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Monday, 27 May 2013

The Kananam and Vidar Villagers and the PMIZ conflict in Madang Province

By Leonard Fong Roka & PNG Studies Year 3 Students of DWU

It should have being a shudder for Divine Word University’s (DWU) Year 3 Papua New Guinea & International Relations (PG & IR) students (pictured below with villagers) to hear the experiences of the Kananam villagers with the Pacific Maritime Industrial Zone (PMIZ) outside Madang town if they had known that their country’s Constitution under Section 53 (5) (a) (d) protects every Papua New Guineans rights of inheritance of their land based on the customary laws that applies to their respective clans.

The national constitution protects and defends the people’s rights to their land across Papua New Guinea but the same constitution is eroding the rights of the Kananam villagers of Madang by neglecting the old PMIZ, RD Tuna Company, Madang Provincial Government’s ambiguous activities outside Madang town.

On the 15 of May, a group of students left Madang town for a 1 hour bus ride up the Madang’s North Coast Highway to investigate landowner-investor relationship over the lucrative Pilipino fish canary in reference to: Indigenous Rights Act and the Customary Land Act. The excursion was solely to collect the views of the villagers of Kananam.

The moment the school bus came to an abrupt halt at Kananam, there loomed a world of disparity; an iron curtain secludes the First World of the PMIZ wharf facilities where tons of tuna are delivered by fishing vessels nearly every day. Then outside the iron curtain, the Kananam villagers sit and sleep in the uncivilized world of their ancestors waiting for the moment when, the investor will give another order for relocation.

The community that had relied for ages for their sustenance on the sea of the bay now has lost their fish to the fishing vessels; the sea is now tainted with minor oil spills and along their once beautiful shores there now litters of idle fishing boats and other debris.

According to a story, ‘A Major Project in the Madang Area has Caught the People in Confusion and the Land they called maybe lost forever…Where is our Future from here?’ by a Patrick Matbob on Post Courier of 24 July 2009, the story goes that:

‘The people had been fighting to reclaim this land for more than 20 years from the Catholic Mission. The 860 hectares of Maiwara and Vidar land was owned by the Church which established its headquarters across the bay at Alexishafen in 1905. The land was purchased by Fr Eberhard Limbrock, a pioneer German SVD missionary who set up the mission headquarters and planted 284 hectares with 28,650 coconut palms and 67 hectares with 28,550 rubber trees. Madang was then under the German colonial administration which had approved the church's acquisition of the land. The manner in which this and other land areas in Madang had been acquired is now a major issue amongst the local landowners who want portions of the land returned to them. People need the land because of pressures of population growth and need for economic development.

In the 80s local people began asking for the return of the land from the mission. When they did not get a positive answer, they resorted to sabotaging the mission properties which had led to the mission eventually deciding to return the land. They did not have the money to develop the land for the people, so instead decided to hand over the land to the provincial government. Br Theo Becker, former procurator of Madang Archdiocese, said that the Vidar and Maiwara land were under freehold title, which the archdiocese handed over to Madang provincial government in 1996.

"The reason the land was given to the provincial government was that the provincial government wanted to do some projects in that area, for the benefit of the people," he said. "The archdiocese was not able to do development on this place for the people and we already had problems with the land before. So we sold our properties which our brothers had developed, and gave the land to the provincial government, to help give the people the opportunity for further development on this property," Br Becker explained.

He did this interview in 2000 and believed that there was an understanding between Catholic Archdiocese and the provincial government about the use of the land.

"The provincial government did not follow the deal that the land should have gone back to the people, for their benefit," Br Becker said’.

Thus on a conflicted land, the PMIZ and the RD Tuna canary had established themselves since 1996. It is obvious the mission handed the land back to the provincial government for a good cause, however, the government handed the land to the RD Group thus creating the RD Tuna Caners that actually started its operations in 1997.

An article from The National, RD Tuna exports hits US$23.42m dating September 22, 2003 (pg20) by a Alfredo Hernandez said that ‘RDTC, a subsidiary of Philippine based RD Group, is comprised of 18 corporations with interests ranging from tuna fish canning and fishing, prawn farms, to banking and pawnshop operations’. The people also said this very company has interest in rice farming within the PMIZ area.

With the massive land area they now seemingly own in PNG the landowners shall be more and more marginalized on their own land. The trail of protest by the people has failed to make changes in their favor since more decisions are made by others without their consent. And worst of all, as a Trevor Collins’ article, PNG PMIZ Boondoggle in for Tough Times, written for the RD Tuna PNG webpage, puts it: ‘In recent years as the government of PNG has pushed large scale economic development the landowners have, as is always the case, been left out’. In PNG, the state and few persons mastering the core prosper whilst the majority of the people at the periphery head for the ruins!

The DWU students were led to a derelict house of low standards made of bush materials next to the main PMIZ fence that according to the locals cover some 200 ha apart from inset much smaller boundary where the RD Tuna is currently operating a fish off-loading facility.

Attached to a multi-million kina industry, the Kananam village was a forgotten world. No electricity; proper water supply; proper housing, sealed feeder road which are what the company should look into to addressing them in order for the people to at least respect it. The Philippine company and the PNG government both knew not that they were operating on a land that was life for ages to the Kananam-Vidar area’s people. The people were being marginalize and denied their rights day-by-day.

Such a negative outcome could be against the auspices of the laws in the Indigenous Rights Act. The website, Philippine Indigenous Peoples Link (PIPLINKS) claims in line with UN acts that the act is the ‘most enlightened laws dealing with Indigenous Peoples, recognizing the free prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous Peoples, and asserting that in the absence of such a clear level of consent, a project cannot proceed’. This has not being the case for the Kananam people. The rightful owners of the land have being ignored to be partners in development as the colonizers and later, the government of PNG did to Bougainvilleans over their wealth in Panguna leading to conflict that the politicians were not able to sort out.  

But the PNG government and the investor had not respected the UN backed rights of the indigenous peoples ignorantly exploiting them and depriving them of their future. As mentioned in the web-site, that, the Indigenous Landowners of Papua New Guinea have been stripped of their Constitutionally-protected land rights by the government of Papua New Guinea. Without any warning or consultation, on May 2010, the government of PNG introduced emergency legislation that dissolves the Constitutional rights of all the landowners in PNG, including the rights of Indigenous People to own land, challenge resource project in court and receive any form compensation for environmental damage. That legislation was passed by the Parliament without anybody being allowed to see the Bill before it was presented and nobody was allowed to read or comment on the text’.

The plight of the Vidar-Kananam into marginalization is also against the dictates of the Customary Land Act. Yet though, the laws of the country clearly states that land is owned by the people; as should be reiterated by the png-wealth-creation website, that ‘Land is owned by Clans and individuals have rights to use it depending on their position within the clan. Their position is determined by customary land law. So they might have a primary right or a secondary right. Nevertheless it is a right or interest in the land which cannot be terminated by any law as it is protected by Section 53(5)(a), (c) and (d) of the Constitution’.

But one has to ask why the Kananam-Vidar people are being deprived of their livelihood by the state that should be upholding the laws it creates. The problem here is that PNG is all Eurocentric in its will to develop with impact projects thus becoming resistant to adopt a welfare concept of development that would go well with indigenous world views.

According to the villagers, Germany gave the Catholic Archdiocese Vidar and Maiwara as freehold title. In the 1980s, landowners demanded the Catholic Church to return their land. The mission responded in 1996 by handing the plantation over to Madang Provincial government instead. The local people anticipated that the government would give their land back. Without consultation, the government gave the land to a fishing company, ZZZ. However due to ZZZ company bankrupted, the RD Tuna bought the land with the National Government owning 216 hectares within the perimeter of the land which proposed  for SEZ project. All these transactions were made without consultation with the local population

In the 1970s a local challenge was handled by Chief Justice Minogue when the Rempi people took to the court the collision of Vidar and Maiwara over landownership rights and benefits. A low level sabotage campaign on church properties also occurred.  

Much later, Kananam’s outspoken leader, Mr. Max Musas (pictured below), further torched church buildings in the area out of frustration of the tight-lip service the RD Tuna and the church was giving them. Mr. Musas said, ‘The two rascals never made any attempt to give us the light of what actually happened regarding our land. We do not know whether today who owns this land: the church, the provincial government, the national government or some other persons, that we do not know’.
Another youth leader, Mr. Camillus Manat who works with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), added that, ‘We despite the fact that we are the indigenous people of this land are today, no bodies on our progenitor’s land. Today, the Philippines people are the owners of this land. If tomorrow they want more land, they force us out; and we do not even know where our next place to move to if the Asians comes with the police to evict us’.

The community said that their politicians come to stand with them during election periods but the moment they get into office, they forget them and support the RD Tuna and the PMIZ to exploit them more and more.

Over the years, the church had claimed that only 3ha of the land in Kananam was customary land. The rest, some 200ha falls into the land the Catholic Church had purchased from a certain German individual and this land covers the plantations of Seg, Vidar and Maiwara. But it does not provide the information on who actually was that German person despite the fact that most of these people are Catholics. But it claims that evidence of deals were lost over the years or burned with mission building in the area and corrupted by government officials.

The people also claim that most people have being blinded by money. They said some NGOs and even RD Tuna come to make their money out of our problem and walk away rich. And to them, the trip to the Philippines was not good for us but it was for their personal gains.

To the locals, such illicit acts of opportunists, exposes their land to marauders that look for easy places to make money and the state is also on the risk alert that the struggle of the Kananam people should show.

How painful the journey of the Kananam-Vidar are, the greatest impediment to a common voice for the people is that, despite standing to defend the same land area, the clans and these are seg, matanan, gamarmatu, panufon and genunen within the PMIZ are so often in conflict over the land areas within themselves.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

An Interesting President Dr. John Momis

By Leonard Fong Roka

I sometimes wonder, if I am a president of Bougainville, what sort of a person I could be; what amount of condemnation could I be subjected to from the Bougainville people; how could I cope with the kind of unpredictable political climate I am at least familiar with in Bougainville. Real shudder there!
Dr. John Momis
Anywhere, people so often turn to jump at conclusions to a leader’s political behavior too prematurely without thorough analysis. But, I as a Panguna man should not deny that I am playing pranks with Bougainville politics in the social media; worst child, I am. But, that is Panguna culture. We are good at it; whether our politicking is profitable or not, we play it out for the whole of Bougainville to dance to it.

But as a Panguna student with a burning desire to enter Bougainville political games sooner or later as a commentator, I hate one general criticism decanted on my Bougainville government, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG). And that is, I hate to read or hear critics saying ‘ABG is weak’.

Let me tell you why. Since 1988 I grew alongside the Bougainville crisis but knew nothing much. But when the conflict prolonged, I realize much the deeper problem embedded in the hearts and minds of Bougainvilleans so our ABG was the product of the long suffering we, the lost people of the Solomon archipelago had gained as a launching pad for our irredentism drive.

Thus, as Bougainvilleans with our cultural views should know now is that, ABG is a government we have built upon the blood of our 10-20 000 innocent brothers and sisters from our atolls; Buka right down to Buin in South Bougainville.

       Many non-Bougainvilleans in PNG that comment on Bougainville should remember that your      provincial government cannot function overnight in the political climate of Bougainville. Despite the ups and downs, it is still a government with far greater responsibilities for the betterment of Bougainvilleans who had being denied their rights as a unique peoples of the Solomon archipelago since the colonial days. And it is the Bougainville armed conflict fueled by the subjugated hearts and minds of our people that finally made us to be seen as a people that need to be respected.

But it is now upon us Bougainvilleans to carry that struggle on a positive note. Our freedom from all forms of genocide, relegation and exploitation is yet to be reached; the fight is still on. If PNG can easily set a total blockade on our island in 1990 which can be seen as an act of genocide under the auspices of international law and yet now play pranks with us with a baseless claim of maintaining its state sovereignty, who will be our redeemer? The answer is you and I!

With that said, I like to point out some interesting points worth nibbling about the Post Courier in the month of March of 2013 had highlighted about Bougainville and our President Dr. John Momis.

I had never chatted with President Dr. John Momis as I did with the late President Joseph Kabui all my life. Thus with my ever burning political mind’s will for an independent Bougainville, I had continuously had doubts on Dr. John Momis till recently when looking at a series of newspaper articles that captured my attention.

The 01 March 2013 Post Courier page 5 article, Momis: referendum to be held, by Winterford Toreas read: ‘If we do not remove the weapons, we are not self reliant and if we do not achieve good governance…referendum will happen’ was a morale booster for me in Dr. John Momis. This is a challenge all Bougainvilleans should note; are we really committed to the liberation of our island as our leader is showing us?

I remember in 1998, the BRA/BIG team from Kieta leaving for the pan-Bougainville meeting in Buin were in doubt whether they would get the support of the resistance fighters and the care center population for their independence talk. And as the talks began, a mother from Bana District who had lived in the care center stood and shouted with tears, ‘Our brothers and sisters from the bush (BRA/BIG) and our brothers and sisters from the care centers, as we meet and talk, remember that we died for our island to be independent’. Applause of support went across the crowds and the BRA/BIG felt relieved.

And here, our leader is telling us to relieve each other from the political and economic stagnation we are creating upon ourselves.

And as a student and observer of my island’s path, I believe our leaders are creating a better foundation for us to move on. I feel that, if I could muster the spirit of the laws that they are creating now, I could play better politics in the future for my nation of Bougainville.

I am referring here on what most of us are calling the ‘Momis-Reagan Mining Law’. To me it is the best Bougainville has created for its future. And here is why I am saying this based on the Post Courier feature story, Mining Law not complete (Post Courier, 8 March 2013 page 11):

‘Since mid-2012 ABG was at work creating a new mining law. Reasons were (1). Complete the transfer of mining powers that began in 2006 and (2). Was to make a law to meet Bougainvillean needs, including:

·         Recognizing customary rights, required by Section 23 of Bougainville Constitution;

·         Responding to foreign companies illegally seeking control of our mineral resources;

·         Introducing ABG control of mining and contributing to re-establishing the rule of law

Customary landowners will be recognized as owners of minerals, with ABG sharing in order to:

·         Act on behalf of all Bougainvilleans, because of the blood spilled during the conflict;

·         Ensure equitable development for all parts of Bougainville; and

·         Preserves resources for future generations

As owners of minerals, landowners will have important new rights, including to:

·         Veto exploration licenses;

·         Be deeply involved in decision making on all projects, and

·         Receives shares of revenues and opportunities from mining

Only ABG will grant mining exploration and development licenses, and determine distribution of mining revenues and benefits’.

With this law, Bougainvilleans are blessed because they have more powers over their land and resources unlike the past where the government of Papua New Guinea and Rio Tinto kept us relegated and robbed our land and resources to built Papua New Guinea and not Bougainville. As Bougainvilleans, we should know that our island was the money that built Papua New Guinea. Our mineral resource and the profits it made went 100% to Port Moresby.

Having in my heart that this was the best for us, I was shocked when former BRA general Sam Kauona attacked President Dr. John Momis. And this I believe was over the wordings in Section 23 of our Constitution where, our ABG is a part owner of mineral wealth with the Landowners. This is justifiable because if we talk about my home, Panguna and the mine there, my people on Buka are not landowners. But they would ask me, ‘Was it only the Panguna people that suffered and lost loved ones during the Bougainville crisis?’

So, with me an automatic landowner in Panguna there is my government that stands for the people of Bougainville who have had suffered with me.

The 4 March, 2013 Post Courier story, Bougainville to strike it rich, Dr. John Momis said it all: ‘Mr. Kauona should not think that an ABG led by me could ever ignore Bougainvillean concerns about mining. We will never be told what to do by an outsider. Equitable distribution of revenue from mineral resources was at the core of his government’s policies. As part owner, the ABG will act on behalf of all Bougainvilleans because of the bloodshed by all Bougainville groups during the conflict’.

What I saw good for Sam Kauona was to admit and sort out the unimaginable problem of the sale of Bougainville wealth and people under his Invincible Resources deal now taking on a new face as Morumbi Inc that is trying to fool Bougainvilleans but happily Bougainvilleans are not to be fooled by these dogs that fooled Sam Kauona and late Joseph Kabui.

But I have seen some good collective decision making as Bougainvilleans come together to decide their future. I believe in them and the future of my island and people.

The arguments made by the Meekamui group are what I really have in my heart having studying the long Bougainville struggle. These are to be honored by the people and the government because if we look into the Bougainville conflict, the factors that sparked the crisis are in there.

The 4, March 2013 Post Courier page 27 story, Meekamui: Bougainville not ready to re-open Panguna mine, they said: ‘Their standing to reopen the mine after Bougainville gains independence is because there are still are still a lot of outstanding issues that needs to be addressed. One of this is the K10 billion compensation claim for environmental damages done during the mine’s operational days

These issues include the establishment of squatter settlements and law and order problems.

On positive note, Meekamui said they want the ‘bel kol’ money to be paid not only to the LOs but to all Bougainvilleans because they all suffered during the crisis.

Meekamui also calls on ABG to support the court case against mining giant Rio Tinto for compensation payments to be made for environmental damages’.

The Meekamui talks are a reality. It is a fact that the value of the Panguna mine is below the K10 billion mark but the suffering of Bougainvilleans since the colonial era to the Rio Tinto landing on Bougainville including the environmental destruction of Bougainville is more than the K10 billion. We have to support that.

This will be a long term process and PNG will not escape from paying us for all the shit they did to us and our island.

And when they talk about squatter settlements and law and order, we the people and our ABG need now to create a vagrancy act to keep out wanderers from flooding into our island and I talk because I have seen the bad treatments PNG squatter settlers did to us as student kids coming into Arawa every morning to school.

I agree to the ‘bel kol’ money they are calling for. But, I see fit, a ‘bel kol’ money paid as a infrastructure development in the form of roads connecting the unconnected areas. Furthermore, this ‘bel kol’ money should be in educational infrastructure.

We need to think Bougainville rather than thinking along personal interest that shall not help our island’s future.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Bougainville Manifesto: (1) People and Culture

Leonard Fong Roka

This is a ‘Bougainville Manifesto’ series of writings that I am creating from my own initiative to explore the Bougainville conflict from the pre-colonial era; through colonialism and into the boots of Papua New Guinea. Then I look into the peace process and the autonomy era.
I consider my island and people were badly treated by colonialism and the state of PNG since its independence in 1975 thus resulting in the loss of 10-15 000 innocent people.

Irredentism is our right. Beside we have being subjected to relegation, exploitation, some forms of genocide, institutional indoctrination especially under PNG rule with its unrooted humanistic lies.

The Bougainville Peace Process and the Autonomous Bougainville Government had also failed my people. Most of their demands on my people do not really uphold the will of the people who are not at all strangers to the PNG treatment of Bougainville.

I will attack what I see wrong; create what I see needed and direct where I see Bougainville must be moving towards.

In the Anthony J. Reagan and Helga M. Griffin edited 2005 book, Bougainville before the conflict, Douglas Oliver is cited as having referred to Bougainvilleans and Western Solomon islanders as ‘the black spot in an island world of brown skins’.

The book goes on to discuss the Kilu Cave archaeological findings on Buka that shows that Bougainvilleans had existed on their island for almost 30 000 years. This discovery drove Solomon Island history back 29 000 years away from the previous claim of 6 000 years. These findings on Kilu Cave also solved a puzzle amongst biological anthropologist debate over the 6000 years history of Solomon Islands versus the genetic diversity of Bougainvilleans, symbolized by their extremely dark skin color.

Some 29 000 years ago the first Bougainvilleans arrived. The latest immigrants arrived some 3 000 years ago.

According to Mathew Spriggs writing for Bougainville before the conflict, Bougainville was not an island but a northern tip of a larger land mass that stretches from the northern tip of Buka down along Choiseul Province to Nggele, just insight of Honiara. This big island, or The Great Bougainville, as literature is referring to it now, was made up of what are now the Buka Island, Bougainville, Shortland Island, Choiseul, Santa Isabel and Nggele in the Florida Group.

Hugh L. Davies (ibid) also further said that the creation of Bougainville and its sister islands began some 45 million years ago from volcanic eruptions on the sea floor of the present Solomon Islands ridge. These were facts forwarded by the airborne geophysical surveys by the Federal Republic of Germany in late 1980s.

Darrell Tryon (ibid) again stated that Bougainville has some 16 Austronesian languages and 9 Papuan languages (late arrivals). Bougainville, Buka and Nissan Austronesian languages are inter-related with those of Shortland, Choiseul, New Georgia and Santa Isabel. Classical evidence today can be seen on the Torau languages of central Bougainville and Mono-Alu in the Shortland Islands. So the Bougainville language family of islands is Buka, Bougainville, Choiseul, New Geogia and Santa Isabel. 

Thus, as noted by Ulukalala Lavaka Ata 1988 paper, The Bougainville Crisis and PNG-Australia Relations, the late Joseph Kabui’s words of 17 May 1991, ‘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’ is justifiable.  


In my 2013 PNG Attitude poem, The Ulungasi’s Border of Injustice on Solomon I wrote the line ‘Of the distant places our myths never knew they existed’ referring to Papua New Guinea and Bougainville politically so promoted oneness by PNGeans and their institutions that absolutely lack substance.

Standing on my people’s epistemologies and the oral histories, my people lived in harmony with the environment around them. From the Nissan Island and our Polynesian atolls, down Buka Island and to the Buin area of South Bougainville, land was our life. We live on it and it feeds us as his dear children and when we die, it accommodated us to feed the next generation.

Our islands’ world was made up three parts that are the flesh that is me the human being; the nature that surrounds me, such as the trees, caves and so on and the marriage between the flesh and the nature; this is the spiritual world that governed and is governing my people since time immemorial.

The human being depended on the nature and the nature depended on the spiritual world that united the man and the nature. The bond between the three was respect and respect! The upset of one is the disadvantage of the world.

In Bougainville the clan and sub-clans were the government; they spread across great distances but in different names despite the same totem and this is reflective of the languages on the island. They were sovereign and had territorial integrity over land. They created laws that governed their land, rivers, fruit trees, dispute settlements, war, marriage and everything done in the good of the clan.

In decision making, the clan decentralization process made its sub-clan an autonomous entity with own jurisdiction over trivial matters. However, when it came to serious matters like killing and war, the clan was now the heart of decision making.

From the clan, power of decision making then came on the sub-clan; from the sub-clan, power landed on the village governing system or osi as it is known in the Kieta area. With the osi network, there were extended families or piongkang as it we call it in Kieta; from the piongkang power went down to the nono or nuclear family.

Such break up of power was more active that it brought the whole population together in the decision making process.

Bougainvilleans were universe referent people and that is, they were the living symbols of the environment they came from. They were not consumerist but conservationist when it came to exploiting the resources to meet their needs. They took what was needed from the mother earth and then let the nature for a period to replenish itself in harmony.

In interactions between people, respect was paramount, people have to treat people with respect; people have to treat the environment with caution as not to upset the ecology of life.

It was a source of power for an individual to grow and know the traditions and cultures of his clan. One has to know his place and responsibilities in the world to be a successful person in life.

Apart from the Buin people, the majority of Bougainville was and is of matrilineal societies. Women own the land and decide what changes that goes on with the land. But the man is vital in the cultures of Bougainville for they were the defenders and workers on the land.

To this regard, in the sexes, a woman was a holiest sex that needed more than a man to uphold traditional taboos or norms of the clan. She was the future of the clan; she was the land and the pride of the clan and the peace of conflicting clans.

The man stood as the support base of the woman. The man was the harvester, the traveler, trader, negotiator of trade, warrior where the power of the woman was centered on. The man was prevented from marrying so far away from home. He was also prevented to marry into a clan that can make him powerless in the kinship systems (this is where arranged marriages were important).

Arranged marriages were the power-base of society. Through such systems, communities took support when in need. Such practices were part of the rights to land and heritage or otherwise such were the nourishment of alliances for trade, war, and land ownership and so on.

Life in Bougainville thus depended on alliances or the sustenance of relationship amongst people or amongst the people the spiritual world that governed their lives.

In the couple of language districts areas, there was harmonious co-existence. Trade existed; marriage occurred; travel occurred; migration continuously happened but, still all had sovereignty. The Nasioi man respected the Nagovis man and his essence of activities. When a Nasioi man entered into Wakunai he lived in accordance to the dictates of the Wakunai people and their ways. Scaling this down, within Nasioi, a Panguna man kneels to the Kongara people when in Kongara as will the Kongara man do when in Panguna.

In the pre-colonial days, Bougainville trade route extended right across the Solomon archipelago. Shell money so employed in most of Bougainville was processed on the island of Malaita and crossed hands up to Bougainville.

So the Solomon Islands was not a scattered and desolated sea of islands but a functional nation state of autonomous individual islands, like Bougainville, that co-existed by trading, marriage, migration, war and so on for ages to remain a people with dignity till the dawn of hell that is colonialism.

Friday, 3 May 2013

A Teacher’s Call to the Bougainville Government

Leonard Fong Roka

Section 25 of Bougainville Constitution is on Human Resources Development and it plainly reads: ‘In recognition of the shortage of the trained personnel who will be needed to develop Bougainville and implement autonomy, the Autonomous Bougainville Government shall encourage human resource development’.
Delphine Piruke
This is a slam in the face for young trainee teacher, Delphine Piruke of Madang Teachers College. Ever since entering Madang, she had never felt the presence of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in Madang Teachers College.

Delpine Piruke hails from Laguai in Buin, South Bougainville. She was born in 1992 during the peak of the Bougainville conflict. She completed her secondary school at Buin Secondary School in 2011 and entered Madang Teacher’s College in 2012 and will be graduating this year with a Diploma in Education and return back to Bougainville.

To her, ABG is not providing the vital infrastructures of learning back on Bougainville so we are everywhere like lost sheep. ‘In the 2012 Rabaul Queen incident many of our fellow Bougainvillean students perished and suffered travelling in pursued of education outside our homeland which is not supposed to be the case, ‘she said. ‘The ABG since formation should have invested in partnership with churches and so on to create colleges, technical schools and at least, a university on Bougainville where we should be learning within our own environment instead of wandering around as nomads’.

To her the ABG has wasted time to actually materialize Section 25 of the Bougainville Constitution in so many ways.

Recently there has being a conflict of interest between the ABG and the Catholic Diocese of Bougainville on the proposed creation of a university at Mabiri in Central Bougainville. According to a speech made by the Bishop Bernard Onabali of Bougainville to Bougainvillean students of Divine Word University, he stated that the ABG lacks concrete vision for the Bougainville people’s future in terms of education as the Catholic Church is having.

So with that education vision, the bishop said that the church was doing everything possible to raise funds and is confident that it will start working on the university project at Mabiri by 2016.

For Delpine Piruke who is a Catholic this was good news and anger for the ABG leadership since the first house. ‘I think the churches on Bougainville should work hard and take the lead in helping Bougainville reach its independence statues that we have fought for whilst the old visionless politicians in the ABG just support the churches’.

She raised a collective concern that Bougainvillean students have at her college that ABG leaders never visit them to give encouragement since they are away from home. ‘We as students really miss Bougainville and so often talk about the desire that we need colleges in Bougainville where we can learn in the closeness of our families and environment of peace. Last year, one of our students from Nissan Island was killed here by the Sepik squatter settlers and every day we have thugs robbing us in town and on the road thus leaders and people should think seriously of investing on educational facilities on Bougainville. Bougainville is our home and we are free there then on this strange place and in the midst of this PNG people’.

She also added that the education officers responsible to visit Bougainvillean students namely the Appointment Officers and Recruitment Officers never come around for us. ‘The education officers tasked with the duty of coming out to colleges never visit us so this irresponsible act is resulting in many of our teachers not returning back to Bougainville where we have the responsibility of helping our island to be independent’.

Her pleas that the ABG, the churches and our people from Buin to Buka and the atolls should think seriously about this issue because the ABG also need us people to function well. It’s about time all educational infrastructures and institutions are all in Bougainville.

Delpine Piruke will be graduating this December and plans to teach in the Panguna District next year.