The National, Friday November 1st, 2013
THE prime minister has broken his silence after the government took over the Ok Tedi Mine by issuing a statement in the media and subsequently meeting with the representatives from the mine lease area.
It is also interesting to note the war of words between the prime minister and Sir Mekere Morauta after the parliament legislated the ownership transfer to the government.
Sir Mekere has also taken upon himself to educate the public and the people of Western, but he does not have the backing of the people because of the circumstances surrounding his appointment as the chairman of the PNG Sustainable Development Programme (PNGSDP).
Obviously, the people of Western had no input in his appointment, which effectively means that he does not have their backing.
In addition, the prime minister has met with the mine lease landowners and a common understanding has been established, but that does not mean that the people of Western are satisfied because the representatives of the mine lease area do not represent the people of the province in general, but only the people within and around the vicinity of the mine lease area.
Hence, their views cannot be taken by the government as final because there are other important stakeholders in the province such as the Community Mine Continuation Agreement (CMCA) and the provincial government that should be consulted on this issue for their input.
The prime minister should not meet up with only the representatives from the mine lease area because the people who are worst affected live along the Alice and Fly River waterways and their views should collectively be sought as well about the continuation of the mine.
While the prime minister’s intentions are genuine in trying to give the people of Western greater benefits from their own resources, the process involved in reaching a consensus should be cautiously approached without rushing the whole negotiation process.
The status quo on the ground indicates that the people are divided over certain issues, especially between mine landowners and those affected along the rivers.
Getting these people together on the negotiation table is critical in determining the future of the Ok Tedi Mine.
The government should therefore consult widely with the people of Western and reach a consensus over the various issues involved before the mine can be allowed to continue.
Failure to do so will have severe repercussions in the future.