5 Jun 2013

Village consultations delay Bougainville forum on mine opening

6:00 pm on 5 June 2013

A former MP in the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville says a planned forum in the Panguna region to discuss the possible reopening of the mine, has been put off until there have been more consultations on the issue at village level.

Theresa Jaintong heads the Arawa Landowners Association and is deputy chair of the Panguna Mine-Affected Landowners Association, which wants the reopening to go ahead.

Her comments come after others involved with land-owning groups in the region, including Lawrence Daveona, said many at village level knew little about and were not taking part in the forums organised by the Bougainville government.

Ms Jaintong says efforts to overcome this are already underway. She told Don Wiseman the forums have already been successfully staged in north and south of Bougainville and drawn a positive response.

THERESA JAINTONG: They are talking and speaking, representing their organisations like the ex-combatants, the Mekamuis, the original Mekamuis, the unity Mekamuis, the former combatants, the women, the youth, the council of chiefs, the churches, and everybody, the leaders, the parliamentarians, are all speaking. The landowners, we are not talking - we are listening to what the people are saying. This is a positive thing to do - not interfere, just listen to what they are saying. So people are speaking. It's just like an informal referendum for the reopening of the mine. They're speaking. They're the majority.

DON WISEMAN: There has been talk of a need, still, for significant reconciliation, a compensation to be paid before you go to the next step.

TJ: It is a process, so the process will also take care of some of those reconciliation programmes. Even if the mine is a process, this is also a process, the reopening. We are saying it must be opened. So it's the beginning. When and how? We don't know yet. As long as people are speaking and there's rehabilitation, reconciliation and all this, it's a process. There's also other areas that we see that are key issues. Those are very important areas that are key issues there. (Indistinct) I'm lucky... not lucky, but happy that Lawrence Daveona is back on the ground, so he can take some leadership here. If he stays outside the box that will not help. He has to get in the system, in the structure of the leadership so that he plays some part in fixing the family unit, so that they're able to make up their minds.