Amidst Protests From Women, PNG Court Blocks Signing Of MOA To Reopen Bougainville Mine

Panguna's women landowners say  ‘No BCL, No Mining’

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Asia Pacific Report, June 18, 2017) – Panguna women protesters have blockaded the copper mine to prevent the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the Bougainville government with the company and also won a court injunction.

Justice Kandakasi ordered in the Waigani National Court on Friday that the MOA cannot be signed until further notice.

Philip Miriori, chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Inc., welcomed the restraining order.

He said it was good to see that protection from “unjust deprivation of property” under Section 53 of the Constitution of PNG – and preserved in the Constitution of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (Section 180) as adopted by the Bougainville Constituent Assembly at Buin on 12 November 2004 – was being enforced.

The Bougainville Freedom Movement also congratulated the women of Bougainville and their supporters for stopping the Bougainville government on Friday from signing a new agreement for Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to reopen the Panguna mine.

“The handpicked BCL landowners who were supposed to sign the agreement for the company were brought to a halt, thanks to the road block protest held on Friday,” said BFM’s Vikki John.

The Panguna mine was abandoned by in 1989 after frustration by landowners erupted into a decade-long armed uprising and a push for Bougainville independence from Papua New Guinea.

[PIR editor's note: On June 20, 2017 RNZI reported that 'The government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville says it has given people opposed to a possible re-opening of the Panguna copper mine two weeks to re-think their opposition.']

‘Seven sisters’ roadblock

Loop PNG reports: “The impenetrable roadblock was led by women chief from the ‘seven sisters’ areas in Central Bougainville.

The mothers, together with their daughters, youths, ex-combatants and Bougainville hardliners, set up the roadblock, which started on Thursday night and lasted throughout Friday. They refused to move for passing vehicles or negotiating team.

“Their message was simple: ‘No BCL, No Mining’.

A woman chief from Guava Village, Maggie Mirau Nombo, and a chief from Arawa and Pirurari, Kavatai Baria, said their land was their ‘Mother’, who provided their everyday needs and no one was allowed to exploit her.

“Chief Maggie, who is a former primary school teacher, said how could those wanting to sign the MOA conduct such an act of injustice?

“She said this would never happen again because they had suffered enough from all the injustice that had been brought on by BCL when it was in operation.

“She said God had heard the cry of the Bougainville women, and justice would prevail.

“As long as i am the chief from Panguna and Guava village and owner of my land, BCL is not welcome. This is the company that has killed our sons and daughters. ABG has to stop ignoring the cries of the women and take note that BCL is never allowed to come back to Panguna, and this is final and it is not negotiable,” she said.

“Chief Kavatai also reminded everyone that ‘when God closes a door, no one can open it, and if God opens a door, no one can close it’.

“Panguna Mine was closed by God and if anyone was trying to reopen the mine when it wasn’t God’s timing, then they had better watch out because they were fighting against a big God.

“Because of the strong opposition by the women, youths and Bougainville hardliners, the high-powered ABG delegation, led by President John Momis, returned to Buka on Friday afternoon without signing the MOA.”

The Papua New Guinea 2017 general election is June 24 until July 8.

Asia Pacific Report
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