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Saturday, 7 November 2015

A partner, a loss daughter and my life in Buin (PART 1)

Leonard Fong Roka

It was mid-2013, my third year at Divine Word University (DWU), and I had 3 Bougainvillean girlfriends; two of them were in Kieta eagerly awaiting my holiday home comings, whilst one was based in Madang where I was.

Then I met Delphine Piruke, a shy second and final year student at Madang Teachers College (MTC), from Nakorei Village in Buin and added her into my list of concubines; I revolved around them, exploiting their finances.

This was my promiscuous culture I had mushroomed since 2004 after walking out of the University of PNG. I was known far and wide with women and alcohol in Panguna and the Kupe area in the hinterland of Arawa Town.

I spent more weekends out with Delphine employing the other 3 women’s finances at times beside her funds. The news of her going outs with me spilled over to Bougainville and her relatives began ordering her to cut it off. To me this was the ticket out of her.

Then one October 2013 day Delphine sent me a text message reading ‘my monthly periods have ceased for two weeks now’ from the North Coast of Madang where she was doing her teaching practical.

This was no surprise for me. This was one of the many ‘I am pregnant’ texts I had received from my former women since 2004. In 2013 the two women from Bougainville sent me ‘I am pregnant’ and ‘my monthly period is over’ regularly and both would later joke about it. About a week or so before Delphine’s text the Madang based girl also sent me that and later laughed over it.

So I was not bothered much but at the back of my mind a bell was always ringing ‘You are a father’. The mystery call always infiltrated me; made me uncomfortable, so I slowly began asking Delphine ‘how is your period?’ and ‘how is the baby?’ text regularly.

From the start I saw confidence in Delphine that I was the father of the child she was carrying. But my promiscuous heart was lost and confused and slowly hunted for escape routes.

From Madang I cultivated a relationship with a primary school student and was ready to get the ball rolling.

Emotionally burdened I left Madang in October 2013 for my holidays. I reached home in Arawa with the news of my pregnant Buin girlfriend Delphine already in the ears of the many. One of my two home based girlfriends also left me after hearing that I was a father. But for the primary school student my news was unknown so I kept communicating with her by phone.

Delphine arrived at my home in Arawa in December and I was in full acceptance that the child was my child but her relatives ordered her out from me back to Buin with a price of K20 000.00 that she should pay them for all their care and support in her education in order to marry me so I was knocked off guard.

Such a malicious threat to me with my heart so deeply happy about my child pummelled me to the ground unconscious.  I was sad and regularly in tears thinking about my unborn baby and that K20 000.00 and the stream of negative words thrown at my daughter by Delphine’s relatives in resistance of me.

To me Delphine was not my wife without the K20 000.00 fixed as they had stated and a bride price of K10 000.00 revealed to me by Delphine.

When Delphine left Arawa I lost my phone and all the contact details of potential new girls who knew not I was a father  so I was darkened for the holiday and returned back to school in Madang in February 2014.

‘I am a father and why can’t the Buin people respect me and my child and leave us alone’ was a knock that even made me cry watching Delphine leaving that day. I was infuriated but what can I do! I had not the money to shut their mouths.

My fellow students knew I was a father and respected me. My Madang and the last home based girlfriends also deserted me thus I lived my life occupied with my writings spending days in the DWU library.

Seeing these changes I decided to halt my promiscuity and cut down my boozing culture. I was a father and thus I need to change for my child and young nieces and uncles from my brother and three sisters who need a better home to nurture into positive citizens of Bougainville.

In June 2014 my daughter was born and my mother who was at her birth told me ‘Hi mummy, she is your photocopy’. I was happy out there and began begging Delphine to send me her pictures so I can display them in my Facebook walls and so on.

Delphine did not have the means to send me the pictures thus remained silent but for me, mentally unsettled by the K20 000.00 and the high probability of losing her, kept bombarding her. I demanded the little girl’s pictures in order to accept her calls or answer her texts.

In this period that our current nightmares mushroomed; my ignorance of her calls or texts, when the K20 000.00 ticket to marry her haunted me got her to give her own reasons for my ignorance. Her emphasize was that I was seeing other girls and began to distant myself from her and our baby.

And from recent gleaning, a wave of gossipers from DWU and MTC, kept bombing Delphine that I was seeing this and that girl in Madang while she was busy teaching her first year in Buin.

Thus my reactions to Delphine’s relatives demands on her and me; followed by the inducements from a handful of gossipers, alongside Delphine’s personality paved the way into the kind of life we are going through; and that is of tears and sorrow for Delphine will never trust a man like me so she has to bark at me always.

Delphine began telling me she will never trust me for I was a sex maniac; a liar and a cheat whenever we brawled.  Our unborn child was facing all our upheavals as they sprout between Bougainville and Madang.

 (to be continued)

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Bougainville Referendum to Right the Wrongs

Leonard Fong Roka

In the South Pacific context the imminent Bougainville Referendum for a lasting political settlement for the nearly 40 years struggle and loss of lives for the Bougainville people is a significant milestone for the democratic political processes and strategies in the region.

Bougainvilleans are geographically and culturally Solomon Islanders having dwelled for nearly 30 thousand years on the largest and the resource rich island of the Solomon archipelago
Unfortunately, The Anglo-German Declaration of 1886 and the Anglo-German Convention of 1899 dragged Bougainvilleans into the colonial German New Guinea administration. This was and is the source of the social, political and economic problems Bougainvilleans had faced over the years; and eventually culminating into a Bougainville Crisis since 1988.

With the armed struggle sprouting off from the dissatisfaction over Panguna mine exploits since 1988 and pouring over long years of political struggles Bougainville submerged into a civil conflict claiming the lives of some 10 to 15 thousand local people.

Peace was not that easy to achieve but after continuous attempts the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) was reached in 2001 between the Bougainville groups and Papua New Guinea. Bougainville’s peace gave the Bougainville people one significant offer and that is the referendum scheduled to be held between 2015 and 2020.

But the BPA and the PNG’s Organic Law of Peace Building in Bougainville prescribed two conditions are met for the referendum and they are: weapons disposal and international standards of good governance.

When PNG is infested with illegal weapons and crime and worst corruption index, under international standards, Bougainvilleans should not fear their say in the referendum. But their important decision is to put Bougainville on the right political track that should bring betterment for all.

Bougainvilleans are not reckless weapon users but their presence is disharmony to many; there is corruption on Bougainville, but it can be managed in a tiny island as Bougainville when people mandate right leaders to power and endow them with more anti-corruption powers and functions are given to them.

Understanding the Bougainville problem from the roots is the key for the best outcome for the Bougainville referendum. The coming referendum is to RIGHT the WRONGS done to the Bougainville society by colonization and the state of PNG.

The wrongs we should now know are well said by former leaders: Fr. John Momis said to BCL in 1987 that “The BCL mine has forever changed the perceptions, the hopes and fears of the people of Bougainville. You are invaders. You have invaded the soil and the places of our ancestors, but above all, your mine has invaded our minds” and Martin Miriori said in 1996 referring to the Panguna mine and PNG that “Bougainville and its people were a free independence gift by Australia to Papua New Guinea”.

Then the late Joseph Kabui separated Bougainville from PNG when he spelled it all out in 1991 by saying that “It is a feeling deep down in our hearts that Bougainville is totally different than PNG, geographically, culturally. It's been a separate place from time immemorial. Ever since God created the Universe, Bougainville has been separate, has been different”.

Thus the coming Bougainville referendum is to save Bougainville and Bougainvilleans from the disaster an African writer/academic Francis M. Deng wrote in his 1997 essay, Ethnicity: An African Predicament, as “Deprive a people of their ethnicity, their culture, and you deprive them of their sense of direction and purpose”.

This is a Bougainville problem and must be stopped through the referendum granted to the people of Bougainville by their unique BPA that allows no unilateral changes by way of been an arrangement with ‘double entrenchment’ and that is, PNG cannot influence the results of referendum without Bougainvillean input and vice versa.

For Bougainvilleans, there is now a need to really glean our purpose and reasons, to our political standings. Our little groupings are tiny Bougainvillean groupings trying to clash with a wider world order and its multilateral BPA expectations followed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

Bougainvilleans need to leave their tiny shells and walk the wider world for the coming referendum was not created by a bilateral peace process (between PNG and Bougainville) but rather by a multilateral peace process (between Bougainville, PNG, and many other states and organizations).

Thus honouring a multilateral peace agreement is fundamental to our positive reputation to the international community.  

Bougainville leadership problems from the roots

Leonard Fong Roka

When gathering for Bougainville in the PNG political pig then the Solomon Island people of Bougainville should be always the tail that is always moving.  They are always unstable within the PNG state since the 1960s and this can be correlated again in the post crisis scene to the stability or instability in the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) of the day.

History should not be ignored by myopic thinkers of Bougainville since it has some joules to pacify the Bougainville problem once and for all that the current PNG and Bougainville leadership neglect as they pursue the path of a reconciliatory politics invented by religion and westernization to cover their 15th to 19th century brutality on the colonized world.

On this note Bougainville politics had been a reconciliatory one since the mid-1990s with the late Joseph Kabui, inaugural president of the ABG, and the PNG government-assassinated premier of the Bougainville Transitional Government (BTG), late Theodore Miriung.

Both deceased leaders succeeded not because PNG (PNG was running after Sandline Mercenaries to take Panguna mine back, then) was interested in peace with Bougainville but rather because Bougainvilleans in the political divide created by the leadership of late Francis Ona, the 1988 rebellion leader, since 1990 due to his lack of political power to bring about change across Bougainville as PNG fled the Solomons.  

Reasonably PNG had abandoned Bougainville in 1990 but Bougainville’s immature leadership had it having a fraction of influence over obvious areas and persons since the 1990 Kavieng Agreement signed by leaders from North Bougainville to get weeping PNG government back onto Bougainville through providing services on Buka Island (not Bougainville).

Bougainville was new in the field of western political culture of the ever changing 21st century where colonization came in with the three ‘Gs’ that are gold (money), glory (building empire) and god (religion) to take over the world and Bougainville.

Thus the nurturing process of leadership on Bougainville had no stable foundation but rather a hijacked and confused one where society was in disarray and taken over by a sudden and massive intrusion of the human minds in Bougainville by Eurocentrism.

The characteristics of most cargo cult movements across Bougainville should proof the awkward nature of complications; to the people, religion, politics, economy and society were mingled up to dismantle their reception and interpretation of the changes.

In today’s autonomy status Bougainville have powers in its own decision making processes but the sources of direction—to whom leadership ought to align more to—has cause much political, economic and social stagnation for the Solomon island people of Bougainville.

The ABG was created as a peace deal and thus has numerous stakeholders to be answerable to. Top on the list is the culprit PNG government, the UN, and so on. It is here that the internal Bougainville society turns to conflict over its own political passage.

Since the 1960s reasons for Bougainvillean protests were multi-headed. Bougainville had concerns over Rio Tinto destruction of environment, BCL royalty inequity, BCL and PNG social, economic and political exploitation of Bougainville resources and its people, independence to highlight a few.
The 1988 militancy move by late Francis Ona and his followers were an amalgamation of the said concerns thus Bougainville leadership was a multifaceted one; though broadly painted as a political one, it was a collection of issues compressed to look as one political struggle of freedom for the northern Solomons.

This problematic leadership minds had now entered the Bougainville government, the ABG. No matter how blessed with wisdom a leader is, the scar of historical basis of political thinking for Bougainville is prevalent.

Bougainville leaders have to choose who they are to uphold in their decision making. The many issues of concern for Bougainville leadership can aligned to root sources of the crisis, the ex-combatants, the dictates of the peace agreement, PNG interest, foreign investors, BCL, interest groups and so on. Which one of these will a leader have when making his decisions?

So far the ABG leadership have suffered to decide whom to listen to and follow suit.

The Bougainville government of the day had narrowed its approach sources often more to economic recovery and clashed with issues that nurtured the conflict on Bougainville. This is well evident with the Momis-Nisira government and their Asian engagements where so far had clashed with ordinary Bougainville people.

Momis-Nisira government had narrowly gone into partnership with Asian businesses and individuals to get the Bougainville economy up however all their deals are now ending in Asians taking over the cottage industry in Buka Town that conflicts with Section 24 of the Bougainville Constitution that talks about ABG would only support Bougainvillean initiatives in any development activities like business.

Such leadership problem on Bougainville is rooted in the notion of political nurturing under colonization. Bougainville and Bougainvilleans were not designed through religion, education and so on to grow and advance in the systems westernization had to enforce.

Change on Bougainville is possible if the leadership is aligned to the people and decide what path to follow for the good of the people and not the non-Bougainvillean influences and stakeholders. 

Inside the joy of travelling the Buka-Buin highway

Leonard Fong Roka

It could be the joy of going home and visiting families but rather at a little cost of highway cruelty I’d never felt before for there are a few vehicles that serve passengers of this road.

Most passenger vehicles leaving Kokopau in the northern tip of Bougainville for Buin in the southern most district of Bougainville generally depart between 12 PM and 2 PM (Bougainville Standard Time) and track south along the East Coast of Bougainville.

All Buin bound passengers in Buka prepare well for their journey home. Shopping for the family at home; getting enough money into the pocket for the little visits in the many road-side markets shelling fresh fruits and garden produce and shops and also stops in Arawa or Wakunai.

All vehicles leave Kokopau before passenger vehicles for central Bougainville; and closely at the same time with those travelling to Siwai District.

The journey takes us some areas of north Bougainville mainly Tinputz District through Central Bougainville.

After about 3 hours travellers reach Arawa, the former provincial capital of Bougainville, and spent a little amount of time here; mainly at the main Arawa Market.

More passengers join here the few from Buka in Arawa.

The passenger trend over the years is normal and known. Not all passengers that get on board Buin transports reach Buin. Some are Buin people living their lives in the many places along the Buka-Buin road, many in Arawa, but love to be on a Buin person’s vehicle.

On the road there are also Buin people or other persons with connections to Buin that wait for transports to Buin.

Thus from Arawa it is neither the vehicles get overloaded or gets empty as it moves on for Buin. When more passengers get on it is a nightmare for naturally on Bougainville the Buin people are said to be reckless and care little on how much passengers or cargo that the vehicle could sustain for safety reasons.

But the journey goes on.

Becoming from Oria, the passenger vehicles, begin their drop-offs and all Buin transport service providers seem to be the best service providers for all transport all passengers right to their door steps.

This is the most painful part of the Buka-Buin transport. The main feeder roads like the Oria Road, the Tabago Road, the Muguai Road, Laguai-Nakorei Road, Tokaino Road, Piano Road, Aku Road, and so on are long and under the current poor conditions vehicles and their passengers and cargo track them up and down to better serve their customers.

A Buka-Buin passenger pays K120 and earlier I thought this was a stealing of our hard-earned money by the service providers. But later I learned that this cost was worth the service they provide us. There is value to the K120 fare we pay.

All Buin vehicles generally depart Buin for Buka on Mondays and overnights in Buka and returns to Buin on Tuesdays. They make their journey to fit the days in a manner that on every Friday all vehicles must return from Buka to rest over the weekend at home.

On the return journey to Buka all passengers experience the same pattern of travelling the villages and their road and depart for Buka by around 12 midday and reach Buka by 4 PM. 

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A week in Kanauro: Buin District weapon culture and anti-social behaviour

Leonard Fong Roka

It is a post Bougainville Crisis scene across south Bougainville that the male population seem to be welded to a bush knife or a grass knife where ever he seem to be.
An assembly at Kanauro Primary School

From the ordinary village settings, the educational classrooms, the traditional feasting nights, other social gatherings and so on the Nagovisi man, the Siwai man or the Buin man is always armed with an offensive weapon—a dangerously sharpened worn out or brand new knife.

With such a culture south Bougainville has the record high of death and injury caused by the application of a knife. Alongside their knives of all categories—imported or home re-designed—guns step in where knives fail.

Such a culture is worst in south Bougainville and a week at Kanauro Primary School, in the Baubake Constituency of Buin District, spells out the residues of what should be an irritating anti-social behaviour in this part of Bougainville.

The question Bougainville needs to ask is: who are we arming ourselves with such offensive weapons against? The New Guineans and Papuans that troubled us from the slums around our pre-Bougainville Crisis urban centres are no longer prevalent; the Papua New Guinea Defence Force is not around shelling us; the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) or the Bougainville Resistant Force (BRF) should be myths by now with civility conquering our world, but why a knife in my hand or gun in my car and home?

I travel home regularly to Buin from Buka or vice versa and aboard there would be a rifle or two. Often I wonder why we had a Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001 but still from leaders down to villagers we still have these weapons around.

Every morning at Kanauro Primary School I watch our future leaders, the students coming to school with knives, and feel insane; I often ask myself ‘what is my new home Buin up to by enculturating its future with a knife culture?’

The 10-year Bougainville Crisis taught me that a person with any form of weapon is a secured one and with authoritative strength gained from the confidence of having a weapon. It is such characters that caused havoc during the Bougainville Crisis and thousands of our people had to be sacrificed.
At Kanauro Village and Kanauro Primary School the highlighted concerns are deeply rooted and observable.

About a hundred meters away from the staff houses 8 in every 10 persons that march up or down the main Buin-Siwai highway at Kanauro has a knife; and the ratio is also the same for the students that come to school.

Exploring the classrooms, at least, all has knife wounds and high degree of vandalism. Students and community hardly respect teachers and school property over time.

There is random stealing of lunch and property by the senior students from the lower graders and villagers stealing from staff members and this hurts the whole harmonious coexistence for better learning or peer education or public relations.

All round the year, according to the teaching staff here, they have preached change oriented positive information to the kids at assemblies and classrooms. They have allocated for religious figures to talk to the school every morning on Fridays.

But as the leaders talks students grumble behind at the elders as some of the corrupted personalities and worth not listening to.

Such irresponsible behaviour to the few old folks was unknown for this school since its creation in 1981 till 1990 but this is a post Bougainville Crisis development.

But Bougainville should know that the crisis had no physical existence but it is us the people that need to ask ourselves what our responsibility and contribution is and should be to building a new and free Bougainville.

At Kanauro, there is a lesson worth learning, and that is Bougainvilleans are yet to learn that our island is changing and must change. Society is stubborn to see and accept change happening in our midst. From the public offices in Buka right down to villages like Kanauro Bougainvilleans are locked in a past that is not productive in this age of openness and adaptation.

In Buka Bougainville has public servants that still see and treat ABG as a provincial government and thus evoke no sweeping changes and progress for Bougainville; and in Kanauro, we have people that are reluctant to bring about change and development upon themselves through their available resources like cocoa i.e. simple things like building permanent houses for families, solar electrification for their homes.

At Buka ABG spends on consultants, advisors and so on to induce change onto a public service body that sees the ABG as not an independent government when it is; and down at Kanauro, people spend their hard earned cash from cocoa on alcohol and howl their days boozing whilst spending their nights in bamboo walled and sago leaf thatched homes and kids roam around in worn out or odd-looking stitched clothing.   

Thus who will bring change when the elderly with experience of time are the ones leading the boozing gangs or the public servant is a reluctant one to change?

The answer lies on Bougainvilleans learning why our island and people have struggled against political and economic colonization and PNG since the 1960s; this is a personal and leadership challenge for all ordinary Bougainvilleans and the government.

I feel such a search back in time can have the Bougainville society and the Kanauro villager and the ABG officer in Buka see light on where to go on from the autonomous stage of government to a progressive and free Bougainville that thousands have suffered and died for.  

Saturday, 6 December 2014

ABG’s ‘Bougainville China Corporation’ a disaster for Bougainville

Leonard Fong Roka

The current Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) house took power in 2010 and had scrambled available resources and energy on the ground for an economic recovery based entirely on Asia friendly economic strategies and Chinese investment in Bougainville. 

Thus in the rush, the Bougainville Executive Council (BEC) approved a Bougainville China Cooperation Committee (BCCC) in early 2011 with the key role to ‘promoting and coordinating joint venture Chinese investment in Bougainville, and establishing strategic partnership with China to fully support President Momis’ Vision: Change for Better Future’.

According to PNG’s Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) in Port Moresby since getting power the ABG had created a number of companies between 2010 and 2013 with all key positions held by Chinese figures and key Bougainville parliamentarians and their local business cronies. 

Amongst the companies the more detailed are the ABG owned Bougainville Public Investment Corporation Limited with task to provide legal position for ABG to go into any joint venture business, a number of ABG-China jointly owned including Bougainville General Development Corporation Limited with a tasked to create one capacity development company for every industry, Bougainville Import and Export General Corporation Limited with a task to promote direct export and import between Bougainville and China and Bougainville Energy and Water Development General Corporation Limited that was tasked to develop hydro power and water conservation infrastructure projects and so on.

But political reluctance and lack of technical resources had silenced all registered companies living two, Bougainville General Development Corporation Limited (BGDE) and Bougainville Import and Export General Corporation Limited (BIEGC), operating as the protective legal shield for reckless Asian influx into Buka Town to operate retail outlets and not performed what they were created for.

According to the PNG Labour Office in Port Moresby their records state that BGDE has five employees and the BIEGC has four employees in Bougainville. This is a contrast to the population of Chinese said to be under the leadership of Jason Fong (real name Zhenxiang Fang who is an executive/managing director of Timesview Investment (PNG) Ltd) who was established as the Trade Commissioner between Bougainville and China by the Momis-Nisira government.

But this whole Bougainville China Corporation or the Momis-Nisira model is being questioned by President Momis’ owned parliamentarians and Bougainville’s concerned citizens since, according to public opinion, the Momis-Nisira model is no different from the Kabui Model or the Bougainville Resources Development Corporation (BRDC) engineered then by the former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) leader Sam Kauona and was resisted by ABG for giving away 70 percent of Bougainville mineral wealth to Australian businessman Lindsay Semple. 

‘We the ABG leaders created all these companies and invited all these Chinese,’ an ABG member who did not want to be named told me, ‘but now we cannot control them because we do not have the capacity thus they are now on their own doing whatever they want to do on Bougainville at their own will.
‘They are running their own businesses and playing around with our laws since the ABG had mandated them to do so through the Bougainville China Corporation. We had not learnt anything from what these Chinese corrupted PNG law enforcers to exploit PNG had.
‘Beside, some of our own parliamentarians are beneficiaries to all these Chinese operations, a clear example was the recent China-Meekamui arrangement that were getting scrap metal in Panguna, many thought it was a sole Meekamui operation but few of our ABG leaders were in the core of the operation there.’

Bougainvillean communities are becoming frustrated with the ABG leadership and Chinese culture of trickery in doing business.

According to a BCCC paper, one of ABG’s aims of getting China has a strategic partner, was that China had abundant capital and high expertise (aim #3) but this is contradictory in the Chinese operations on Bougainville.

What now can be witnessed in the Buka Town is that all the Bougainville China Corporation activities seem to be retail outlets; a handful of restaurants, vehicle spare part sales, wholesales, hardware, and more still to be coming. Currently under the leadership of the said trade commissioner Jason Fong a massive vehicle spare part wholesale is under construction (pictured above) which, according to Bougainvillean employees working for the Bougainville China Corporation, is aimed to choke all other car dealers in Bougainville.

From Buka, the Bougainville China Corporation did also established in Toniva in Kieta originally with the claim of establishing a manufacturing operation known as the Toniva Industrial Zone. The start-up product was the manufacturing of roofing iron but they started off by manufacturing bed frames, tables, chairs and so on for a few weeks.

But to the surprise of the people shipping containers of food items arrived in Kieta for a wholesale operation that led to men raiding the establishment late November 2014. This raid followed an October 2014 claim to the ABG member of North Nasioi and ABG Minister for Primary Industry, Hon. Nicholas Daku, of K600 403.30 by a local contractor, Bougainville Metal Fabricating & Welders who were contracted by the Bougainville China Corporation to build the Toniva Industrial Zone. 

Over the duration of the construction phase the ABG-Chinese companies BGDE and BIEGC had not paid them for the labour, equipment usage, and so on nearly getting the company bankrupt.

The PNG Labour Office in Port Moresby stated its officers in Buka are also facing dilemma with the implementation of their legal responsibilities on the ABG-Chinese operations on Bougainville.
When Department of Labour, the Internal Revenue Commission, Customs, and so on attempt to exercise their duties where fault is identified in areas of work permits and other related agendas the Chinese direct them to ABG presidential and vice presidential offices.

In other conflicts the ABG parliamentarians had confronted the government agencies defensively in protection of the Chinese activities that are not at all activities initially said to be the functions of BGDE and BIEGC. 

Friday, 28 November 2014

Bougainvillean businesses feeling the sting of Asian take-over

Leonard Fong Roka

‘Bougainville is such a small place that need us the indigenous people to be in charge of developing it in terms of business and other economic activities,’ Luke Maneu from Siwai in south Bougainville told me, recently. ‘The ABG and our MPs in the National Government should be the ones pushing the laws and systems to create a conducive environment for localization of all cottage industries.’
JN Trading and Asian BCM

Mr. Maneu had successfully operated a retail outlet in Buka Town since 2009 till 2011 when the Asian influx and affected his operations leading him to venturing into other businesses like operating a PMV service and a guesthouse.

‘With the Asian entry into Buka Town,’ Mr. Maneu said, ‘my business had been harmed as are with the other businesses owned by fellow Bougainvilleans. Customers had left us for the cheaper Asian goods.

‘I think we are said to be expensive in our shops because we do not have the entrepreneurial power base that is a business culture thus we are learners that need time and government input to make things right for all our services to the Bougainvillean public. So in these terms, the Asian influx is murdering us the Bougainville people so a few of us are trying to spread the risk of dying.

‘I am moving into other areas to save myself from succumbing to the Asian takeover. With more areas to earn something I am safe for the time being. To Bougainvillean businesses time is not with us. Soon we will see more Bougainvillean businesses leaving the scene because they cannot stand the might of all these Asian operations.’

Few other Bougainvillean business houses I visited namely Wedelyne, JN Trading, TM Trading, Haput Clothing, Maia Clothing and Evokong shared the same fear.

The Asian operations are taking all the business activities they have been doing over the years before the Asians were invited to Bougainville.

‘Earlier we heard that the ABG was inviting Asians to work in multi-million kina impact projects like the said oil palm in Torokina, ’Chris Haput of Haput Clothing said. ‘But we were amazed to see them setting up tiny retail booths all around.

‘From one or two booths they went all over Buka Town grabbing and renting off large buildings from Buka people and not the ones from the mainland of Bougainville. Mainland property owners around Buka Town seem to have been anti-Asian and run their properties themselves but we are all facing the same threat.

‘So a lot of mainland businesses seem to slowly move to Arawa and other places in mainland Bougainville where the people are against Asians. The Toniva setup in Kieta was attacked this week by locals and that is good since the ABG is not willing to protect us.’  

Haput Clothing operates next to one of the many Asian BCM Trading retail outlets legally owned by a Siwai lady, Mary Lyn, who is a second wife of a Chinese who exists as a Lyn.

According to JN Trading, a husband and wife operation running a retail outlet and a guesthouse, that operates next to the main BCM Trading that Mary Lyn has some power over admitted that the Siwai lady is not in good mood with the whole BCM Trading and its many retail outlets.

‘Mary Lyn is our neighbour and best friend,’ Nathan Haliken, the husband in the JN Trading, said. ‘She admits she’s been exploited by her Chinese husband who also has a wife and children back in China.

‘She knows her marriage is a marriage of convenience and not love. The Asian wants to make money in Bougainville under her protection and so she, despite being the director in the IPA certification, she has not much power over all the BCM trading retail outlets spreading around the tiny Buka Town.’

The JN Trading also lose customers at their Buka Market boat-stop location when the BCM Trading began to rent the room next to them. The BCM Trading next to them and under Mary Lyn registered as a restaurant but also sells 10 kg rice bales and other goods; and also, had been selling beer late at night to drunkards.

Evokong and Maia Clothing, both from Kieta and have their business presence in both Buka and Arawa, admitted that their operations in Buka Town had shrink in terms of daily takings with cheaper goods offered by these Asian multinational business operations.  

Wedelyne, a local business from Buka, on the other hand followed Luke Maneu’s strategy to survive. They had ventured into PMV services and Taxi and a retail outlet.   

Most Bougainvillean businesses, both owned by Buka islanders and mainlanders of Bougainville, feel operating in Buka is not worth their sacrifices and are starting to flee the Asian takeover of Buka Town and move to the mainland Bougainville.

In the mainland of Bougainville Asians had being invited and once seen has going off-track they had been kicked out. The Toniva setup in Kieta has faced it first wave of attacks by locals and soon will be going up in flames report are suggesting.

Over the weekend (night of 28-29 November) Asians in Buka Town were hinted that certain businesses of theirs were under target by disgruntling locals thus a midnight lone police vehicle and officer’s surveillance at a BCM Trading indirectly informed the few drunkards that the Buka Police had been penetrated by the Asian tycoons.

Anti-Asian feeling is growing amongst the Bougainvillean business houses and ordinary people in Buka Town and time will tell us the next move.