Leader denies Bougainville is headed for another crisis
May 9, 2008
The leader of Papua New Guinea's Autonomous Bougainville Government today rejected claims the island is heading for another crisis, amid calls for him to be sacked.
President Joseph Kabui has also defended his government's deal with Canadian mining company Invincible Resources, which has handed the firm 70 per cent control over Bougainville's bountiful mineral resources.
Kabui yesterday admitted taking K20,000 ($8000) from Invincible as a party donation, but denied any wrongdoing.
Bougainville landowners have called for Kabui to be sacked, accusing him of working against the best interests of his people.
But Kabui insisted today that the deal was good for Bougainville, saying it needed capital investment to get back on its feet after the secessionist fighting that tore it apart in the 1990s.
"I don't think we are running into a collision," he told reporters in the PNG capital, Port Moresby.
"I don't think we're in the lion's cage, (with Invincible)."
He said the autonomous government had been in talks with the company for three years, and insisted Invincible was the best firm vying for Bougainville's lucrative minerals.
The deputy speaker of the island's autonomous government, Francisca Semoso, last week spoke out against her own party.
She said the deal Kabui had done with Invincible was "worse" than Bougainville Copper Limited's (BCL) Panguna mining agreement, which sparked years of civil war on Bougainville in the 1990s.
More than 20,000 people died during years of secessionist fighting.
But Kabui dismissed criticism of the deal today.
"The driving force behind this sort of noise is coming from those who have a vested interest ... they are not privy to the real information," he said.
He also responded to an Auditor-General's report that found millions of kina had gone missing from the autonomous government's coffers in 2005 and 2006.
An administrative error, rather than any wrongdoing, was likely responsible, Kabui said.
Bougainville has set up a body to manage future investments called the Bougainville Resources Development Corporation (BRDC). All mining deals will flow through it to ensure they are in the island's best interest.
BRDC chairman Robert Atsir today said that once investment started to flow into Bougainville, the deal with Invincible could be revisited so it was more favourable for the island.
"We have the resources but we don't have the capital," he said.
"As more foreign investment comes in, it will kick start the economy and the deal will dilute back to Bougainville," he said.
BCL's held its 41st Annual General Meeting in Port Moresby today.
BCL Chairman Peter Taylor is confident mining will restart at the controversial Panguna site but it is not clear when.
"It will be at least five years, it's some time yet," he said.
Copied from the Sydney Morning Herald.