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ARAWA, Papua New Guinea,  Former BRA commander opposed to the
reopening of Panguna mine, James Onartoo has denied claims by the media and by the ABG
Vice President, Raymond Masono that he and his group had signed a resolution with pro
mining BRA Commanders, Ishmael Toroama, Sam Kauona and Glyn Tovirika paving way
for the reopening of Panguna.
Mr Onartoo said that while he represented the silent majority who believe that mining was
not the answer to Bougainville’s future, he had no authority to sign anything that will take
away people’s resources and their rights to their land.
“I am one of the many who don’t support BCL or mining in Panguna or anywhere in
Bougainville but I cannot claim to have the authority to sign a resolution or an agreement on
their behalf, to reopen the mine at Panguna. The reports that you have seen in the Post
Courier and in the statement by ABG Vice President are untrue,” he said
Mr. Onartoo also said that he and his group which includes, women, landowners and the excombatants
of South and Central Bougainville remain firm that Panguna must not be
reopened. He pointed out that ABG is weak and lacks laws and systems to effectively regulate
and to deal with a large scale mine. He said that without these mechanisms in place mining
will cause more harm than good to the region.
“Mr. Masono’s claims that only a minority opposed reopening of Panguna mine is totally
untrue because, the silent majority are with us and our call for “no mining” in Bougainville is
gaining popularity. More and more people are beginning to realize that mining can easily
strip Bougainville of it’s independence by taking control of ABG and is already causing
divisons among us the ex-combatants and landowners,” Mr Onartoo said.
Mr. Onartoo appealed to BRA commanders and ABG Vice Present not to mislead the people
of Bougainville regarding sensitive issues such as mining. He said that leaders must act
responsively give factual information to avoid confusion that disunity.
Meanwhile, ABG efforts to reopen Panguna were dealt another blow last week when excombatants
and officers of Panguna Mine Negotiations (PMNO) under the influence of
alcohol threatened a community volunteer worker, Theonila Matbob and her family. The
threats were made over the hosting of a referendum awareness program with the help of
visiting Melanesian indigenous rights advocacy group, MILDA. The program was move to
Arawa following the encounter with pro mining elements in Panguna.
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