At the outset, we write to establish our facts surrounding the sudden outburst by Member for Lagaip Porgera Hon. Philip Kikala in Parliament questioning about the rights of four Porgera villagers recent visit to Canada.
The four villagers from Porgera where not there in Canada, trying to sell fabricated stories against Barrick Gold of Canada. We have outstanding issues that needed immediate attention and needs to be addressed by Barrick gold, the 95% owner of the Porgera Joint Venture mine in Porgera.
The allegations against Barrick about killings, rapes, forced evictions are not framed allegations to make easy money. The Government of Papua New Guinea and Barrick are respectively blamed for these crimes of gross human rights violations and the matter has been on the government and Barricks table for sometime. Untied Nations Human Rights Commission has full knowledge of the human rights abuses and closely monitoring while the UN Special Rarpportuer on Human Rights is investigating the matter.
In 2004 for the first time Enga Governer Hon. Peter Ipatas raised the issue of killing armless villagers by Barrick security guards at the floor of parliament and some two years after, the current Foreign Minister brought the same issue up.
In 2006 the Government of Papua New Guinea did conducted an investigation headed by Dr. John Luluaki from University of Papua New Guinea, and Hon. Philip Kikala was the deputy chairman of that committee. That Porgera Investigation Committee Report has never been made public or tabled in Parliament. In 2009 the Government of Norway divested 230 million Canadian dollars after finding Barrickâ€™s discharge of tailings direct into the environment was irreversible to damages caused at the Porgera mine site. On 7th April 2010 the National Court in Wabag convicted a Barrick security guard for murder and dismissed the convictâ€™s grounds of self-defense.
From that conviction the court never found the usual Barrick response to allegations of killings at the Porgera mine site was on self defense or any excuse for that matter. What about more than 32 killings suppose law had taken its course?
A group of experts from University of Harvard USA, New York State University USA and University of Alaska have testified before the Canadian House of Commons Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs about the human rights abuses and environmental violation at the Porgera mine site. These groups of people from reputable institutions in North America conducted their independent investigation on our request and not otherwise claimed by Hon. Kikala. At all times, Hon. Kikala knew well and his superise out burst desires a lot of explanation to the people.
In addition to these investigated testimonies and court rulings, the Porgera Landowners Association presented a petition to the National Government of Papua New Guinea last September 2009 raising the same issues of resettlement and human rights abuses. The government has allowed the petition to lay flat since.
Based on the established facts, Barrick must not continue to deny and use Hon. Kikala while the PNG government must not play a cheap politics with tread of protest note and prosecute villagers who speak out.
The issue of resettlement and human rights abuses is over-due and needs to be urgently addressed. The impacts from the mine operation over 20 years is so enormous that these issues need to be adequately dealt with rather than, play with power and money as the yard stick to take cover. Lives of people are at steak as a result of bad mining practices and far below best international standards.
Barrick and PNG government cannot take cover under law and order problems to force evict landowners who otherwise deserved to be resettled. Amnesty International did a great job to produce a report after thorough investigation and that report compels the government and Barrick act. Yet, Barrick and the government are seen to be above the law with defying of a National Court Order on force evictions. The court orders Barrick not to accommodate and fid state security personnelâ€™s. The state to provide relief with food, shelter etc. Itâ€™s over a year and the order is not being honored.
Thus we appreciate the rights to foreign investors doing business in extractive industries in remote setting through out the country and on the other hand, companies like Barrick must respect the rules of host communities and uphold international best practice standard as preached to be practiced in Porgera but not otherwise.
The Porgera delegations travel to Canada was not an easy right as claimed by the Hon. Member. The delegation spoke at various forums including with members of House of Commons speaking out the truth about the continuous human rights and environmental rights violations by one of Canadian companyâ€™s. These issue a serious and needs immediate attention being the reason behind the four villagers in Canada and not trying to squeeze some easy money out of Barrick with fabricated stories.
It is now a challenge to the current PNG government to due diligently addresses the issues at Porgera once and for all with the stakeholders. The parliament that Hon. Kikala stood up and spoke and for the Foreign Minister to write protest note is for the people and by the people. The very grassroots people who mandate that parliament are affected, not the company Hon. Kikala is trying to protect?
Mark Tony Ekepa
Cc: Post Courier
Cc: The National
Cc: The Toronto Star, Canada
Cc: The Mail and Globe, Ottawa Canada
Cc: The Sydney Morning Herald