PNG's Sepik Leaders Vote against Frieda Mine

Many people will be wondering how we arrived at the debate yesterday on Frieda.We decided to follow a fully informed process that must include consulting the impacted people and to get a team of experts to study the Mining proposal itself. The process took more than a year.

The professional team's main reference was to identify any significant risks within the EIS. They found the main risk on page 212 of the EIS. The risk of a "catastrophic failure of the proposed dam" which is intended as a dual facility.

They then spent a full day briefing members of the Assembly on Monday.

The majority of our LLG Presidents are not highly educated. They are mostly village leaders. But I must say, in the spirit of great Sepik leaders of the past, these leaders are cut from the same cloth.

Our Chairman of Mining is Hon Singut, he is President of Gawi LLG. He presented the findings on the floor of the Assembly. He was followed by Presidents of Tunap Hunstein, Ambunti, Gawi (again), Karawari, Yuat, Keram, Angoram and Marienberg. They were immediately followed by Hon Isifu, MP for Wewak.

After that, everyone else spoke. The Assembly rose at 4.45pm after agreeing unanimously that it would be unwise to give approval based on those risks.

This the first time in PNG history that a provincial government has taken such delicate care with making a decision on something that has the potential to impact so many people.

In this we see the principles of democracy fully exercised. The minutes of the Assembly and our process is open to public scrutiny. No one was coerced, intimidated or purchased in arriving at this decision.

The team of experts let by Professor David Saiang arrived at their findings, independently.

The Assembly arrived at its decision independently as well. This decision naturally occurred as it ought to. There was no collusion, no backroom hotel deals.

As Governor, I merely initiated the process. That is the extent of my involvement.

I have always been a strong advocate of good, transparent and open government. In this instance, without prejudice, I have to say how proud I am of the leaders of Sepik.

They conducted themselves in the tradition of Yawiga, Simogun, Narakobi, Lus, Siaguru and Somare. It's about the people.

I was truly humbled by the Assembly members yesterday. I have to say, I learnt something new about our people yesterday as well.

In the end, unanimously, the leaders did not object to mining, they found that this proposal places everyone on the Sepik River at risk. And therefore in this instance, the leaders of East Sepik say no.

The resounding theme "Hamamas blo wanpla man mas noken kamapim bagarap or belhevi blong narapla man"

Translation "One man's happiness cannot be had at the expense of another".

The Assembly recognized that one day, the demands of the world will ensure that this mine commences but it cannot be done at the expense and the destruction of the Sepik River people. If mining is to take place, it can only take place if the Sepik River people's livelihood is not placed at risk.


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