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Mineral archipelago: Bougainville revisited?

H&S BY MARTYN NAMORONG

TERRY KUNNING is from the Sibiag clan at Mindre village on the Rai coast. His community, and the people who depend on the Bismarck Sea for their livelihood, will be affected by the Chinese dumping their mine wastes into the sea.

Terry was recently quoted by Papua New Guinea Minewatch as saying : “The court has throw out our case so there’s no more thing to do. Maybe we take physical action… just like what Bougainville have done. That may be the last option.”

The other night I received a text message from Dupain Balim, who is a relative of Terry. Recently I featured her in my article The Matriarch of Mindre. Her message read (I’ve translated it from Tok Pisin):

Martin, goodnight to you and everyone. I arrived at home (Mindre) yesterday and when I went to the creek to bathe I saw trees being felled. Then I went to the river to fetch drinking water but I discovered that the well I had dug by the bank had been covered by an excavator. I am very frustrated and angry. Martin, I just wanted to let you know of my concerns regarding the destruction of trees and water sources.

Mama Dupain and the women of Mindre are some of the strongest opponents of the Basamuk deep sea tailings dump. They now have to travel long distances to fetch drinking water and do the laundry.

The nearby creek that once used to be their water source is dying due to the destruction of its catchment to make way for a Chinese township. Their gardens have been taken over by mine related activities. They do not want to see the sea destroyed as well.

Terry’s warnings should not be taken lightly. He is an ex public servant who was in Bougainville before and during the crisis. There are striking similarities between Bougainville and Basamuk.

In March 2000, The National newspaper reported that Cabinet documents released by the Australian Archives revealed that in 1969 the Australian External Affairs minister Charles Barnes warned that Panguna would produce problems for PNG.

Two decades later, in 1988, landowners demanded compensation for damage to the environment caused by Panguna. In 1989, Francis Ona declared war against the mining company.

Dr Kristian Lasslett of the University of Ulster and a Fellow of the International State Crime Initiative, has been researching state crime in PNG. Dr Lasslett says Francis Ona never wanted war against PNG nor did he wish to fight Papua New Guineans.

Ona gave a speech on 29 November 1989 which stated:

We are the ‘sacrificial lamb’ for the few capitalists whose hunger for wealth is quenchless and unceasing... We are not going to sit by and watch capitalists and their Papua New Guinean political allies exploiting us... We have planted the seeds which germinate soon not only in Bougainville but throughout Papua New Guinea.”

Ona referred to Papua New Guinean politicians as compradors: natives of a colonised country who act as the agent of the coloniser.

Francis may not have been far from the truth. Brian Thomson recently reported for The Age and SBS Dateline that an affidavit, written in 2001 by PNG’s former Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, alleged that Rio Tinto played an active role in the military operations on Bougainville.

It is ironic therefore that having chased the redskins (Papua New Guineans) and the white man away, the Whiteman and Mungkas (Black) Barter System has become China and Mungkas Barter System. An anonymous poet called Tsomi penned these lines:

Mungkas may trade with white man
Of tomorrow in exchange for his land
Whiteman tool box he brought
Mungkas copper mine he owned
Now whiteman Bougainville Copper he owns
While Mungkas you are the tools

PNG’s politicians clearly do not seem to care about the people and the environment. None of them seem to have learnt any lessons - or they own overseas property and bank accounts which they can retreat to once the chaos they’re creating comes to fruition.

Over 15,000 people lost their lives during the Bougainville crisis. I’ll leave the last words to Francis Ona, who got it right when our politicians were failing Bougainville:

The only significant development we have seen since independence is the widening gap between the few rich and the poor majority... State has no credibility, it is an instrument for the rich to oppress the masses...

Neither Somare, Chan, Wingti, Namaliu, Momis nor their other counterparts are nationalists. All our politicians from national to provincial level are puppets for the foreign capitalists.... We are true nationalists as we are standing up against foreign exploiters. [29 November 1989]

Source: The Namorong Report

Comments

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Leonard Roka

To you Madang people... Careful planning is needed before carrying out your action; so, as a Bougainvillean, I am calling: look before you leap

If you want to take up arms - since the government is ignoring your cry against the environmental destruction of your homeland from the Chinese mining operations in this province - you ought to plan or have practical strategies for that.

Where to start, what to do (who is your target), and when and how to end that conflict.

This is to avoid the sort of anarchy my island, Bougainville, is now wading through.

Besides that, I think what the current government is proposing is pretty attractive to me. Mining Minister, Byron Chan, is pushing for four key mining industry policy issues:

1. Recognition and protection of traditional landowners' rights to mineral ownership on and under their traditional land and seabed;

2. Urgent review of the mining legal regime;

3. Urgent review of deep-sea mining; and

4. Urgent review of environmental protection.

This is a government that is really in line with Melanesian ways.

Could you please back this government and wait and see what it can do for you?

Already mining companies are getting shockwaves, I believe.

Over to you, Madang people.

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