Will the real Anthony Regan please stand up
There has been a lot of interest and comment on a recent post about the Australian academic Tony Regan and his role in the drafting of a new mining law for the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
Distilling the various views expressed and evidence adduced, the question seems to be whether Mr Regan is genuinely an independent academic assiduously assisting the people of Bougainville or whether he is biased in favor of large-scale mining and an apologist for the role of Rio Tinto in the Bougainville war.
ABC journalist Liam Fox seems to be a firm supporter of Mr Regan; posting:
“wondering if you’re aware of Tony Regan’s long, long history of working with Bougainvilleans and that he’s widely admired and respected in Bougainville for that work?”
“… to paint Mr Regan as a stooge of BCL [Bougainville Copper Limited] and /or the Australian government is ridiculous in my opinion”
Of course, Mr Regan wouldn’t be the first Bougainville expert at Australia’s National University (where Regan is based) to work as a ‘stooge’ for the Australian government According to his obituary in The Australian, the respected historian and Bougainville commentator, Jim Griffin while working at ANU was recruited as an analyst by the Office of National Assessments (one of Australia’s key intelligence agencies) for his expertise on PNG and Bougainville in particular. At the same time he was writing papers and articles on the war, advocating Australian military intervention.
Mr Regan also has good reason to make sure he does not upset the Australian government with his views: Regan is currently benefiting under a $600,000 three-year grant from AusAID to study and document the impacts of illegal mining on Bougainville; this is in addition to other lucrative AusAID consultancies he has accrued for his work on Bougainville
And Mr Regan certainly wouldn’t be the first Australian academic, or broadcaster, to display sympathies for the mining industry or other corporate giants with poor records on human rights and the environment (indeed the Australian media and academia are littered with them).
But what does the hard evidence say?
Dr Kristian Lasslett from Ulster University has pointed out a couple of interesting facts:
Firstly on the Bougainville blockade, which most academics and observers agree led to the unnecessary death of thousands of children and pregnant mothers because of the shortages it created in medicines, soap and disinfectant; a situation which has been described as a ‘humanitarian crisis’ and an ‘emergency situation’. Regan though saw things very differently. In his evidence to an Australian Senate inquiry he suggested deaths caused by the blockade were offset ‘to a significant degree – or even outweighed – by the improved general health of the population’.
And what about on Bougainville Copper Limited, the Rio Tinto subsidiary that operated the Panguna mine? In 2003 Regan claimed ‘there is as yet no credible evidence BCL took any direct part in the operations against the BRA [Bougainville Revolutionary Army]‘. This was factually incorrect and ignored the damning sworn testimony from former Prime Minister Michael Somare, current ABG President, John Momis, and former PNG Defence Force Commander, Jerry Singirok that not only did BCL feed, house and resource the PNG troops, ‘they also regularly met with PNGDF commanders to discuss military operations and key offensive targets’.
Clearly the relationship between academics, governments and multinationals is a questionable one, conducted in the shadows, facilitated through taxpayer money; it is time a healthy debate is conducted. Given the profound consequences for the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea such a debate is more than necessary.
To read the ongoing debate see: http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/bougainville-consultancies-earn-controversial-australian-advisor-a-small-fortune/