Old foes reconcile at Panguna ceremony

Main Stories, National


SEVERINUS Ampoai is from Panguna in Bougainville, but he has been away from his home for more than two decades.
Mr Ampoai and his family have been living in Port Moresby for the last 21 years. The crisis, which began at the Panguna mine in 1989, has been a painful experience for him, his family and relatives.
Last Friday, Mr Ampoai was able to set foot in Panguna again for a reconciliation ceremony. He was surrounded by many who had not seen him for such a long time.
A cleansing ceremony was held to wash away whatever differences people had with each other, or between factions at Panguna.
The old and the new met and reconciled and joined hands for a new beginning.
Autonomous Bougainville Government President James Tanis thanked the old and new Panguna landowners for reconciling after 21 years of differences.
Mr Tanis said it was a very painful and moving ceremony, but the people had decided to stand together for Bougainville.
He said that the reconciliation would pave the way for normalcy to return to Bougainville.
Mr Tanis said that since his inauguration as president, he wanted to see the Panguna landowners reunite so that people in other districts would not use Panguna as an excuse to create problems for others.
The president said now that the people of Panguna had reconciled, he would speed up the election of the Panguna landowners so that a legitimate body could represent them to talk about the future of Panguna mine and its outstanding issues.
Mr Tanis said the reconciliation by the Panguna landowners ended the Bougainville conflict, which started in Panguna and saw more than 20,000 lives lost.
Landowner spokesman Chris Damana told the gathering that the Panguna mine had made PNG independent and must be reopened to support Bougainville’s economic recovery and independence if decided by the referendum in six years time.
Mekamui unity government president Philip Miriori was also happy that his people were united at last after 21 years.
Another Panguna chief, Michael Pariu, called on the ABG to allocate K1 million to complete all reconciliations which were still outstanding.
Mr Tanis promised to give funding assistance to the Panguna landowners, however all funding would be channelled through the Panguna district administration through the Panguna communique.