Bougainville leader believes compensation demands will be met
The Bougainville finance minister says he believes a satisfactory solution will be found to push for billions in compensation for the effects of the civil war.
The finance minister in Papua New Guinea's autonomous Bougainville government, Albert Punghau, says he is sure that the question of compensation for the effects of the civil war can be satisfactorily sorted out.
Compensation for damage and other issues is seen as a key matter ahead of any opening of the Panguna mine, which Bougainville views as a solution to its economic woes.
The Me'ekemui faction has long touted a demand for 10 billion kina, or more than US$3 billion, in compensation as its price for any reopening, while Mr Punghau says the ABG is already holding requests from residents detailing losses of 3 billion kina.
Don Wiseman asked him what these claims entail.
ALBERT PUNGHAU: These are claims for the war damages that were cost during the war. It ranges from compensation for the buildings burnt down and also for businesses that were dismantled when the war took place, and also for the deaths that took place. Some of these claims are yet to be verified by the authorities, so they can now accept whether these claims are genuine claims or claims that are being paid forward to the government without proper consideration.
DON WISEMAN: The 3 billion kina to date, these are claims that have already been made.
AP: The claims have already been made to the government. When the first interim provincial government under the leadership now of President Momis, who was then the governor, the minister for finance at that time - Honourable Joel Banam - distributed or put out some forms to the people of Bougainville at that time in, I think, '96 or '97, I'm not too sure about the date of that. The forms were distributed in order for people to register their claims as to what they have lost within the war, what debts occurred within their families and what destruction was done to their infrastructure. When these forms were distributed to those people, they made their claims to the government at that time. Those claims are now being shouldered by the autonomous Bougainville government and the issue on these claims is that there is no policy within the national government as to how they are going to tackle these claims, and even the autonomous Bougainville government, we don't have any policy on those for now. And that is basically one of the reasons why they are still holding on to these claims. I, as minister of finance, have been asked by the government to look, again, into those claims that we can negotiate with the government of Papua New Guinea, and also maybe the government of Australia, to try and look at maybe with the CRA or their people so we can now try and address these compensation issues that are now in front of us.
DW: They're extremely heady amounts of money, aren't they, and I would imagine if you were to go to Bougainville Copper and say, 'You can open the mine and pay us 10 billion kina first' they're going to say, 'Well, no thanks', aren't they?
AP: Well, everything is on the table, everything is negotiable. We need to talk about the issues. We need to redeem ourselves from what has happened here in Bougainville. And I think the people of Bougainville will come with a good negotiated package if we sit down at a round table and talk about what actually has taken place right from the 1960s and the opening of the Panguna mine and the destruction that has taken place and the war that has taken place and the blockade that was imposed by the Papua New Guinean government upon the people of Bougainville and a lot of people outside. And we would reason to say that we can come to a negotiated settlement on the issue of compensation in order for us to work together and get the economy of Bougainville up and running.
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