On the 6th of August I went up to Panguna to do an interview with the
President of Meekamui Government Of Unity President Philip Miriori,
after his Finance Minister contacted Mekamui News to run an interview on
the hot topic that is going on in Bougainville the reopening of Panguna
President Philip Miriori started by telling Mekamui News that here in
Panguna we are cleaning up the place from the mess that is left behind
by BCL, so whoever comes to visit will be happy and breath fresh air. I
asked him what is Meekamui Government Of Unity’s stand on the issue of
reopening the mine?
He replied with a smile and said: “Our position is loud and clear:
Panguna mine will not reopen; the people will decide
about the future of the mine, but after Independence not now.”
“When the leaders are saying that the referendum and independence will be
possible with the reopening of the mine that is wrong, Independence is
the choice of the people and in Bougainville we paid off with blood and
it must come without mining.”
When you say no to mining is there any other alternatives for ABG to bank on for the much-needed funds?
“ABG must talk about diversifying economy, there is tourism, cocoa, copra and
the list goes on.”
There are several players talking about the mine issue, ABG, EX-COMBATANTS, LANDOWNERS WITH LAWRENCE DAVEONA, BCL and the Meekamui, if any of the above sign a MOU or an Agreement will you join in the negotiation?
“Meekamui Government Of Unity will not join any negotiation for the reopening of the mine; we suffer because of this mine, the air that we breathe was poisoned, the water we drink is full of chemicals and our food was not good during those days. BCL has left us with a big mess, division, separated families, our sacred sites were destroyed etc.
When the leaders and people are talking about reopening the mine they must take into consideration that squatter’s settlements will be created and many Bougainvilleans will have no job. More destruction to my land and environment, there is that freedom and peace now that we enjoy today after the mine has closed down. In the future if you want to reopen the mine would you invite back Rio Tinto BCL? BCL has a bad record on human rights violations here so we don’t want BCL back again, there are better companies outside.”
After Independence will you talk about reopening the mine?
“Yes, because it’s our own Government and whatever comes out of mining will float onto the island, right now if we reopen it somebody else will benefit and get rich.”
On the 24th of July there was a big ceremony and a signing of memorandum of understanding between the three top Commanders is that what leads to the reopening of the mine and lifting of the checkpoint?
“There is a misunderstanding among the people and the wider community about the signing of the MOU, it’s not for the reopening of the mine but the people will have safe passage on Bougainville.”
The court case in the US has been ruled in favour of Rio Tinto and dismissed, what’s your take on that?
“When we see the story on the newspaper together with many people on Bougainville, we are not happy.
Compensation is the biggest issue on Bougainville so when there is no compensation and you talk about any big mining on Bougainville it’s going to be a big NO.”
In the mainstream media they are saying that the majority wants the mine reopened after the forums held so far, if so do you think another bloodshed is likely?
“The situation on Bougainville will go back to square one if they are talking about BCL coming back. You will accept all the problems like that, here in Panguna we will stand our ground whoever wants to reopen the mine must kill us first before he can reopening the mine.”
President Miriori ended the interview by saying:
“In my lifetime I don’t want to see Rio Tinto BCL come back to my homeland.”