5 Sep 2002

Bougainvillean lawsuit given second chance in court

11:20 am on 5 September 2002

Bougainvilleans will get a second chance in a United States court to pursue a multi million dollar lawsuit against the mining giant Rio Tinto despite attempts by the Papua New Guinea government to stop the suit.

The Bougainvilleans' PNG lawyer, Camillus Narakobi, says an appeal has been lodged in the US after the case was dismissed by a California judge who ruled it should be tried in PNG.

Bougainvilleans want compensation for environmental damage allegedly caused by mining activity from Rio Tinto's Panguna mine.

In April, Justice Margaret Morrow dismissed the case and ordered that the Morauta administration remove any legal barriers preventing the case from being tried in PNG.

The PNG Government had argued the lawsuit would jeopardise the Bougainville Peace negotiations and that its Compensation Act prohibited any PNG citizen from lodging lawsuits against foreign corporations.

Mr Narakobi says he's confident that the new government will be more sympathetic.

He says at the end of the day Bougainvilleans just want a chance to have their say about their suffering, in court.

"All that the plaintiffs are thinking is an opportunity to litigate the case. That's really all, whether they succeed or not is not the important thing. The most important thing is that they argue and have a chance to litigate the case in the forum or in the courts they have chosen which in this case is the United States."

Camillus Narakobi in PNG