O'NIELL'S STICKY FINGERS AIM FOR PANGUNA

by BRYAN KRAMER


Yesterday (11/01/16) Post Courier published an article by Gorethy Kenneth headlined "O'Neill: Govt has no interest in Panguna" The report stated "Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has reiterated that the Government has no interest to own the Panguna Copper Mine on Bougainville." It went on to quote O'Neill stating;

"There have been suggestions that the Government is keen to buy 53.38 per cent Rio Tinto’s shares in the Australia firm Bougainville Copper Limited.

"The National Government is committed to improving the delivery of basic services to the people of Bougainville as a top most priority of our Government, the report said.
"Recent decisions, including rebuilding the main roads including Kokopau to Arawa, and to Buin and the awarding of contracts, are clear examples of this commitment.

"As I stated in Arawa and in Panguna, the National Government is not interested in talking about anything else including the opening of the Panguna mine.
"In all of our meetings with the ABG these issues have been openly discussed between the leaders and my position has not changed."

"There has been some discussion between the ABG, the National Government and Rio Tinto about the possible divestment of Rio Tinto’s interest in Bougainville.
"But again, this is a decision on which the landowners and the people of Bougainville will have to guide the National Government.

"We have no interest in owning the mine or reopening the mine. We will remain focused on delivering the better education and healthcare, rebuilding infrastructure and improving the economic opportunities of people on Bougainville," Mr O’Neill said. //end.

While O'Neill stated there were suggestions that the Government is keen to buy 53.38 per cent Rio Tinto’s shares he failed to elaborate more on the issue but instead goes on about improving the delivery of basic services to the people.

So following that statement Peter O'Neill announces a cabinet reshuffle the very next day appointing himself the Minister responsible for Bougainvillle Affairs.

This is an unusual political move considering it convention that a Member of Boungainville would be in charge of the Ministry concerning the affairs of Bougainville. The last time Peter O'Neill high-jacked a Ministry was to bulldoze his own cabinet submission to approve controversial K3 Billion UBS deal to acquire 10.1% stake in Oil Search. It resulted in the former Minister of Treasury Don Polye's sacking, after he refused to sign the instruments on account it was a reckless decision. O'Neill reacted by sacking Polye and taking over the Ministry to sign off on it. With the significant drop in the oil price and Oil Search's value it seems Poyle was right all along.

Today (12/1/15) the Post Courier published a report on the same issue headlined "Respect their Decision." Again the article reports the Prime Minister claiming he is not interested in reopening the mine. "I want the peace agreement to be completed by working with the leaders of ABG and the people of Bougainville, he said.

So in the space of two days Bougainville has become a hot issue for Peter O'Neill. He seems to be releasing press statements repeating himself on the same issue and the question is why? He did make the point in today's article that "BCL (Bougainville Copper Limited) still has cash and assets remaining and that his Government's decision is final and will not let the people down.
What decision was he talking about? Perhaps a decision on how he wants to acquire BCL's cash and assets.

It is important to note Peter O'Neill is the worse Prime Minister in PNG's short history for issuing misleading statements not the mention being in the centre of numerous corruption scandals and controversial deals including K3 Billion UBS Loan, Paraka Scandal, LR Generators and Expropriation of Ok-tedi Mine, to name a few.

With the Government strapped for the cash it seems Peter O'Neill has now taken a keen interest in Bougainville and more specifically the Pangua Mine. Although he is trying to talk it down it, it is evident it has become so important to him that he has taken over the Ministry responsible for it.
So should we and the Bougainville people believe him when he says his Government has no interest in Pangua?

What Peter O'neill failed to disclose to the public is that on 8th December 2015 Ben Micah and himself including a number of his key Ministers met with the President of Autonomous Region of Bougainville John Momis in Kokopo to discuss his Governments proposal to "urgently" purchase 53% of Rio Tino's shares in BCL. The focus of the purchase being "commercial opportunities." Two days later on 10 December 2015 President Momis wrote to Peter O'Neill rejecting his proposal making the point it was not in the interest of the people of Bougainville.

So who's commercial opportunities/interest was Peter O'Neill referring to in that meeting and will he use his new Ministry appointment to takeover BCL to go after its cash and assets?