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Bougainville: Politics & power struggles hold back normalisation


Lawrence DaveonaTHE PEAK BODY OF LANDOWNERS around Bougainville’s Panguna copper mine, the Panguna Mine Affected Landowners Association (PMALA), is riven by internal politics and power struggles.

This is causing a lot of frustration that is holding the Bougainville people and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to ransom. It’s also opened a window for opportunists like Lindsay Semple and consultants like Tony Regan.

PMALA chairman Lawrence Daveona (pictured) told the PNG Post-Courier on 16 July that “PMALA will emphasise and ensure that all discussions and consultations on Panguna between parties are extensive and meaningful, that they are better coordinated, that there is regular and continuing consultation with the national government and BCL, and that ABG provides adequate support in resources and capacity to the landowners in order that they participate effectively.”

Somehow Daveona became the leader of PMALA early this year. It is said that most people in PMALA did not want him to be chairman but some sharp politics around an election at Dapera village got him there.

It all goes back to traditional kinship leadership, family power conflicts and a family feud involving Daveona that led to the Bougainville Crisis in 1988.

Francis Ona was son of the damasiong or third mother; whilst Lawrence Daveona comes from the iomara or first mother. Francis Ona’s family line was suppressed by Lawrence Daveona’s iomara. The civil war ensued as Ona went on to lead the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Still today, conciliation attempts have gone nowhere and the old culture of suppression is back in force. The damasiong has no power and no voice in decision-making in the Panguna re-opening negotiations. All its vocal leaders are dead.

Within PMALA, other landowner leaders say that without Lawrence Daveona the Panguna mine negotiations would have progressed. But they have hit a stalemate and become a financial burden on the cash strapped Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG). Daveona is also said to have abused the official ethics of PMALA.

In August 2013 Daveona signed a deal with Chinese firm Beijing Aerospace Great Wall Mineral Investment Ltd without consulting the ABG but with the knowledge of Central Bougainville MP and PNG Communications Minister, Jimmy Miringtoro.

This sparked outrage in the ABG and it is claimed the deal is to mine the tailings under the guise of agricultural development in Bougainville.

But Lawrence Daveona, in an article LO Chairman speaks out (Post- Courier, 19 August), strongly defended his action as a way for Bougainville to make money out of the mine tailings through waste management and agricultural programs.

But many Bougainvilleans are saying that Daveona and Miringtoro have opened the door to reckless economic parasites who will never give Bougainvilleans a chance to learn and develop self-reliance as an independent state.

The rank and file of PMALA believe Daveona is not administratively ethical in his position as chairman. It is said he has being lured here and there to sign deals initiated by opportunists coming to Bougainville with law and order still not well established.

In October 2013, Daveona signed a memorandum of understanding with the Central Bougainville Veterans Association and the controversial Bougainville Resource Owners Representative Committee.

This Committee is engineered by popular opportunist Lindsay Semple who came to Bougainville as Invincible Resources Inc around 2005 and failed. He now operates Morumbi Resources and is said to be trying desperately to hijack PMALA.

This MoU was for these organisations to work together to direct ABG to create a mining bill that is totally new and changes the old exploitative Bougainville Copper Mining Act of 1967.

However, this merger has come into the spotlight because of its link to the Resource Capacity Building Assistance Agreement of 2006 and the Bougainville Resources Development Corporation designed by the then ABG and Lindsay Semple to grant 70% of Bougainville’s resources to Lindsay Semple. This deal was later revoked by ABG members.

Daveona’s recent behaviour has been noted as unusual and he has said to have been seen drinking in the middle of high level meetings.

It is said that he is painting a negative image of PMALA in the eyes of the people and foreigners and that he must be changed.


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Axel G Sturm | President of ESBC

An excellent and very true portrait of Lawrence Daveona, Leonard!

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