PNG GOVERNMENT SEEKS MORE TIME WITH BOUGAINVILLE SUIT

admin's picture

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 23, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The Papua New Guinea Government has asked for more time to look at the Bougainville class action case in the United States, an American lawyer representing the people of Bougainville in the action, Brent Walton, of Hagens Berman law firm, said yesterday:

"The Government requested an additional 60 days to respond in order to analyze the issues in greater detail."

U.S. district court Judge Margaret Morrow handed down a decision on March 20 that required "within 30 days of the date of this order the PNG Government’s written consent to have the action proceed in PNG courts, despite the provisions of the Compensation Act."

The multi-million dollar lawsuit against mining giant Rio Tinto is being mounted by the legal "czar" of American civil class actions, Steve Berman, a multi-millionaire from successful suits against cigarette manufacturers.

Walton earlier stressed that the landmark case was not entirely dismissed in the United States.

But it was still pending following the U.S. court's decision to allow the Papua New Guinea Government until April 19 to consent to having the class action heard in Papua New Guinea.

"The future of the case in the U.S. depends on whether the PNG Government agrees to the conditions imposed by the court," the lawyer said.

"The judge has said that the court case will not go ahead in the U.S. court only if the PNG Government consents to having the class action heard in PNG.

"However, the judge also said if the case is to go ahead in PNG, the PNG Government must waive every legal bar that might prevent the case from proceeding in PNG. Rio Tinto must also agree not to rely on any bar to the claim proceeding in PNG."

The conditions imposed by Justice Margaret Morrow, of the U.S. Federal District Court of California, would prevent the Papua New Guinea Government prosecuting the plaintiffs under the PNG Compensation Act. This disallows certain foreign litigation.

The judge relied on a statement of interest filed by the U.S. State Department, which said the further hearing of the case might adversely affect U.S. foreign policy interests.

The State Department had received representations from the Papua New Guinea Government that the case would interfere with the Bougainville peace process and might affect the relationship between PNG and the U.S.

Australia is also reported to have lobbied the Americans not to allow the case to go ahead, saying it could hurt the peace process.

The peace process, including giving Bougainville more autonomy, is to ensure a permanent solution to the conflict, which some estimates say cost up to 15,000 lives.

The lawsuit was reported to have been mounted by people acting for Bougainville rebel leader Francis Ona. Mr. Ona and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army fought a war of secession against Papua New Guinea from 1989 to 1998.

The war was sparked by anger over environmental damage caused by then-Australian mining giant CRA’s gold and copper mine at Panguna, in central Bougainville. CRA became part of Rio Tinto more than two years ago.

Mr Ona earlier wrote to the Papua New Guinea Government asking it to withdraw its objection to the court action, saying it sought just and fair compensation for every Bougainvillean who had suffered because of:

The lawsuit alleges CRA, acting in concert with the Papua New Guinea Government, was responsible for despoiling the Bougainville environment, according to earlier media reports.

It includes allegations of "war crimes" -- including a military blockade that kept medical supplies from the island -- and "killing, bombing, rape and pillage," media reports said.

Justice Morrow said the case raised political questions on which the U.S. Federal Court should not adjudicate.

Papua New Guinea's Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Moi Avei has described some of the charges in the court case as being "totally outrageous."

On legal bars, Sir Moi said: "Bougainvilleans, like all other Papua New Guineans, have every right to bring their grievance to any court of law in PNG."

Asked about the case’s impact on the peace process, he said that he had warned Bougainvilleans to be always wary of "any pie in the sky ideas."

"We all have to go back, till the soil, grow cocoa, coffee, because the future prosperity of Bougainvilleans is on the land and not in courts of law -- not in ambulance chasers

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

 

PNG CABINET VIES FOR TIME IN BCL BOUGAINVILLE SUIT

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 23, 2002 – Post-Courier)---The National Government has asked for an extra 60 days to look at the Bougainville class action case in the U.S.

A lawyer representing the people of Bougainville in the United States, Brent Walton, confirmed the move yesterday.

"The Government requested an additional 60 days to respond in order to analyze the issues in greater detail," Mr. Walton said.

Lawyer Camillus Narokobi in Port Moresby and Ben Hardwick of Slater and Gordon in Australia told the Post-Courier yesterday they were aware of the Government’s request but had not received any formal documentation.

"Yes I’m aware of the Government’s request but I have no formal documentation," Mr. Narokobi said.

U.S. district court Judge Margaret Morrow handed down a decision on March 20 that required "within 30 days of the date of this order the PNG Government’s written consent to have the action proceed in PNG courts, despite the provisions of the compensation Act."

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta’s office and department were to issue a statement on behalf of the Government but at the close of business yesterday, no response had been received.

[SEE: Bougainville Copper To Dispose Of Assets at http://pidp.eastwestcenter.org/pireport/2002/April/04-12-15.htm

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Provided by Vikki John VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au" target="_blank">(VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au

Rate this article: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Add new comment