The Mining Minister Hon. Johnson Tuke has made some ignorant blunders that can cause more problems for the State, the Developer Chinese Metallurgical Corporation (MCC), provoke landowners by adding fuel to land issues fires and most importantly deprive the people of Rai Coast their Constitutional right for inclusivity in the development of our resources and access to basic Government services and infrastructure.
The Minister’s ignorant blunders undermines the Government’s own decisions since 2001. It also demonstrates how the Government undermines the welfare of its own people and does not respect the elected leaders at the Ward and LLG level.
I’m sure the Prime Minister genuinely wants to listen to the people. He is a decisive Prime Minister who is known to “fix things” not done right in the past. It is also in the interest of the O’Neill-Abel Government.
The Minister’s actions and undermining statements is also contrary to the Developer MCC’s concerns and calls issued through their paid Press Statement published in the Post Courier on 23 November, 2018.
THE BASAMUK PEOPLE’S VOICE
Before I talk about the ignorant blunders, let’s get the record straight about The Basamuk People’s Voice (BPV). The group consists of genuine landowners plus all the people in the mine-impacted area and RaiCoast. We are an interest lobby group working with our duly elected political leaders at the Government closest to our people for the common purpose of development for our District. You can read more about who we are and what we stand for here.
It is our Constitutional right to demand for our rights. We the people have been marginalized for too long. One day on 01 December, 2018 we joined our hands and voices together for a common shared interest and purpose and conveyed the collective views and demands to the few who represent us.
We are members of theLandowners Association (LOA), which is the party to the MOA. We are also members of our Wards and LLGs which are party to the MOA.
Our developmental issues are not addressed through our LOA organization, partly due to landownership disputes which the State failed to address for over 17 years. More so, it is due to the level of education, knowledge and the ability of our people to engage in such discussions.
Political leaders at the national level have also failed to raise these very genuine issues on the floor of Parliament for over 17 years. The people have had enough so we have organized ourselves to speak up.
Minister, I’m sure we did not breach any law of the country by organizing ourselves and giving you a petition signed by 1215 people and their 5 elected Ward Members.
Our petition was very genuine, for common good. We are demanding the Government to setup a high level Review Team made up of officials from MRA, Madang Provincial Administration, Lands, CEPA, National Planning, Provincial Affairs, Treasury, and Prime Minister’s Office to look into these issues, and met our demands, starting by Financing and Building our ROAD.
- Road (Madang-Morobe Coastal Highway). PNG is party to China’s “One Belt One Road” Initiative. We’ve seen K Billions of Chinese money build roads all over the country and Port Moresby, but not Rai Coast where the Chinese live.
- Environmental Impact Assessment. This affects everyone whether one is a landowner or not.
- Relocation away from the hazardous refinery.
- Review and stop fiscal incentives of the 10-year tax holiday of Corporate Income Tax so company can utilize the funds under the Tax Credit Scheme to build infrastructures.
- Immediately address the existing mine’s issues, amongst them the landownership issues.
THE IGNORANT RESPONSE BY THE MINISTER
I quote the Minister’s response: “I totally condemn the misinformation they are feeding the people through the media in their quest to create disharmony and distrust in the mining industry and the Government of Papua New Guinea”
The Minister is effectively saying that:
- Our claim that we need road is misinformation;
- Our claim that we have environmental issues that needs independent assessments and relocation of people is misinformation;
- The fiscal incentives is misinformation;
- The landowner issues that needs resolving is misinformation;
- The K5 Billion extension project is misinformation;
- The 2019 National Budget and the MTDPIII [2018 – 2022] does not have Rai Coast Road or major infrastructure for Rai Coast is misinformation.
What an ignorant response!
Our demands for inclusion in the development of our resources and access to basic rights like infrastructure, water, sanitation, medical services, education and safety is our basic human right.
It is an understatement to declare that our demands for our rights is a quest to create disharmony and distrust in the mining industry and the Government of Papua New Guinea. We have no intention for any of that.
You PNG Government are our Father/Mother. You have a responsibility to us, your citizens. This is the first time in 13 years we are speaking up. We are not citizens of China so you leave us at their mercy!
THE IGNORANT BLUNDERS
1. The Landownership Issues and Landowner Associations
The Basamuk People’s Voice (BPV) is a neutral body that petitioned the Government to address the land dispute as Gazetted in G169 of 2001, and again exempted from Government’s Compulsory Accusation in 2002 (G51 of 2002]. The existence of the dispute has deprived us of development.
The company MCC, in a paid Press Statement, on November 23 2018 also called upon the Government to have the matter resolved so they can establish better relationship with all stakeholders and fulfill their corporate social obligations.
Developer MCC stated that it “categorically refutes all false allegations and claims by a certain individuals with vested interest claiming to be Chairman of the so-called Basamuk LOA and the Limestone LOA, contained in Post Courier of Tuesday November 13 and Wednesday November 14 2018”.
The Developer MCC also stated “Ramu Nico is aware that there are 3 different factions claiming as the legitimate representative of the Basamuk LOA. The company has yet to receive a form notice from the regulator…”
The BPV is NOT one of the 3 different factions. For the first time, BPV brought the 3 different factions together for shared common interests, so we can work towards better developmental outcomes for our people.
Minister’s Blunder No.1: The Minister recognized one of the 3 different factions as genuine landowner. This is in breach of the Government’s own decisions and Government’s failure to resolve the matter in 17 years.
The Developer MCC has publicly declared their stand on “certain individuals with vested interests” and called upon the Government to have the matter resolved.
Minister’s Blunder No. 2: The Mining Minister is not the legal authority [Special Land Titles Commissioner] to solve landownership disputes and declare landowners. He should heed the call by the Developer and the people to listen and find a neutral ground to resolve the issue.
It is in the best interest of the people, the developer and the State that the Government cease dealing with landowner associations in dispute. It should move swiftly to review its processes to determine the dispute. This is also the desire of the Developer.
The Basamuk People’s Voice is the common ground that the landowners and people have found, led by our elected Ward Members. We genuinely want to find solutions to our problems. It should be recognized for its efforts until the landowner disputes are resolved.
2. Blunder No. 3 – Disputing Genuine Landowners
The Minister is ignorant of the fact that the Ramu Nico Mine have various leases. There are recognized landowners from Kumbukari, Usino, Astrolabe Bay and Basamuk. For Basamuk, whilst there are 3 small different factions with dispute over Lease for Mining Purpose No. 42, we have many legitimate landowners for other leases.
As the spokesperson, I am a duly recognized landowner under the Project, for Prency State lease land, Mining Easement No. 75. MCC just paid me and my family royalty. It’s contradictory for the Minister to call me “self-professed LOs”.
The Basamuk People’s Voice is made up of people like myself who are genuine recognised landowners, for the existing project and for the proposed extension.
Minister, we formed the BPV to demand for our developmental rights because there are disputes with the 3 different factions of the LOA over one lease area. This has hindered our development and participation aspirations. The State has failed to address the issue, nor carry out due diligence over the land dispute before inviting the Developer to invest Billions on Kina in the Project.
Whether the Government like it or not, the BVP is here to stay. It represents the collective interests of the Rai Coast people, including genuine landowners and mine-impacted communities. We will never back down but work with our elected representatives the Ward Members, at the Government closest to our people, for social justice.
3. Blunder No. 4 – Avoiding the Educated People
A tactic we have observed over the years is that the agents of the State and Developer avoid the educated people and deal with those with limited education.
Let me point out a Media Release by Chairman of the so-called Basamuk Landowners Association Sande Suang, published in the Post Courier of November 13 and 14.
He says: “We are simple landowners with limited formal education. I only have grade 6 formal education and am among a handful of landowner leaders with limited formal education”.
The Minister held discussions with a party that has Grade 6 formal education. Why this matters? It’s obvious they can be easily exploited and manipulated, and our people of Rai Coast will be misled. They won’t be in a position to “communicate”our pressing issues and major developmental issues.
When our people with limited education run the Associations, we have not seen major developments that will benefit many people who are impacted by the mine – not only landowners!
The BPV’s Petition dated 05 November, 2018 still stands. We duly note the Mining Minister’s dismissal of our petition. We ask him again to re-consider based on the facts presented here.
We call upon the Government to set up a high level Review Team from relevant agencies stated above to review our petition and provide report to the NEC on way forward to resolve the issues. The Basamuk People’s Voice represents the people and we want to be a part of the Review.