On Thursday 1st of July at 7am I got a called from my fellow comrades asking if I am free and would be willing to join them and go to Buka to attend a meeting for the Ex-Combatants, I told them yes so they picked me up. After picking four former senior BRA men we drove straight to Buka.
When I asked the comrades what’s the agenda for the meeting they told me it was an urgent one and nobody is sure about it. When we arrived in Buka we got words that it’s about mining but not a thing was given in Black and white till the 2nd of August.
Many of the Ex-combatants from the three regions of Bougainville [South, Central and North] came. As we arrived in Hujitena High School Hall I saw the topic, “Panguna Mine Negotiations workshop for ex-combatants”. Professor Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh from Griffith University who has been funded by AusAid with $613,267 will run the workshop. It started with introduction by the ABG leaders with all talking much in favor of reopening Panguna mine because ABG is so desperate for money.
Professor Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh’s presentation was more like he is talking on behalf of BCL and trying to persuade the Ex-combatants into agreeing for possible reopening of the mine. This makes former BRA General Sam Kauona to be on his toes and fired comments during questions and answer time. Sam Kaouna and his group were very furious too on section where it says if the compensation is high and reopening the mine gets to a deadlock cut down the compensation demands. Sam told Professor Ciaran O’Faircheallaigh that he is watering down the demands and this can’t be done when blood has been spilt fighting over the land.
Some members of the Ex-combatants from North spoke in favor of reopening the mine, however a strong opposition came from the Central region Ex-combatants who wants the Bougainville mining law to be completed and pass and referendum first before talks of reopening starts.
The Central Region Veteran’s affairs spoke person Junior Dake when speaking before the end of the workshop says that reopening the mine is not a problem as Sam Kaouna and Ismael Toroama mentioned but our mining law must be completed first so that we will have the power and rights over our resources. He further stated that he’s from North Nasioi where Arawa town is, during those days our mothers and sisters used to be raped in front of our eyes by the squatters who were here because of mining so this must be taken into consideration. We don’t want a repeat of that again.
This is the main issue which North Nasioi people are concern much about it. From the survey carried out by the women leaders in North Nasioi, 70% don’t want reopening Panguna mine before referendum because they don’t want outsiders coming into Arawa looking for jobs and start building squatter settlements as we are still under the freedom of movement under Png law.