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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Bougainville Manifesto 5: Francis Ona’s background and the Mining Conflict

Leonard Fong Roka

The company and the colonial administration were not creatively proactive in dealing understandably with the people on the ground.
Just like the Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and the state of Papua New Guinea were playing pranks with the Solomon people of Bougainville without really knowing the weakness and strengths of their subjects, the late Francis Ona’s grandfather, Nakonang did invested in division and hatred in his family by marrying his own first born daughter before the Panguna mine was born.

The Guava village, home to the rebel leader, the late Francis Ona, consists of two clans that are Kurabang and Bakoringku that intermarried.

But in the Nasioi clan setting, a clan does not exist within a village. But a clan is the umbrella that covers the whole geographical map of the Nasioi people or the Kieta society. So a particular clan exists across the Nasioi society in sub-clan tentacles or units.

Thus in the village of Guava the Bakoringku sub-clan that Nakonang was a member was simpirako and his wife, Hali, whom had already a daughter out of wedlock, was from the Kurabang sub-clan called, karaponto.   

Nakonang was naturally an aggressive village leader known far and wide and his wife, Hali, before marrying Nakonang, had a daughter called Siakunu, out of wedlock. After they got married, Nakonang and Hali had seven children (which included three daughters excluding Siakunu).

Originally, Nakonang was known as Odengkara, which meant aggressive. But after years of raising his children, he then felt in love with his first born biological daughter with Hali, called Nobonu. This is when he was re-named Nakonang which means ‘to destroy himself’. So he was in a polygamous marriage with his real wife and their own daughter.

Out of this crisis created by incest in the household and shame in the community, the only daughter that was immune was Siakunu since she was not a biological offspring of Nakonang. Thus she had kept her distance and grew up and later got married to a person called Nadaa and one of their notable sons was the late Mathew Kove.  

Furthermore, Siakunu, being the first born child of Hali, she was the customary power of the family in land ownership, decision making and so on; that is, she was in the chieftain position in the family. And where incest was present, Siakunu mostly disregarded all Nakonang’s children with her biological mother, Hali.

Subjected to torturing by his own growing and matured children, the aging Nakonang also began slowly to align himself with Siakunu who was merciful to him. He began a good elder to Siakunu’s children as he distanced himself from his biological family.

In the process of this family conflict, Siakunu exploited the rest; she had much authority over the usage of land with her stepfather, Nakonang, now by her side. Her children like Mathew Kove, had much insight and say into the land ownership of Guava then Nakonang’s blood children and grand children.

So in the 1960s, when Conzinc RioTinto Australia (CRA) and the colonial administration arrived in what is now the Panguna mine site, to lay the foundations of the mine, Siakunu’s siblings documented every land available for the company leases under their name; and the sibling that was now the recognized by the company as big landowner of Guava (Panguna mine site) was Mathew Kove.

Nakonang’s own biological daughters, starting from his daughter-wife Nobonu (first born) to the next two, of whom the last born was called Maneu and was the mother of the late Francis Ona, got nothing.

With the Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) profiteering, Mathew Kove rose in status and fortune as his other family members like the late Francis Ona that share with him the same grandmother but a different grandfather watched in pain.

But as Mathew Kove built his status and fortune by building fine houses and buying cars with his wife and children from the simpirako sub-clan of the Bakoringku clan with all the monies they got from the BCL, his relatives that Hali had with Nakonang, pursued education with little they earned especially in the sale of vegetables in the market places for when they asked Mathew Kove for financial help, he had often burned banknotes before their eyes.

Under such anti-social relationship in the family, the divide widened.

When the late Francis Ona completed his education and got employed with BCL in the early 1980s, his relative, Mathew Kove was already a rich tycoon with considerable influence in the Panguna Landowners Association (PLA) that was formed in 1979 and other bodies associated or created for the landowners.

The PLA, according to Ulukalala Lavaka Ata’s 1998 article, The Bougainville Crisis and PNG-Australia Relations, was formed ‘as the result of the feelings of inadequate compensation for loss of

crops, fishing and hunting grounds’. But to most people, it did nothing positive for the landowners and the people of Bougainville.  

With the family problem under the skin and backed by his sister, the late Perpetua Seroro, the late Francis Ona and other younger people began a political sabotage to topple Mathew Kove and his cronies who they claimed were corrupt and not landowner oriented. Nearly all executives in the PLA were rich men with high standards of living whilst the landowners were on the backwater and subjected to harassment and exploitation by the rising population of New Guineans and the environmental pollution.

The young people’s call for change around 1986-87 did not produce any good thus the educated elite rebelled and formed the New PLA in 1987.

According to Bougainvillean Divine Word University’s Associate Professor Jerome Semos PhD’s May 2013 presentation, entitled The Bougainville Conflict and Sovereignty Implications for Bougainville, PNG and the Pacific Region, it stated that, ‘New PLA, under the leadership of Perpetua Seroro and Francis Ona as secretary…was militant. It pushed for a 1987 Melanesian Alliance (MA) campaign proposal of a Bougainville Initiative Fund (BIF) to BCL to get more funds for Bougainville now to BCL and the Namaliu government.

‘Francis Ona and the New PLA said that if the demands were not met they would shut the mine down’.

With all the external confrontations going on it is said that Mathew Kove and his cronies in the old PLA were having sleepless nights to counter the threat on their advantageous positions further irritating the New PLA.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Thomas Biunu goes to war in retaliation

Leonard Fong Roka

‘Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) destroyed our land and people to built the Papua New Guinea’s Highlands Highway, buy planes for Air Niugini, built the city of Port Moresby and Lae, and so on without building us good roads, schools, funding our school fees, providing us electricity or even better, training and employing us and keeping out the Papuans and New Guineans that uprooted us’ is all Thomas Biunu said when I met him panning for gold in January this year.
Like many other Panguna men of his youthful days along BCL’s honeymoon era, he was a popular break-and-enter jack in the mine site. That’s how he made his living in his Onove village where laboring for a new plot of cocoa was no use in fear and doubt of their fate from the fast approaching gigantic gravel walls created 24/7 by the mining waste dumps and the silt built-up.

His Onove village, located high on the Oune ridge, then had around two-three thousand people but had only two villagers employed with the mine. But when BCL was new to them, nearly every able-man had jobs with the mine’s construction phase and when the mine got established all of them were kicked out. As resource-owners, the BCL was not willing to train them and keep them for its own good.

Biunu saw all these with his own eyes as a kid.

‘In the beginning,’ Biunu recalls, ‘what a nice relationship the BCL had with our people. The villagers provided BCL with food; they came and purchase garden food in the villages. I carried plastic bags of tomato with my mother and sold them to the company food buyers. I used that money to pay for my school but when the company lost its love for us in favor of Papuans and New Guineans, I left school.

‘We had nothing to do as young men of Panguna because there was no point trying to advance in education and so on when everyday you watch as the size of your cocoa or garden plot is shrinking to the silt-built up our valley was facing.

‘Thus, when the late Francis Ona took off into the bush, we stood up to save ourselves and our island’.

But for Biunu, he was afraid to join the village men in the pre-Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) militant group, Rambo, as they were known then. He feared to kill a human being as the Rambo was doing. Just beneath his Onove village, he witnessed the local Rambo men attacked a hated New Guinean settlement by an extended family.

One of them married into the Onove community and later invited a whole extended family to come and settle there. The New Guinean settlers then had for ages harassed indigenous people.

The Rambo then raided the settlement at dawn and got the iron-man of the settlement that had also attempted rape a local girl and killed him. Then they had torched the whole New Guinean settlement and ordered them depart for Arawa and out of Bougainville.

 The PNGDF and the police whilst torching other villages and hamlets of the Tumpusiong Valley had avoided for long the Onove village that was too far from the Panguna-Nagovis highway. This incident, to the perception of Biunu and the local populace, however was the catalyst for the PNGDF mortar attacks on the Onove village soon after.

Fear crept into the village but the elders, with all the evidence from the Radio North Solomons jingles of peace by the PNG government, advised them not to panic or flee. For Biunu, who had an infant first born son and a two week old house he had just built, the mortar attacks had him shrink with envisages of a sacrifice and loss that was imminent.

So on Onove’s fateful morning, the villagers woke up to see across the Oio River valley, a big packed convoy of BCL transport on the junction of the Oune feeder-road on the Panguna-Nagovis highway. Around the vicinity were dozens of PNG soldiers.

Minutes trickled as they watched what or which village actually these infiltrators were after. And as least expected of, the troops began to follow the newly opened Oune feeder road towards Onove; the valley was all silent, as evacuation orders were given for mothers and children to flee.

The Oune road took off from the Panguna-Nagovis highway and heads towards Onove for Oune, a community school on the borders of the Tumpusiong Valley and the Avaipa area further west. It was to cut through the Onove village but to avoid the steep Onove’s rugged eastern slope, it was built to run south then crawl onto the Onove lawns from the west.

Thus some of the men with Biunu headed east of their village to have a closer look of thee advancing killers armed with some knives and bows and arrows. And as foreseen, the soldiers crossed the Oio River and now there was nothing more to think about; they were coming for Onove.

The march came just beneath the locals cover; they saw that they were armed to the teeth and bothered not to test them with their bows and arrows here, in fear that some of the villagers maybe were still packing.

As the foe was heading south along the road, Biunu and the men rushed backed into the village and revealed that the killers are here for us. Everybody did not waste time but fled. Biunu and the men watched from the bushes as the PNG soldiers came and without wasting time began torching the houses. Some forty to fifty houses were there for them to calm their rage on.

Seeing fresh footprints of people’s escape routes, they just fired heavy gun shots into those directions. Biunu and the men just kept quite with emotions and regret for not having the type of weapons, the enemy had.

After satisfying themselves, the PNGDF left for their transport with the angered Biunu stealth behind them now joined by some of the armed Rambo men.

Knowing of some militant activities further south, in Orami and Mananau (a BCL farm project), Biunu’s party headed south with high hope that the convoy would head south to set up an ambush and retaliate.

As expected of, a convoy of BCL vehicles loaded with PNG soldiers appeared as they laid in wait. With a borrowed shotgun, Biunu breathe heavily for a kill for the loss of 40-plus houses of his village few hours ago which looking up at Onove, he still saw the smoke in the air, at the hands of these foreigners.

They waited with confidence as the three vehicles approached unprepared. In the weapon, Biunu had not a normal shotgun cartridge but rather, for impact reasons, had a WW2 .50 calivre anti-aircraft machinegun cartridge. They let the two front runners to pass and the last vehicle received its share of arrows and three shotgun rounds.

For Biunu, he knew his cartridge made contact; the foe he aimed at was lifted by the bullet impact but was grabbed by screaming soldiers before he landed on the gravel.

The soldiers escaped some corners away then began shooting back at the direction of the attack with their bullets cutting the tree canopy as the militants sat chewing buai and laughing.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Bougainville Manifesto 4: People and the Panguna Mine

Leonard Fong Roka

On loose sand Bougainville was founded by colonization when Papua New Guinea had it attached to its tether for a hike as its source of finance to fund its independence.
 Most written literature, known so far, of the pre-independent Papua New Guinea era, points out that the Solomon Island of Bougainville was the backwater in terms of development and progress. Apart from Bougainville, Papua New Guinea was progressing with cocoa-copra plantation, timber, rubber, coffee, cattle and so on as Bougainvilleans remained locked outside the doors or was an exploitation garden for planters and missionaries.

But the desire for independence for the Papuans and New Guineans brought Bougainville to the world. Bougainvillean wealth was attractive to build the Papuans’ and New Guineans’ dream country. The new country that the United Nations was pushing the Australians to create so needed money for its strength to survive globalism that was undergoing globalization.

Thus, as Ian Downs’ 1980 book, The Australian Trusteeship: Papua New Guinea 1945-75 (page 340) puts it: ‘The discovery of copper in Bougainville in 1964 was the greatest single event in the economic history of Papua and New Guinea. It was a giant step towards independence’. Papuans and New Guineans were celebrating that are massive resource for them were not on their land but in the distant Solomon Islands.

The poor Bougainvilleans that were so occupied with the economic activities of plantations and missionary activities were in the dark with the drastic development plans happening on their island for the benefit of the New Guineans and Papuans in the colonial administration buildings of Port Moresby, Kieta and Sohano Island.  

So the point was, as Martin Miriori’s 1996 article, Bougainville: A Sad and Silent Tragedy in the South Pacific, puts it ‘Panguna became one of the largest opencast mines in the world, and the only source of finance for Papua New Guinea's independence. In essence, Australia gave Bougainville and her people as an independence gift to Papua New Guinea’.

And with a Bougainvillean populace made scare coats consciously, the Panguna mine was a revolution that showcased the lethality of changes in the eyes of the indigenous people and sprouted the energy on them to strive for their self determination in order to save their land and culture.

The Panguna mine project, according to Divine Word University Faculty of Arts’ Bougainvillean Associate Professor Jerome K. Semos, PhD, was a four-phase affair of colonial coercive slapping on the people of Bougainville since the 1960s.

In an emotional early-May 2013 presentation that saw a few young Bougainvilleans in tears entitled, Empirical and Historical Analysis: The Bougainville Conflict and the Sovereignty Implications for Bougainville, PNG and the Pacific Region, he highlighted that the political history of the evolution of the Bougainville conflict was a four phase stagger for the Solomon people. Bougainvilleans suffered and struggled for 27 years under colonialism, self-governing and independent Papua New Guinea and Conzinc Rio Tinto (CRA) and BCL since 1963 to 1990.

The first phase of the four, according to this Bougainvillean academic, reigned from 1963 to 1970. In this phase, ‘a policy of colonial lack of interest (by state and CRA/BCL) to local consultation and participation led to early struggle or conflict by resource owners over state rights and ownership of resources, and over unfair mining and compensation agreements.

‘Resource owners were convinced they had ownership rights to both surface and subsurface resources; the colonial state policy said otherwise. The mine was considered the economic life blood for PNG’s drive towards independence, hence the strong arm approach to getting it into production quickly. The BCL mine was built on one policy alone [upheld in the House of Assembly in those days]: ‘Masta I tok, Tok I dai’’.  

Foreigners walked over Bougainvilleans with their greed. But Bougainvilleans were not that stupid for they stood up for their rights. As noted by Donald Denoon in his 2000 book, Getting Under the Skin: The Bougainville Copper Agreement and the Creation of the Panguna Mine (page 64) that ‘by the end of 1965 landowner resistance had brought prospecting to a standstill, and in February 1966 the administrator transferred Bill Brown to Kieta…to get the prospecting going again’. The administration was desperate for the mine thus employed every man and strategies to suppress the Bougainvilleans and exploit their land for the good of foreigners.

The second phase took off from 1970 to 1975. In this period, ‘The resource conflict, including compensation and beneficiary concerns over the BCL mine developed into a popular secessionist (self determination) struggle. Came September 1, 1975—15 days before PNG’s independence—Bougainville unilaterally declared its independence from PNG and Australia.

‘But that proclamation of statehood was rejected outright. PNG needed the mine and there must be a way of keeping a vital mine as well as having some control over the mine’s financial benefits. So to this, PM Somare extended a viable political deal to Bougainville leaders and people’.

Bougainvillean stocks of oral history claim this period as the most brutal and unbearable pain for the people. Strangers and strange cultures were brought in by the BCL and PNG and that was destroying their life adding more pain of watching their land turning swiftly to bare rock and dust. Thus the only survival way available the missionaries thought them was independence.

Independence was the only measure to save Bougainville resources for its own people; save the environment for own use and management and for advancement for Bougainvilleans which then Australia was pushing for Papuans and New Guineans at the cost of Bougainvilleans.

The third phase took off from 1977 to 1985. In this phase it is known that ‘Secessionist conflict and struggles evolved into limited autonomy for Bougainville, established through the introduction of a provincial government. However, the North Solomons Provincial Government (NSPG) was unable to establish a direct negotiation with PNG Government and BCL with respect to the 1974 Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA) negotiations. Therefore, the BCA lapsed without being re-negotiated in 1981.

‘Again resource owners and the NSPG were left out and frustrated. Again the BCL mine was blocked off temporarily to force PNG government to agree to resource owners and their NSPG be included in the BCA negotiations’.

Sadly for the Solomon people of Bougainville, PNG was clever enough to fool them in order to rob them off their wealth. In their cry to be involved in the negotiations of the BCA that outlined the breakup of how the benefits of the mine should be distributed, PNG denied them by giving them one of the worst system of powerless provincial government system not worthy for a struggling people for their rights; or by creating bodies to fetch locals some wealth but these were bodies governed by corrupt officials.

And PNG was not interested with Bougainvillean concerns for their survival and development for its interest was money from Bougainville’s Panguna mine and plantations.

The last phase ran from 1986 to 1989. In this phase, we glean that for ‘Twelve years of inaction by the NSPG, 25 years of state apathy and BCL’s passing the buck, which led to continual struggle and conflict, plus the irrefutable loss of a subsistence lifestyle forced resource owners to revolt against the state and BCL.

‘Faced with security problem the BCL mine closed down; many workers and population left Bougainville and thereafter a local rebellion advanced into a Bougainville-wide secessionist rebellion and civil war.

‘Independence for Bougainville’ has made its second coming, but this time, it came at enormous costs to Bougainville and PNG.

‘PNG faced with serious financial crisis partly attributed to the demise of the profitable BCL mine. Bougainville was completely blocked off from the rest of PNG and the region [by Australia and PNG]’.

Letting the Solomon Island people of Bougainville sleeping and waking up every day in pain thus shaped a populace that cannot stand any longer to the lies of PNG and BCL.

Thus when Bougainvilleans took violence to shut the mine and fight for independence, PNG and BCL ran out of their creativity of fooling them.

Bougainville's Tumpusiong Valley in Pictures-2012

Tumpusiong Valley is the valley that received most of Bougainville Copper Limited's siltation but still it is out there strong with its people enjoying her through every means available.

Welcome to my home valley.

After the long Bougainville crisis, Tumpusiong Valley is trying to cash cropping such things as cocoa as seen here fermentry development in east Tumpusiong.
Alluvial gold is the Tumpusiong Valley's main money earner since 2000. Here a man digs into the hardened silt and rocks to built himself a stock of gravel for panning later
Woman waters her soil-sand mixer on a platform to extract finer silt containing gold
Tumpusiong people are religious. Here a pilgrim cuts  through the polluted Kavarong River on the month of October with the statue of the Virgin Mary
The valley, Tumpusiong is all silted. It will take ages still for erosion to reach the original water bed
The valley is today, with its stock of gold, attracted illegal miners as this US and Chinese operations
Lunch at a local gold miners camp
Miners trying to remove rock out of a pit
A South Bougainvillean miner (top) and his Panguna mate pose on their stock of sediment containing gold. Such stocks go for K500 or so PNG kina for sale
A local panner on process of extracting gold containing fine sand from silt
Gold money doing the wrong things for some. A drunkard man and a woman sleeping on the sides of the Panguna to South Bougainville highway
Kids play soccer on the sediment and gravel
Despite its ills, Tumpusiong Valley is still beautiful to the tourist
Settling back on the silt
People from far off places like Kori camp by the banks of Kavarong and make money from the gold
Changes done by human labour searching for gold
Kavarong River in search of its original river bed; still yet to find
Locals making use of gold money in a fundraiser for their local school
Canteens like this, infests the Tumpusiong Valley
Kavarong River, despite its health risk status, kids enjoy it and later get medication
Making tamatama in a gold miner's camp
Mini-bazaars like this one for a local school makes alot of money for community development
Nagovis men, from South Bougainville in the water, looking for gold in the Tumpusiong Valley


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Lingering Joy of burning a BCL chopper

Leonard Fong Roka
NOTE: From Franics Batana's story

Watching the spreader security attack gang creeping down the ‘V’ shaped water way towards the main road heading into the Tumpusiong Valley and beyond into South Bougainville for the spreader, the team assigned to attack or torch a Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) contracted chopper, a MiG 18 type transport that was regularly also serving the PNG security forces, the team headed into the Dapera resettlement and climbed into the garden brae towards the concentrator area where the chopper was based.
Ambrose Kuirua
The helicopter attack team comprised of Kongara men and the Tumpusiong Valley men. In their midst was a 14 year old boy, Ambrose Kuirua from the Tumpusiong Valley.

Kuirua never went to school but grew up loitering his home valley in with most jobless young men scavenging for interesting parts of the BCL plants like bulldozer batteries and bulbs that they brought home for lighting their homes and powering their stereo sets.

With the BCL operations profiteering and giving back nothing to Bougainvilleans, young Kuirua grew up loving the job of making a living by dismantling parts of the BCL’s civil works’ equipment that were, all year, stationed in the Tumpusiong Valley manning the built up of siltation, flooding and so on.

Most of these men earned their living selling batteries, car stereos, bulbs and switches that they removed from the BCL properties to people from areas away from the mining areas for a cheap price. Whenever, they needed hard cash, they flocked into the many BCL camp canteens and robbed them.

Beside, the illicit activities of the BCL hated Tumpusiong Valley men; the positive gain to them is that, without formal training in the Panguna mine school, they had taught themselves how to operate the heavy BCL plants and vehicles. In the cover of the night, they were always teaching each other how to operate the mechanical beasts.

By the time the crisis erupted, Kuirua was an expert in most of the plants. In early 1989, before the late Francis Ona took off to the bush, Tumpusiong people protested and decided to block the Panguna-Nagovis road that runs through the Tumpusiong valley.

As plans were made, the men ordered they will use BCL equipment to block the road near the entrance of the Pit Drainage Tunnel in the Tumpusiong valley. So, with doubts who was to operate the plants, one of Bougainville’s notable leaders, Martin Miriori drove the gang of young men to a BCL plant yard near the BCL piggery-poultry project of Mananau in Nagovis, South Bougainville.

Every man rushed onto his own choice of equipment, ignited it directly from the battery and set off for home. People were surprised to see the juvenile Kuirua arriving at the proposed roadblock spot in a huge front-hand caterpillar loader.

The protest was over siltation in some parts of the Tumpusiong Valley that was going out of control. For two days the road was cut, all vehicles from South Bougainville returned back and vehicles entering from Panguna were turned back.

The protest was called off after a police officer known as Luke Pango pleaded with the people. Despite unsatisfactory outcomes, the people went home.

But for the young Kuirua, he was now in the bush with the militants.

So, the moment the attackers reached a industrial complex known as the Dynatex, a operation of the BCL that was specialized in rubber and so on that were employed for example in the sealing of the high pressure pipes to minimize friction, that team broke into two.

One half of the group remained near the road that leads into the concentrator buildings and further extends up to the helipad. Their task was to shoot any BCL vehicle that entered the road if the presence of the team heading for the chopper was intercepted.

The young Kuirua was with the helicopter attack team. Once they left the main road below, in minutes they were on the helipad in the chilling Panguna midnight cold. With a 5 liter of petrol they remained stealth trying to figure out the security men because there was a Bougainvillean that was working here and they did not wanted to hurt him.

Seeing that there was not a Bougainvillean in the midst of the men on duty, the attackers headed to get the security men with knives without the guns that would attract attention. Seeing the armed militants, the security person fled for their lives.

The militants now surrounded the huge white chopper. Many of them had never seen such a beast and some of them only saw it while flying high.

Kuirua kept his distance from the braver men ready to run if anything went wrong.

Seeing that there was no spot on the chopper that can absorb the petrol they broke a window. Then, there was no one amongst the mature men that can get his body inside and decant petrol so Kuirua was called.

With joy to take the opportunity of being responsible to strike the match, he climbed in and onto comfortable seats. But first of all he went for the cockpit in search for some souvenir to bring home and got what he wanted—the pilot’s flying helmet.

As told he decanted petrol form the cockpit and out onto the passenger section. Then he climbed and clanged on the window; stroked the match and dropped it onto a seat and jumped onto the gravel as the inferno got furious inside.

They fled into the mountains of old Moroni and watched with their other team members as the PNGDF fired shots into the wrong directions.

Holding his war gain, the helmet, Kuirua was feeling so excited as the men praised him for a good job done for the night and the people whom their land was been destroyed.

After that night, Kuirua carried his helmet in his bag in all operations in attended all around Central Bougainville. He valued it so much and took good care of it through 1990 to 1992 and lost it to some thugs in 1994 as people began to flee from the arrival of the PNGDF in Nagovis when he left it and went to fight in South Bougainville.

Ambrose Kuirua is now a married man and an alluvial gold miner.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Batana: Why I joined the Bougainville Militancy in 1989

Leonard Fong Roka

Now married with five daughters and a lucrative local gold buyer, cocoa buyer and PMV operator in the Tumpusiong Valley of the Panguna District, Francis Batana says that the fight he joined was a clean fight against the injustice the foreigners were doing on our land and people from Buin to Buka Island.
Francis Batana
‘We fought or took up arms,’ he told me, ‘for our rights as the very people God had placed us here on the island. Despite this, the foreigners, the Papua New Guineans and their Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) were not at all willing to respect us as human beings and were trying to destroy us—the people and our island’.

Francis Batana was born in his Sipuko village during the construction phase of the Australia owned Panguna mine in the middle of the 1960s. He completed his primary education at a local Catholic Church operated school of Deumori. Then he went onto Buin High School but pre-maturely left because his poor parents could not afford the cost of his education despite being landowners of the mining areas.

His extended family’s diminish in terms of wealth and education was in the era of the Panguna mine’s life was inevitable because they hailed from the Bompo clan that, in terms of land ownership in the Tumpusiong Valley, was marginalized in the mountain areas but held much land on the banks of the polluted Kavarong River.

When BCL got established, the sedimentation created by its activities in Panguna covered and polluted much of the Bompo clan’s arable land on the western banks of the Kavarong on the eastern Tumpusiong under what is now the Enamira-Oune Village Assemblies (VA) of the Ioro 2 Council of Elders (Local Level Government).

In the 1980s Batana was a young man having left school and living at home with his parents. His days were spent watching heavy BCL equipment toiling the Tumpusiong Valley all the way to Marau coast where the Kavarong estuary was in South Bougainville.

Every week end, with little earnings from a few cocoa trees around his home, he was there amongst the company of Tumpusiong Valley’s young men boozing for days. Their partying only went into the Panguna Township to get cartons of beer and return back home. Drinking in the town clubs was dangerous to the unemployed Tumpusiong men whom most were not so fluent in Tok-Pisin thus were always attacked by drunkard redskins.

‘We have to visit Panguna in company,’ he told me. ‘Once you are alone in the night the redskins chased us with those BCL crushed gravel. If we are in a cinema, they are outside on the edges waiting to for us. As we start walking home, they spark a conflict and then chased us by hurling pieces of rocks at us’.

In such company, Batana and the other men had confidence, and upon seeing other primary and high school leavers getting employed, they also began visiting the BCL employment office. But none of them was accepted into the BCL workforce.

Batana’s most shocking experience of employment hunting in BCL as a landowner in Panguna happened once in the late 1980s just before the conflict erupted. He was in a queue to enter the employment office and began chatting with a New Guinean highlander from the squatter settlements of Arawa.

As they chatted, they showed each others’ qualifications in school. The New Guinean never was a primary school dropout and he was a grade 8 student in a high school.

On that painful day, a Buka man was in the employment office. John Tabinaman, Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) vice president in 2005-10, was the officer. Batana was not accepted because he was shot for a truck driver in the mine pit whilst the redskin was taken for further interviews. He went home defeated.

After about two weeks, he saw the redskin he was with at the employment office operating a D9 Caterpillar bulldozer outside Sipuko. He was so tempted to kill the New Guinean but did not do so.

But in November 1988 night when the news that Francis Ona had ordered all people to fight and shut the mine down, he grabbed a grass knife and walked into the Nagovis area in South Bougainville where there was a man he knew who owned a licensed shotgun.

He walked all night and properly asked the owner of the shotgun and returned back the next morning.

‘I darted for a gun for a few reasons,’ he told me, ‘ BCL was not employing us but was destroying our future; and it was only bringing more and more redskins that were building slums everywhere and taking our land. They had a provincial government representative when we chased them out’.

After a few sabotage runs in Panguna one afternoon, a friend who was just employed to operate a ore carrier called Batana at home. The visitor told him that the BCL was now employing locals since non-Bougainvilleans were beginning to resign in fear. But Batana assured him it is too late I will have to kill one white and red BCL employee then think about employment.

That night Batana and a company of men went to Kusito, a section of the Panguna mine gravel spreading and dumping zone, to check out a police checkpoint that people had told them during the day. But upon arrival there were no police but decided to attack company facility security personnel on duty.

So they divided themselves into two parties: one party to torch a BCL chopper near the main ore processing concentrator area and his party to raid the security men whom their presences was visual from where the militants were planning (chopper torching story to come later).

The company broke up and Batana and his gang reached the security personnel swiftly. There manning the gravel spreader area and plants, on one section were four security men with their car parked there telling stories.

Led by Batana, the Tumpusiong men walked straight up to them from an angle they did not hope something terrible could come from.

Batana pierced the man he came upon through the chest as he screamed, ‘mama’ in pidgin and begged for mercy. Two others were shot and the forth was shot still asleep in their car.

‘That they,’ Batana said to me, ‘I felt peace in my heart. I was relieved that I had killed one of the people that were destroying our lives and land as we watched. Without the violence, Bougainvilleans were nobodies! But the war made the PNG people and their company, BCL, to see us as humans’.

On the re-opening issue of the Panguna mine, Batana told me that he will be happy with a mine in Panguna that is controlled by the ABG for the good of Bougainvilleans and not PNG.

‘Tumpusiong Valley will accept tailings from a Panguna mine that is controlled by the ABG for the betterment and independence of Bougainville,’ he said. ‘We know that BCL is owned by CRA, PNG and other shareholders. ABG must return half of the CRA share in BCL; ABG must get all of PNG shares in BCL and ABG must create laws to localize the future Panguna operations’.

He the meantime Francis Batana is occupied with his private business operations that he says, if there was no war on Bougainville, I could not have this opportunity to earn for my family out of resources available for us as Bougainvilleans.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Bougainville Manifesto: (3) Negation of Colonization

Leonard Fong Roka

This is ‘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.

NOTE: This is an emphasis of Bougainville Manifesto 2

To the imperialist Europe of the exploration and colonization era, the discovery of a people or an island in the savage world was good news for boosting one’s power and prestige. But it’s all detrimental for us if we analyze the world’s problems today. 

The explorer, for example Louis De Bougainville for Bougainvilleans, was a hero in Europe but they are a problem for the colonized people that still value their homeland’s past, present and the future. Linda Tuhiwai Smith, in her 1999 book, Decolonizing Methodologies, sums this outlook as: ‘In the imperial literature these are the ‘heroes’, the discoverers and adventurers, the ‘fathers’ of colonialism. In the indigenous literature these figures are not so admired; their deeds are definitely not the deeds of wonderful discoverers and conquering heroes’.

To answer the question ‘why’ we look up the 1980 book by the late Bernard Narakobi, The Melanesian Way that stated that: ‘Melanesians managed to live on these islands for thousands of years before Europeans came into contact with them. It is assumed therefore that Melanesians have had a civilization with its cultures, values, knowledge and wisdoms which have guided them through the ages. These are their revealed truths. Our history did not begin with contact with the Western explorers. Our civilization did not start with the coming of the Christian missionaries. Because we have an ancient civilization, it is important for us to give proper dignity and place to our history. We can only be ourselves if we accept who we are rather than denying our autonomy’.

So the landing of colonization on the Solomon archipelago was the pollution and interruption of the peoples’ harmony and freedom in a land that was theirs through unrealistic value enforcement, indoctrination, deprivation, suppression and so on.

Westernization, after arriving in 1868, systematically enforced a breakdown in the ecology of life that sustained Bougainville and Bougainvilleans for nearly thirty thousand years. This has made Bougainvilleans lacked the capacity to function within their own island as a people who know and respect themselves. But this had made Bougainvilleans, a people full to the brim and thus made weak with alien ideas and concepts and trying to practice them in an environment that repels foreign intervention naturally.

Bougainvilleans, today, deny that they were a nation-state for over thirty thousand years. This is because modernization had made them erode their ethnic embodiment thus also losing their sense of direction. One of Africa’s writers, Francis M. Deng, in his 1997 article, Ethnicity: An African Predicament, summed this crisis as: ‘Ethnicity is more than the skin color or physical characteristics, more than language, song, and dance. It is the embodiment of values, institutions and patterns of behavior, a composite whole representing a people’s historical experience, aspirations, and world view. Deprive a people of their ethnicity, their culture, and you deprive them of their sense of direction and purpose’.

Colonization came systematically harsh on Bougainville having had a long history of experience in other parts of the world like Africa. Its sole role was to bring the savage, uncivilized, evil, stagnant Bougainvilleans to the light or path of civilization and human-hood that was nothing but the adoption European ways.

The 2010 PNG Attitude poem by Papua New Guinean poet, Lapieh Landu, This New Way says it all for Bougainvilleans:

This new way is
Whiteman’s way

Throw away your digging stick
Here, take my shiny shovel

This new way is
Whiteman’s way

Do away with your tiny shells
Here, take my silver coin

This new way is
Whiteman’s way

Forget your wantok
Here, take my fellow dim dim

This new way is
Whiteman’s way

Dispose of your slimy sago
Here, take my sweet white grains

This new way is
Whiteman’s way

Be naked no more
Here, take my loin cloth

This new way is
Whiteman’s way

Tear down your sago huts
Here take my steel posts and sheets

This new way is
Whiteman’s way

Utter not your chants and spells
Here, take my bible

This new way is
Whiteman’s way

Be little no more
Here take my white hand

It’s this new way
The Whiteman’s way

The Bougainvillean ways that served the people of the land for some thirty thousand years were nothing but the path of death. There was really, since 1868 a period of ‘clash of civilizations’ on Bougainville whereby the indigenous peoples were uprooted.

An amalgamation of European and Bougainvillean civilizations was not possible because, according to the whites, Bougainvillean ways were savage and barbaric and not suitable for the betterment of the land that it served and sustained for thousands of years; and where modernization could have had forge adaptation processes on.

The Solomon world, in due process, was divided. Bougainvilleans saw Choiseul islanders as strangers. Colonialism made Bougainvilleans saw each other differently. Labels brought on the people and they had to measure each other with, included: lazy people, pagans or cargo cults, show-offs, unproductive land, educated, baptized, rascal, godly people, obedient people, corrupt and so on.

This was the sources of discrimination that sprouted weakness of standing as united peoples for a common good for Bougainville.

A classical work, out of the hundreds, of dividing Bougainvilleans through institutional nurturing is the well promoted but unfounded belief that the 19 to 30 languages of Bougainville were not at all related at a particular zone.

This is what, a 1992 thesis by Raspal S. Khosa at the University of Adelaide, The Bougainville Secession Crisis, 1964-1992: Melanesians, Missionaries, and Mining, said: ‘Before World War II some 19 languages belonging to the categories of Austronesian and non-Austronesian were identified in Bougainville and Buka. This alone is difficult to reconcile with the claims of a unique Bougainvillean identity’.

Careful study of the Nasioi and all other languages in Bougainville will get Khosa coming short with his statement. The Nasioi language has a boundary of people and villages (excluding the late arrivals, the Torau people) around it. This is called the karatapo or mixture. This is where cultures meet or fade into each other.

Before modernization, any trader from the heartland of Nasioi, intending to do business with a person from the heartland of Nagovis had to get a third party in the karatapo zone to pave his way into the heartland.

This was a natural system that connected all peoples of Bougainville but denied by western literature.

Another example of the colonization created problem on Bougainville in those early was noted in the education or the religions by oral history. Whenever, a Panguna child did well in education at Tunuru Catholic mission, resentment a condemnation by the coastal people was high for he was a Bushman denying their children’s rights. Or if a Siwai kid did well at Chabai Technical, he was the pride of Siwai and not Bougainville.

In the churches, there was war; Catholics had their own gods and Protestants had their own set of gods. Often, they put territories where others were denied access to. Clans were divided; families hostile to each other’s new gods thus Bougainville was modernizing on lose sand that could not face the more devastating conflicts in the future.

Francis M. Deng pinned the chaos well by saying that you can just: ‘Deprive a people of their ethnicity, their culture, and you deprive them of their sense of direction and purpose’. Bougainvilleans were the windsock at the end of the runway of an airport blown here and there by Eurocentric forces.

Bougainville thus laid a foundation of modernization on sand of a thousand foreign values, cultures, people, technologies, laws and so on injected by colonization.


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Bougainville Manifesto: (2) Discovery & Impact Sources

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.

The functional nation state of Bougainville (within the Solomon Islands) was, according to Douglas Oliver’s 1973 book, Bougainville: A Personal History, was sighted by the Europeans on August 1867 by sailors on the British ship Swallow , commanded by Philip Carteret, but they did not approach the shores.

The mainland of Bougainville (ibid) was sighted on 4 July 1768 when the French ships La Boudeuse and L’Etoile sailed along the eastern coast of both islands and rested off Buka Island. The next recorded visit was in 1792 where d’Entrecasteaux’s ships traded with Buka Islanders. Then between 1820 and 1860 British, French and American vessels hunted sperm whales and it is with these groups that Bougainvilleans got more acquitted with westernization.

Colonialism, for Bougainvilleans, did not arrive with humanistic goals in the context of integral human development. But rather, it came with self-centered handshake of capitalism that is trade. That is, the introduction of the culture of exploitation of natural resources for betterment.

The colonizer was not interested in a peaceful transition of the people from the Stone Age to modernization but rather entertained them with the beauty of their goods for the Bougainvilleans copra; they began to deprive them of their livelihood and harmonious existence on their land. The process of trading had pacification effects on the locals towards the Europeans. It paved the foundation of Bougainvilleans’ relegation, belittlement, genocide and exploitation.

Douglas Oliver (ibid) noted again that with such trade coercion and pacification, by 1870 Bougainvilleans were now being recruited in large numbers as laborers on plantations in Queensland, Fiji, Samoa and New Britain. Some of the indigenous people went voluntarily, evidently eager for Europeans goods to be earned, or to escape from dangerous situations at home.

Whilst on the trade arena, Bougainvilleans were pushed here there by the Europeans; there was rivalry over the grab of colonies between Germany and Britain in the 1880s that were always pacified by dialogues. As Peter Sack, writing for the 2005 book, Bougainville before the conflict, noted:

‘On 10 April 1886 Germany and Great Britain signed a ‘Declaration relating to the demarcation of the German and British spheres of influence in the Western Pacific’. It defined a ‘conventional line’ which cut the Solomon Islands roughly in half. Great Britain agreed not to interfere with the extension of German influence west and north of the line and Germany did the same in favor of Great Britain for the area south and east of it. This declaration gave the two powers a free hand in relation to each other to make territorial acquisitions in their respective spheres.

The German government acted promptly. It did so at the urging of the Neu Guinea Kompagnie—which was governing Kaiser Wilhelmsland, the north-eastern quarter of the main island of New Guinea, and the Bismarck Archipelago under an imperial charter—because the company was concerned that other interested parties had began to make strategic land acquisitions in the northern Solomons. On 28 October 1886 the commander of SMS Adler declared all islands in the Solomons north of the line of demarcation—namely Buka, Bougainville, the Shortlands, Choiseul and Ysabel, as well as the smaller islands to the east—to be a German ‘Schutzgebiet’. He also prohibited, for the time being, the acquisition of land from ‘the natives’ and the supply of arms, ammunition and liquor to them.

On 13 December the emperor granted the Neu Guinea Kompagnie a charter to govern the Northern Solomons in accordance with the arrangements made in its earlier charter for Kaiser Wilhelmsland and the Bismarck Archipelago.

A major change in the borders of the German part of the Solomons took place as a result of an agreement between Germany and Great Britain 14 November 1899. In this agreement Germany ceded all the islands south and south-east of Bougainville—namely Choiseul, Ysabel, the Shortlands and the Lord Howe Islands—to Great Britain as a part of a compensation package for renouncing her claims to the western section of the Samoan Islands, which became German’.

This was too brutal a treatment worthy for the animals. Colonialism was having on Bougainvilleans and the rest of the Solomons, a fool-and-kill strategy to destruct a people of the land. Firstly, Bougainvilleans befriended the colonialist for the goods he traded in a barter system of trade; then came, labor and purchase goods where thousands of Bougainvilleans were lured into the then plantation industry. And at the end of it, the colonizer had Bougainvilleans submerged into the bliss of commerce to trade their land for its own prestige and power.

Bougainvilleans as the rightful owners of their land knew not that their land was subjected to German-Britain meets in the 1880s so engaged to the sweetness of the new concepts of trade that accompanied some adventure abroad and the brainwashing by missionaries that instilled fear in the people to the gods of the Europeans. Thus, colonialism was a kind of a vehicle for imperialism!

Linda Tuhiwai Smith, writing in her 1999 book, Decolonizing Methodologies, said that: ‘Imperialism tends turns to be used in at least four different ways when describing the form of European imperialism which ‘started’ in the fifteenth century: (1) imperialism as economic expansion; (2) imperialism as the subjugation of ‘others’; (3) imperialism as an idea or spirit with many forms of realization; and (4) imperialism as a discursive field of knowledge’.

Based on Smith’s explanations on these four ways of understanding imperialism, it could be said that Bougainvilleans were not really seen as human beings that had owned Bougainville for thousands of years. It treated Bougainvilleans, in a manner my 2012 PNG Attitude article, Past times: How the Bougainville psyche was subverted, as: ‘For a period of time, the Bougainville people were thrown here and there; screened and scaled as cheap commodities to the liking of colonial greed and interests. The divine psyche of the people was given a negative whipping and suffered a gradual disintegration’.

Explaining approach (1) of imperialism, Smith says that ‘Imperialism was a system of control which secured the markets and capital investment. Colonialism facilitated this expansion—’. Bougainville was just caught in the imperialist search for raw resources for their industrialization in Europe. From a simple barter of copra to European goods, the trade moved to labour exports; to the development of plantations on Bougainville then, the labour imports into Bougainville.

This processes secured Bougainville and Bougainvilleans for exploitation and subjugation on their land to be become nobodies.

In the second use of the concept of imperialism, Smith wrote that this was more focused on the exploitation and subjugation of the indigenous peoples excluding economic explanations. The moment the colonizers landed on Bougainville, they came with long experiences in other parts of the world thus their rule was sophisticated and tough. In Bougainville, kiaps and tultuls operated on the basis of do-as-the-government-say that resisted people’s consent.  

So often equal treatment for all Bougainville was not a norm; it is well evident in Bougainville colonial literature that discrimination was practiced by both the government and churches in differentiating Bougainvilleans. Such practices were done to serve the interest of the colonizers. This had made Bougainvilleans to be more susceptible to foreign changes that attacks their island ways that had strengthen them to survive on Bougainville for thousands of years.

In the third way of looking at imperialism, Smith noted that ‘This view of imperialism locates it within the Enlightenment spirit which signaled the transformation of economic, political and cultural life in Europe. In this wider Enlightenment context, imperialism becomes an integral part of the development of the modern state, of science, of ideas and of the ‘modern’ human person’.

Bougainvillean ways, example world views, epistemologies and so on were not worthy within their land but the distant European values were what the strange Bougainvillean world needed in order to function on Earth.

Suppression and genocide are two practices so evident in this outlook. Bougainvilleans have to get European education, government, music, dressing and so on to be seen as human beings in the surface of the Earth.

It so promoted Eurocentric cultures, development and so on that is unrealistic to the traditional Bougainvillean imprints thus becoming detrimental for Bougainvilleans as off the 1960s.

Under this interpretation, integration that respects another peoples, cultures, ideas and so on as they are, was not pragmatic to the betterment of the world as it can be for European technology, language, culture, ideology, food and so on were the only way the world and the man can survive on.

The forth way of imperialism, according to Smith was created by colonized world through its thinkers and writers to understanding colonialism from the colonized peoples’ perspective. The main point here is that despite colonized peoples’ gain of independence, the impacts of colonialism are still active. This is a situation Audre Lorde’s 1981 quote sums up as ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’.  

Bougainville despite being under the parasitic rule of an independent Papua New Guinea still was a host of foreigners (PNG included) that exploited its resources and suppressed its citizens.

Discovery of Bougainville led to colonization and colonization was the path of imperialism and this equals the destruction of Bougainville and Bougainvilleans.