Mekamui news had a short interview with Ruben Siara when he was at a
meeting with the Resource Owners in Arawa on Thursday 18th of July 2013.
Ruben Siara is a Lawyer and was in Arawa when the Bougainville
conflict started. He has been on Bougainville ever since and he too lost
his properties like the rest of the Bougainvilleans.
Because he is a lawyer the Bougainville Revolutionary Leaders at the
time invited him to join them as their legal advisor for 10 solid years
and later form the Bougainville Interim Government. When they started
the peace negotiation, late Joseph Kabui and his group went to
negotiations that led to the peace agreement when he stayed back with
Francis Ona, maintaining a bargaining position.
When Francis Ona died he just stayed on the Island than ABG called him,
now he’s the first secretary with the ministry of Veteran Affairs. At
the same time he is working with the Resource Owners fighting to make a
new policy and law on mining to give ownership rights to the resource
owners. The resource owners from Panguna and seven  prospect areas
which BCL held before.
When asked if Bougainville will have several mines or just one, he says
with three  hundred thousand people we don’t need too many mines
even with small alluvial mines we need to take control of it.
With the question of reopening Panguna mine Mr Siara stated that
Panguna mine is a touchy issue and one thing that we have to realise is
that Panguna mine cost a lot of pain and suffering to the people of
Bougainville. Some people asked why we can’t use Panguna with its huge
resource to help us, in the past foreigners benefitted from it,
why can’t it help Bougainvilleans now? However others say lets depend on renewable resources like agriculture, tourism and fishing etc.
The peace agreement was signed in 2001 in Arawa and since then the ABG has
been trying to resolve the Panguna mine issue, they say we don’t have
money lets reopen the Panguna mine. There is still all the compensation
demands to be met, the Government and BCL are not doing anything and to
reopen the mine without solving the grievances of the people is not in
anyway helping with the peace building.
Mekamui news asked him was there any time when Panguna Landowners with
other players who are concerned about the Panguna mine held any talks with BCL?
Two weeks ago he joined the landowners in Buka which Paul Coleman the
Secretary of BCL attended. During the meeting BCL Paul Coleman told the
Landowners that BCL doesn’t have much money because it didn’t operate
for many years and is a bit worried about the demands and compensation.
However, if they are invited back to the Island they will reopen the
mine with US 5 billion dollars, just for the reopening.
When Paul Coleman says they have no money to meet the demands and
compensation what do you think the people of Bougainville, the
excombatants and stakeholders will say? The USA Lawsuit
has been dismissed which means at this point we can’t press BCL to pay
the compensation. Has the dismissal of the court case something to do
with the reopening of Panguna? Ruben told Mekamui news that he didn’t
get a full report from the Lawyers in the US. Therefore, if BCL is
returning back to the Island they will know that they will not be
welcome on Bougainville. They will meet the Belkol or peace of mind package, but the issue of compensation is not raised by the ABG or BCL alike.
The Resource Owners who are here today are not really concerned about
Panguna as they are from the other 7 prospecting areas; they are working on establishing proper boundaries and have it registered so that everything in their land is theirs or they have the ownership from top to bottom.