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Saturday, 27 July 2013

Reviving old marriage alliances is power against land disputes and fate

Leonard Fong Roka

In the fast globalizing world where the First World is undefeatable as it spreads its ideals of a world federation of unequals that should function under one set of international law, societies now suffer the friction between known indigenous epistemological realities and introduced western norms and institutions.
Bougainville must be free to be strong
Under such bias cruelty indigenous people now suffer land loss, resource exploitation, civil wars, belittlement, marginalization, extinction, and so on. An insane puppet will accept these experiences as part of Human Rights for a global betterment or an early indication of advancement.

Across Bougainville land dispute is fast becoming a frequent occurrence between clans, communities, villages and families.

Global bodies like the United Nations promote the ideals of a ‘free world of free choice’ for humanity but when people are killing each other over land dispute in South Bougainville in the pretext of an act of sorcery, Secretary General Banki Moon, shall not be here to mediate a peace resolution because UN knows nothing about Bougainvillean traditions and cultures and their views on the world around them that had sustained them for thousands of years.

All these problems occur because of competition in usage of the scarce resources.

In the Solomon Island of Bougainville, the fact is that when the human population is increasing the land of Bougainville is not expanding to accommodate this growth. So land dispute tends to become prevalent as man try to exploit and survive; and in due cause, he comes into conflict with the next person that is also in for a grab of resources for sustenance.

Society cannot do away with all conflicts for they are the intrinsic part of social co-existence amongst human being for ages. But what that society must be well nourished with, is the oral histories and myths of each respective clan and family.  

In the Nasioi society of Bougainville, land is life; and it is integrated with the human existence. Without land, a human person is nothing but the shadow that society should forget. Thus every Bougainvillean is a person with portions of land areas associated with him or her.

But this is too general. In today’s world of Bougainville, defining a Bougainvillean is required to go down deeper since modernization has being weakening the bond between a man and the land he or she claims to own.

Since time immemorial Bougainvilleans had myths to explain everything around them. These theoretical tales (myths) had two obvious fronts. Firstly, they explain the ‘why’ question about the environment they saw; and secondly, they preserved the fading oral histories. That is, as generations added on, oral histories altered thus myth came in to play a role to cement the loopholes caused by time erosion.

And it is this second factor that is so associated with land ownership and resources usage. For in it, one finds that any claim over a piece of land on Bougainville must have a clear series of events of justification. These are: (1).a sacred site on this land, (2).family tree and those who were on this land, (3).migration stories leading to this land, (4).events that occurred on this piece of land and (5).the supernatural being associated to this land.

In Nasioi society these factors belong not to the clan but to a family. They are a sacred and secret knowledge and power-base of the family.

Through time, marriages were the source of alliances of security and pacification throughout Bougainville. Within this engagement, land ownership also evolved amongst clans so within a household, the husband gleaned his wife’s family histories and shared with his clan people and vice versa.

This was a natural archive in the traditional context. Thus whenever, conflict over land occurred, one ran to his or her father’s people if his or her mother’s people could not defend the land and vice versa.

But in our so called civilized world, many a losing their land just because they had forgotten their oral histories over time because of ignorance and the despise of our old folks who are naturally a store of oral histories and values.

Where formal education has crept into Bougainville society customary land disputes in Bougainville are becoming more sophisticated for the illiterate elders when educated thieves challenge their rights over land ownership and vice versa.

Educated thieves in the Nasioi society whom are struggling to survive with their populace in their state of being marginalized in terms of land and resources have being the ones so actively researching various oral histories to create their own make-ups.

For an island like Bougainville, population increase means society have to dig deep to learn its past and the way our ancestors had survived with dignity. But there is a systematic failure on Bougainville in the education system that does not support Bougainvillean epistemologies.

The education system does not create Bougainvilleans that should know and appreciate their island’s place in the Solomon archipelago and it rich cultures. But rather, it creates windsocks Bougainvilleans that wander and keep harming Bougainvillean identity and dignity under the western orientations of human rights.

But the concepts of Human Rights of free will and choice does not see the fact that, a Bougainvillean must be strong and free culturally, socially, spiritually, politically and economically on his island that also must be free from foreign exploitation, suppression and genocide to be functional in our globalizing world.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Bougainville Manifesto 6: Bougainville armed rebellion 1988-1989

Leonard Fong Roka

Family problem now left the Guava village and crept into the Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) executive rooms in the Panguna mine township. It should be noted that this was a Francis Ona-Mathew Kove war to a certain degree now.
Leonard Fong Roka
Mathew Kove knew he and the old Panguna Landowners Association (PLA) were in trouble because this crisis of creating a new landowner association was a threat to his prestige and power in the Guava village. Thus as he fought hard to survive, Francis Ona also counter attacked taking onboard all former problems created by the mine on the people and the issue of political independence for Bougainville; all these developments then got BCL and the PNG state into the family feud (Earlier, the environmental protest against the BCL was spearheaded by the Tumpusiong Valley, Moroni and Dapera peoples. The Guava villagers generally supported the mine and condemned anti-mining protests).

By all means, the late Francis Ona seeing his team as shrinking in power against his foe, the issue of Bougainville nationalism that the likes of late Sir Paul Lapun, Fr. John Momis, the group Napidakoe Navitu  and so on, would have had expertise in,  was attractive to gain wider support with him getting on a hard-line standing.

Getting onboard the old Bougainville nationalism issue that had roots parallel to the birth of the Panguna mine in the early 1960s covered the family feud swiftly and got the attention of a wider Bougainville support. Ona was now not prepared to give in into any systematic conflict resolution proposal by anyone.

With the growing support and a team of professional followers the late Francis Ona and his team, the New Panguna Landowners, established a well thought-out compensation packaged that shook the company and the PNG government.

In November of 1988, Ona had a 4-point demand to PNG and the BCL. According to Divine Word University Associate Professor Dr. Jerry Semos, the demands were: (1). K10 billion for environmental pollution, (2).50% of profits to resource-owners and the North Solomons provincial government, (3).localization of BCL ownership within 5 years and (4).consultation on all new mining projects in the province.

It is believed that Mathew Kove, and his men in the old PLA that includes people like Michael Pariu, Severinus Ampaoi and so on laughed at the demands as unrealistic as they waited for the PNG government commissioned NZ consultant firm that was undertaking Environmental Impact Study (EIS) for results.

As the ‘Francis Ona’s 4-point demand’ was hot in late 1988, another ill that Bougainvilleans had suffered under since the 1970s, and that is the New Guinean squatter-settlers, raped and murdered a local woman from the Aropa area.

Fighting broke out as frustrated Bougainvilleans who had for years being victimized retaliated. But the incident had all locals mobilizing against the illegal New Guinean settlers starting from Aropa to Arawa. In certain settlements homes were torched or settlers shot at with bows and arrows.

The new PLA and Francis Ona were not involved with the anti-squatter settlement campaigns especially on the Arawa-Aropa front, but they had direct impact on Ona’s decision making and moves. He did visit a number of villages and chaired meetings.

And has Ona and the new PLA campaigned against the possible closing of the mine if the 4-point demand were ignored, he had captured the attention of the old champions of anti-mining protests since the 1960s, and this is the what is now the Tumpusiong Valley people. They began holding protests down in the valley.

In the week the Tumpusiong Valley people were protesting by blocking the Panguna-Nagovis road, the NZ consultant held a public meeting at Guava village where they claimed, as stated by Dr. Jerry Semos, that BCL was not responsible for the social and environmental problems faced by the landowners and the Bougainville people.

Whilst the meeting was still on with Mathew Kove and his cronies in attendance, Francis Ona and his men stole explosives on 22 November 1988; and arson on BCL and government properties simultaneously began. The explosives then were put into action on 4 December 1988 by blowing down the first power pylon at the Police Corner of the port-mine access road.

To these fighting in the east coast, Arawa to Aropa, against squatter settlers also intensified.

The sabotage campaign around Panguna was seldom, but the BCL and PNG government campaign to address it on their terms was alarming. BCL, out of nowhere opened the door of employment to the locals, a fact that locals began angry about it for to them, it was too late.

And Ona was not to be fooled again. On 12 January 1989 (ibid), he kidnapped his relative, Mathew Kove and executed him out in the jungles of Mosinau where he was stationed.

On the PNG government side on the other hand, the state pushed for peace deals after deals to quell the crisis and save its revenue that was cut off by the mine closure on May 1989 despite the obvious fact of police and army brutality on Bougainvilleans that scared Ona to fight on or not to trust the government.

Thus what the PNG army leader Mr. Ted Diro boasted by claiming that ‘the Bougainville problem would be brought under control and solved within two weeks and the militant leader, Francis Ona [who had a K200 000 price tag on his head with 8 other BRA leaders] arrested’ (Niugini Nius, 4 October 1989) was now getting out of control; and from his hideout, Ona was feeling more secure.

So one PNG government’s major peace-oriented deal was the Bougainville Development Package and according to the North Solomons Provincial government’s weekly newsletter that was referred to as Weekly Brief: Bougainville Crisis (November 13-19, 1989 issue), the offer had seven benefits for Bougainvilleans. But the two significant promises were point (2).where the province would be receiving K282 million per year for seven years and (3).where the province would become a state government and would retain 75% of all earnings generated by the province whilst 25% went to Port Moresby; a deal Ona was not willing to accept.

But against Ona’s hopes, the provincial government under Joseph Kabui who was a figure with the characteristic of being open to others as premier accepted it thus scaring away Ona from the provincial government. 

So Ona responded irately on a letter to his sister, Cecilia Camel who to be the spoke person of the BRA at the peace ceremony in Arawa. The note, with a letter head as ‘Republic of Bougainville’ was dated 20 December 1989 had these demands: (1).National Government recognize and declare Francis Ona as the winner of the Bougainville crisis and itself the looser; (2).National Government declare North Solomons to secede; (3).The properties and those killed be compensated before the two parties meet for negotiations; (4). Security force and police…leave before negotiations where the two parties were to meet to negotiate 50% refund from the national government, and the demand of K10 billion from BCL. This note was signed by a Bruno Kobala for Francis Ona.

It is notable here that the provincial government, churches and others were the channel where Ona and the PNG government and the BCL were meeting now that Ona was in the bush hiding. But their engagement was so often conflicting because of their individual leadership characteristics and interest.

Joseph Kabui was open to negotiate with others and that he was a state actor with norms to observe whilst Francis Ona was militant. However, both groups feared one as enemy and that was the PNG government soldiers and police that were brutal on the Bougainville people.

But the most interesting fact about Ona was that he was observed as a leader, however, all BRA groups fighting on the ground were independently without any chain of common from Ona and Kauona from their hideout.

This can be confirmed by a Niugini Nius story entitled Shooting puts peace in doubt, of 30 October 1989. In the article, where the PLA, National Government, the provincial government had a peace ceremony at Arawa High School on 27 October 1989. In the ceremony PM Rabbie Namaliu said the K200 000 on Ona was to be removed and Ona, despite refusing to attend, sent a message through central Bougainville MP, Raphael Bele where he said that the traditional ceremonies of peace will be respected. However, on the 28 October 1989, BRA men from the Tumpusiong valley shot a PNGDF soldier.

Ona was a leader to those around him in the jungles of Mosinau but had no influence further away for he was not mobile.

People knew that Francis Ona was a leader in the jungle but translating that leadership in practical strategic influence and control was lacking outright since he was blinded too early by political pride by success of shutting the mine.

An October to Remember

By Leonard Fong Roka

The day before the PNGDF troops landed on Tunuru Catholic Mission I came into town from Kupe and returned with plans to return the next morning for market. But early the next morning others left and I decided to stay back but were returned on the way for our town was captured by the enemy. We lost our girls whom we met at the market for nothing but admiration; they were scattered like litter by the rain of bombs from Tunuru.

Arawa was calm; but the rolling waves on the beach were not ours; they

Were theirs, those men who came from New Guinea to take over our land.

The sky was theirs; those flying mechanical bats that came from New Guinea to fired guns on us.

And kill our men, women and future children for nothing
But to take over our land.

So we sang their songs as they said unto us over the few years;

Sitting ducks staring them snailing from the northern end of our country

Till that October night; till that October they made us run for the bush.

That 1992 October, that market day; we all dreamt to meet a sweet Rorovana girl

And gobble her cassava cake for love.

But our Arawa had a stroke from Tunuru that October dawn;

Those men of the sky and the sea from New Guinea rained bombs on us.

Recklessly, they bombed us to kill us for our land; they bombed us to rid our dignity;

They bombed us to eradicate our identity of Solomon;

they bombed to show us how lethal they were in tribal warfare so we faded.

That sad October morning; that market day in warring Arawa,

Toboinu was stocking her greens for the Arawa market at Topinang;

Measinu was making love to her Kitong on Namira Street;

Kingkobo was peeing on the lawn at Kaukapan Street;

 And the politician was snoring at Amino Road and hell dawned down hard.

The New Guineans wanted us death

So that they could take over our land, dignity and identity.

Thus, Toboinu stood idle as her Bougainville trembled;

Measinu and Kitong ran naked in their separate ways for the hills;

And Kingkobo kept peeing till sunset

And the politician woke sunbathing for there was not a roof in the abode.

So, they all ran into the bush; over the rivers and valleys for the Crown Prince Range

So that the New Guinean could not find

And kill them for their land, dignity and identity.

That October dawn in 1992 Arawa,

Mortar bombs!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Bougainville President Fails Victims of Brutal Resource Conflict

By Timothy King

A decade long war in Papua New Guinea has left deep scars on Bougainville and its people. Some will never be erased, others may fade with time.
Many of the horrors experienced are unimaginable. Speaking from her hospital bed in December 1999, Cecillia recalls her treatment at the hands of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF):

A military policeman named Robin Monai raped me. He buggered me and he raped me wearing a coffee mug handle on his penis — he called it a bearing. This caused me internal damage. This man is still here in Buka and nothing has been done to correct this injustice. This is a man who used to cut the ears off and then kill our men. He is still here. Nothing has been done; there is no justice.

In the deceptively beautiful surrounds of Bougainville – a mineral rich island which lies on Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) eastern border – painful memories such as this are replayed every day.

Sadly political leaders on Bougainville charged with responsibility for peace-building have largely abrogated their domestic and international obligation to challenge impunity and seek redress for victims of gross human rights violations. Indeed, in perhaps the most gutting blow for victims, Bougainville’s President has aligned his government with Rio Tinto, a company he once accused of ordering and facilitating the atrocities.

The conflict which sparked this ongoing injustice began in November 1988. For two decades (1972-1988) prior, the island played host to one of the world’s largest copper-gold mines, run by Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL).

Most of the profits drifted abroad, or were funnelled to the PNG state. The small portion reserved for Bougainville gradually drove a significant wedge through local communities, as a cabal of pro-mine landowners commandeered landowner trusts, companies and compensation payments. As the environmental damage and inequality mounted, people in the mine area amassed behind a vibrant new generation of young leaders, led by Perpetua Serero and Francis Ona. Serero and Ona vocally challenged the elite cabal, and voiced opposition to the mine and its corrosive impact on their island, culture and land.

This emergence of local resistance culminated in a campaign of industrial sabotage directed against the mine. The response of the PNG state was swift and brutal. Villages around the mine were torched, and those displaced were thrown into crudely constructed detention camps. When this violence was met with resistance by independence fighters from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) – a guerrilla group set up in response to the attacks – the bodies began piling up.

There are many tragic stories from Bougainville’s crisis days, far too many to recount here – young men tortured and executed, pregnant women disembowelled, children blown apart by PNGDF mortars while attending Sunday School. By the war’s end between 10,000 and 20,000 people lay dead; no armed faction had clean hands.

Now a new generation of Bougainvilleans who grew up among the violence and animosity, are attempting to excise the island’s demons by recording their memories, and the memories of elders, in simple blogs, poems and images.

For example, university student and poet Leonard Fong Roka, has curated a powerful series of oral histories on his blog, which offer a dignified record of the suffering people endured during the crisis. From the perspective of the powerful, these are subversive pieces which weave together the themes of abuse, complicity and injustice.

For instance, Roka recounts the story of Hellman Angkanu, whose village was raided by the PNGDF in 1989. Arriving in BCL trucks, Hellman remembers being “gun-butted, punched, kicked and swore at”. Through a crack in his blindfold, Hellman then witnessed “the muscular body of Karebu, [PNGDF soldiers were] holding him by the legs and some supporting the hands”, his “body was mutilated with fresh bullet wounds … Flies hovered around the body and ants climbed to feed on the solidified blood”.

These victims, of which there are many, and the contemporary chroniclers who attempt to give them voice, have been abruptly cast aside by Bougainvillean politicians – some of who formed part of the cabal opposed by Ona and Serero – whose eyes are now focused on reopening the controversial Rio Tinto mine.

But it has not always been this way. In 2001, John Momis, the current Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) President, composed a remarkable five page statement. It was firm, principled and uncompromising in its willingness to speak truth to power.

As a Minister in the PNG government during the conflict’s most bloody years (1988-1992), Momis was privy to the secret dealings that engineered brutal military reprisals against innocent villagers around the mine and well beyond.

This 2001 document – composed for a US-based class action launched by Bougainvillean litigants against Rio Tinto – could easily be forgotten, but it shouldn’t be, few more courageous statements have been made with respect to the war. This important statement is now public for the first time.

Momis begins his searing indictment: “It is important to understand the significance of holding Rio Tinto responsible for its actions and the actions of the PNG government. At all times, Rio Tinto, through BCL, controlled the government’s actions on Bougainville ... whenever government action was called for on Bougainville, BCL was the one that requested it”.

The actions Momis references here – conducted by the PNG state, at the alleged behest of Rio Tinto – collectively constitute crimes against humanity. And Rio’s subsidiary, BCL, was a pivotal actor in this regrettable historical episode.

After villages were torched and their inhabitants brutalised, troops would hop into BCL trucks, and return to base – which was BCL’s headquarters – where they could enjoy a hot meal and a comfortable bed, all supplied by the company. A senior BCL manager recalls, “We did everything they asked of us to make their life more comfortable, and better able to manage through, with transport, communications, provisions, whatever, fuel. You know we gave them everything”. This continued even after military atrocities became common knowledge.

Accordingly, Momis places responsibility for the criminal military operations unreservedly on the shoulders of Rio Tinto’s subsidiary BCL. He writes:

BCL needed PNG to open the mine in the first place and keep it open because of the long-standing local opposition to the mine. In fact, it was BCL that requested the aid of its partner, PNG, to deploy defence forces to suppress the uprising and reopen the mine. BCL requested that PNG reopen the mine by whatever means necessary, and later assisted in planning and the imposition of the [military] blockade. I was aware of one meeting where BCL management instructed PNG to ‘starve the bastards out.’

These are not the words of an outsider, Momis was there in Cabinet during 1988-1992, acting as the PNG Prime Minister’s right hand man. Indeed, Momis arguably more than anyone else knows exactly how things went down.

As Bougainville emerges from the conflict, an enduring, albeit fragile, peace has been forged. Yet significant lacunas remain. In his 2001 statement Momis pinpoints one gap: “It is important to Bougainvilleans and the long-term reconciliation process that Rio Tinto’s responsibility be addressed in an impartial forum by an impartial judge”.

He continues: “There are high levels of support for the litigation in Bougainville. It is well understood if the Panguna mine did not happen the Bougainville war and blockade would never have occurred. Everyone on Bougainville is united in this feeling. If the court case can give Bougainvilleans an opportunity to air their claims against Rio Tinto and obtain justice, then it will strengthen the reconciliation process that is brining [sic] PNG and Bougainvilleans closer together”.

What the people of Bougainville demand, and what Momis articulates so clearly, is an innate right to truth, justice and reparation enshrined in international law. As the government that could lead Bougainville to full independence – pending a referendum – the ABG is duty bound to defend the rights of victims in domestic and international forums. And with president Momis at the helm one could very easily imagine the ABG setting the global standard in defending the rights of victims and bringing the powerful to account. Indeed, this small Melanesian island has something of a reputation for taking principled stances and winning against unspeakable odds.

However, if victims were expecting a strong champion when Momis was finally elected ABG President in 2010 – and they had every right to in light of Momis’ stand in 2001 – the last three years have proven an anti-climax. Having once stood shoulder to shoulder with the victims of Rio Tinto’s actions, the ABG President now presents the company as a saviour in a crisis of the ABG’s creation.

Lets just put this profound u-turn in historical context. In 1987, when Bougainville began to rumble with serious discontent, Momis lambasted BCL in a letter to the company’s Managing Director. “You are invaders”, Momis wrote, with the “ideology of a cancer cell”. He claimed, BCL had “colonized our people” and eaten Bougainville’s “roots and leaves”. Momis implored the company to change its way and offer the people of Bougainville a fairer deal.

Not only did BCL reject his advice, they were complicit in a devastating series of counterinsurgency operations, which aimed to silence some of the company’s loudest critics. Momis’ metaphor of a “cancer cell” could not have been more prescient. Accordingly, it is hard to believe that Momis could now ask his people to forego truth, justice, and reparation and welcome back a corporate actor which helped brutalise Bougainville.

That said, the current position of Momis and the ABG would be at the very least understandable if BCL was publicly contrite, and stood ready to make amends for past wrongdoings. Yet to this day the company denies the accusations leveled against it. The last phrase needs to be underlined. Despite rigorous documentary evidence and damning oral testimony from its own executives, BCL publicly denies complicity in defense force operations. To add injury to insult their parent has bitterly fought Bougainville in the US courts.

The crimes of the past cannot be laid to rest when the right to truth and reparation is being blocked. That the ABG has become complicit in this injustice is a blemish on a state which so many on the island fought and died for.

To make matters worse the ABG has, with indecent haste, used high-pressure sales tactics and deceit to win community support for Rio Tinto’s return. The sad irony of this should not be overlooked. It has been the long held position of the ABG President that the conflict emerged in large part from the rushed, high-handed manner with which the mine was hoisted upon Bougainville during the 1960s by the Australian colonial administration.

When introducing draft mining legislation earlier this year, that will pave the way for Rio’s return, Momis informed parliament: “I believe that it is not really the Panguna mine that caused the many problems and the conflict Bougainville has experienced since the 1960s. No – the real problem was the fact that we Bougainvilleans were ignored. The mine was imposed on us”.

Yet in an a move that would have won the approval of Charles Barnes – the controversial Australian Minister of Territories – ABG officials have gone to communities claiming the ABG is broke, and the island’s shattered economy is moribund. Only by reopening the mine under BCL auspices, the people are told, will Bougainville attract the necessary injection of capital needed for self-sufficiency, autonomy and independence. It has been added, Bougainville must act fast; high copper prices may not be around forever, were they to drop, the low-grade deposit would become uneconomical.

In one fell swoop the ABG has – on the dubious threat of bankruptcy and political dependency – asked the people of Bougainville to forego their right to justice. In contrast to the ABG’s position, the international human rights standard is clear, victims should not be forced to sell off their finite natural resources to repair damage caused by state and non-state actors. A large share of the responsibility for reparation and restoration lies with those responsible for the human rights violations. According to Momis’ own sworn testimony that is Rio Tinto.

Now the ABG President appears to believe that reconciliation – and indeed the mine’s reopening – can in fact be achieved through short-cuts. Such a belief can only be held in defiance of the past.

It was not the actions of colonial officials which so incensed those who would spearhead the island rebellion in 1988 – white men were expected to act as exploiters – it was rather the nefarious role that their own national, provincial and traditional leaders played.

Indeed, two of the movement’s most articulate leaders, Serero and Ona, reserved some of their most pointed barbs for local leaders, many of whom are bulwarking the efforts to reopen the mine today.

In one letter Serero refers to them as “self centered traditional landlords brainwashed by foreigners and minority elite nationals”. While in a later speech – which surely rates among one of the most important in the island’s history – Francis Ona censures provincial and national leaders:

We were forced to become passive observes of our own exploitation, first by the racist colonial administration and after independence by the black political leaders in whitemen’s coats … We are the ‘sacrificial lamb’ for the few capitalists whose hunger for wealth is quenchless and unceasing.

Ona continues his political tract by identifying those individuals who he saw as constitutive of this parasitic national class, one of whom is the current ABG President:

The Parliament House in Port Moresby is nothing more than a central market place where the indigenous capitalists exchange large sums of money and make bargains for large foreign loans and investments for personal benefits in the name of national development … Neither Somare, Chan, Wingti, Namaliu, Momis nor their other counterparts are nationalists. All our politicians from national to provincial level are puppets for the foreign capitalists … Today frustrations and anger loom in all corners of this country.

Francis Ona succumbed to illness in 2005. It is hard to know how he would have reacted to current events. Nevertheless, the ABG President now presumes to speak for Ona, a man whose memory is sacred to many on the island. And his voice – selectively channelled by Momis – sings a very different tune:

Francis was not trying to end the mine for ever. No – his complaint was about the unfair treatment of Bougainville. He wanted the rights of Bougainvilleans recognised. He wanted fair distribution of the revenue ... We have continued that same struggle throughout the peace process.

A more self-serving revision of the past could hardly be imagined. Forgotten here – or edited out – is Ona’s searing critique of Momis and many others who he believed had traded the people’s right to land, environment and culture for material wealth and personal prestige. Future generations will be forgiven for reaching a similar conclusion once they learn that the ABG President sacrificed the fundamental rights of Bougainvillean victims, for a company he once likened to a “cancer cell”.

Back in 2001 President Momis took a momentous stand against Rio Tinto, which if pursued with strength and resolve through the ABG, could have secured Bougainville the collective reparation needed to fund independence or autonomy. With honey being dripping in their ear, the ABG has abandoned this fundamental duty of statehood, in so doing it has also abandoned those whose who can no longer speak because their voice was brutally silenced two decades ago.

--Timothy King is a freelance writer and researcher with a focus on land and resource issues in the Pacific region.

Monday, 15 July 2013

PPBS, a Positive Road for Bougainville

Leonard Fong Roka

Where all leadership fear thinking outside the box or being energetic to influence all Bougainville into action for a nationalistic unity and action for betterment, the political authorities  and leaders on Bougainville look at the Panguna District as the catalyst for economic leap for the break-away region of Papua New Guinea (PNG)  in the Solomon Islands archipelago.
Panguna Mine
Bougainville is the largest and the richest in terms of natural resources island of the Solomon archipelago. In 1899 it become part of the German New Guinea colonial administration that used it once as the launching path for its New Guinea civilizing effort that was later taken over by the Australians since First World War.

In the 1960s, as the colonial ruler, Australia, began preparing its New Guinea territory for nationhood, it developed the Panguna mine on Bougainville that resulted also, in the Bougainvillean struggle for self determination since then.  But, with clever plots of luring and indoctrination Bougainville ended up part of independent PNG state in 1975; but it was an accommodation of protest culture that kept PNG quaking.

In 1988 after all the years of dissatisfaction and peaceful protests by Bougainvilleans, the Panguna mine began the catalyst to tear down PNG’s exploitative pride of rule of the Solomon Island people of Bougainville.

With the dawn of the Bougainville Peace Process, in terms of leadership, the Panguna District did play again significant roles in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict that had sacrificed the lives of some 15 thousand Bougainvilleans in war and also property destruction. Panguna District could accept a myopic accusation that it is responsible for the crisis death on Bougainville.

But for so long, internal politics within the Kieta area had affected progress in development and peace-building for the Central Bougainville region.

Conflict had being complicated and without much room for understanding and negotiation thus it had divided the people. Kieta had seen factions led by men like Chris Uma, Moses Pipiro and Ishmael Toroama.

With Bougainvillean leaders looking at the Panguna mine as the economic source for the future development of Bougainville after the referendum said to be planned for 2016, the move by the people across Bougainville calling for the re-opening of the Panguna mine it is evidenced as creating change in the hearts and minds of the Panguna people.

Few months ago, leaders in Panguna created Panguna Peace Building Strategy (PPBS) that is now playing significant roles in uniting the people of the District.

Operating under the Panguna District Administration, PPBS, now oversees the peoples’ views on mining in the villages not only in Panguna but across many areas of Central Bougainville and South Bougainville’s Bana District.

Through awareness landowners also turn to understand what the leaders in the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) want and are up to. As indicated last week, an all Panguna mine site landowners from Pirurari, Dapera, Moroni and Guava met in Panguna with PPBS to voice their concerns over the re-opening issue.

The landowners claimed they are willing to welcome mining for the very reasons to help finance the compensation for property loss and lives loss on Bougainville; and furthermore, they were willing to allow mining for the economic recovery and strengthening of the Bougainville independence. To them innocent Bougainvilleans had died for independence and this must be met.

Also, the gathering heard that before mining resumes, the ABG and whoever mining company should let them know about their future life regard to the mining operations. This is to do with things automatic employment, good compensation or royalty and their most pressing demand was to close the door to all non-Bougainvilleans.

Landowners also wanted a new waste disposal system. They don’t want gravel being stockpiled on what is already in existence (this refers to the stockpiled waste gravel on the dumps) and also they want an environment-friendly waste management of waste from the concentrator mills down the Tumpusiong Valley and the sea in South Bougainville.

The meeting also heard that the new mining venture must now grant all sub-contractors, for example, food catering and tyre services for mine plants to Bougainvilleans and allow no firm outside Bougainville. They said Bougainvilleans are innovated people so the miner should come first with education for Bougainvilleans.

The landowners want to see every village across Bougainville should be connected by sealed roads; every river to have permanent bridges; every island community to have jetty. These are what the mining company should think about before talking about re-opening.

Towards all these exercises, one great break-through for the Panguna people is the land conflicting Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) leaders, Ishmael Toroama, Chris Uma and Moses Pipiro, who are scheduled for reconciliation late this month.

This trio with their followers had long kept the people divided politically and they have also regularly fought each other over their own personal interests, mostly over power over the Panguna mine site and money from scrap metal and government projects.

In line with this, ABG President Dr. John Momis will also be visiting Guava Village for the first time as Bougainville president.

These are a few indicating events that Bougainville is moving and not that stagnant.