| Coordinator, Project Sepik
SEPIK RIVER – An historic customary declaration has been issued to the Papua New Guinea government by the spiritual guardians of the Sepik River, the customary clan leaders.
The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration calls for a complete ban on the proposed Frieda River mine, which would be the largest mine in PNG history.
“The river is the life of the Sepik and therefore it must be protected at all cost,” the declaration states.
“It is our innate role to guard the river against exploitation and destruction by outsiders.
Our future is in peril from this proposed mine and therefore, we have gathered together as guardians of the river to stand firm as one.”
The Supreme Sukundimi is a unanimous coalition of traditional clan leaders from 28 Haus Tambarans (‘spirit houses’) along the Sepik River.
They represent some 78,000 people from 25 villages.
The declaration process was facilitated by Project Sepik, a not-for-profit organisation based in PNG.
The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration is the first declaration ever issued by Haus Tambarans in PNG.
It recognises traditional laws of resource management and the voice and authority of traditional leaders that are often overlooked in the development of large-scale mining projects in our country.
The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration emphatically proclaims that the authority of the Haus Tambarans is continuing authority. It is a powerful call to our elected PNG government.
The Supreme Sukundimi Declaration is admissible in court, a significant document which gives the people along the river legal grounding in their fight to stop the Frieda Mine.
As places of governance and culture in PNG, Haus Tambarans are world-renowned for their intricate painting, carving and architecture.
They are seen as the parliament houses of each village in PNG’s remote Sepik region, and host to initiations, decision making, politics, spiritual and cultural life.
The Australian registered company PanAust has proposed the Frieda River copper and gold mine, which would be the largest mine in PNG’s history and among the largest in the world.
The project will include one of the largest proposed dams in the world and will store toxic tailings waste in perpetuity in an area of biodiverse rainforest that has been tentatively listed for World Heritage Status.
If the dam collapses it will be catastrophic and destroy the Sepik River and our way of life.
We need to ensure that the Sepik is protected. It is our identity, our life, and the heartbeat of our culture.
A life without the Sepik River as we know it would devastate our communities forever.
Extract from the Supreme Sukundimi Declaration
The Supreme Sukundimi, through the Haus Tambarans, issues a specific warning to those who are a threat to the life of Sepik. This warning is declared to the following:
- The Government of East and West Sepik Province;
- Politicians of the Government of PNG;
- Leaders of regulatory and statutory authorities;
- Leaders of industry bodies who are proponents of the Frieda River Mine;
- Frieda River Limited and PanAust;
- Investors, silent donors and insurance companies; and
- All other organisations and individuals supporting the Frieda River Mine.
The Sepik River is not ours. We are only vessels of the Sepik Spirit that dwells to protect it. We will guard it with our lives.
The Supreme Sukundimi represents approximately 78,000 people across 28 Haus Tambarans from the following 25 villages along the Sepik River: Swagap, Kamanimbit, Bin, Palrimbe, Karau, Enginmangua, Angriman, Singrin, Yuaruman, Yanjan, Niaurange, Timbunke, Kopar, Mendam, Marianneberg, Kandingei, Tambunum, Watam, Kanganamun, Murik, Korogu, Kringjambin, Wang ngan, Moim, Kararau