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 But by also saying that it’s ‘very unlikely’ that the report will be ‘withdrawn’, he made it quite clear that Jubilee had essentially pre-judged the issues involved.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…,
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chief Dr. John L. Momis
Autonomous Region of Bougainville
Contact: Anthony Kaybing
Dept. of President & BEC