Minister wants Australian academic out of Bougainville
There is a call from Bougainville for a high profile academic working with the ABG to be ordered out of Papua New Guinea.
A Papua New Guinea cabinet minister is to ask the Government to have Australian academic Anthony Regan removed from Bougainville.
Mr Regan, who is a constitutional law expert from the Australian National University, has had a long association with the Autonomous Bougainville Government, most recently helping draw up new mining legislation.
But the Member for Central Bougainville in the national government and Communications Minister, Jimmy Miningtoro, told Don Wiseman he is upset at the way the ABG's mining legislation is being pushed.
JIMMY MININGTORO:I think first of all the draft mining bill, some of the areas do not really address the landowners of Bougainville at large. There was no wider consultation before the mining bill draft was formulated.
DON WISEMAN: You mean it is not catering for their concerns?
JM: Yes, the mining bill doesn't represent wider consultation of the people of Bougainville.
DW: But there has always been talk of wide consultations over this, has that not happened?
JM: That never happened. It was a lie.
DW: There is still time of course for it to happen, I guess.
JM: There is still time but you know, why I am always being negative about stuff is that you know, since Bougainville, the problem started, people have not been properly informed on many issues. Things like referendum, things like weapon destruction, things like peace agreement, these are very important issues for Bougainville to be stabilised. The people must understand all this and when people are still in the dark and we are talking about mining and also reopening of mining, that doesn't help people to absorb everything at once.
DW: The government of course has made no secret of the fact that it believes mining is vital if the province is going to be economically viable, do you agree?
JM: I think there are other ways in which the province of Bougainville can benefit a lot rather than mining. One way is to improve our agriculture. We have plantations, some of these are the biggest plantations in the southern hemisphere. That hasn't been developed. Why? The government of Bougainville has been tied up with opening up mines because what I see is they want quick money so that they can spend that money quickly. Now, I think for Bougainville, the people want something that can get them through a long long period not in the short term and as we know mining is a short-term industry. I believe Bougainville can go a long way with an improved agriculture system and then when the people are ready we can talk about mining.
DW: You are very unhappy with Anthony Regan, the Australian academic and lawyer who has been involved. You want him removed from the country?
JM: Yes, well there are incidents that happened. First of all some time last year they were trying to pass the law and Anthony Regan, with the President [John Momis] - they asked the ex-combatants to come and sign for some of the agreements in the mining law, but I went and stopped them and they never signed for it, because I saw that that law was flawed, that there wasn't any wider consultation. So that is why the central Bougainville ex-combatants didn't sign for that. Now just a few weeks ago there was a meeting in Bougainville with landowners and I know that Tony Regan was trying to push for the interim law to be agreed upon by landowners and also the ex-combatants so that it can be a way for the law to be passed in the November sitting of the Parliament of Bougainville.
DW: This would be an interim mining law?
JM: That's right interim mining law. Now what Tony Regan and [Mr] Momis were telling the people is that if they don't do that the Papua New Guinea Government will take over all of the mining of Panguna. That is a lie. That is a lie because when the Prime Minister [ Peter O'Neill] went to Bougainville he openly told the people of Bougainville that he was not interested in mining or the re-opening of the mine. If the people want the mine to be opened they are to consult among themselves and with the [Bougainville] Government and then talk with the Papua New Guinea Government.
DW: They could be talking though couldn't they about the ABG not being economically viable because it doesn't have access to the sort of income that it might get if a mine was operating. So their concerns could well be quite valid.
JM: ABG at the moment has a lot of money from the National Government. There's 500 million [kina] that will be drawn down over the next five years, the first 100 million was already given and that money is still sitting over there [in Buka]. Now I don't think the ABG has lost the power of money, to generate money, it is just that the Government is just not working in the right way, for what - to generate money. There are a lot of ways we can generate money in Bougainville.
DW: Having Tony Regan leave the country is that the right solution though?
JM: I think so because we have a lot of Papua New Guinea lawyers who are really proficient. Who are really proficient in mining laws and they are lawyers.
DW: Well Papua New Guinea is rife with dubious mining situations isn't it? If a lot of those agreements were drawn up by Papua New Guinean lawyers it is not much of a recommendation.
JM: Well I think at this point in time I am very settled that Papua New Guinea lawyers can handle a lot of mining issues, now because we have already realised that it is time Papua New Guinea, through its lawyers must work to change some of the legislation which has been stagnating the people of Papua New Guinea to progress in terms of benefit sharing.
DW: If they go back to using lawyers in Port Moresby that is returning to the old ways isn't it?
JM: I don't think so, I don't think so. I don't think the laws will be returned to the old ways. I think the Papua New Guinea citizens, even the lawyers, they have learnt that we have made laws over the years. We should have stopped a Bougainville Crisis, if these laws had been identified properly by Papua New Guinean lawyers. Papua New Guinea people must get a better benefit for everything in the land that they own. So it is only the people of Papua New Guinea that can make the decision, not people outside.
DW: Who are you going to ask to have him removed?
JM: I am very upset and that is why I really want Foreign Affairs to remove him. He has to be removed. Left alone. Papua New Guinean lawyers deal with that.
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