Home > Human rights, mining, Papua New Guinea > Will the real Anthony Regan please stand up

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: https://pngexposed.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/bougainville-consultancies-earn-controversial-australian-advisor-a-small-fortune/

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  1. Charles Tsiritsi
    March 7, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Not again, the criminals are once again creeping in to reinfesting the created motherland of Gods likeness. Haven’t they eaten enough from the ‘manna’ ? Why can’t you live us alone so we can have a share of the milk and honey! Oh my God am just praying that they tyrans are completely wipe out. Bougainvillians are civilised beings, uniquely created by him. Here comes again another cyber attack. This time blackies just be wary that we aren’t easy bits..Long live SANKAMAP. Trupela Kawas..

  2. Kristian Lasslett
    March 7, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Regan aside for a moment, fascinating revelation with respect to Jim Griffin – a senior diplomat had told me Griffin had been feeding the Australian government intelligence on the BRA, I had no idea the position was formalised.

    Just as background Griffin had beaten the drums rather loudly for Australian intervention on Bougainville, and really slammed anyone who took an anti-war position.

    For example he remarked in The Australian: ” These [BRA] leaders would not be so cock-a-hoop if Australia put patrol boats through the Bougainville Straits, sealing off the arms trade with the Solomons and freeing PNGDF troops from activities which exacerbate relations with the Solomons. There would be no need for Australian personnel on the ground.

    A surveillance ship with helicopters off central Bougainville would be able to assist the PNGDF to locate leaders. It would certainly dent their confidence. Increased supplies and logistical support would be imperative. More forceful means, which it is unnecessary to adumbrate here, may be needed at some future stage”.

    I remember he also like to invent colourful euphemisms for government human rights abuses. For example, in an article with Mel Togolo he referred to government ‘care centres’ as “protective custody” – not really what I would call a place where people were executed, tortured and sexually assaulted. And Griffin also called the military blockade around Bougainville “involuntary self-reliance”.

    Nasty stuff in my view.

    Indeed in one article he really got stuck into Noam Chomsky for criticising the PNG and Australian states over Bougainville.

    “Someone eventually told Noam Chomsky, prince of political idiots savants, about the secessionist strife in Bougainville; so he had to become a supporter of the Bougainville rebels…At the National Press Club we were treated to an anarchistic melange of contemporary history that defied the complexities of international relations and seemed to deny the protective functions of the state”.

    I guess Griffin’s superior grasp of international relations is why he got the job at the Office of National Assessments.

    All of which raises very interesting questions indeed about the ‘academic’ scholarship and state interests.

  3. Liam Fox
    March 7, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Has PNGexposed got any comments/thoughts on Kouna, Morumbi Resources and Lindsay Semple?

  4. Vikki
    March 7, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    As a journalist based in PNG can I suggest you contact Sam Kauona directly and get the information you require about Mourmbi Resources and Lindsay Semple?

  5. Chris Elstoft, Port Vila
    March 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    When you describe the Office of National Assessments as a key intelligence agency, it’s worth noting that it is an intelligence ASSESSMENT agency, not a collection agency. So its more like a government think tank that a spy agency (although it does have access to intelligence information). It’s an important distinction because many academics such as Griffin spend a period at ONA (the work involves writing assessments of international situations) and to imply that they are working in intelligence (i.e. spying) is misleading. I make no comment on Griffin, but in my view there’s nothing sinister about academics working for governments and providing good, evidence based advice – in fact we should welcome more movement between the academic and government domains.

    • March 9, 2013 at 4:37 am

      Chris, I disagree to an extent. It is critical to any functioning democracy that there exists an independent academia and media, who scrutnise, at arms length the conduct of the state, civil society and private enterprise. Once academics become embedded within government, through direct employment, or acting as consultants, a relationship of dependency and patronage emerges – we also see this in the media – which dulls the potential for critical research, and consequently accountability and transparency. Though I accept this is a large debate; and we could waste reams of paper arguing it here, without getting any further.

      However, the point I think you perhaps skirt over a little too quickly is Jim Griffin; though I accept you were really making a more general point. That said, the specific case of Griffin relates directly your general point, so it is worth dwelling upon.

      To put it in historical context, the Australian government was complicit in serious atrocities on Bougainville. Of course, it was denied by DFAT, it was denied by the Foreign Minister, it was denied by the Defense Minister. But the reality was the Australian government placed substantial pressure on the the PNG government to employ military force against the BRA. And when they did, Australia armed and trained the soldiers, they even flew them to Bougainville. When the BRA put the PNGDF into retreat, it was ADF officers who devised the operation to help retake Bougainville. And they knew the atrocities that were being committed; but did not alert international civil society, let alone take active steps to stop them. Once again defeating the BRA took precedent over extra-judicial killings, rape and torture; if I may put it so bluntly.

      Now why hasn’t this alarming truth become public knowledge in any wider sense. Well the burden here falls on civil society, in particular academics and the media. But most have been silent, despite the emerging evidence.

      But its worse than that; scholars like Griffin, would presumably have known something about the above, especially if he/they were working in intelligence assessment at a senior level, specifically relating to Bougainville (ONA has access to a wide range of intelligence data, and give advice to government, so to me thats a pretty embedded part of the intelligence apparatus to be in). Not only did Griffin fail to alert the public, he put on his scholarly hat and obscured the serious human rights situation on Bougainville (see my above comment).

      So personally I find it frightening to think academics are accessing intelligence data, and helping the Australian government to prosecute wars covertly – and that is what happened during Bougainville – whilst then taking off their ‘pol-mil-intel’ cap and putting on the ‘independent scholar’ cap to obscure this war.

      And here is a disclaimer – I am an academic, so my position is biased accordingly. And I genuinely appreciate that you made your comments openly using your full name (many dont these days), so your institutional affiliation was searchable (I am assuming its AUSAID, though do correct me if I am wrong).

  6. Benji Alegra
    March 7, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Mr. Fox what’s your thing about Kouna, Morumbi and Semple? We KNOW what these people are on about – and there is no doubt more will come out. But it appears the folks at PNG Exposed are dealing with someone (a friend of yours?) who is in the pockets of BCL and touts himself as not being so – even by you who went on about him being so respected. That seems to be the issue here. You appear to be making it an issue between Regan and the trio you mention. And if that’s what you actually think – you, need to do more research.

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