SOMARE QUESTIONS BOUGAINVILLE MINING CONTRACT

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PNG Prime Minister wants full briefing

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 31, 2008) – Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) to provide a full and frank briefing, including copies of relevant documents concerning the ABG’s reported agreement with the Bougainville Resources Development Corporation (BRDC) for plans for mining exploration and development.

The Prime Minister stressed that the Government stood firmly behind the joint implementation plan for the transfer of mining, oil and gas functions signed and agreed by late ABG president Joseph Kabui, at the Alotau meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body in late March.

Sir Michael said: "This follows directly from our commitment to honour the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the laws which give a legal effect to make autonomy work for the nation."

He added that the joint implementation plan, which was prepared by officials from key National Government departments and agencies and the Bougainville administration, provided for the transfer to take place in 13 stages.

"As the plan was agreed and signed by the late ABG president in the presence of senior ABG ministers and officials, it is surprising to see some Bougainville leaders now criticising some of its main features.

"The mining industry plays an important role in the PNG economy. Foreign investment contributes to national development.

"It is also important that the National Government is fully informed when the ABG enters into arrangements which have significant implications for an industry, investment and the economy," Sir Michael said.

He added it was unfortunate that the ABG had repeatedly deferred the meeting and that the National Government had not been given the information required in order to assess the implications the ABG-BRDC agreement and related arrangements with the Invincible Resources Corporation might have had.

Sir Michael said in a statement yesterday that "it is critical that relevant national departments and agencies know what has been agreed and that it complies with our Constitution and other relevant laws.

"This is normally required of any foreign investor. It is especially important in this case, as Bougainville is still recovering from a conflict in which mining was a key issue.

"Our commitment to peace-building means that the National Government wants to be sure that traditional landowners are properly consulted, and their interests taken fully into account," Sir Michael said.

He added that the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the National Constitutional Laws which gave it legal effects were based on consultation and co-operation.

It was on this basis that the National Government had asked acting ABG president John Tabinaman and ABG ministers for a full and frank briefing on the ABG’s plans and any agreements in regard to mining in Bougainville.

This would allow ABG leaders to brief the Prime Minister on how they planned to cooporate with the National Government, Sir Michael said.

Sir Michael added that he looked forward to the ABG’s early positive response to the National Government’s request for an early meeting.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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