Bougainville leader says Panguna crucial to independence push

11:14 am on 16 April 2020

A women's leader from Arawa in Bougainville says the re-opening of the controversial Panguna mine is crucial to the success of the region's independence push from Papua New Guinea.

Last November Bougainvilleans voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in a referendum that was the final stage of the Peace Agreement which ended the civil war.

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Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

That war was centred on the Panguna mine and led to its shut down more than 30 years ago.

Theresa Jaintong, who was also running for the Central Bougainville woman's seat in this year's election, said the drive for independence would flounder without the income the mine would generate.

She said this would require all the landowners coming together and organising.

Ms Jaintong wanted to see a leader who could mobilise all the landowners.

"I feel it is just the matter of a leader, a leader who can mobilise them to come together."

She said it would need to include all landowners in the Panguna region, including all the officially designated landowning associations.

"They are all owners of Panguna mine as far as I am concerned, " she said.

Ms Jaintong said the Bougainville Mining Department needed to put up some funding to help the landowners unite and start working together.

Without this landowner unity nothing could happen at Panguna because the landowners were the resource owners, she added.

Arawa-based social worker and reconciliation leader Theresa Jaintong.

Arawa-based social worker and reconciliation leader Theresa Jaintong. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Johnny Blades