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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 8) – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare was asked in Parliament yesterday whether the idea of forming a tripartite committee to investigate reported deaths at Porgera gold mine was coined by the mining company, Porgera Joint Venture (PJV).

But the Prime Minister hit back with indications that while PJV may have made some mistakes, some of the people killed were trespassing on PJV’s special mining lease area and placing themselves in danger by being in holes attempting to steal gold.

"We have to educate our people," Sir Michael told Parliament. "Once you have given an area for gold to be mined, please we must stay outside of it. I have asked the Minister for Mining to later make a report to Parliament on this."

Sir Michael was responding to questions by Tari Member of Parliament Tom Tomiape during Parliamentary question time.

The National Government’s advisory body — the Central Agencies Coordinating Committee chaired by Chief Secretary Joshua Kalinoe — had decided to propose the use of a tripartite committee involving national and provincial government representatives, landowner representatives, and PJV company representatives and others to look into the Porgera killings.

"Is it true that the tripartite committee idea was promoted by the PJV and now adopted by the Government? If this is so, why is the Government allowing multinational corporations like Placer Dome and PJV to dictate Government’s decision?" Mr Tomiape asked the Prime Minister. "Are you aware that PJV will become members of the committee and because of this, do you think the committee will come up with an independent finding to identify the real cause of deaths?"

Mr Tomiape also attacked the coordinating committee’s reasoning of a commission of inquiry being too expensive to go for a tripartite committee.

"Does this mean that the lives of those killed were secondary to the interests of PJV?" he asked.

In response, Sir Michael said: "I made a commitment that we will institute a commission of inquiry. I did not go ahead to set up a commission of inquiry. Instead, I asked for just an investigation to find out the source of why so many people were killed. I was under the impression that, yes, there may be some mistakes made by the mine but we found that where they have big holes, your own people have been going under the holes to grab the gold when it belongs to the mining area."

June 9, 2005

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