13 May 2008

Bougainville leader hits back at critics of development deal

8:17 pm on 13 May 2008

The President of the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville, Joseph Kabui, has strongly defended a deal with Canadian company, Invincible Resources, which aims to stimulate development in the province.

The deal, in which Invincible will control the Bougainville Resource Development Corporation, has been called a sellout of Bougainvilleans' birthright but Mr Kabui says property rights will not be trampled on.

He says the deal was reached after years of assessment of Invincible and the ABG is convinced it is the best company for the job.

Mr Kabui says the opposition is coming from a group of landowners who had failed to get him to instead sign the deal with a company they controlled.

"These leaders who have been pushing and making all this noise and accusing the ABG [Autonomous Bougainville Government] and the BRDC [Bougainville Resource Development Corporation] as mortgaging Bougainville, selling Bougainville, are the very people I believe - they have been trying to force me to, in a way, sell Bougainville out. The action that they were trying to force upon me is tantamount to blackmailing."