ARAWA - To us Panguna people this once was Rio Tinto mine in our heartland has had far reaching impacts since its birth in the 1960s. It has affected us physically, socially and spiritually.
So, for as long as the governments that control our island keep meddling with the wound, we will always be tangled, confused and unable to attain positive political, social and economic advancement for ourselves as a district, as a community, as families and as individuals.
In mid-2017, a group calling itself Panguna New Generation Leaders (PNGL) appeared in our midst.
It had previously operated under a number of different names corresponding to various changes in roles and circumstances under the boiling Panguna mine politics
PNGL was funded by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) to champion unity amongst the many spontaneously sprouting groups and individuals, local and foreign, who were eager to reopen the Panguna mine.
Many of these have found better opportunities, or not, and have disappeared without trace.
The most notable fact about PNGL was that it gave some significance to a handful of unemployed persons and a few former civil war combatants from the Panguna District.
Many of these people were among those who initiated the Bougainville crisis in 1988-1990 but who were not educationally equipped to perform the task of fostering unity.
Since last year, under PNGL’s banner, they have employed aggression and threat to defend their unestablished (and unwanted) interest on the Panguna people.
Maybe the words and tactics had been decanted upon them by ABG or BCL but they certainly pushed them on the people; in fact, they were known for this virtue.
At the time BCL, through Justin Rogers, was praising them but it seems that, when BCL and ABG did not meet their expectations for payment, they deviated to the next rising Panguna mine contender, RTG Mining and its accomplice Central Meekamui Resources Limited (CMRL).
So we have two potential mining entities that today are permeating our psyche as Panguna people, who have this ore body in our land: BCL supported by ABG; and RTG is partnering with the Meekamui faction under the name CMRL.
The people in Panguna really are not sure of where we are today with this tug-of-war over the mine reopening and development and progress are hampered as the people are thrown here and there by the politics of whether the Panguna mine will reopened or not and, if so, by who, and when.
And leading this flood of chaos is the aforementioned PNGL. Some months ago it campaigned for BCL and the, earlier in 2018, it sided with RTG and CMRL. Along with its efforts slither aggression and threats.
Last 24 March there was a reconciliation after PNGL threatened Michael Pariu, chairman of the Upper Tailings Landowners Association and one of the popular figures in Panguna literature. Pariu was always a pro-BCL icon.
During this affair, a little light surfaced that RTG were only a band of brokers and not traditional miners like BCL. Despite that, the money they poured into their Panguna campaign swept many influential persons in Panguna into their boat.
People who may have felt threatened politically in the landowner groups dashed into the RTG camp; sources claim nearly all of them gained financial benefits that BCL never offered to the cash hungry Panguna people despite all its meetings and awareness programs.
Money is the catalyst for what’s important in Panguna.
In Panguna one hardly hears people talking about the coming Bougainville referendum to decide the political future of Bougainville. The people talk largely of RTG and BCL. The local level government offices in Panguna are occupied by an RTG - BCL whirlpool, Nothing in place there for the people in terms of service delivery.
Even the Panguna church workers been drawn into preaching about BCL and RTG.
This is why the recent change in central Bougainville’s parliamentary representation to Fr Simon Dumarinu from Sam Akoitai was largely overlooked as 24/7 we are submerged into this all embracing RTG-BCL debate.
The crusades to take over Panguna and its mine are intense and the people, especially Panguna people and Kieta people, are ignorantly running after their tails in this narrow strip of corporate advantage.
Meanwhile, the serious matter of fine tuning our focus on the referendum and related matters is ignored.