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Uma says compensation, other issues yet to be addressed

By Gorethy Kenneth PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 28, 2011) – Bougainville’s feared Me’ekamui hardliner, rebel Chris Uma, has lashed out at the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Panguna landowners for talking about the mine re-opening before addressing outstanding issues.

[PIR editor’s note: Panguna mine began its operations in 1966 under Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), but was closed in 1988 following extensive damage of the mine’s equipment by angry Bougainvilleans.]

Mr. Uma, who still has a big following in Bougainville said this was not the time to talk about the mine re-opening but speaks on issues at hand.

He said the responsible authorities should address the issue of compensation, and sorting out all other outstanding issues before speaking of re-opening of the mine.

Mr. Uma claimed all authorities concerned have erred in their move to progress the talks on the mine re-opening because the "paitman" or rebel fighters had been left out of the talks so far.

"We the fighters and I am speaking on behalf of all of us from Buin, Kieta and Buka are not happy with the current talks on the re-opening of the mine, Mr. Uma said angrily. We should address the problems we faced during the crisis and the outstanding issues. We should not go straight to opening the Panguna Mine. Lives were lost, damages done and we can’t ignore these things and pretend that we are okay. Bougainville is not yet normal; there are still issues we still have to sort out first. Things like compensation, I also want the mine pit measurement looked at and people compensated fairly for the damages done to this hole. We have to address and settle this before we can start talking about mine re-opening."

Mr. Uma claimed that they were deliberately left out of the meetings but said if this continued they’ll be just happy to fight as they were fighters without real jobs.

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