Mine pollution at Basamuk Bay… We warned about it 10 years ago

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Ten years ago, a small group of Papua New Guineans  made a decision to fight  the construction of  multibillion kina  mine Chinese owned nickel  mine  in the Madang province.

The reasons were simple:

  1. Land was going to be taken away from its traditional custodians in Kurumbukari in the Usino-Bundi electorate  and…
  2. the sea, a vital resource for the people’s survival,  was going to polluted by the dumping of tailings into the Basamuk Bay.

I cannot mention some of the names of those who were strongly opposed to this because I do not have their permission. But they remained dedicated and were determined to stop the destruction from happening years before I got involved in the campaign.

It is one part of my life I never regretted.

In 2011, in the course of the campaign,  we produced one of several documentaries  warning of the destruction that was about to happen.  We hoped that in the process, people would be educated and would make the right decision and stop the dumping of tailings or the  construction of the processing facility.

While filming the documentary UPROOTED,  we travelled to Kumumbukari,  where old  Benny Mangua, a chief in his own right and  chief custodian of the land wept because he was going to lose his land forever.

Months earlier, he was told by the Chinese company workers that their village was going to be removed because it was going to become the mine site.  They gave him K500  as a resettlement payment.

Months later, his sons  were evicted from their village by police.  Benny Mangua, didn’t survival long after that. He passed on, a broken man separated from his land.  His family was told not to plant food on land that was later turned into a dumping area for the mine.

His son Peter Peter continued to resist attempts by police and  the company to remove him. One morning, armed police, acting in the interests of  the Chinese mine management,  broke down his house and forced him off his land.

He died  about two years later.

In Basamuk, on the coast,  they built a  nickel refinery.  Landowners went to court  to stop  the company from dumping waste into the bay.  Some were threatened.  The court case was unsuccessful.

Government officials  peddled a narrative  that the waste was “safe” and that it wouldn’t affect the sea.  During a presentation in Madang,  we walked in uninvited and asked the Chinese developers  what they meant when they said the “waste is safe.”  Their response was that the system they used was of international standard.

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Members of landowner companies said the people wanted and needed development and that we were stopping their “progress.”  In their ignorance, they listened to the line pushed by the Chinese developer that America was behind it and that we were supporting “an American (Western) agenda.”

In then end, the court ruled in favor of the company.

Today, people complain about the waste disposal in  the one beautiful Basamuk Bay.  The water is red from the waste disposal.  Some of the  older men who selfishly supported the mine and the refinery  are dead.

Their children are living with the destruction they allowed.

 

There is a serious law & order crisis in Madang & it needs URGENT attention!

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Pictures by Samuel Roth & Claire Joshua

This needs to be said.

There is a break down in law and order in Madang Town. It is a crisis that needs to be addressed urgently. Unlike the Southern Highlands and Enga, it is not election related. It is a break down in the moral fiber of society. The crime is affecting the daily lives of ordinary people.

There is a general feeling of fear. Women are being harassed in public with others too afraid to act.   There is a general feeling that police will not act on the petty crimes if reported.

People are being harassed and attacked near their homes. My wife’s younger brother was attacked a on the road less then 10 meters outside the home where my family lives. He wasn’t drunk. He was just sitting on the roadside along on an early evening. He had every right to so so.

His phone was stolen. Did we report it? No. Would police have attended to the incident? Nope. We know that for a fact. There are too many incidents like this happening.

Samuel Roth, former lecturer at DWU who lives in the Sisiak area organized a petition which was signed my landowners of the area. The petition was presented to police.   He mobilized support after an elderly woman and her grandson was attacked along the road to Beon Prison.

On that same day, there were two attacks.

People have lost confidence in the system and procedures that are supposed to protect them.

Everyday, there is a break in. Every week, there is an armed robbery in full view of the public. Armed criminals are acting with relative impunity. I have access to reports that come in via Whatsapp. Every day a message comes in. Armed robbery… hold up… armed robbery… hold up…

It is a crisis.

In 2011, when Anthony Wagambie was PPC, we did a documentary on the problem of police housing. The crime problem (as it is now) was still developing.   Police families told of their hardship and that of their husbands and wives who were serving members of the RPNGC.

One policeman I found was living in a storeroom beside the town police station. He still lives there with his family. There is no accommodation for him.

In 2015, I went back and found another – a young constable with the CID – living on the MV Mamose while it was being refurbished. His wife left him because of the accommodation problem. Another was living in his office until they ordered him  out.

Every year, I send a crew to Madang to cover the housing problem. In 2016, the wives of policemen, frustrated by the lack of action, confronted my crew. We understood where they were coming from. They told us that they didn’t want to talk to the media because it was a waste of time. Nothing was being done about their housing woes.

Madang is a beautiful town.

For those of us who went to Divine Word University, it holds a great deal of sentimental value for us. It is where we made lifelong friendships and where we found a sense of community and purpose.

Today, it is as if nobody cares anymore.  Street vendors dominate the streets. Opportunists roam looking for victims. You can’t walk from Kalibobo to Gavtsto like we used to.

The solution lies in a community approach to the whole crime problem. People have to take ownership and force the police to act on the cases reported. The approach has to be coordinated and consistent so that it makes the criminals afraid of hiding in the community.

Again, this is only a tiny part of a solution but a start.  Two  people I would like to commend  – Samuel Roth and Sally Proctor. Both are doing their bit. But people life them need a lot of help.  I also note there are many others I don’t know about doing the same.