attention of the people was the paying of tax by business operators. Momis also urged for all business houses in the region to pay their tax, as it was an important contribution towards building economy.

The Ministry of Economy will now work on creating a new policy that would benefit the people in rural areas therefore helping people to create their own economy.

Bougainville Mining News : BCL proposes a re-opening mine start up by 2020

panguna

  ” Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), under a new regime, is keen on re-opening the Panguna mine with promises of more equitable sharing of wealth with landowners and the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Company chairman Robert Burns was in Buka last week and met with Bougainville cabinet ministers and landowner groups to put forward BCL’s proposals for start-up by year 2020.”

Panguna talks re-open Source: Post Courier
Date: March 01,2017, 01:39 am BY SEBASTIAN HAKALITS Image Axel Mosi

According to BCL’s proposals on full operations from 2020 and beyond, it will inject US$350 million (K1 billion) a year to the Bougainville Government.

BCL has projected to pay about US$25 million (about K70 million a year) to the nine landowner associations to distribute among themselves.

The details of the BCL forward plans for Panguna were made at a presentation by the company recently.

BCL operated the Panguna mine for 18 years as a subsidiary company of Rio Tinto until it was shut down by the infamous Bougainville crisis from 1988 to 1999.

But the company was under a new regime after Rio Tinto left and during the process, off-loaded its majority of 53 per cent shares, of which a majority of 36 per cent belongs to Bougainvilleans, to the ABG.

The National Government owns 19 per cent, Panguna landowners 17 per cent and the rest other shareholders in Europe.

Mr Burns said in his presentation that BCL would engage with the ABG and landowners to fast-track and remove the impending issues to “create something very special for Bougainville”.

He said the company was ready and very much interested and committed to access Panguna and carry out the activities of feasibility and environmental studies before re-developing the mine. But he insisted that the ABG must support the company in its endeavours to remove any impediments so that it can have easy access to the Panguna mine area.

Article 2

Source: Post Courier
Date: March 01,2017, 01:39 am

BY SEBASTIAN HAKALITS

BOUGAINVILLE Minister for Minerals and Energy Resources Robin Wilson says Panguna mine is the single largest project that can move Bougainville forward.

Mr Wilson said it would ease financial hardships for landowners of Panguna and Bougainville, therefore, it was in their interest to re-open the mine. He was speaking during the presentation by Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) of its future plans for Panguna mine. Mr Wilson urged the landowners re-open, adding. “you have the veto power and whatever decision you make must be for the good of the whole of Bougainville”.

“Let’s have one voice and move forward,” Mr Wilson said at the BCL presentation that was later graced with the initial payment of K5 million to two landowner associations in outstanding 1989 to 1990 compensation payments.

The other seven groups will be paid after completing the compiling and verifying names of families. They will be

Comments

Peter Quodling

With all due respect to the original author Article 1 above

there is a glaring technical inaccuracy in this.

Firstly, There was no “new Regime” at RIO that saw it divest it’s sharing holding.

Secondly, it didn’t “offload” them, it gifted them equally between GovPNG and ABG. and 36% is not a majority.

Thirdly the statement “The National Government owns 19 per cent, Panguna landowners 17 per cent and the rest other shareholders in Europe.” is wrong – the national government no longer owns just the 19% it was originally gifted, It now owns 36.4% of the BCL Shareholding, exactly the same as the ABG.

Fourthly, The Panguna Landowners do not own 17% at all (there might be some residual token individual shareholdings),

Fifthly. “the rest other shareholders in Europe” – well, that is just as wrong – while there are some vocal European shareholders that made some speculative investments in BCL stock, they certainly do not comprise the “rest” in fact, in the top 20 shareholders (a matter of public record) the lion’s share are institutional investors (JP Morgan, Citicorp, HSBC, ABN-AMRO), with the only significant European holding being a german chap, with a shareholding of about 1.1M shares (or 0.29% of the total)

There are issues in relation to the ownership/equity and operation of mining operations that could be structured to give the people (and government) of bougainville significant leverage moving forward in this. I have offered (through channels) to consult to Pres Momis on this, but he chooses to ignore.

Bougainville News : Tribute at the State Funeral for Sir Michael Ogio, GCL, GCMG, KStJ

from

 ” In the annals of Bougainville’s recent history, Sir Michael’s name will always be etched with and alongside other political leaders of Bougainville as a peace maker, a peace broker, a stabiliser, the one leader who always displayed conciliatory traits and tendencies.+

STATE FUNERAL

The Late Governor General of Papua New Guinea

His Excellency Grand Chief

Sir Michael Ogio, GCL, GCMG, KStJ

Speech and Tribute by the Speaker of Bougainville House of Representatives Simon Pentanu

(St Mary’s Cathedral Port Moresby)

Picture above from funeral program cover

Updated 25 Febuary

Arrival of HE GG the late Sir Michael Ogio’s remains at AROB’s Buka airport.

A contingent of AROB’s disciplined forces and school children provide welcoming guarded entrance as the casket is carried to a welcome by ABG’s dignitaries. 25|02|17

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After the welcome ceremony at Buka airport HE GG the late Sir Michael Ogio’s casket was brought and laid in the Bougainville House of Representatives where the Vice President Hon Raymond Masono MHR led the tributes. Several other members also paid their tributes including AROB MPs in the PNG National Parliament.

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Speech and Tribute by the Speaker of Bougainville

House of Representatives Simon Pentanu

We are gathered at this solemn service this morning to pay respect and tribute to an amazing man whose public service to his country and to his province and region, I can honestly say, was only surpassed by his humility, friendship and his moderating influence to achieve a fair outcome by everyone he came across in his lifetime.

From the rural beginnings in his hamlet in the hills of Tinputz in North Bougainville this former teacher, schools inspector, provincial and national politician found his way up the ranks to become Governor General in a country that is diverse in language, culture, tradition and its people.

The late Sir Michael Ogio was elected the ninth Governor General by the National Parliament in January 2011. At the time he was a serving member of the National Parliament representing North Bougainville open seat.

In a proud line of elderly and mature, seasoned and experienced politicians that have represented Bougainville, Sir Michael will be remembered well by his constituents for his decision to vacate his seat and to be popularly elected by the National Parliament. He may have thought it better to continue serving his people as their member. However, he chose a higher calling and a higher national duty to serve the country.

The election of Sir Michael as Governor General at the time is an occasion that made many Bougainville leaders and the people of Bougainville very happy.

First of all he was the first Bougainvillean. He was one them.

Secondly, because of his election there was a lot of renewed respect in Bougainville for the process of election of the Governor General by the National Parliament.

The life story of Sir Michael Ogio is the story of a man who gave and who spent his life serving the people and the country he knew and loved. He never stopped serving until the very final days in office as Governor General.

His story also represents a generation of people that gave meaning to public service, giving of themselves and their whole life to the service of the people. Sir Michael had a firm conviction and worked and lived true to the belief that there is no higher calling in terms of career than serving the public to make a difference in people’s lives. When we look back at the service of such men of Sir Michael’s generation they make it seem so clear that public service, especially in a developing country like ours, is a privilege. It is a privilege based on the moral foundations that we should value and espouse at all times.

The Office of Governor General has served this country well. The Vice Regal Office served so far by men of such mettle, calibre and dignity of Sir Michael Ogio and the eight Governors General before him have served Papua New Guinea with honour and dignity.

The Office has become an enduring and respected institution like an asterisk in the context of our democracy in this country. It has not been influenced or mauled by party political leniencies despite the fact that the Governor General is elected solely by the Parliament. Once the Parliament makes its choice the person that holds the office is not identified for whatever purpose with any party or any part or region of the country. Our constitutional fathers will be happy to acknowledge that the constitutional provision and protection of the Office is working well.

There have been mainly two observations, often both criticisms and support from sectors of the public, which emerge from time to time in respect of the roles and responsibilities of the Governor General. We often hear how and why it is important that in the parliamentary democracy and system of government we have adopted it is important to have and guard the ceremonial roles and functions of the Head of State.

The Head of State epitomises, personifies and symbolises the State its power and authority that we must treasure. This is why it is important if we have political milieus and spoils in the political governance of the country the Office of the Governor as Head of State must be zealously guarded and protected. To do this, the experience and wisdom of whoever is in office is called to the fore. I believe that Sir Michael Ogio and others before him when called to face up to the challenges have been able to call upon their experiences in public life, including in political life, combined with their wisdom and maturity as elders in our society, to be steadfast in upholding the Office.

We also hear from time to time how some sectors of the public view that the Head of State be endowed with more power, even the power to hold the government of the day to account. This view is borne out of either ignorance or misunderstanding of the roles and functions of the Office of the Governor as head of state assigned and provisioned by the constitution.

I make these remarks to illustrate the late Sir Michael Ogio has had to deal with these scenarios, as did his predecessors to varying degrees. In making these remarks I also pay tribute to Sir Michael Ogio in particular and to other Governors General in general for living up to the callings of the Office every time. It also supports that the election of the Governor General by the National Parliament is the most appropriate way how these wise and elder men are selected through the most exhaustive secret ballot.

The people of Bougainville are saddened by the loss of Sir Michael. Sir Michael was many things to many people. He was held in high esteem as a community leader in his community in Tinputz. He was a peace maker, a moderate in the midst of inflexible, hard line voices. He always wanted to balance things out so that the outcome for all parties is a win-win situation. He was a friend to everybody, a jovial one who liked to listen to everyone that had something important to say.

Sir Michael didn’t buckle under pressure, whether it is the normal pressures at work or at home or the worst life threatening pressures that he had to deal with in some of the darkest hours in Bougainville when he was serving his people in Parliament. He always acted the part of a Bougainvillean that spoke to people saying that Bougainvilleans are very reasonable people. He believed that even in the worst of times when all seems lost there are voices of reason we must muster and listen to ourselves. And that in the rough and tumble of politics there is always a time to be humble, to show humility and to be reasonable human beings.

In the annals of Bougainville’s recent history, Sir Michael’s name will always be etched with and alongside other political leaders of Bougainville as a peace maker, a peace broker, a stabiliser, the one leader who always displayed conciliatory traits and tendencies. He had a moderating influence during the peace negotiations and peace process where these took place among the different factions in Bougainville and offshore and in meetings with the National Government.

Sir Michael followed through his belief and convictions with other leaders that the only way to peace is a negotiated settlement. That in choosing leaders to carry through with the Bougainville Peace Process a choice through the ballot was preferable to the bullet. That reconciliation was far and away better than confrontation.

Bougainville still elects four members to the National Parliament. It is because of both the participation and intervention of collective leadership which has included a very important contribution of leaders like Sir Michael Ogio that Bougainville still maintains its representation in the PNG National Parliament.

The people who will miss Sir Michael Ogio most are of course his close family and relatives. The other people that are still mourning his passing away and will also miss him are the people from the electorate of North Bougainville. They have continually stood by him because they have continued to return him as their Member in Parliament up to the time when he was appointed Governor General.

I am at this funeral service with a delegation of three Members of the Bougainville House of Representatives. The delegation and representation I lead includes the Minister for Education the Hon Thomas Pataaku and two senior parliamentarians, Hon Ezekiel Massat who is chairman of PAC and Hon Joseph Watawi, chairman of our parliamentary committee on referendum.

May I finally express on behalf of the President, Hon Dr John Momis and the Bougainville Executive Council, on behalf of all Members of the Bougainville Parliament and on behalf of the Bougainville people our deepest gratitude and appreciation to the National Parliament, to the Prime Minister and the National Government and to the rest of the people in this country for the honour and privilege in bestowing the honour to a Bougainvillean, Sir Michael Ogio to hold and serve in the highest Office in the land as Governor General. We know he has lived up to his pledges in office and has not let anyone down. He has served his term right to the final days.

The President and the People of Bougainville will receive the late Governor General Sir Michael Ogio in Buka today (26 Feb )  and many people will accompany him to his community and village in Tinputz where will be finally laid to rest on Sunday afternoon.

We offer and extend our sincerest condolences to Lady Esmie and the family.

May his soul rest in eternal peace.

 

Bougainville #RIP News : Sir Michael Ogio served #Bougainville #PNG with pride, honour, dignity and distinction

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 ” It is with a heavy heart that leaders and people of Bougainville, especially those of us who  knew him, received the news of the passing away of the former  Governor General Sir Michael Ogio.

He was strong, committed and stoic public figure whose contribution to Bougainville and the country is well known and widely acknowledged.

He passed away serving to the last.”

STATEMENT AUTHORISED BY THE SPEAKER OF THE BOUGAINVILLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES HON SIMON PENTANU

See Below 1. Chief Dr. John L. Momis, MHR, GCL President

See Below 2 The Prime Minster, Peter O’Neill, has released the following statement in the passing of H.E. Sir Michael Ogio, GCMG CBE.

Sir Michael Ogio’s life is a story of selfless public service deserving of praise by all Bougainvilleans and the rest of the country.

The PNG National Parliament chose him to be the Head of State, a Vice Regal, representing Her Majesty the Queens in PNG. He was good, suitably qualified choice.

His own clan chieftain status in his society in Bougainville, his personal humility and his immense knowledge and understanding of the country, the nation and the people made him a good choice as Governor General.

The Bougainville House of Representatives and its Members express and extend our sincere condolences to Lady Esmie Ogio for her loss at this difficult time especially so soon after the end of Sir Michael’s term as Governor general.

The ABG joins his family, his people and the whole country in remembering and celebrating Sir Michel’s lifetime.

momis-welcomes-ogio

Pic Above Caption: President Chief Dr John Momis welcomes the Late Governor General Sir Michael Ogio on his first official visit to Bougainville as Viceregal in 2011 for the 6th Anniversary of the formation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government. The trip was the Sir Michael’s only official trip that he ever made to Bougainville in his capacity as Governor General. Pic Courtesy of Bougainville Tourism Website

CONDOLENCE MESSAGE From the President

It is with the greatest of sadness that I mourn with the rest of Bougainville the passing of one of this nation’s finest statesmen in the Late Governor General His Excellency Sir Michael Ogio.

The Late Sir Michael Ogio served this nation and the people of Bougainville with commitment and great distinction. His long career began first as an educator, a politician and peacemaker and finally holding the highest office in the land as the Viceregal. Sir Michael Ogio was a staunch Catholic and family man; he was a man amongst men, a leader with the heart for his people and his selflessness and Christian values were the hallmark of his jovial attitude to life to which he lived a full one.

As a teacher His Excellency had taught in many schools throughout the country prior to PNG gaining independence. His love of teaching was very well reflected in his demeanour and the manner in which he carried himself. Sir Michael Ogio was then elected into the then North Solomons Provincial Government and served as its first Minister for Education and from there he contested the National Elections and was elected into office as the Member for North Bougainville. As a National MP he held various government Ministries and further distinguished himself as a leader at the national and international level.

It is worthy to note his time as Member for North Bougainville which was through the darkest years of Bougainville’s history during the Bougainville Crisis (1989-1997). The immense contribution that he made in the peace process and the peace building after the Crisis during this tumultuous period must be lauded as he was one of the foremost leaders who led our people into the peace that we enjoy today; that is by far Sir Michael’s greatest legacy, to finally see Bougainville at peace and the people’s drive to self-determination to be enduring as ever.

I pay tribute to this great man who was a friend and contemporary of mine and on behalf of the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the people of Bougainville I offer my sincerest condolences to Lady Esime and the family of our Late Governor General Sir Michael Ogio. Let us not be bereaved by grief but also celebrate the life of this extraordinary man who for more than 40 years dedicated his life to serving this country through the public service and through public office as a politician and statesman. May God our Father grant him eternal rest.

Chief Dr. John L. Momis, MHR, GCL

President

The Prime Minster, Peter O’Neill, has released the following statement in the passing of H.E. Sir Michael Ogio, GCMG CBE.

“It is with great sadness that I have been informed of the passing of the Governor General of Papua New Guinea, the Late Sir Michael Ogio.

“As a nation and as a Government, we have prayed for His Excellency to return to good health, but this was not to be.”

“We now pray for the family of the late Sir Michael Ogio, and thank them for the commitment that Sir Michael gave to our country.”

“As a Member of our Nation’s Parliament, as a former Deputy Prime Minster, and as the Nation’s Vice Regal Representative, Sir Michael Ogio was an outstanding representative for the people of Papua New Guinea.”

“He was humble, he was sincere and he was a man who took an interest in the development of our nation.”

“We thank the late Sir Michael Ogio for his service to the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, to the advancement of our people and to his role in strengthening the unity of our people.”

 

Bougainville News : President Momis returns to work on the threshold of the Referendum

 

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We are looking to develop our education and health facilities and develop other infrastructure on Bougainville but we must not overlook our responsibility and that is the implementation of the BPA through credible means,

“Undeniably, we have problems on Bougainville but we have also achieved a lot since the inception of the ABG; we now have the power to develop our own education policies, our health policies and others such as finance and mining,”

The people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville have a dream to create a new socio-economic political and moral order as they stand on the threshold of the Referendum.

ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis said that dream is within the reach of the people of Bougainville but they first have the responsibility to implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“I welcome the President’s return as it provides added momentum to our work to reform the public service

President Momis has made it clear that he considers reform of the public service to be a critical priority for ensuring that Bougainville delivers on the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the expectations of our people,”

Chief Secretary to the ABG Joseph Nobetau has welcomed ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis following a period of leave, announcing that he is energized and ready to continue on the path to reform in the ABG. See Press release 2 below

NOTE : ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis has thanked the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea who had him in their prayers during his time in the hospital in the Philippines.

The President’s doctors have given him a clean bill of health and he said he was ready to get back to working with the people as they prepare for the upcoming referendum. Picture is the President with journalists during his first press conference on last Friday after his return the previous day.

1.Press Release

President Momis said the problem the ABG faces was a lack of technical capacity to develop these powers and policies to.

But Momis is also very optimistic that Bougainville will thrive as the autonomous region moves into the future.

“Unity is the essence of our success and these problems are not impossible to overcome; our unity does not mean uniformity, it must be an all-inclusive engagement of all Bougainvilleans who must have a say on our political future come the referendum,” Momis said.

Momis added that Bougainville determining its future must also include a future for development.

Momis also cautioned that people must be realistic of their expectations of the outcome of the referendum.

“Everything depends on how hard we work to achieve a favourable outcome of the referendum; we cannot dream of the impossible while we remain complacent and not work hard for it,” he said.

“We must have faith and own the process of the referendum so that we can legitimately own the outcome that is credible and excepted by all Bougainvilleans and respected by the international community,” he said.

“I must remind you all that in today’s globalized community we must refrain from alienating ourselves international community such as the United Nations who will play an important role at the time of the referendum,” he said.

Momis further made a call to all Bougainvilleans not to deviate from the principles of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and to follow it as the guideline to achieving its ultimate political future.

2. Press release Nobetau welcomes Momis

Chief Secretary to the ABG Joseph Nobetau has welcomed ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis following a period of leave, announcing that he is energized and ready to continue on the path to reform in the ABG.

Mr Nobetau said that the President’s return is important as it provides continued stability and leadership for Bougainville.

In consulting with the President Nobetau said that he made it clear that he was disappointed with some aspects of recent progress and that he wants to see all members of the executive rise to the challenge of progressing reform to ensure that Bougainville continues on the path to autonomy ahead of the upcoming referendum.

“It is clear that the President maintains very strong views regarding the need for enhancing governance and discipline across the public service. As Chief Secretary, I stand ready to work with my colleagues to heal any division that may have occurred during his absence so that we can deliver on the President’s very clear expectations”, Mr Nobetau said.

President Momis has been a constant and unifying figure throughout Bougainville’s history and has played a critical leadership role in progressing the Bougainville Peace Agreement and leading Bougainville on the path to autonomy.

“As Chief Secretary I am committed to delivering on the Presidents vision for reform. Now, more than ever before, it is essential that we consolidate our status as an autonomous territory as we approach the proposed referendum date”, Mr Nobetau said.

Mr Nobetau indicated that over the coming weeks he would be providing further updates on this important work and encouraged the public service to unite to address the many challenges ahead.

 

Bougainville News : Bougainville plays host to New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs Murray McCully

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The Autonomous Region of Bougainville today (Tuesday 14 February 2017) plays host to New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs Murray McCully as he embarks on his tour of the region.

Pictured above arriving at Buka Airport

The objective of the visit is for the Minister to engage in high level discussions with members of the ABG regarding continued bilateral cooperation, impact of existing development projects, capacity for future development projects and cooperation; and possible support for the upcoming referendum.

The visit will also provide an opportunity to explore broader political, diplomatic and government to government areas of cooperation.

Bougainville and New Zealand have a long history of shared cooperation and support as New Zealand was instrumental in the development of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and since that time has maintained active support through a range of diplomatic and development initiatives.

Chief Secretary to the ABG Joseph Nobetau said the symbolic importance of this visit cannot be understated because New Zealand is a friend of Bougainville and has demonstrated a long term willingness to support the ABG as it continues on a path to autonomy, peace and reconciliation.

“Through ongoing policing support and other initiatives New Zealand is contributing to the peace and stability of Bougainville,” Nobetau said.

“The Minister’s visit is therefore a recognition, at the highest levels of Government, of New Zealand’s commitment to our long term success and growth,” Nobetau said.

Nobetau further said that the Foreign Minister’s visit provides a good opportunity to engage on a range of issues of mutual interest.

He said this opportunity will also allow the Acting ABG President Raymond Masono to formally convey to the New Zealand Government the appreciation of the people of Bougainville and the ABG for their continued support.

Since the signing of Cease Fire in 1997 the New Zealand Government has been providing development support to Bougainville which primarily aims to increase the capacity of the ABG to operate autonomously and in an open, efficient and transparent manner.

Specific development assistance projects to date include, Bougainville Community Policing Programme (BCPP), the Governance and Implementation Facility (GIF), Support to the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner (OBEC)

They have also provided technical support to ABG departments as well as funding important infrastructural developments in health, education and agriculture through their various aid and development programs on Bougainville.

 

 

Bougainville News: Creation of #Bougainville Referendum Commission Part 2

 

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The independence of the BRC does not mean the commission works alone of the two governments.

“The two governments will continue to play a crucial role on agreeing on the framework on important matters as the options available in the referendum, security and funding issues,”

The ABG’s Vice President and Minister for Referendum Patrick Nisira said the signing of the agreement between the two governments signified an important step forward : The Bougainville Referendum Commission needs approximately K20 million for it to begin its operations.

Pic Caption: (L-R) ABG Electoral Commissioner George Manu, PNG Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato sign the agreement while ABG Chief Secretary Joseph Nobetau and PNG Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari look on

see Part I of this report here

The Autonomous Bougainville Government continues to make headway in the lead up to the Referendum with the creation of the Bougainville Referendum Commission.

The signing of the agreement between the ABG and GoPNG happened on January 24, 2017 in Port Moresby.

The ABG Delegation was led by the Vice President and Minister for Referendum, Hon. Patrick Nisira and the Chief Secretary, Joseph Nobetau whilst the the GoPNG Chief Secretary, Isaac Lupari and the PNG Electoral Commissioner, all of Bougainville’s National MP’s were present with the exception of Louta Atoi.

The GoPNG Chief Secretary, Isaac Lupari said that the BRC remains a priority for the National Government so funding for the entity will be sourced to cater for the BRC to begin its operations.

The formation of the BRC as an independent and impartial entity was agreed upon by the National Executive Council, the Bougainville Executive Council and the Attorney General.

As per the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea Section, 340 (1(a)) that provides for the PNG Electoral Commission and the Bougainville Electoral Commission will be jointly responsible for the conduct of the referendum.

The GoPNG, ABG, PNG Electoral Commission and the Bougainville Electoral Commission have entered into an agreement which provides for the implementation of the joint responsibility through the establishment of an independent agency, the Bougainville Referendum Commission, which will carry out the referendum on Bougainville.

The second document to be signed is the Charter that will enable the BRC to operate as an independent inter-government agency that will supervise the referendum.

The Charter will be signed by the Governor General at a later date to allow for the BRC to become operational.

 

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