The women, supported by youths, men and children, were disputing the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), proposed to take place in Panguna tomorrow (June 16), between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and Panguna landowners. This will see Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) return to reopen the Mine before June 2019.
Panguna landowner, Mrs Bernadine Gemel Kama, said they have voiced their concerns to the former Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) chairman and his executives because they are the ones who want to sign the MOA with ABG. However, they have done this without the consent of the womenfolk, who are culturally the true landowners.
“If the ABG leaders are wise, they will not talk about reopening the Panguna Mine because a lot of bloodshed has happened because of the mine,” she stated.
“As a landowner in Panguna, I want everyone to know that it is only a minority of people, especially men, who want to reopen the Panguna with BCL. All of us do not want BCL to ever come back to Panguna and mine. If they want to talk about mining, talk about it after independence, not now,” she said.
Youth representative, Robert Baranangko, said he and other young men supported the women because they were not aware of the MOA.
He said Bougainvilleans should have been informed about the decision that the ABG was doing to reopen the mine.
He said the ABG was treading on dangerous waters to talk about reopening the Panguna Mine with BCL, when everyone knows that the blood of 20,000 plus people are on its hands.
He urged the leaders to hear the voice of the women, who are owners of the land, and as a young man, he does not want to see a second crisis happen again in Bougainville.
The peaceful protest march saw the crowd carry a big banner stating ‘No BCL, No Mining,’ and smaller posters reading ‘Do not dig my land’, ‘Women own the land’, ‘Don’t create another bloodshed’, ‘BCL not welcome in Panguna’, ‘Agriculture is the way forward for Bougainville’ and ‘We own the land’.
The march ended at the office of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association in Arawa, where they voiced their grievance to the former SMLOLA chairman, Lawrence Daveona.
(Women marching around Arawa Town to say ‘No Mining, No BCL!’)