Former Bougainville rebel leader wants to be president
Former Bougainville BRA leader now campaigning for president says changes are still needed to the region's mining laws.
One of the nine candidates for president of the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville in next month's elections is a former leader of the separatist Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
Sam Kauona's opponents include the incumbent John Momis, Nick Peniai - a former leader of the resistance and one time speaker of the ABG, former national government cabinet minister Sam Akoitai and a former BRA colleague Ishmael Toroama.
Mr Kauona told Don Wiseman he was centrally involved in ensuring the newly passed Mining Act included the control over resources being held by the landowners and not the state, but he says there are still things to achieve before the province can consider a return to mining.
SAM KAUONA: Well even the ownership of that right, it was very hard, it was difficult for me to negotiate with the current government. It was like me putting pressure and moving the whole direction 180 degrees around towards achieving that, to achieving that ownership right. Even when it came to ownership right, the ownership of BCL - when it comes to exploration rights was given to BCL, that was not acceptable to the resource owners of Bougainville, particularly to Panguna people. It really was against their wishes. That's why even our current president is talking about ownership vested in the people, the very area, Panguna mine, is not yet fully addressed, because the exploration licence belongs to BCL.
DON WISEMAN: Because that licence has already been given?
SK: Yes, licence was given before and even in the new law, it was given back to BCL, although restricting them of mining licence, the exploration licence was given back, was recognised under BCL organisation.
DW: Let's say you become president, what will you do about that?
SK: Well I am going to make sure the last remaining issues to be addressed will have to be really looked into it. I will have to make sure that I have the best lawyers come in to screen that Bougainville law to make sure it is user friendly, it protects interests of the resource owners, particularly Panguna owners. I'm not going to just leave it as it is. There are a few things - tuning up - that needs to be done on that law.
DW: So there's a lot about the law you're happy with, you just want to make one or two changes.
DW: The ABG says that that mining law, it's something that has been made by man, man can change it, that there's plenty of opportunity to do that within the parliament. Is that the way you look at things now?
SK: Well we had that opportunity, our government had that opportunity to change all the laws but it was, the way it was done in Bougainville is not the way we see. You see the president was supporting, protecting the interests of the colonial system, while that law was changed from outside. I wasn't in the government, I had to organise my people of Bougainville, the resource owners, and we made it happen from outside, not from within. The government was able to change the laws or put in place new laws. If government leaders, have a clear direction, if they have a vision, for new Bougainville.
DW: The AGB says it needs to have mining because it's got to have the economy moving in time for the vote which has to happen before 2020. Where do you stand there, would you agree with that?
SK: Yes of course, I do agree that we need mining industry in Bougainville to support our economy. But that mining industry has to be protected, in the law. The resource owners that missed out in the benefits, in equal participation before, we need to put that right before we can actually get ourselves involved in developing the mining industry. Yes we certainly need mining industry to bank roll the economy of Bougainville.
DW: When a mining company comes in and wants to talk about what they might do, they have to negotiate with the landowners and at that point the landowners want you to satisfy this and this and this, they don't satisfy it, they don't get the licence. It's fairly straight forward, isn't it?
SK: Yes, that is correct. The old way of doing mining in Bougainville was that the landowners, the resource owners, they don't have a say. It's the government and the developers that enjoyed that privilege, that right. And that was the very issue that Bougainville disagreed with and went into this phase of civil unrest.
DW: Alright. You've got a lot of support I think in central Bougainville, but of course to become president, you need support right through the country, don't you. So how are you going in other parts of the province?
SK: Well, with limited funding, we cannot do much. But I think the people of Bougainville, they know me. I know in the northern part of Bougainville, Buka town, I am already I am getting very positive response from the people. My committee I am setting up here in northern Bougainville is positively to contributing to my campaign here in the northern part. And I guess that's the same with the southern part. I started late, just last week, two weeks late into the campaign, but I think I will try my best whatever limited resources I have.
DW: You are battling another former colleague from the BRA, Ishmael Toroama, is that going to split the vote?
SK: Well, Ishmael and I, we have the same vision. We see the things the same way in Bougainville so to me it's not a matter. It's either you give one to Ishmael two to me, that sort of arrangement. But if our work does not go to the camp I am happy with how Ishmael and I are participating in this process. It's either one to Ishmael, two to me, or one to me, two to Ishmael.
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