Bougainville News feature 1 of 2 : Panguna in hindsight – yes , hindsight is a wonderful thing

 

 ” Every picture tells a story. Every story a picture tells may not be a perfect story but, as another saying goes, there’s more to the picture than meets the eye. 

There is a certain poignancy about this picture – and many other images connected with the multitude of matters surrounding Panguna. 

Panguna is not merely a history of mining, minerals, money, maiming and the nastiness of the conflict. It is not only a story of lost lives, lost land and lost opportunities. 

This photograph shows a woman, leading her male counterparts in the early days of the dispute involving one group of Panguna landowners voicing, in a very public way, early warnings of what might follow.”

Article by Simon Pentanu  

Panguna is a story of many individuals and groups; of men, women and children of the forest, the valleys, the ravines, the hills and mountains, the rivers and creeks and sacred sites – all of which people called home, before mining arrived. 

Perpetua Serero and Francis Ona both passed away relatively young. The effervescent Damien Dameng – the one with reading glasses studying his notes in this photo – lost his life under dubious circumstances only in recent times. 

Francis Bitanuma with the white cap and overgrown beard in this photo, is still around, raising his voice and picking and choosing his fights but with fewer and fewer local allies in tow.

Perpetua Serero had remarkable poise and presence. Had her voice as Chairlady of a splinter Panguna Landowners Association (PLOA) been heeded when she spoke (either with or without the aid of a hand-held loud hailer), some of the fiasco and hurt amongst the landowners could well have been mitigated, if not largely avoided.

Instead, the very early feuds over Panguna over benefits accruing from the land under various leases to BCL were between landowners themselves. Only a dishonest landowner would deny this was the case.

Disputes and differences over land sharing, land use and land tenure preceded the arrival of mining in Panguna. But these were localized and tended to be confined within households, extended families and clans. Agreements were brokered to resolve issues or at least keep them to manageable levels. There were ways for everyone to move on, living and communally sharing the land, rivers, creeks, the environment and everything that more or less made life worth living and dying for. 

Differences and feuds over the benefits accruing from the mine such as RMTL (Road Mining Tailings Lease) payments and other payments added fuel to existing disputes between clans, families and relatives. Some of the disputes became vexatious with the advent of mining.

Mining catapulted Panguna women like Perpetua Serero, Cecilia Gemel and others to the forefront as they took on much more active and pronounced roles as mothers of the land in a society that is largely matrilineal. 

This photograph shows a woman, leading her male counterparts in the early days of the dispute involving one group of Panguna landowners voicing, in a very public way, early warnings of what might follow.

The significance of her message was either lost to or not taken seriously by most leaders from central Bougainville, BCL, PLOA and relevant authorities in the national Government at the time.  

That men are  on the periphery of the photo – in stark contrast to the lead role  being played by Serero at the front – wasn’t just symbolic. It was real. Her position at the front, with the support of  men such as Francis Bitanuma, Francis Ona, Damien Dameng and others was neither incidental, coincidental nor accidental. Her role at the forefront of this dispute over land was natural and logical, because in most of Bougainville it is through the women that land is inherited and passed down the generations. 

That more and more landowners became willing to front up in crowds such as this, emboldened by the willing maternal leadership of someone who stood up to carry the mantle of those that bore grievances against their own PLOA, led by men. Serero, and the landowners who stood with her, made a brave and significant statement. 

As the differences grew, the younger Panguna generation – alongside women like Serero and Gemel and the emerging, vociferous Francis Ona – turned their attention to Rio and BCL.

Increasingly they saw BCL and the old PLOA as having all the control and influence over what happened in special mining lease (SML) area. The injustice felt in not having much say weighed heavily and became a rallying point as captured in this photo.

All of us observing, reading and writing about the upheavals over Panguna, the mounting dissatisfaction, the criticism of the Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA) and the rebellious response that shut down the giant mining operations, may find some satisfaction in the common truism that hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The BCA was a document familiar mostly to lawyers, investors and bankers and, of course, to the mining fraternity. It was not until well after the first power pylons fell, after deployment of the security forces and after the mine was closed that interest increase in reading the fine print of the BCA. Coming, as they did, from a paperless village life, many landowners and Bougainvilleans in the community at large found little compulsion to read, let alone understand and appreciate legal agreements.

When the going was good everything was hunky dory. The landowners were getting their lease payments, social inconvenience compensations, royalties etc. The provincial government was doing well and was  financially better placed than others in the country. Employees couldn’t really complain about the job opportunities, good salaries and wages.

The majority of the landowners the BCA was purported to serve turned against it, despised and rebelled against it. 

It is a story new generation of Panguna landowners is born into. It is not a story restricted to past or the future. Rather, it is a story that evokes timeless lessons and has some relevance for all of us forever throughout our lifetime.

It is true, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I have heard a lot about Perpetua  

Serero. I never met her. I will never meet her in person because she has passed on. 

She served her calling with tremendous support from men and women of the land. She had faith in customs and traditions that gave equal opportunities to women. These customs and traditions gave her the mantle and legitimacy to lead protests against the male dominated RMTL executives in the Panguna Landowners Association. 

She faced an awful amount of pressure because of intense feuding over control of PLOA and RMTL in Panguna. She took the baton and ran her lap hoping to influence and change some of the male dominated status quo in the old PLOA.

The Australian Liberal and Labor colonial governments clearly saw what was going on and regarded Panguna mine as the Achilles heel of a future, independent PNG. 

 Men like Ona, Bitanuma, Dameng and women like Serero, Gemel and others gradually realised that unless they stood up and were counted, taking a stand against the inequities they saw, they would be swamped and inundated by the complacency that was prevalent, accepted, and that supported a Panguna that seemed all normal driven by profits and benefits of mining. 

There are lessons Rio and BCL learnt out of the land dispute. Some of these lessons are harsh. Some even the best legal agreements cannot address, avert or fix, for they are based in customs and culture, not common law. 

Panguna may be most uncommon dispute or problem of its time that a foreign mining company has had to face and deal with. Its repercussions and reverberations spread through Bougainville and indeed around the world very quickly.

It has unearthed lessons that go well beyond issues normally associated with mining.

The Bel Kol approach initiated by the landowners shows traditional societies also have ways, means and mechanisms by which to resolve seemingly intractable disputes. These ways are local, restorative and win-win in their approach, not adversarial, competitive and foreign.

Some of the continuing pain, ill effects and trauma over lost land and lost dignity over Panguna are more destabilizing and debilitating than the crisis and conflict that landowners and many other Bougainvilleans endured.  

Everyone that has lived through the crisis on the Island or has been affected one way or another, directly or indirectly, has had to deal with the horrors of crisis, war and conflict. Rebuilding lives, normalcy and returning to a resilient society is a longer journey that will take many generations over many lifetimes.

Little wonder people are prepared to protect their rights and defend the land with their lives. It is true, isn’t it, that one cannot fully understand and appreciate peace and freedom unless you either lose it or you have been suppressed.

I hope looking back we can pass on to the next generation the genuine benefits of hindsight.

 

Bougainville Mining News: Momis slams PNG Minister’s statement as “misleading and mischievous nonsense “

Micah

Mr. Micah’s statement that Kumul Minerals will keep the shares until then is nothing but misleading and mischievous nonsense. It is intended to give the impression that somehow he and Kumul Minerals are in control of the share, and concerned to look after Bougainville’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Mr. Micah has been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years. He has had secret dealings with Rio.

I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG.”

Bougainville’s President, Dr. John Momis, described a statement on the Tinto shares in BCL by Ben Micah, Minister for Petroleum and Energy ( Pictured above with PNG PM O’Neil ) as ‘misleading and mischievous nonsense’.

He was referring to public debate following Rio Tinto’s recent decision to divest its 53.8 per cent majority shareholding in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL). Rio has transferred its shares to a Trust, with 36.4 per cent available to the Bougainville Government, and 17.4 per cent to the PNG government. With its existing 19.3 per cent shareholding, this would make PNG equal shareholder with Bougainville. The PNG government shares were accepted by Petromin the day Rio announced its decision. Bougainville has yet to announce its decision on the shares.

But on 7 July Mr. Micah was reported as claiming that PNG owned company, Kumul Mineral Holdings Ltd will keep the 36.4 per cent offered to Bougainville until the ABG accepts the shares.

President Momis said:

‘Kumul Minerals Holdings, Mr. Micah, and the National Government have no role in relation to the 36.4 per cent BCL shares available to the ABG. Those shares were transferred by Rio Tinto to an Australian-based Trust – Equity Trustees Limited – under a Shares Trust Deed. The ABG has two months in which to decide whether to accept the transfer of the shares.

‘Mr. Micah’s statement that Kumul Minerals will keep the shares until then is nothing but misleading and mischievous nonsense. It is intended to give the impression that somehow he and Kumul Minerals are in control of the share, and concerned to look after Bougainville’s interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘Mr. Micah has been trying to get control of Rio Tinto’s BCL shares for over two years. He has had secret dealings with Rio. In December 2015, he told me that the National Government must buy the Rio shares for US$100 million, in order to stop Rio selling the shares to outside interests. When I subsequently questioned Rio representatives in February they denied any such deal.

‘As President of Bougainville, I have no trust at all in Mr. Micah having any role in relation to these shares. If, as reported on Friday, the Prime Minister has no knowledge of the transfer of the 17.4 per cent of BCL shares from Rio to Petromin on 30 June, then clearly the evil and irresponsible move to make PNG equal shareholder in BCL together with the ABG has been cooked up between Rio and Mr. Micah. That deal must now be undone.

‘I call on the Prime Minister to overrule his irresponsible minister. He must protect the peace process by transferring the 17.4 per cent shareholding to the ABG. The ABG will then be majority shareholder, with PNG still holding its existing 19.4 per cent. The ABG accepts that the National Government should retain a role in BCL, but only if the ABG controls mining policy, and the company that owns the Panguna mine. ~`

‘BCL hold only an exploration licence over the former Special Mining Lease at Panguna. Under the Bougainville Mining Act, if 25 per cent or more of shares in a company holding an exploration licence are transferred, the ABG MUST initiate action to terminate the lease. The transfer by Rio to the Trust means that the termination process must now begin. The ABG Minister for Mining, Robin Wilson, has given instructions to the Secretary of the ABG Mining Department to issue a notice to BCL to show cause why its licence should not be terminated.

‘If the National Government keeps the 17.4 per cent shares, then nothing will stop the termination process being completed. Then BCL will have its cash and its Panguna drilling data, but no licence in Bougainville. That would be a bad outcome for everyone. We prefer to work with the National Government. But that must be on a basis where the ABG is in control of Bougainville’s mining.’

The President also referred to Mr. Micah’s claims of great support for the PPP on the basis of the very recent victory of PPP party candidate, Timothy Masiu, in the by-election for South Bougainville Open. He said:

‘The result does not indicate strong support in Bougainville for PPP – far from it. Instead it was a victory for a well-known person from a well-known Buin area family, who happened to have strong financial support from MR. Micah’s PPP party. The policies of the PPP and the roles of its leader, Mr. Micah, do not have support in Bougainville.

‘If the voters of South Bougainville had known at the time they cast their votes that Mr. Micah was arranging with Rio Tinto for the National Government to become equal largest shareholder in BCL, then Mr. Masiu would have been completely rejected as a PPP candidate.

‘I call on the new MP, Mr. Timothy Masiu, to explain to Mr. Micah the deep sensitivity amongst Bougainvilleans about the future of the Panguna Mine. I call on him to convince Mr. Micah to support the transfer to the ABG of the 17.4 per cent shares in BCL. Mr. Masiu must persuade Mr. Micah to transfer the shares if he is to have any chance of returning as a PPP MP in 2017.’

Hon. Chief Dr John L. Momis, GCL, MHR

President, ARoB

10 July 2016

Bougainville News : Momis : Debate on the process for lifting the ” moratorium ” on Bougainville mining exploration

photo J M

It should be no surprise to Members here today that in participating in this debate on the future of the ‘moratorium’, I am deeply concerned to ensure that the issues involved are discussed thoroughly, with care, and with the most careful attention to the need to fully protect the interests of Bougainvilleans. After all, that ‘moratorium’ protected our interests over many years. We need to consider the issues involved most carefully before deciding what should be done.

I’d like to comment briefly on the main options for a decision on the ‘moratorium’. The options include:

  • Maintaining the moratorium;
  • Lifting it partially, for limited specific areas of Bougainville;
  • Lifting it fully, for all areas of Bougainville currently covered by it.”

These matters that I have outlined must be carefully considered by this House when debating the options for decision on the future of the ‘moratorium’. Because of these issues about international tender for exploration licences, and setting up the community mining licence system, I suggest that we should not yet consider the option of fully lifting.

I further suggests that instead we should either maintain the existing moratorium for at least a period of two or three years, or alternatively only partially lift it, for just one or two specific areas. In that way we would allow the time to organise for international tender and for community mining licences “

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOHN. L. MOMIS, TO THE BOUGAINVILLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 5 APRIL 2016

Mr. Speaker:

The BEC has recently agreed to a recommendation from the Mining Minister that it is vitally important that this House discuss the future of the ‘moratorium’ on mining exploration.

The ‘moratorium’ was originally imposed 45 years ago, in April 1971, by the colonial Administration. It prevented any mining exploration licences for areas of Bougainville other than those already covered by BCL leases. It was imposed in response to the deep concerns of Bougainvilleans communicated to the colonial Administration by their then leaders.

45 years ago, I was a young, recently ordained Catholic priest working in Kieta. I was being called upon by landowners to support them in their struggle with CRA and the colonial Administration. So I was one of those leaders whose request resulted in the moratorium being imposed. It was imposed to protect our people from the unlimited mining exploration and development that they feared might :

It should be no surprise to Members here today that in participating in this debate on the future of the ‘moratorium’, I am deeply concerned to ensure that the issues involved are discussed thoroughly, with care, and with the most careful attention to the need to fully protect the interests of Bougainvilleans. After all, that ‘moratorium’ protected our interests over many years. We need to consider the issues involved most carefully before deciding what should be done.

When the last ABG House proudly passed the two Bougainville mining laws – the Bouganville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act 2014, and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 – both laws retained the ‘moratorium’. It was adopted as if it was a reservation of land from mining exploration made under the Bougainville Act.

Members need to be very clear about what the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 says about lifting such a reservation (or moratorium). It gives the power to the BEC. The BEC can lift it partially (just for particular parts of Bougainville), or fully (for the whole of Bougainville). But when the BEC considers lifting the reservation, either partially or wholly, it must first get advice about its proposed decision from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council (the BMAC). It must also provide an opportunity for debate of the proposed decision by this House.

This procedure is very different from how a reservation under the National Government Mining Act is lifted –that needs just a decision from the National Government Minister, with no consultation or advice required. In developing the ABG’s law, we were determined that an issue of this importance had to be subject to careful scrutiny. That’s why the decision cannot be made just by the Minister – it requires a BEC decision, and only after receiving considered BMAC advice and hearing a debate on the issues involved held in this House.

As the Minister also emphasises, as yet the BEC has not made any decision about the future of the ‘moratorium’. We are not coming to you with a proposed decision. Instead, we are asking this House to debate what we should do about the ‘moratorium’. We are doing this to generate broad public discussion of the issues involved.

Members might ask for an explanation of the reasons why we need such a public debate about lifting the ‘moratorium’. There are several reasons.

First, lifting the ‘moratorium’ is still a highly sensitive issue for many – perhaps even most – Bougainvilleans.

Second, many of the same issues that led to the request for the moratorium in 1971 remain. Even people open to some mining in Bougainville want it very strictly limited.

Third, if we do lift the moratorium, and especially if we lift it fully (that is, for the whole of Bougainville), it is likely that a very large proportion of the land of Bougainville will soon be covered by exploration licences. That will have huge impacts for all of us. There will be great difficulty turning back from such a massive change if it produces results that we do not like.

So there is a clear need for the most careful deliberation on the issues involved.

Ideally we want to have a major Bougainville-wide public consultation and awareness campaign about issues of such great importance. But because of our serious financial difficulties, that is not an option for us at the moment. So instead, the BEC has agreed to an initial debate in this House. That must be a thorough, careful and well-informed debate.

I believe that it is also essential that we engage with our people as part of this debate. So I recommend, in the strongest terms, that this House debate the ‘moratorium’ issue in two separate sessions. One should be now. Then when the issues have been carefully considered, I recommend that all members go out and consult the people of their constituencies, and seek their views. They should then have a second round of debate at the next House session – a debate further informed by the views of our people.

I’d like to comment briefly on the main options for a decision on the ‘moratorium’. The options include:

  • Maintaining the moratorium;
  • Lifting it partially, for limited specific areas of Bougainville;
  • Lifting it fully, for all areas of Bougainville currently covered by it.

Before we consider options, we need to consider carefully how either partial or full lifting of the moratorium would interact with, or impact on, other major aspects of the Bouganville Mining Act 2015. There are at least two aspects of the Act where there could be major impacts.

The first is the provisions on putting exploration licence application for particular areas out for international tender. The aim of international tender is to see if the ABG can raise significant revenue from exploration licences – for international tender could perhaps bring offers of millions of kina instead of a usual small exploration licence fee.

To put areas out to international tender, the Mining Department must first identify areas that have a potentially high prospective value, and then get geological survey done for those areas. The resulting information would then be made available as part of the tender process, so those offering to pay for a licence have some real information on which to base competitive bids.

If the ABG were to lift the ‘moratorium’ fully, we would be shutting the door on the provisions on international tender, for many years to come. The reason is that lifting the moratorium will mean that most, if not all, highly prospective areas will very quickly be covered by exploration licences. There will be nothing left to deal with under international tender processes.

If we are to keep the door open to using the international tender process in the next few years, we need some time to identify prospective areas and find the funds needed to get the necessary geological survey work done. We need perhaps 2 or 3 years to get such things organised.

In our current serious situation of financial crisis, we would be very unwise to throw away the possibility of raising serious funds by tendering exploration licences.

The second aspect of the Mining Act where fully lifting the moratorium would have major impacts is the arrangements for small-scale mining. Under the Act, COEs or Community Governments have authority to request the ABG to reserve areas exclusively for small-scale mining. Once areas are reserved, then the COE or Community Government will have the authority to issue licences to Bougainvilleans who are landowners of the area they are mining, or have permission of the landowners. That will then be the only basis for small-scale mining to be legal.

The Act gave the Mining Department time to get the new system of community mining licences organised. It made existing small-scale mining (in the absence of the new licences) legal for just 18 months, ending in October 2016.

I am very concerned now because I’ve recently been advised that the Mining Department has done nothing at all to organise the community mining licence system.

The problem now is that if the ‘moratorium’ if lifted for the whole of Bougainville, before the community mining licence system is set up and operating, then it will probably be almost impossible to have land reserved for community mining licences. The reason is that exploration licences will almost certainly be granted for most areas where small-scale mining is occurring. Once an exploration licence is granted over land, there can be no reservation of land for community mining licences without agreement of the exploration licence holder. Experience elsewhere suggests that exploration licences will be very reluctant to agree to community mining reservations that will encourage small-scale miners.

So again, we need some time, perhaps 12 to 18 months more, to allow the Mining Department to do what it should actually have been doing over the past 12 months – that is, working with the Community Government Department and other departments to set up the community mining licence system.

If we do not allow the time for this, then most, if not all, small-scale mining in Bougainville will be illegal. It will become more or less impossible to establish the community mining licence system. But of course, that will not stop small-scale mining from continuing. So that will set up serious risks of tension, confrontation and conflict between small-scale miners and exploration licence holders.

These matters that I have outlined must be carefully considered by this House when debating the options for decision on the future of the ‘moratorium’. Because of these issues about international tender for exploration licences, and setting up the community mining licence system, I suggest that we should not yet consider the option of fully lifting.

I further suggests that instead we should either maintain the existing moratorium for at least a period of two or three years, or alternatively only partially lift it, for just one or two specific areas. In that way we would allow the time to organise for international tender and for community mining licences.

There would also be other advantages in partial lifting, for just one or two areas. That would also allow the Mining Department the time it is likely to need to see how well it is able to administer the new tenement applications system established under our new Mining Act.

The Mining Department is a completely new and untried organisation, with no established experience of operating our new Act. Clearly the Mining Department must already be struggling to carry out its heavy responsibilities under the Act – for that would be the only acceptable explanation for its compete failure, so far, to do anything to establish the community mining licence system.

Once it has established that system, we could perhaps feel more confident that the Department is developing the kind of capacity it will be needing to effectively

My recommendations to the House to consider in this debate are:

  1. To debate the issues and options for lifting the moratorium thoroughly during this session of the House, and when the issues have been covered fully, the House should adjourn that part of the debate to return to our constituencies to consult our people on the issues involved;
  2. That there should then be a further debate on the issues at the next session of this House;
  3. That in that second debate, the options for lifting should be carefully evaluated, taking full account of likely impacts of maintaining the moratorium, partial lifting, or full lifting on both:
  4. Setting up the system of international tenders for exploration licences;
  5. Setting up the Community Mining Licence system for small-scale mining.6
  6. The House should consider the possible advantages of a partial lifting of the moratorium in just one or two areas, thereby allowing the Mining Department time to get the arrangements under the Act operating properly.

I must assure the members of this House that as President, I believe that this debate on the future of the moratorium is one of the most important debates we have ever held.

I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and all members, that I, and the BEC, will listen most carefully to the views expressed in this debate, and in the wider public debate, before we make any decision on lifting the moratorium.

I must also remind members that if we do later make a decision to lift it either partially or fully, then that decision too will have to be referred for advice of the BMAC, and the House will have to have the opportunity to debate the decision. So the future of the ‘moratorium’ could be a matter before this House for quite some time.

In my view, Mr. Speaker, it is entirely appropriate for the House to take an extended time to deal with such an important issue.

I look forward to hearing the contributions to the debate.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bougainville Tourism News: Some insights into tourism development in #Bougainville #PNG

pok pok

“ABG recognises the largely untapped potential of tourism and is aware Bougainville has the natural attraction to lure adventure and niche’ travellers to its shores. But a lot needs to be done . Success does not come overnight. There are no short cuts and quick fixes in success in anything.

ABG’s financial resources and capacity which has to be shared with other areas and services seeking more urgent attention has not been easy. Clearly, this creates a lot of room and space for private enterprise driven participation in an industry that can be both profitable and enjoyable with the right advice and approach and sense of ownership.

Simon Pentanu was appointed Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives in June 2015.

Picture above Bungalows under progress at Uruna Bay Retreat

He comes from Pokpok Island where he has a home and a private retreat through which community participation and paid employment of women and youth amongst its Island communities is being promoted. He advocates“small, rural and local is beautiful” across Bougainville.

Small

Bougainville’s natural  beauty and attractions, including its vibrant culture like the rest of the country, can be best showcased with serious and deliberate government involvement. For now this is lacking and can be explained largely as a result of lack of resources, capacity and focus and due to the fact that since it was established the tourism office and responsibility has been moved from pillar to post. The settling in, focus, funding and seriousness has been amiss.

With so much potential staring at us in the face tourism in Bougainville it is time our political leaders and bureaucrats alike take the attitude that if tourism has to contribute to ABG’s coffers, then it should be well-intended and for good gain. A number of private operators that have been self-starters to promote tourism are the ones carrying the baton up front. The amount of promotion they are doing both out of joy in promoting the beauty of the Island and as a business is a good story.

The Autonomous  Region today is, in many ways, at the stage in its attempts to promote tourism where PNG was about 30 years ago. Then, PNG started its budding attempts to promote the industry. It wasn’t something easy like a casual walk along the beach, a nearby bushwalk or a small hill climb. It was gradual with early forays into areas of unique attractions like for example driving into a village in Asaro to be greeted by its famous mystical Asaro mud men. There are other numerous examples such as the early cruises up the Sepik or the Baining Fire Dance and the Malagan mask phenomena in the New Guinea Islands. Along the way tourists started fitting their itineraries and visits to the annual calendar of many provincial Cultural Shows which have now become well renown and frequentedannual events. Bougainville can not only learn enormously from these early starts, including teething issues in the rest of PNG but can start to fit its own cultural events around some of the dates of these events.

The PNGTA is a vast repository of information and experience that Bougainville tourism authorities can tap into. The world has become small in an industry that has virtually encompassed countries  globally and where there are no boundaries or barriers to movement or travel, barring religious and fanatical wars. PNGTA is benefitting enormously from its membership, attendance and participation in regional and global tourism events. It has also learnt that it does not have to copy or compete for the same markets like others but has created its own brand of adventure, cultural and niche’ attractions.

photo BT

SEE Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotions Authority Website

Along the way PNGTA has learnt some hard, some sad but many useful lessons. The aches and pains have come with the successes and joys in seeing and industry grow into many niche’ attractions around its many tribal and ethnic cultures, languages, landscapes and seascapes. Bougainville stands to gain a lot from the road travelled and challenges met by PNGTA. Bougainville does not have to reinvent the wheel but we can improve the oiling and lubrication in our spokes and nuts and bolts to cruise forward with so much potential begging to be tapped.

MELB

SEE : Bougainville community support and vision puts Bougainville tourism on the world’s stage

Zhon Bosco Miriona, Managing Director of Bougainville Experience Tours for second time in the past few years was able to represent Bougainville on the world stage supported by Colin Cowell an International media and tourism consultant with over 25 years’ experience marketing Indigenous tourism

Bougainville

In March 2016 Zhon is representing Bougainville in Germany at ITB the worlds largest travel show VIEW ITB SITE Listing

Download the PNG ITB Promo press release

2016_03 PNG, unspoiled, wild paradise_ITB-Berlin-News-Preview-Editon

Top Photo Social media  : Online tour bookings site , Facebook ,@YesBougainville on Twitter and Bougainville Tourism INSTAGRAM are playing an important role in Bougainville Experience Tours  International Marketing

Second Photo Above : Developing partnerships with Wako Napusu Inbound operator Country Tour PNG and Asian operators above to bring in small groups for a 7 day Bougainville Tour Experience

PNGTA has also matured in keeping in check the pros and cons of tourist invasions, so to speak. It is a very sensible approach. The country does not necessarily want to promote tourism for arrivals en mass. This is a very important consideration in developing niche’ markets and keeping cultures genuinely intact. No one can ever completely preserve cultures in a test tube or a freezer but impact of outside influence and modernity can be managed with sensible long term policies and cooperation between government policy makers and independent state supported tourism bodies or corporations. In this regard, in terms of government support to PNGTA it has been a journey on bumpy roads, through humps, pot-holes and sometimes swaying bridges along the way. But the Association has been the richer and mature for the experience.

Bougainville can learn from all of the above. We can forge meaningful contacts, contracts and understanding for assistance in going forward in a planned and deliberate fashion with PNGTA.

It is heartening to see emerging self-start operators like Zhon Miriona Bosco from Bougainville Experience Tours and others in north and south Bougainville to establish links with PNGTA in brooding tourism in Bougainville. In time, there is no doubt other individual operators will emerge as Bougainville continues to open up to one of the cleanest and visible industries that can promote the Island.

ABG recognises the largely untapped potential of tourism and is aware Bougainville has the natural attraction to lure adventure and niche’ travellers to its shores. But a lot needs to be done over the years. Success does not come overnight. There are no short cuts and quick fixes in success in anything. ABG’s financial resources and capacity which has to be shared with other areas and services seeking more urgent attention has not been easy. Clearly, this creates a lot of room and space for private enterprise driven participation in an industry that can be both profitable and enjoyable with the right advice and approach and sense of ownership.

Clear, comprehensive, comprehendible mid to long-term policies is one way ABG can put tourism on a better footing. It is from this position that the Ministry, office and authority charged with responsibility to promote tourism in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville can develop deliberate and better long term view from the standing, stationary start is at now.

In the present Momis-Nisira Government the Minister for Economic Affairs Hon Fidelis Semoso MP has the will, the clout, the credentials and the leverage required to establish a meaningful and working contact with PNGTA. This would move the office from its dormant existence to at least some level headed planning view to where or how far Bougainville wants to take its tourism.

There are some aspects of office work that does not necessarily need huge funds but rather just thinking things through and mapping out. One such area concerns the risks and inhibitions to any opportunity to attracting and expanding tourism as an industry. First and foremost is the issue of law and order. This is a major concern in selling tourism in PNG but to its credit the PNGTA has spared no effort in putting better and localised perspective to this menace. Bougainville can certainly learn a thing or two from the arduous efforts PNGTA has made in this area. Landowner issues is another one when trekking and bird watching or just bushwalking is involved. Issues of benefits to a local community are matters that should attract attention to authorities. Advice and mentoring to willing starters in local areas is another area our officials in tourism office can help without much expenditure in resources or efforts.

The cost of travel to and within PNG is expensive. In more Bougainville it is even more expensive right across the board including airfares, local transport, accommodation, even food in lodges and motels. This should change over time and there is some evidence of this as the level of accommodation and variety of food in Buka and Arawa in more decent accommodation is improving.

Bougainville Office of Tourism Website

Developing an annual calendar around cultural events that are staged by communities for their own importance and purpose at their own time is something the office responsible for tourism in Buka can certainly work on. It is more reliable to plan this way because for communities these cultural events aren’t scheduled around tourist visits but have been a part of their life and cultural significance for years. On the part of tourist office staff this involves going out to the people to promote awareness over time. Instead of waiting for large funds the tourism office should go out to the people for which the cost shouldn’t be huge at all.

Some training and education for intending and existing tour operators and tour guides is a must so there is proper awareness on the do’s and don’ts of tourism. Again there is no need to reinvent the wheel. A working relationship can be established with PNGTA to help the tourism office in Bougainville. To this end there are also opportunities annually for the office of tourism and for private operators to attend tourist expositions hosted by PNGTA and by other Associations in the region.

It often begs the question, what does the office of tourism actually do in Bougainville? This is not a rhetorical question but a question that is being asked more and more. And rightly so. When you have good, attractive, usable and functional product to develop and promote and sell very well  why is it hard to promote and sell. Everyone boasts about how Bougainville is beautiful, how we might become a Mecca for tourists looking for authentic pristine beauty or how relatively peaceful it is for tourist to find once they get here. BUT who is doing the hard yakka that’s got to be done?

The Minister responsible for tourism can be best served by the tourism office by providing good briefs on where we are at, where we want to be in the next four years based on the remaining years of the current Government. And, in addition, how best the Government and private operators can best consult each other. The experience of PNGTA in this regard would be quite valuable. The current Minister’s audacious, no nonsense and result oriented approach would bode well with the benefit of good, regular advice from those that are charged with developing the industry. As already mentioned, establishing meaningful links with PNGTA is bound to pay good, tangible dividends.

Bougainville has always learnt the hard way from its shortcomings. The courage and conviction of the people to succeed at all is always there and has always moved everybody on and forward. Tourism has the potential as a reliable and clean income earner and cash generator . We can do this through joint effort between government and private enterprise and through humbling ourselves to ask others that have travelled this road to help and guide us, specifically PNGTA. PNGTA is already a very recognisable product, a global brand name in the tourism industry.

Bougainville can prove its worth best through doing the hard work led by those tasked and paid in the office of tourism. Any other joint effort will come if the officers and authorities start pegging and advancing their work inside and outside the office. It is not enough to just trumpet out the all too familiar metaphor we are so used to chanting and hearing that “we can do it”.

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Simon Pentanu pictured above learning international tourism marketing from Colin Cowell ” selling ” to 30 international buyers at a travel Expo in Port Moresby 2014. From left Zhon , Colin ,Simon and James Tanis.

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“Bougainville is a land of simple, untouched pleasures; from our turquoise seas to lush rain forests.Experience our unique Bougainville Island, nature, culture, history and friendly people “

 

 

 

 

Bougainville Mining News: Bougainville mine now in play, government says

PNG PM

Secret dealings of this kind are completely unacceptable to the people of Bougainville, It would be unacceptable to the people of Bougainville for the national government to try to take control of Panguna. Such a move, would trigger demands for immediate independence “

“We cannot allow a new form of colonial dealings in Bougainville’s resources to occur.”

Bougainville President John Momis

The Bougainville Autonomous Government is convinced Bougainville Copper — which owns a mine containing copper and gold worth more than $50 billion, as well as a recently ­reconfirmed exploration licence — is now in play.

As reported in todays Australian Newspaper  By: Rowan Callick Asia Pacific Editor

Bougainville President John Momis last week called on Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Rio Tinto to reveal any dealings over Rio’s 53.58 per cent shares in BCL.

“For over a year now, Mr O’Neill has expressed interest in the national government taking control of BCL,” Mr Momis said.

“He proposes that PNG operate the Panguna mine in Bougainville in the same way it operates the Ok Tedi mine,” which Mr O’Neill’s government took over in 2013.

The PNG government has hired Peter Graham, who led ExxonMobil’s successful construction of the country’s first liquefied natural gas project, to manage Ok Tedi mine and potentially to steer other state-owned mining assets.

The Bougainville mine, which was closed by conflict in 1989 and which would cost an estimated $6.5bn or more to reopen, is also owned 19.06 per cent by the PNG government, and 27.36 per cent by other shareholders.

Mr O’Neill confirmed that “we have had discussions with other shareholders of BCL on a range of issues including the reopening of the mine and the disposal of shares by existing shareholders, including Rio Tinto”.

But, he added, “There are no secret deals, and we are disappointed that President Momis is trying to use this issue at the time of the election” for a new Bougainville government that takes place at the end of next month.

“President Momis has been informed of whatever talks we have with other shareholders of BCL, only because the state is the second biggest shareholder,” Mr O’Neill said.

There would be no talks about reopening the mine, he said, “until landowners and the people of Bougainville are ready”.

It is understood the Momis government’s concern was aroused by information it had received that law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, which does a considerable amount of work for Rio internationally, had instructions to handle the sale of Rio’s shares, and had held discussions with agents in Port Moresby in relation to the deal. A Norton Rose Fulbright spokesman declined to comment when questioned by The Australian.

The BCL share price suddenly soared by 50 per cent a fortnight ago. The ASX issued a “speeding ticket”, asking the company to explain the leap. BCL said it couldn’t.

Mr Momis, whose government has recently passed new mining legislation that hands back control of all resources to landowners, said: “We cannot allow a new form of colonial dealings in Bougainville’s resources to occur.”

He said that last month he wrote to BCL, seeking advice from either it or Rio Tinto, about whether share transactions between Rio and PNG were under discussion or preparation.

“I received a brief reply from Rio, addressed to BCL but passed on to me, dated March 23. The letter simply stated that ‘Rio Tinto … is reviewing its options with respect to its stake in Bougainville Copper Ltd. This review is continuing’,” Mr Momis said.

“Secret dealings of this kind are completely unacceptable to the people of Bougainville,” he said. “It would be unacceptable to the people of Bougainville for the national government to try to take control of Panguna.” Such a move, he said, would trigger demands for immediate independence.

Peter Taylor, who has been chairman of BCL for 12 years, told The Australian “the Bougainville government seems to want the mine reopened, but we have to sit down … and see what’s doable”.

Bougainville Mining News: Rumbles from the jungle as Bougainville mine stirs

panguna

 

The big questions hanging over the mine right now include: who will run the Autonomous Bougainville Government after the election due at the end of May? Nine figures are contending the presidency, including several former combatants, with the front runners probably former Catholic priest John Momis, the veteran incumbent, and Sam Akoitai, a former national mining minister.

The next government will have the responsibility of setting the parameters for the referendum on independence that must happen at some time during the five years from this July.

The Panguna mine on Bougainville Island would cost $6.5bn to restart.

Source: The Australian Rowan Callick News Limited

Even the long-suffering Bougainville Copper board, which has witnessed cargo cults, wars, and the closure of its own vast mine, was puzzled when its share price soared 50 per cent a week ago.

For this sudden surge of confidence appeared, oddly, to have been triggered by troubling news for the company — the commencement of a new Mining Act passed by the Bougainville autonomous region’s parliament, which hands back control of all resources to landowners.

The future of the Bougainville mine, which still contains copper and gold worth about $50 billion, is tied up with its complex past, with the long geopolitical shadow cast by the 1989-2001 civil war on the island — and with cargo-­cultist hopes held out by local leaders allied to eccentric foreigners constantly seeking to seize control of the resources from BCL.

The ASX issued a “speeding ticket”, asking the company to explain the April 2 share price leap. BCL replied that it couldn’t.

The price had slid back down to 28c by Friday.

The directors of the company, which is 53.58 per cent owned by Rio Tinto, 19.06 per cent by the Papua New Guinea government, and 27.36 per cent by other shareholders, are trying to juggle an enormous range of unknowns and variables, without even the compensating benefits of having a mine to run.

It has remained closed since May 1989, and would cost upwards of $6.5bn to reopen.

The big questions hanging over the mine right now include: who will run the Autonomous Bougainville Government after the election due at the end of May? Nine figures are contending the presidency, including several former combatants, with the front runners probably former Catholic priest John Momis, the veteran incumbent, and Sam Akoitai, a former national mining minister.

The next government will have the responsibility of setting the parameters for the referendum on independence that must happen at some time during the five years from this July.

What will be the response of the national government led by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to the new Bougainville mining law? National legislation insists that, as in Australia, such resources are owned by the state.

And Mr O’Neill has hired Peter Graham, who led the remarkably successful construction of the country’s first liquefied natural gas project for ExxonMobil, to manage the Ok Tedi mine, which the Port Moresby government nationalised — and may be eager to deploy his skills to reopening Bougainville too, if Rio chooses to sell to PNG.

What does Rio itself want? At the end of 2014, it announced from London that it was reviewing its BCL stake.

It has not entirely lost its stomach for complex, ever-changing negotiations in developing countries with governments lacking the disciplines of party politics — managing director Sam Walsh only recently flew to Mongolia for talks about the constantly challenging Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine there.

But it could follow BHP-­Billiton, after its Ok Tedi debacle, in placing PNG in the ultimately-too-hard basket.

The key question is what do the landowners want? If they don’t want a mine back, it won’t happen.

Many do favour a reopening, since they see no alternative source of income for their families on the horizon — the agricultural potential for Bougainville is all on the coast, rather than in the mountains.

But they are themselves split into about nine recognisable factions — whereas at the time the mine was set up, during Australian colonial days, they spoke as a unified group.

The legislation does not specifically mention the BCL mine, because it is intended to cover the whole of the highly prospective region, which has since the onset of the civil war attracted growing numbers of carpetbaggers seeking to set up their own private operations — almost always seeking gold — in collaboration with ex-combatants who often retain guns.

Formerly, BCL was granted the only mining licence in Bougainville, which it still holds — but from the PNG government — while the Bougainville government now says its legislation supersedes the national legislation, under the accord agreed at the peace conference that ended the conflict.

The company is not only governed by legislation, but operated the mine under a contract with the PNG government that remains in force.

Peter Taylor, who has been chairman of BCL for 12 years, said that “the Bougainville government seems to want the mine reopened, but we have to sit down around a table and see what’s do­able.”

He said he remained confident that “if there’s a will there to get the mine reopened, we will find a way. But we’re talking a long lead time.’

When the first study about reopening was conducted, the copper and gold prices were lower than today — but that’s not the key issue: “We’re a mining business, not a trading business,” he said.

“It will happen only if the government and the landowners want it to happen.”

President John Momis, who has driven Bougainville’s new Mining Act, said that with it, “we are completely rejecting the terrible past. The Act recognises that all owners of customary land own all minerals in, on and under their land.” And now those who joined the civil war on the side of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army based around the mine site at Panguna, are also entitled, under custom, to share in any proceeds from that land.

Bougainville Mining News : PNG Govt Member Miringtoro and Jubilee not happy with new Mining Bill

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By Aloysius Laukai Bougainville News Editor :
The member for Central Bougainville and Minister for Communication in the Papua New Guinea National Government, JIMMY MIRINGTORO told New Dawn FM from Port Moresby that he was not happy that the ABG has rushed this bill on the eve of the ABG General elections.

He said that the ABG should have let the passing of the bill to the next government after more scrutiny from all stakeholders on Bougainville.

MR. MIRINGTORO said that pushing the bill on the eve of the ABG Elections is not proper as other outstanding issues were still not resolved on the future of mining on Bougainville.

He said that from day one he had warned the ABG against the bill especially when the people are still in the dark of this bill that could take away their rights form their land and resources forever.

MR. MIRINGTORO also said that the bill was written by outsiders like the Adam Smith International who have been involved in controversial development policies in the third world.

He said that it was unfortunate the government did not listen to the cries of the citizens and passed the bill.

Meanwhile, New Dawn FM understands that if there are some issues that have not been highlighted can now be done through an amendment of the Bougainville Mining Law by the next ABG Government that will come after the ABG General Elections.

The writs for the election were issued by the Speaker, ANDREW MIRIKI at 4pm this Friday March 27th.

 Jubilee Australia comments on the Bougainville Mining Bill 2014

In February 2015, Jubilee Australia with Bismarck Ramu Group and the International State Crime Initiative wrote to Mr Stephen Burain, the Minister for Mining in the Autonomous Government of Bougainville, commenting on the Bougainville Mining Bill 2014. See the full response here:

Mr. Stephen Burain

Minister for Mining

Autonomous Government of Bougainville

Dear Mr Burain,

As part of our enduring commitment to the mine affected communities in the Panguna region we would like to comment on the Bougainville Mining Bill 2014 drafted by Adam Smith International at the direction of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

We gratefully received a copy of the draft mining legislation and regulations from the ABG in December. Our understanding is that the legislation is slated to be voted on in March. As the window is limited for commentary on the documents – which come to 508 pages in length – we have decided to enumerate below some preliminary feedback on the legislation, and the consultation process preceding its proposed approval by Bougainville’s parliament.

1)      Consultation and Independent Assessment

Given that the legislation will lead to the temporary alienation of customary land, with wide ranging effects on the social, economic, cultural and physical life of impacted communities, it is important that the draft mining bill and regulations are subject to a widespread and thorough process of consultation, discussion and independent scrutiny, as affirmed in international treaties,[1] as a principle of international law,[2] and in international best-practice reporting.[3] As the final draft of the mining bill was delivered during November by Adam Smith International, it would seem appropriate to allow a significant period for consultation and revision, in order to give communities across Bougainville adequate time to organise themselves, seek independent expert advice, discuss the legislation, and prepare their response. While a prolonged consultation period would not be appropriate for all draft bills, given that mining has historically been a highly contentious issue on Bougainville, building a legislative framework over which all communities feel a sense of ownership is vital. Coupled to this, the legal complexity of the draft mining bill and associated regulations, make such a prolonged consultation period necessary, so that communities are afforded the time and space to appreciate all the relevant provisions and their long-term implications.

2)      Financial Support to Impacted Communities

It is important that financial resources are made available to those communities who reside on or near mineral resources that are likely to be affected by the bill in the foreseeable future, so they may acquire independent expertise to help them evaluate the draft and share their concerns with the ABG.[4] It is critical that communities are empowered to choose their own sources of independent expert advice, while observing relevant good governance procedure.

3)      Free, Prior and Informed Consent

More specifically on the contents of the draft Bougainville Mining Bill 2014, in light of mining’s contentious history on Bougainville it is especially important that the legislation should encompass best practice with respect to free, informed, prior consent, and echo the standards set out in key international covenants including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and ILO Convention 169. In this respect we would like to highlight a number of preliminary concerns to take into consideration:

         A. Access to Information

In order to conform to best practice the legislation must empower traditional landowning communities by inscribing them with a number of positive rights, including the right to access independent sources of information and expert advice, coupled to a right to receive adequate financial support to seek this advice.[5] By independent sources of information and expert advice, we mean recognised experts who are not linked with the extractive industries or government, whether it be through position or financially, and who can be relied on to act in the best interests of the contracting community. It is concerning that the current draft bill does not appear to afford communities these fundamental positive rights.

        B. Independent Community Consultation

There needs to be more robust mechanisms included in the bill assuring the comprehensibility and independence of the community-consultation process, preceding a mine’s initiation.[6] As it stands, the bill places responsibility on mining companies holding an exploration license or mining lease to develop and enact community engagement plans. While mining companies, of course, have a legitimate place in the consultation process, it is essential that the plan and strategy is implemented by an independent arms-length organisational actor, with an overarching responsibility to act in the best interests of landowners and the public.

       C. Inclusive Consent Processes

More robust measures of consent should be set out in the bill which ensure a clear majority of adult aged landowning community members, whose social, economic, cultural and physical life will be seriously impacted by the project, support the venture, after receiving comprehensive, independent advice on the project’s economic, social, cultural and economic impacts. [7] At the moment, a landowner association approved by the Bougainville Executive Council, can consent to exploration licences and mining leases on behalf of the communities they represent. In light of historical examples in Bougainville, there is serious risk that without further safeguards landowner associations will not be inclusive of vulnerable groups and customary leaders, particularly if association processes and procedures are in a language and cultural form which are inaccessible to a large section of the affected population. Therefore, this current model does not appear to offer a robust mechanism for assuring community-wide participation in the consultation process or when measuring consent. We believe the legislation needs to adopt more robust mechanisms for measuring consent that ensure mining projects are supported by a clear majority of adult-aged landowning community members, whose social, economic, cultural and physical life will be seriously impacted by the project, after receiving comprehensive, independent advice on the project’s economic, social, cultural and economic impacts. It should also include measures that help communities build cooperative, culturally inclusive organisational frameworks that will empower them to participate in the consultation and negotiation process.

       D. Access to Remedy

There need to be independent grievance and accountability mechanisms inscribed into the legislation that empower communities to seek remedies for abuses of rights or legal procedure, whether by a private or governmental actor.[8] This grievance mechanism and body must be at arms-length from all mine stakeholders. Currently no such mechanism exists in the draft bill.

        E. Human Rights Due Diligence

The draft bill needs to include robust human rights standards that mine operators must observe or face serious sanction, with remedies in place for violations of these standards.[9] Not only have mining operators on Bougainville participated in human rights abuses, this behaviour may also be witnessed across Papua New Guinea. Currently the bill does not offer a robust framework for addressing this enduring issue[10].

As you will appreciate, these comments are based off a preliminary reading of the draft bill. Nonetheless, we hope you find this feedback useful, and we welcome a continuing conversation on the issues raised within.

With sincere regards,

Brynnie Goodwill, CEO Jubilee Australia

Co-signed: Bismarck Ramu Group

Co-signed: International State Crime Initiative


[1] ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, Article 6; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 27; International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, Article 15; UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 19

[2] Kichwa Indigenous People of Sarayaku v. Ecuador, Judgment, Inter-AM. Ct. H.R. (Ser. C) No. 242, (June 27, 2012), at para. 164.

[3] UN-REDD (2012) Free, Prior and Informed Consent for REDD+ in the Asia-Pacific Region: Lessons Learned, report available online: http://www.unredd.net/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_download&gid=8047&Itemid=53 (accessed on 20 January 2015)

[4] UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 27 & 39.

[5] ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, Article 7; UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 27 & 39

[6] ILO Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, Article 15; UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 32

[7] Ibid

[8] UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Article 11, UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Principles 25, 26, 27, 28, 31,

[9] UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Principles 6, 7, 9

[10] Un Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Principle 3

Bougainville Education News :Essay competition is an opportunity for students to have their say about the Bougainville’s future

2014-05-26 12.56.40

A new essay competition for secondary and high school students in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will provide youth with an opportunity to have their say about the future of the region.

Revised Closing date Friday 13 March 2015

The topic

“Is having a vote enough? What are citizens’ responsibilities in promoting and upholding democracy?”

aims to engage youth in discussion and what they see for their own future as Bougainvilleans.

Sponsored by the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea, the competition offers a laptop computer as a first prize.

The secondary and high school that the winning student attends will receive a Kindle (Can hold up to 1,400 books) from the Arawa based Bougainville E-reader Education Revolution Project that currently has 55 Kindles being distributed to 11 schools throughout Bougainville. SEE WEBSITE

Entries are open now and close on Friday 13 March 2015

The essay competition is open to all high school and secondary school students in Bougainville. Essays are to be 600 – 1000 words.

Entries can be mailed or submitted in person to the Australian High Commission Buka Office, Tsirin Motors Building, Haku Street, Buka or emailed to Public-Affairs-PortMoresby@dfat.gov.au

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Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainville News: “Large-scale Mining and Risks of Conflict Recurrence ” new research

 

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Abstract Research on conflict resolution suggests that the significant risk of conflict recurrence in intra-state conflicts is much reduced by political settlements that ‘resolve the issues at stake’ between parties to the conflict, and that in conflicts involving grievances about distribution of natural resource revenues, such settlements should include natural resource wealth-sharing arrangements.

DOWNLOAD: Bougainville :Large-scale Mining and Risks of Conflict Recurrence  here ANU Regan Bougainville Research

Author: Anthony J. Regan (see Bio Below)

This article shows that the Bougainville conflict origins involved far more complexity than natural resource revenue distribution grievances, and that the conflict itself then generated new sources of division and conflict, the same being true of both the peace process and the process to implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).

As a result, the BPA addresses many more issues than natural resource-related grievances. Such considerations make it difficult to attribute lack of conflict recurrence to particular factors in the BPA.

While the BPA provisions on wealth-sharing address relations between the Papua New Guinea National Government and Bougainville, moves by the Autonomous Bougainville Government to explore possible resumption of large-scale mining has generated a new political economy in Bougainville, contributing to new tensions amongst Bougainvilleans.

Research Conclusion

On the basis of this case study of Bougainville, I conclude that natural resource distribution issues were a significant factor, amongst many others, in the origins of the conflict. In addition, it was a factor that aggravated many other factors.

Moreover, many other divisions, sources of conflict and actual conflicts developed as a consequence of the dynamics of not only the conflict itself, but also of the peace process, and the process of implementing the BPA. Indeed, the tensions developing over mining related issues since 2005 are emerging as part of the dynamics generated by implementing the BPA.

These are largely tensions internal to Bougainville. As a result, there is limited utility in the natural resource revenue distribution arrangements in the BPA, developed mainly to respond to the contribution of natural resource distribution issues to conflict between Bougainville and PNG. On the other hand, natural resource distributions certainly were a significant source of conflict both between PNG and Bougainville, and amongst Bougainvilleans.

It was entirely reasonable for those negotiating for the BPA to include provisions intended to respond to the issues that had divided PNG and Bougainville in the 1980s, by giving the ABG power to determine mining policy and law for Bougainville, and to receive the major part of mining revenues. But it was too difficult for them to tailor arrangements in 2001 that could realistically respond to natural resource distribution issues that had divided Bougainvilleans in the 1980s (mainly issues related to the inequitable distribution of the limited natural resources revenues then available to Bougainvilleans).

In giving effect to its new right to make mining policy and law, the ABG has inadvertently helped generate a new political economy in Bougainville, where new outside interests in alliances with significant Bougainvillean interests, are engaging in a struggle for a significant degree of control over resource revenues and mining powers. These developments have ensured that the main divisive issues relating to natural resource distribution are no longer between PNG and Bougainville, but are instead between Bougainvilleans (as even the outside interests have no leverage without Bougainville partners).

The Bougainvillean negotiators for BPA did not include provision on dealing with such new sources of internal Bougainville tensions related to natural resource distribution, not only because they were not anticipated, but also because it would have been virtually impossible to do that at the time.

Rather, their key assumption was that by establishing a strong and legitimate autonomous government, thereby empowering “Bougainvilleans to solve their own problems, manage their own affairs and realize their own aspirations”, and with “sufficient personnel and financial resources … to exercise its powers and functions effectively”,41 there would be a Bougainville government body capable of developing policy broadly acceptable to all interests, and of dealing with disputes between Bougainville interests when they do arise.

But at present, the ABG still has limited capacity, and developing appropriate mining policy and law takes time and resources, and implementing it effectively takes more. Some of those attacking the ABG have strong interests in the ABG remaining weak. Their increasingly strident attacks on the ABG are being made for the clear purpose of getting control of revenue and power.

There is a real political and economic struggle taking place, and the eventual outcomes are as yet far from clear. One irony here is that the ABG is seeking mining revenue in order to build the capacity needed to achieve either real autonomy or independence, when there are now risks of serious tensions and disunity that could undermine Bougainville’s prospects for achieving either goal. There are particular risks here given the ongoing presence of armed factions in Bougainville. In these circumstances, there is an urgent need for the international community and the activist community to recognise where the real tensions and dangers of conflict lie.

Whilst the current tensions concerning natural resource distribution are mainly within Bougainville, there are still possible sources of dispute between PNG and Bougainville. One concerns possible difficulties in negotiating distribution of mining and other tax revenues additional to the recurrent grant should any future large-scale mining project result in those revenues being sustainably higher than the amount of the grant. In relation to issues about the Panguna mine’s future, tensions could arise over various issues if in fact BCL were to be permitted to return, including over any move by PNG to expropriate Rio Tinto’s majority equity in BCL, and over any difference that might occur over the ABG’s entitlement to have the PNG 19.3 per cent equity transferred.

Turning, finally, to the risk of conflict recurrence in Bougainville, we can clearly set to one side the BPA provisions on mining. The real questions now concern whether a strong and legitimate ABG can emerge that can manage the many sources of tension and conflict inherent in the circumstances of post-conflict Bougainville, including those internal tensions concerning mining.

The difficulties for the ABG in managing such tensions are not small. They include, in particular, the situation of marginalised youth, as we have seen, in so many ways so similar to the situation in Bougainville in the late 1980s. The history of the conflict from 1988 demonstrates that sources of anger in such a significant marginalised group can be unleashed in unexpected ways, especially where contributed to, or aggravated, by natural resource distribution issues. Discussing two natural resource related insurgencies in Nigeria, political geographer Michael J. Watts said:

The energies unleashed among a generation of marginalized youth is astonishing; the reservoirs of anger is [sic] now very deep having been filled by the waters of resentment over many decades. That the resentments can and have been channelled into all manner of claims, aspirations and practices (complex mixtures of greed and grievance) the borders among which are labile and porous should surprise nobody.

If the struggle over control of mining in Bougainville continues, without the ABG’s authority being accepted, the outcomes will be unpredictable. All points of tension and conflict involved in or arising from this struggle are likely to be intensified by the approach of first, the ABG general election, and second the referendum on independence, and by the intersections between the political and economic struggles associated with those processes, on the one hand, with the struggles over mining.

 

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About the Author Anthony Regan is a constitutional lawyer who specialises in constitutional development as part of conflict resolution. He has worked as a lawyer, policy adviser and researcher in Papua New Guinea for over thirty years, and is currently a Fellow with the State, Society and Melanesia program at the Australian National University. Formerly an adviser to Bougainville parties during the Bougainville peace process, Anthony is now an adviser to the Autonomous Government of Bougainville. anthony.regan@anu.edu.au

 

Bougainville Panguna News : President Momis in depth response to controversial Jubilee report

President Momis

 

Members of the Board and Academic Advisory Board 24 October 2014

Dear Board Member,

I refer to my letter of 20th September 2014 expressing concerns about Jubilee Australia’s report, ‘Voices of Bougainville’. Almost five weeks have elapsed, and I’m yet to receive even an acknowledgment of my letter, let alone a considered response.

On the other hand, there have been several public statements made about the report. Some were made by Jubilee CEO, Ms. Brynnie Goodwill, both in advance of, and since, my letter. Others were made only after my letter, by Jubilee Board Chair, Luke Fletcher, and by Kristian Lasslett (an academic who acknowledges overseeing preparation of the report). In this letter I raise grave concerns about misleading statements made in those statements, and raise issues about aspects of the report additional to those raised in my earlier letter.

Jubilee’s Condescending Public Response

See printed version here Jubilee Australia_Board Response to President Momis

I have general concerns about the remarkably condescending nature of the position taken by the Chair of the Jubilee Board, Luke Fletcher, in his comments reported on Radio Australia on 2nd October.

First he claimed that ‘some of the comments on the report may reflect people who perhaps didn’t read it carefully enough, in terms of some of the criticism that have been made’. In the context this appears to refer to my assertion that the report claimed to represent views of ‘mine-affected communities’, and not merely the few people interviewed. I can assure Mr. Fletcher that I have read the report with great care. As he challenges my assertions in regard to what the report claims, I have little choice but to set out clearly for him (and for Mr. Lasslett, who made much the same comment), in the next part of this letter, exactly what the report says as to it representing the views of the mine-affected communities.

Second, Mr. Fletcher said that Jubilee will carefully consider the criticisms of the report. But by also saying that it’s ‘very unlikely’ that the report will be ‘withdrawn’, he made it quite clear that Jubilee had essentially pre-judged the issues involved. To me, it’s like a court announcing publicly before a criminal trial that it will consider the evidence seriously, but it’s ‘very unlikely’ the defendant could be innocent.

Jubilee’s Claim that Report Represent only the Views of those Interviewed

In my letter of 20th September, a key concern was that the report claimed that interviews with 65 people (and a ‘focus group’ of 17 others) represented the views of the 10,000 or more people of the former Panguna mine lease areas. I vigorously disputed that claim.

Fletcher responded by saying: ‘The report stated a number of times it represented only the people in Panguna who were consulted in the study’ (Post Courier, 8/10/2014). Fletcher was ‘echoing’ Lasslett, who said: ‘The report never claims to speak on behalf of Bougainvilleans. It only claims to have presented the views relayed by 65 interviewees’ (see his response to a critique by Dr. Don Mitchell: http://ramumine.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/momis-makes-a-predictable-attack-on-voices-of-bougainville-report/).

It’s true that at some points the report does state that it records views expressed by interviewees (mainly in sections dealing with ‘research findings’ derived from interviews).

But in fact the report makes far grander claims. Significantly, such claims appear mainly in sections discussing research goals (under the heading ‘Addressing Gaps in Knowledge’) and conclusions. Frequent and explicit statements are made that the report represents views of the people of the ‘mine-affected areas’, or ‘mine-affected communities’, or ‘stakeholders … affected by the Panguna mine’.

Given the limited understanding that those involved in overseeing preparation of the report evidently have about many aspects of contemporary Bougainville, it may assist the Board if I explain what the term ‘mine-affected areas’ means in Bougainville. It covers a swathe of land areas once covered by mining tenements held by BCL (though recently done away with by the ABG Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act), or land leases associated with the Panguna mine. These include:

 The three main former ‘leases for mining purposes’, namely:

o the Loloho lease, used for port facilities, power station and a recreation area;

o the Port-Mine-Access Road lease; and

o the Tailings lease, and

 the former Special Mining Lease; and

 the Siokate Lease, involving Arawa Village land used for part of Arawa Town.

The term also includes large areas adjacent to those former leases that were also affected by mine. These include an extended area south and north of the main leases on the western side of the mountains, where landowners received compensation from BCL for loss of fish in creeks and rivers that feed into the Kawerong and Jaba rivers.

The people of all of these areas are represented by the nine landowner associations mentioned in the Jubilee Report (p.6). It is estimated that well over 10,000 people live in the areas covered by the former BCL tenements and the Siokate lease, and several thousand more live in the area where many once received fish compensation, and now covered by the Bolave Fish Owners Association (one of the nine landowner associations).

Under the heading ‘Addressing Gaps in Knowledge’, the report talks of ‘this study’s systematic attempt to record the views of those living in the mine affected areas’ (emphasis added). It goes on to say that ‘this study was undertaken in order to empirically gauge the feelings of the mine-affected communities towards current plans to reopen the mine’ (emphasis added). The report states that important questions associated with that major goal include examining: ‘To what extent have communities been adequately engaged with, and consulted’ and whether ‘they’ (i.e. ‘communities’) ‘want the mine to reopen’ and so on (p.17). Very clearly, the report aims to draw conclusions from the research as to what ‘mine-affected communities’ (not just those interviewed) believe about the future of mining.

Similarly, in the ‘Appendix: Research Methodology’, under the heading ‘Aims and Objectives’, the report discusses research aims as recording ‘perceptions’, ‘experiences’, and ‘understandings’ of the ‘community’ and of ‘mine-affected communities’ (p.48).

At page 46, under the heading ‘Conclusion’, the report states that it is presenting ‘a number of preliminary observations about the views of the mine-affected communities’ (emphasis added):

 ‘First, and most importantly, the stakeholders who have been most affected by the Panguna mine and subsequent conflict, are at present staunchly opposed to any discussion of the mine’s reopening’ (emphasis added);

 In relation to the second observation, that ‘people we spoke to were deeply critical of the mine consultation process’, the report draws a conclusion that ‘any attempt to reopen the mine in the present environment would almost certainly be received by most in the landowning community as illegitimate’ (emphasis added);

 The third observation is that ‘the people of Panguna have developed a sophisticated understanding of the actors involved in the conflict’, an observation which while expressed to be based on the views of ‘the people who have been consulted in this study’ is clearly stated to be a conclusion applying far beyond just those people (emphasis added);

 The fourth observation concerns the view of ‘those who participated in this study’ on the need to consider alternatives to industrial scale mining. But the report goes on to say: ‘These are the deeply held views of large sections of the mine-affected communities, and cannot be simply dismissed as an outside agenda, or as materially infeasible’. The report then takes a stronger stance on the extent to which such views are held, stating that ‘the mine-affected communities would like to see a modality of development take place that they control … (emphasis added).

In a sub-section of the Conclusion headed ‘Connecting the Past and the Future’, after several paragraphs that do refer to the views of the people spoken to, the report says: ‘The people of Panguna clearly say that, unlike in the past, they would like a say in how they control natural resources of the land in which they live’, which ‘would appear to preclude the sort of industrial scale operations that the ABG appears to have in mind… (emphasis added) (p.46).

There seems little doubt as to what Jubilee believed, at least initially, as to the views of those interviewed in fact representing the views of many others. Jubilee chief executive, Ms. Brynnie Goodwill, is reported as having said in a discussion of the report and its findings on Radio New Zealand on 17 September, before any public criticism had been made of the report:

 ‘Currently there is near unanimity among the Pangunans that they do not want mining in their region’ (‘Pangunan’ is not a term used in Bougainville);

 ’I think that what has been loudly said by the Panguna communities is that other opportunities need to be explored …;

 ‘So I think what the Pangunan communities are saying is that many more issues need to be addressed first and foremost…,

(emphasis added).

Not only does the report reach conclusions about what ‘mine-affected communities’ want, but it records conclusions about what the relevant views of those communities ‘preclude’, in terms of ABG policy!

I was undoubtedly the most outspoken critic of the report prior to 2nd October, when Mr. Fletcher made comments on Radio Australia on 2nd October concerning criticisms made of the report. As noted already, responses from both Fletcher and Lasslett attacked assertions that the report claims to represent mine-affected communities. In the context, I must assume that Fletcher’s remarks about critics not having read the report ‘carefully enough’ were at least in part directed at me.

In circumstances where the aims and concluding sections of the report are so clearly expressed as broadly representative, I am compelled to seek an explanation for his response, which is not only condescending, but also false. Of course, I do not suggest Mr. Fletcher or Mr. Lasslett have been deliberately dishonest in their responses on this issue. Is it they, perhaps, that have not read their report carefully enough? If not, what other explanation could there be?

Representation of Voices not Heard

The report makes much of the claim that it ‘endeavours to relay voices from mine-affected communities in Bougainville, voices that have been distant from recent public discussions surrounding the mine’ (p.5). Ms. Goodwill is quoted as saying the report was intended to ‘support the airing of voices of mine-affected communities …and to ensure those voices could become part of a broader discussion and debate.’ (Helen Davidson, Guardian Australia, 1st October 2014).

Not only does Jubilee imply that it is breaking remarkable new ground by revealing opposition to mining, but there is also a strong implication that such voices have been excluded from debates on the subject. There is absolutely no basis for such views.

It is absolutely no surprise that there Bougainvilleans, especially in the mine-affected areas, that oppose resumption of mining at Panguna. Their views are well-known, well-understood, well-respected, and accepted. Those who support resumption of mining are not trying to suppress such views, for invariably they too have deep concerns about, and make strong criticisms of, mining, especially (though not only) in relation to the way it was conducted at Panguna from the late 1960s.

There is no exclusion, however, of anti-mining views from debate on the future of mining in Bougainville. If you or your researchers had engaged with the ABG or the executives of the landowner associations, you could have heard much more about the role of such voices in the ongoing debates. At the various public forums on the future of mining, vigorous debate has always included voices strongly opposed to mining. Such voices have been welcomed, and listened to with care.

For example, at the two day Women’s Forum on the future of mining, held in Buka in March this year, over 200 women attended. They were selected not by the ABG, but rather by a wide range of women’s organisations. After a day of general discussion, involving a multiplicity of voices, some strongly opposed to mining, they broke into their district groupings to discuss their views. In the report-back session at the end of the second day, of the 13 district groups all but one reported support for resumption of mining at Panguna, subject to strict conditions. Panguna district was amongst those in support. The exception (where mining was opposed) was Kunua District, on the north-west coast. No pressure was applied to any individual or group to support or to oppose resumption of mining.

Again, it’s not surprising that there are some Bougainvilleans who hold negative views of the consultation processes conducted by the ABG and landowner associations. Part of the problem concerns access difficulties arising from such things as scattered settlement patterns, limited transport, limits on access to some mine-affected communities resulting from the armed Me’ekamui roadblock at the Morgan Junction, and the limited financial resources available under the ABG budget. But to suggest that those few views about the consultation processes are representative of ‘most in the landowning community’ (Report, p.47) is deeply misleading.

The ABG is a government committed to consultation and to listening. We are not squashing any voice. We welcome the contributions of those who oppose mining. The strong opposite implication in your report is unjustified and unfair.

Fear and Trepidation on the Part of Interviewees

Mr. Fletcher is reported as saying that Jubilee’s decision not to talk to the ABG or Landowner associations ‘was deliberate’. As there was no communication of any kind with us at any point from initial planning through to public release of the report, he clearly believes that to communicate with us in any way at all and at any stage may have made it difficult for landowners ‘to feel comfortable’. It seems that the only option for Jubilee was total secrecy! Accordingly, Fletcher says, it was ‘a deliberate strategy to try and come in as independent and not be perceived and to be part any particular agenda’. This approach, he says, was demonstrated to be needed because some people ‘wouldn’t have spoken to us if we were allied with these groups’ (Radio Australia interview, 2 October 2014).

The clear implication here goes beyond suggesting that opponents of mining are excluded from debate. The suggestion is that they must also live in in fear of the ABG or the landowner associations should they express views contrary to mining. That is simply not the case. In all the extensive public consultation about mining conducted by the ABG and landowner associations, all voices are encouraged and supported to speak out. Read the daily newspapers, listen to the two main radio services, look at social media (such as the Facebook Bougainville Forum), and you will find many contributions to the debate on the future of mining coming from opponents to mining. These contributors freely provide their names, clearly not feeling any fear of retribution for their actions. There is absolutely no sense of this reality portrayed in the report, with its suggestions of the need for secrecy.

Given the limited contact that some people in parts of the Panguna area have with the outside world, it’s no surprise that some might express concern about researchers not being independent. But being in communication with the ABG is not the same as being allied to it. Surely independence can be demonstrated by means other than having no communication of any kind, or at any time, with the ABG or the landowner associations? Many other researchers work in Bougainville, and remain independent, whilst at the same time maintaining communication with us. At the very least, Jubilee could have been in contact with the ABG after the interviews had been done. 6

The ABG and the landowner associations are significant stakeholders, and as such at the very least a draft of the report could have been provided to us. We may even have assisted you with information that reduced the factual errors and significant mis-representations that litter the report.

Frankly, the most likely explanation of your failure to have any contact with the ABG and the landowners associations seems to be completely unfounded assumptions made by those involved in overseeing development of the report about voices opposed to mining being excluded or suppressed by the ABG.

Research Methodology

In addition to the critique of the methodology used in the research that I made in my earlier letter, I note that providing key stakeholders an opportunity to comment on a draft report before it is released is usually part of appropriate and robust research methodology. Jubilee’s failure to follow this quite standard approach is yet another grave weakness in methodology.

Second, I request Jubilee to consider the critiques of Jubilee’s research methodology made by Dr. Don Mitchell (above) and also by Joanne Wallis on the Dev Policy Blog on 3rd October (http://devpolicy.org/the-dangers-of-development-ngos-sacrificing-accuracy-for-advocacy-20141003/).

I emphasise again my deep concern that the actual interview questions asked of the interviewees have not been provided as part of the report. Dr. Mitchell quite rightly said: ‘I’m sure I could go back to Nagovisi …and create a series of questions to get pretty much any response I wanted to. Anybody could …It’s not difficult; it has to do with the nature of the questions and the way that they’re asked, as well as of whom they are asked. It’s basic research design, and research reports that do not divulge the questions cannot be taken seriously’.

In that connection, I draw your attention to issues about the broad ‘research questions’ which were the focus of the research (see p.17 and p.50). Were the interview questions asked in the same order as those broader research questions (listed on p.50)? If so, that involved taking interviewees through discussion of first, their concerns about and/or experience of the mine and the conflict, and only then asking their views on re-opening of the mine. As I presume you are aware, the ordering of the subjects discussed could alone have a significant impact on answers about re-opening the mine. (As Dr. Mitchell says of interview questions, ‘the way that they’re asked is critically important’.) Anyone conducting even a basis public opinion survey is well aware of the need to avoid such problems.

The report states that there was ‘a list of questions and main topics for the interviewers to draw on and use as guides to orient the interviews’ (p.49).

If this report is to have any credibility, it is essential not only that the list of questions asked, but also the order in which they were asked, be revealed.

Who Did the Research?

Dr. Mitchell also asked: ’Who did the data analysis? Were any of the fieldworkers social scientists?’. When Lasslett defended what had been done, Mitchell commented further: ‘I didn’t see the names and credentials of the researchers. I think that is important. Can you tell me why that is? Field research isn’t something just anybody can do, or, putting it another way, even a first rate researcher’s skill set might not be appropriate to a particular research setting. I’d like to know whether the two researchers were social scientists, whether they had advanced training ..’. I concur with Dr. Mitchell.

Similarly, in answering criticism of the Report, Mr. Fletcher states that even though Jubilee will look at comments made, it ‘is very unlikely’ that the Report will be withdrawn. He advances what he calls a ‘particular reason’ for that view: ‘…that the people who were involved in this report are all very highly qualified academics and all the questions that are being raised about the report are questions we had with ourselves and very deeply before we released it’. Lasslett ‘echoes’ Fletcher in his response to Don Mitchell.

These points do not advance Jubilee’s cause. The claim that ‘highly qualified academics’ were involved means little when their names are not provided. Moreover, as Mitchell notes, even the best researchers may not be well qualified for particular tasks. Please advise us who they were.

Finally, the argument advanced by both Fletcher and Lasslett that those involved in the research asked themselves questions similar to the criticisms now being made in no way answers the criticisms. If those questions were in fact asked by Jubilee, then it seems clear that its answers were, at best, somewhat flawed.

Jubilee’s Collaborators

In my earlier letter I commented upon Jubilee having collaborated in this research with organisations ‘vehemently opposed to large-scale mining and to the ABG’s mining policy’ (namely Bismarck Ramu Group – BRG – and International State Crime Initiative – ISCI). Mr. Fletcher responds by saying that Jubilee has ‘found them to be thoroughly professional’ (PNG Post Courier, 8/10/2014).

Perhaps Mr. Fletcher has not had the opportunity to examine the remarkable range of utterly unsubstantiated, deeply unfair and unbalanced, and often quite inflammatory and divisive attacks on the ABG, on me, and on advisers to the ABG, made on the BRG Blog, PNG Mine Watch. These attacks are part of a concerted campaign mounted against the ABG since about February 2013, in relation to its efforts to develop an appropriate mining policy for Bougainville. Significantly, most attacks on the Blog are anonymous.

Should Jubilee Board members not be familiar with it, the link to Bougainville material on the PNG Mine Watch Blog is https://ramumine.wordpress.com/tag/bougainville/.

Perhaps Mr. Fletcher is also unaware of the wide range of contributions by Lasslett on various forms of social media, again since early 2013. Lasslett is apparently well-intentioned, He is articulate, writes well, and is able to debate issues well. He often puts well-reasoned positions, and can make positive contributions to debates. But he is cocooned in a particular view of Bougainville’s history, one he shares with a small group of others, and which shapes all his views on Bougainville.

He is focused on what he sees as not only the single worst set of wrongs that has occurred in Bougainville – namely actions of Rio Tinto/BCL in the 1988-1990 period – but also the imperative to hold Rio Tinto/BCL to account for such wrongs. In his view, Rio Tinto/BCL can have no place in contemporary Bougainville without first being held to account. Should we Bougainvilleans (or the government Bougainvilleans elected to represent them) foolishly decide otherwise, he would seek to save us from our misguided course.

Yet his is at best a highly contested view not only of our complex history (despite his claims to the contrary), but also of the way the difficult and complex problems and issues we face should be dealt with. But it is clearly very much his particular analysis that informs the ‘historical’ account in the Jubilee report, at pp.7 to 16.

Contributions by Lasslett to ongoing debates can be found on the PNG Mine Watch Blog (above), the PNG Exposed Blog (http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/tag/bougainville/) Bougainville Forum, (https://www.facebook.com/index.php#!/groups/bougainvilleforum/), the ‘closed’ Facebook group, Mind, Body and Spirit Bougainville (see https://www.facebook.com/groups/mbsbougainville/).

While his ability to understand contemporary Bougainville is severely restricted by the position he takes on Rio Tinto/BCL, Lasslett often presents his position reasonably. There are, however, a few instances where he too makes unsubstantiated and false allegations. One example involves those made in an April 2013 article rejected by Crikey, after the editor was advised that a number of false allegations against ABG advisers made in the article were defamatory. Much the same allegations had been made to SBS television a few days earlier, but the story was not taken up when the lack of factual basis was explained to SBS. A version of the article rejected by Crikey, with a few of the most baseless allegations modified, was published a few days later by New Matilda (though it still made baseless allegations against ABG advisers (see https://newmatilda.com/2013/04/23/ausaid-fuels-bougainville-mining-tensions). Unlike Crikey, the New Matilda editor at the time failed to provide any pre-publication opportunity to refute the allegations made. It’s interesting that remarkably similar allegations are amongst those regularly made in the anonymous attacks on the ABG in the PNG Mine Watch and PNG Exposed Blogs.

Perhaps the most serious issue here is not so much the ongoing grossly unfair campaign against the ABG, but more that those involved (Lasslett, BRG, the moderators of PNG Mine Watch Blog, the anonymous author(s) of the attacks on the Blog, etc.) have never put any of their allegations to me, the ABG or the advisers that they are attacking. They never check the facts, which seem to be phenomena irrelevant to their purpose.

Let me be clear: there has been absolutely no contact with me, the ABG, nor the relevant ABG advisers by not only Lasslett, but also the anonymous attackers on the BRG website, and those administering the BRG Blog. Is this really the track record of ‘professional organisations’?

A Skewed Historical Account

The historical account advanced in the report, pp.8-16, is highly selective and unbalanced, and in parts quite incorrect, often reflecting the BRG and Lasslett view of Bougainville. Amongst many problems in that account, I mention just a few.

The claim is made that the New Panguna Landowner Association executive elected in 1987 ‘opposed the mine’ (p.9), and that the BRA demanded ‘the mine’s permanent closure’ (p.10), and that any view to the contrary – such as those advanced by me in a 2010 speech ‘contradict the archival material on Ona’s position with respect to the mine’ (p.14). As a person who attended the 1987 meeting where the new executive was elected, who remained in communication with the new executive for a considerable period thereafter, and who personally discussed with Francis Ona his views about the future of the mine as late as June 1997, I assure you from my personal knowledge that the report’s assertions on this issue are quite wrong. If Lasslett had ever troubled to interview me, I could have provided him with personal, as opposed to archival, evidence about Ona’s views, and advised him of the names of key ‘founders’ of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and others, whom I am confident would substantiate my views in this regard.

The claims on pages 10 to 11 concerning BCL’s roles in the early period of the conflict are a muted version of claims Lasslett advances elsewhere. I can state from my personal knowledge as a Cabinet minister at the time, that in many respects his view of what happened is quite unbalanced. To give just one example, the report talks of BCL’s request for police mobile squad units being made on 26 November (p.9), failing to mention that the North Solons Provincial Government also made that request, and that the National Government strongly supported the request, and had its own strong reasons for doing so. Neither government was in any way bowing to pressure from BCL.

There are many other factual errors in the relevant pages, as well as in other parts of the report. Some of the major ones are mentioned elsewhere in this letter. But there are many more.

Using the Historical Account to Substantiate Baseless ‘Research Findings’

Perhaps the greater concern about the skewed historical account is what is perhaps best described as a ‘sly’ approach to using it to provide some substance to otherwise baseless allegations attributed to interviewees in the latter part of the report.

For example, it’s reported that the ‘majority of interviewees (49 out of 53) expressed dissatisfaction with what they saw as the illegitimate role of Australia (though AusAID) in the peacebuilding and consultation processes … There was strong disapproval of the perceived interference of the Austrian Government or AusAID in both the past and present of Bougainville’ (p.37). No indication is provided in the report’s discussion of what interviewees said constituted the ‘illegitimate role’ or the ‘perceived interference’. In the absence of such material, the reader would expect to look to the earlier historical account. And there it is, in the discussion of ‘The Consultation Process’ (about the future of mining): ‘The Australian government has assisted UPMALA and the ABG through the provision of advisors, paid for out of Australia’s foreign aid budget, for the development of a new mining bill, and in the process of community consultations surrounding the mine’ (p.16).

Of course, this fits so neatly with the endless allegations about the role of Australia and of Australian advisers in Bougainville advanced by Lasslett and the anonymous contributors to the Mine Watch Blog that it seems most unlikely that there is no connection here. To my mind, this reflects bias.

Yet the notion that provision of advisers, in accordance with ABG requests, is in fact ‘illegitimate’ or constitutes ‘interference’, must be challenged. There is a deep paternalism – even racism – involved. It is clear that those who constantly advance such views assume that Australian funded advisers necessarily act only in the interests of Australia, and are somehow (in a manner never defined) readily able to bend the ABG to their wills. That advisers could be provided without being controlled by or answerable to Australia, or that they could be professional and independent, and might act only in accordance with ABG direction, is clearly inconceivable to Lasslett and the BRG. Lasslett, also exhibits a ‘holier than thou’ attitude in his criticisms of advisers, regularly reporting how much he is opposed to those in the pay of foreign, working as consultants, all of whom are tainted in his purist view of the world. It is his particular, somewhat warped, and certainly biased, view of Bougainville that has clearly influenced the content of the Jubilee report.

Inaccuracies Advanced as ‘Research Findings’, Without Qualification

Many positions on issues claimed in the report as advanced by interviewees are grossly inaccurate. The report advances them without qualification, implying that they are in fact accurate. The result is presentation of a seriously flawed picture. Moreover, the material derived from interviews is presented under the general heading of ‘Research Findings’, a term that seems intended to convey substance in what is discussed.

In the interests of shortening this letter, I’ll provide examples from just the first three pages of the 25 pages of ‘Research Findings’ (pp.20-45). However, similar problems exist with many of the following pages:

 Apparently summarising views expressed in interviews, the report claims that (at the time the Panguna mine was being established) ‘the introduction of ‘land titles’ and individual male ‘land title owners’ who later formed the old landowners association (PLA), was denounced by some interviewees’ (p.20). That is a profoundly inaccurate picture of what in fact occurred. From 1969 to 1974, the Land Titles Commission (LTC) held public hearings in relation to each piece of customary land within mine related tenements or leases. This exercise did not involve ‘introduction of land titles’. Rather, the LTC files for the period show clearly that, on the basis of the evidence presented at each public hearing, the LTC determined: the boundaries of the piece of land in question; which clan lineage, descended from a named ancestor, owned that land; and the member of the lineage who should be recognised as the ‘customary head’ of the lineage (for the purposes of receiving and distributing rents, compensation and royalties, payable in respect of the land). ‘Customary heads’ were not all males – many were females. As males are members, together with their mothers, aunts and sisters (and sister’s children), of matrilineal clan lineages, it was often in order for a male to be recorded as ‘customary head’. At some point, and for reasons that are not yet clear, the term ‘title holder’ became used instead of ‘customary head’. While use of the former term may have contributed to some confusion about ‘titles’, it introduction of land titles was not involved.

 An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘Another big issue was to do with the title holders …our leaders gave the land to their children while it should have been given to the women’ (p.20). This too is incorrect. LTC files show that when a ‘customary head’ died (something that occurred as early as 1970 in relation to a few pieces of land previously dealt with in early LTC hearings), fresh LTC hearings were held, and a new ‘customary head’ was appointed. In a few instances, a child of a deceased ‘customary head’ (and so not a member of the deceased person’s clan) was designated as the new ‘customary head’. But this occurred only where the LTC had received satisfactory evidence that the appropriate customary arrangements had been made between the clan lineages concerned, before the death of the ‘customary head’ – for example, kirinula in the case of Nasioi landowning clan lineages.

 An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘There was this problem with BCL using other people to sign on behalf of the true landowners’ (p.20). In fact, BCL played no role in the processes for determining boundaries, ownership and ‘customary heads’ of land. That was all handled by the colonial administration (to 1975), mainly through the LTC and the kiaps. BCL was required, by law, to make payments to those identified by the LTC as ‘customary heads’. It is true that there were disputes about whether a few of the ‘customary heads’ were really entitled to be designated as such, but such problems were not the fault of BCL.

 Experience of the period of mine operation was ‘a negative one’, with only one respondent suggesting any positives (p.21). Many in the mine-affected communities are clear that while there were many major negatives for many there were also at least as few important positives, many mentioning BCL’s training.

 An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘Only those who had landowner titles were getting benefits’ (p.22). That is completely incorrect. ‘Customary heads’ recognised by the LTC were expected to distribute rents, compensation and royalties to members of the lineage. In the absence of not only genealogies (or social mapping), but also clear customary principles for distribution of money from such sources, problems did occur in some cases. But in many cases, ‘customary heads’ were regarded by clan lineage members as doing a good job.

Clearly, no attempt was made by those overseeing preparation of the report to sift inaccurate opinions from ones based on fact.

A partial explanation for the presence of such inaccuracy may be provided in footnote 104 (p.20). It states that interviewees ‘were specifically asked to talk about their ancestors’ general living conditions during the mine’, and that those interviewees not born at the time in question ‘answered these questions based on personal knowledge of what they had heard from other community and family members’. Because views of such younger interviewees ‘cohered with what other, older participants …recalled’, the report records that the analysis does not separate answers of youth from those of adults and elders.

This explanation suggests, however, little interest in accuracy. Interviewees have been ‘specifically asked’ to talk of things of which they have no personal knowledge. The fact that those views ‘cohere’ with views of older people does not improve accuracy.

The real concern is that this lack of accuracy is not acknowledged in any way in the report. Perhaps those involved might seek to justify such inaccuracy on the basis that the report merely records views. But when those views are advanced as representing the views of the ‘mine-affected community’, then advancing them without qualification carries significant implications.

The reasons for failure to qualify inaccuracies need to be considered. For example, reasons could include poor knowledge of the subject matter by those overseeing production of the report, or perhaps bias on their part or that of the researchers (a not unreasonable conclusion given the significant evidence of bias already discussed). Perhaps those involved might be able to suggest some other explanation.

In conclusion

It troubles me that, beyond a very narrow spectrum of issues, filtered through a particular view of what happened in 1988-90, Jubilee and its collaborators appear to have such little understanding of, or interest in, the complexity and difficulty of the current situation we face in post-conflict Bougainville. Yes, the concerns and fears of the interviewees presented in the report are present amongst Bougainvilleans, and yes, there are a few for whom such views are dominant. But most of us hold far more complex and nuanced views that we bring to bear in trying to weigh the still rather limited options that face us as we try to find a sustainable road to development, to highest autonomy, and possibly to independence.

In the fragile situation we are dealing with, advancing the views recorded in this report as truly representing the views of Bougainville’s ‘mine-affected communities’ – as this report does – is misleading, divisive and destructive.

I can only repeat what I said in concluding my earlier letter: The Jubilee Report is deeply flawed. Jubilee Australia’s Board bears responsibility for allowing such a misleading and irresponsible document to be released, and for limiting and redressing the damage it can cause.

In addition, however, I call on Jubilee to withdraw this defective document.

Yours sincerely,

Chief Dr. John L. Momis

President

Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Contact: Anthony Kaybing

Media Director

Dept. of President & BEC

Email: anthony.kaybing@gmail.com

Phone: +675-70259926