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Saturday, 6 December 2014

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

Leonard Fong Roka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Friday, 28 November 2014

Bougainvillean businesses feeling the sting of Asian take-over

Leonard Fong Roka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Initiated by the ABG, an Asian syndicate is taking over Bougainville

Leonard Fong Roka

In 2013 the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) created a company referred to as Bougainville Import/Export Limited, with a Port Moresby based Chinese, Jason Fong. The company’s Investment Promotion Authority (IPA) records lists top Bougainville parliamentarians like current President Dr. John Momis, and subordinates like Albert Kinani as directors and 
shareholders.

But the company had setbacks; however, the ABG-Jason Fong creation then, Bougainville is now undergoing an uncontrolled rush on its cottage industry that the Bougainville Constitution’s Section 22, 23 and 24 indicates must be owned or preserved for the people of Bougainville.

On this ABG-Jason Fong pavement now Bougainville’s Buka Town has Asian businesses like Norak Trading, BCM Trading, Happy Sound Trading, and a few other tentacle operations.

And all these do not pay tax to the Buka Internal Revenue Commission (IRC).

This is because this syndicate has a problematic business operation strategy. For example, under BCM Trading, there are a number of retail outlets around Buka Town. All these shops operate under the single BCM Trading’s IPA certification. However, when it comes to noting their cash incomes (returns, etc), BCM Trading’s bank statements do not prove its other BCM Trading branches are depositing into its bank account.

In the IPA certificate for BCM Trading, the Siwai lady married to the Asian manager who also had left his wife and children in China is noted as the director/shareholder but she has no statutory obligations or requirements but rather that is with her Chinese husband.

Which means the marriage is also a business marriage to exploit Bougainville.

Furthermore, this syndicate has one tax agent based in Port Moresby. According to investigations, the man who aliases between this syndicate and the government authorities is one common figure shared by all other Asian businesses in other parts of PNG. 

This tax agent prepares tax returns and financial reports for the entire network and in Bougainville’s Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) approaches these numerous Asian shops in Buka, they all refer them to the common tax agent in Port Moresby; and in such an arrangement, Bougainville loses much taxable income.

The Bougainville arm of this syndicate is also breaking PNG labour laws under the auspices of the ABG politicians.

Most employees of these shops have work permits for Rabaul and Hagen and other PNG areas and not Bougainville. But the cunning strategy of avoiding attention is the fly-in-fly-out practice noted by the Bougainville employees of these Asian shops.

‘Every fortnight,’ Josephine Dumi, a Gogohe shop assistant to Happy Sound Trading, said, ‘we see new Chinese coming and going.

Such a business operations have Bougainville getting nothing in areas like personal income tax for the payroll records are fluid and hard to keep track of by the IRC.

‘You cannot see them during the day but you could be amazed at night when they get together at their new community hall near the New Dawn on Bougainville offices. There are many and many of them now here in Buka and they tell us they want to go further to Arawa and Buin, too.’ 

But in Buka, unlike the Bougainville mainland it is hard to remove them now by force since they are protected by politicians.

Local Buka people are also greatly benefiting from rent paid by this syndicate for the short term but for the long term self reliance for Bougainville is doomed.

Bougainvillean employees in the Happy Sound Trading said their employee is paying K30 000 a month to a local Gogohe businessman and politician so far. Also, the vice president of ABG, Patrick Nisira, has his security firm that protects all these syndicate business operations.

All this is happening under ABG’s wishes for a better Bougainville.



Thursday, 16 October 2014

I’m now a degree man: my university journey realised a dream


LEONARD FONG ROKA

IT was the coastal trawler MV Solomon Queen which took me away that February afternoon in 2011.
 
I was carried away from my Solomon island of Bougainville across the Solomon Sea to the New Guinean town of Rabaul in East New Britain.

Then, after a few hours catching up with relatives from Ragunai village, I left on the ill-fated MV Rabaul Queen for Kimbe and on to Lae.

In 2013, the Rabaul Queen was to sink in bad weather with heavy loss of life.

From Lae we hit the highway through the Markham Valley, over rugged terrain into Madang Province and thence to Madang town’s Divine Word University.

It was a three day journey from Bougainville to Madang that finally had me stuck to the university for four years.

And today I can claim to have undergone a rite of passage for a Bachelor of Arts Degree in PNG Studies and International Relations. The testamur will be handed to me next March.

When I left my Bougainville, I had a vision. But that vision was not a university-stirred dream, for that was born in 1997 in the classrooms of Arawa High School when a few bullets were jetting around me.

I carried my vision in two exercise books and a binder of some 200 pages of A4 paper. Beyond that my vision was silent in an unheard struggle for realisation.

With my dream burning in my heart at the University of Papua New Guinea in 2004, I faced a number of academics and showed them my bound leaves of paper. But would not win the struggle through them.

My destiny was to wage a lone war through the system; and, in time, this led me to Divine Word University and its resources.

The university gave me the key on my 2011 registration day and it was up to me to open the door and choose from the treasures within.
 
I came as a self-sponsored student and felt ashamed in the company of scholarship students and talked little.

But I struggled on with my dream. A dream even my course mates knew nothing about.

Then in mid-2011, my Communication Skills lecturer, Mrs Aiva Ore, introduced us to social media and showed us blogs and websites.

Thus I was at work checking blogs and reading them when, by chance, I caught sight of Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude.

I looked at the professional writings therein and did hesitate at first; but the vision took off and infiltrated PNG Attitude.

So I began doing assignment essays for submission to the lecturer and another version to PNG Attitude. And on every moment I saw my writing in PNG Attitude I was dancing somewhere high in the skies.

Once shy, writing earned me a reputation and some form of status over those first two years amongst my university mates. Now I felt free and I could talk freely.

I debated without fear that I was a self-sponsored student; but even this was eradicated in 2012 when I returned as an assisted student flying on a government ticket just like those I once feared to look in the eye.

As I progressed with PNG Attitude, my dream came to fruition piece by piece in the Crocodile Prize competition. When a few of my writings appeared in the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2011 I felt that I was now an author.

Through 2012, my writing was consolidating with nurturing from Keith Jackson, Philip Fitzpatrick, my Divine Word University lecturers and the free DWU internet service.

It was now beginning to contribute to my academic advancement, and the proof was in that academic transcript that secured me government assistance.

2013 was the greatest year of my life both positively and negatively.

Positively, because of freelance writing I began meeting with people of high stature in films, writing and academia.

Negatively, I began receiving a handful of threats because of the same writing.

Threatening phrases like ‘you in Madang means you under my control’, ‘you need to be death, ‘your writing is your coffin’ and ‘you will do nothing positive under the sun and die useless’.

I felt powerless under these threats and was contemplating withdrawing from university but my Bougainvillean course mates Daphney Toke and Ancitha Semoso helped me back.

But overriding these threats a dream was realised. There was my name on the front cover of a book. Pukpuk Publishing released my first book, a collection of poetry, The Pomong U’tau of Dreams.

Then my dancing heart received the 2013 Crocodile Prize award for short stories. Following rapidly was my second book, a collection of short stories, Moments in Bougainville.

My happy heart half-regretted that I was attaining such significant achievements after so many years. But all I had was this life and I had no right to question it and its ways.

Thus I grasped another life’s desire and decided to settle down. I met my partner, Delpine Piruke, who is from Nakorei village in Buin, South Bougainville, when she was a student at Madang Teachers College, In June this year my daughter Dollorose came into my dreaming life.

But my dream is still dragging me to write more. I have loved calling myself a keyboard politician for Bougainville using all the resources Divine Word University has given me.

In January 2014, I completed by Bougainville crisis memoir covering my experiences with the conflict from 1988 to 1997. That book, Brokenville, is the only book written about the crisis by a Bougainvillean.

I was so proud when, in the 2014 Crocodile Prize, it was awarded Ok Tedi Book of the Year.

Such a life of writing in Divine Word University had taken me from bring a backward little known Panguna man out to the wide world.


Today I am often a focus of discussion in the Bougainville political realm. I have met and chatted with great Papua New Guinean figures like Brigadier General Jerry Singirok and Sir Paulias Matane, who were once just illusions. I travel to give talks away from where I am based. And I feel more is in the pipeline.
 
Universities overseas used my writings. Organisations are being moved by what I write to do research on Bougainville. And I am still dreaming.

With three books published and a fourth book coming later this year there is a fifth done and snoring in my laptop.

My goal is to reach further in writing where no fellow Bougainvillean has yet reached.

For I am still dreaming. I am dreaming to attain more that life has for me.

My life as a Bougainville dreamer at Divine Word University from 2011 to 2014 is over. That key was given to me in 2011, but it was me that decided whether to open the door or sleep with it.

At Divine Word University, in four solid years, I feel I have written my name into the history books.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Suspicious but booming ‘Torokina Real Estate’ in Madang


Leonard Fong Roka

A few minutes’ drive north of Madang Town there is a block of land with sprouting number of houses surrounded by coconut palms and squalid type homes of the indigene. And the strangeness of this place is that the locals are often wondering about this Bougainvillean name and that the regularly visiting Asian seems to be telling them that this is a Bougainvillean property.
Torokina Real Estate
I was lucky finally to get a clear view and inside stories that a premises gardener had for me while travelling with fellow Bougainvillean Divine Word University students.

A count gave me ten completed high standard family homes for rent to clients. The block of land is well secured by security fencing and within the perimeter the gardeners are doing the finest of jobs beautifying the housing project.

And one noted fact is that the housing project is just a tip of the iceberg; there is evidence of expanding beyond the current stages.

To the workers there the business would be raking thousands of kina for Bougainville economy.

And according to the gardener and the main gate keeper, the origin of the project goes back to my homeland Bougainville and my government, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

As the 2010 Bougainville election was stirring, the pair said, Henry Chow the owner of the Lae Biscuit Company in Lae contributed some money to President Dr. John Momis election project.

Thus this relationship paved the way for many development activities that the ABG is pursuing.

In 2012 the PNG national government made a funding commitment to allocate K500 million over a 5 year period to rehabilitate infrastructure throughout Bougainville and one of those was the Torokina oil palm project. And from this some money was diverted to Mr. Chow and that is now in this Torokina Real Estate, here in Madang.
Torokina Real Estate Notice on North Coast Highway
According to these workers here, back in Bougainville, the feasibility study over the site in Torokina was previously done by a Siwai group and the report was presented to the ABG. But still the ABG ordered a bit for a next round of feasibility studies and this time the award went to Hakau Holdings, the subsidiary company of Lae Biscuit.

Hakau Holdings undertook the feasibility studies and also took ownership to invest a part of what it is working on in the Ramu Valley of Madang Province to Torokina, Bougainville.

And like many other Asian companies that toil and suck PNG wealth, Lae Biscuit, through Hakau Holdings has entered Bougainville to grow oil palm, and now have a shipping business known as the Chebu Shipping Company.

To the workers of Torokina Real Estate, they said, Bougainville is becoming rich by investing in oil palm in Torokina, real estate here in Madang that is creating them jobs, and the massive shipping industry they are hearing about with Mr. Henry Chow.

They said the Torokina Real Estate they working for is worth K7 to K9 million and it is managed by Henry Chow’s family members.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Bougainville independence champion Alexis Sarei dies


By Aloysius Laukai


One of Bougainville’s former leaders, DR.ALEXIS HOLYWEEK SAREI died at his home in Gagan on Buka island this morning.
Alexis Sarei


He was aged 80.

DR. SAREI was born on March 25th,1934 and got his middle name Holy week because he was ordained as a Priest on Holy week.

DR. SAREI was the District Commissioner for the North Solomons Province from 1973 to 1975 and as the President of the Secessionist Republic of the North Solomons from 1975 to 1976.

When the North Solomons Province was given the first Provincial Government by the National Government he became the Premier of North Solomons twice.

The first from 1976 to 1980 and again from  1984 to 1987.

From Premiership he also served as the Papua New Guinean High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

During the Bougainville conflict, DR. SAREI left home and stayed in the USA where he was married and returned to contest the second house for the Autonomous Bougainville Government in June 2010.

The second house of the ABG saw three former Bougainville leaders winning seats one by President MOMIS FOR THE Presidential seat, the Nissan seat by former Premier and Regional member LEO HANNET and the late DR. SAREI who won the PEITS seat.

Due to ill health, DR. ALEXIS SAREI was replaced at the end of last year.

Meanwhile the ABG President, Chief DR. JOHN MOMIS  in his condolence message said that it is with great sadness that I would like to pay tribute to an exceptional man who led an exceptional life and was a true son of Bougainville, the late Dr. Alexis Sarei.


The late Dr. Sarei was in all forms a man who led a remarkable life in the service of the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. His caliber as a leader cannot be questioned as he proved to be an able administrator and leader notably during his tenure as Premier of the former North Solomon’s Provincial Government, as PNG’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and of late as the Member for Peit Constituency in the Autonomous Bougainville Government.


The passing of the Late Dr. Alexis Sarei signifies an immense loss to the people of Bougainville as he is held in high regard as an elder statesmen and a formidable leader during the early years of this country’s formation. I fondly remember him from our time together at the Seminary in Madang where he was ordained a Priest along with the Late Archbishop Sir Peter Kurongku and Bishop Gregory Singkai after which he attained his doctorate in the Vatican City in Rome, Italy.


The Late Dr. Alexis Sarei also served as the Chief of Staff of the then Chief Minister of PNG Sir Michael Somare. He was also Bougainville’s first Premier and the first Bougainville District Commissioner. In light of the achievements of this great man the people of Bougainville and in particular the people of Solos can be proud of the Late Dr. Alexis Sarei as one of our truest sons.


On behalf of my family the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the people of Bougainville, I would like to thank the family of the Late Dr. Alexis Sarei and the people of Solos for the services rendered to the people of Bougainville and this nation as a whole. I pray that the Almighty and Merciful God may grant him eternal rest and console his family during their time of bereavement. He will be remembered as one of Bougainville’s truest sons. May he Rest In Eternal Peace.

Source: New Dawn on Bougainville Link: http://bougainville.typepad.com/newdawn/2014/09/no-title-15.html

Sunday, 24 August 2014

PNG is destroying the Bougainville independence move


Leonard Fong Roka

Papua New Guinea was built at the cost of the alienation of the Solomon island people of Bougainville. Bougainville people were belittled by the influx of non-Bougainville and non-Solomon people and cultures. Bougainville suffered environmental destruction that will take hundreds of years for ecology to put some order cause by the extraction of ore to finance PNG.
For this injustice a people went to an armed struggle against the state of PNG, its peoples, and the miner Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) (I include ‘its peoples’ because the Panguna mine property vandalism and attack on employees came later then the attacks on New Guinean squatter settlements around all Bougainvillean urban areas).

This armed crisis backed by an unprepared political leadership ended in a decade long struggle of a civil conflict and a negotiated multilateral peace process that was more-PNG friendly and not Bougainville oriented.

In PNG, as most literature pinpoints, the Bougainville economy collapsed with the crisis while all provinces were advancing. But with the Bougainville peace process, it is obvious that PNG came stronger to choke Bougainville on its still chaotic recovery process.

In a 2001 article, Agreed Principles on Referendum (online) it is read:

4 a) The constitutional amendments will guarantee that the referendum will be held:

·         No earlier than 10 years and, in any case, no later than 15 years after the election of the first autonomous Bougainville Government,

·         When conditions listed below have been met,

·         Unless the autonomous Bougainville Government decides, after consultation with the National Government and in accordance with the Bougainville Constitution, that the referendum should be held;

         b) The conditions to be taken into account include:

o   Weapons disposal, and

o   Good governance;

After the signing of these terms of referendum, a 2001 article by Norm Dixon, Bougainville: Referendum Terms Questioned (online) appeared. In it, the PNG and the Australian governments hailed the referendum terms as a ‘break through’ and ‘a milestone’ but the Bougainvilleans had questioned it.

Former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) leader Sam Kauona accused the late Joseph Kabui and Joel Banam who led the Bougainville delegation to sign terms of the referendum in Kokopo in 26 January 2001 as ‘given too much away to a dishonest government’ and added that ‘The survival of the PNG/Bougainville peace process depends very much on honesty, fairness and transparency…If we have not learned from our past mistakes then this struggle could go on for another 40 years.’

Honesty, fairness and transparency are foreign attributes in the current nature of PNG’s dealing with the Bougainville people and government. In the whole PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill January 2014 tour of Bougainville he hardly talked about Bougainville rights to referendum or self determination.

In a February 5, 2014 David Lornie Post Courier article, Maurua: PM to clarify views on referendum, a Siwai pastor said ‘I’m feeling that I don’t understand Papua New Guinea’s position on independence. They are not serious about what we think because 2014 is the last year before we enter the window of referendum.’ This is one of the many doubts on Bougainville and those with guns seem to be happy that they did not throw away their guns so that PNG will play on with Bougainville.

Again the PNG thinking was captured by Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, by Regan (2010: 127) that:

The logic is that in the 10 to 15 years from the establishment of the ABG in 2005, the PNG government has the opportunity to work closely with the ABG to promote all forms of development in Bougainville in a way that could be expected to encourage Bougainvilleans to consider the possible merits of remaining a part of PNG when it comes time to vote in the referendum.

 PNG is at work. It succeeded to influence the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) to created friction to the Bougainville progress and now it is all about winning Bougainvillean hearts to see Bougainville has problems through the PNG lens and not the Bougainville lens.

And the Peter O’Neill 2014 tour shows all the proof of PNG activities to undermine the Bougainville government, the ABG.

During the three-day tour the PNG delegation announced multi-million dollar development projects like the re-opening of the Aropa International Airport by the PNG government for Bougainville thus exciting the people and a handful of leaders. In all these projects’ launchings afterwards, a PNG minister flies into Bougainville from Port Moresby to officiate and not an ABG minister.

Bougainville’s ABG had endured continuous loud attacks for not bringing development from Bougainville’s own representatives in the PNG parliament mainly Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro from Central Bougainville and Hon. Steven Pirika from South Bougainville and little from Hon. Lauta Atoi from the North excluding the regional MP, Hon. Joe Lera who had been productively working with the ABG.

And all these condemnation of the government that came out as the result of the peace process with the responsibility to carry Bougainville forward is the national MPs has the financial power then the struggling and PNG-depended ABG.

The three MPs had been so destructive on ABG and not supportive. An ABG parliamentarian sent me a text message few days ago claiming:

We believe PNG has agents in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville to disrupt our preparations for referendum. Our national MPs, except the regional MP, are all agents of PNG. They feel comfortable with what they are receiving [from the PNG government] while majority of Bougainvilleans continue to struggle. They use the DSIP funds to promote “PNG’s might” and attempt to convince and mislead Bougainvilleans thus undermining the ABG. Tasol ol bai tait (But they won’t succeed).

But PNG intentions are all clear they are pursuing their baseless, disrespectful and irrelevant desire of Bougainville’s integration into PNG so it can remain enslaved under its old claws of the pre-1990 days.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bougainville leadership under challenge from PNG


Leonard Fong Roka

There is a war of words around the recently passed Bougainville Mining Law 2014. Yet this means Bougainville has now its own mining law to deal with mining in Bougainville. But mining is a controversial issue on Bougainville since the 1960s. For Bougainville it had sparked a crisis that has cost Bougainville much loss of lives.
And observing the whole conflict of protest over the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) creation of this law on mining and the critics, both sides has a good reason for argument but again all sides has ambiguous problems within where PNG is the catalyst.

Of course Dr. Jerry Semos 1997 James Cook University doctoral thesis, Natural Resources, Nasioi Society and the Colonial and Post-Colonial State in Papua New Guinea: The Mining and the Undermining of Resource Sovereignty and Resource Development in the Bougainville Copper Project 1963 to 1990, stated that ‘In 1964, an Australian mining company, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA) came to Bougainville, uninvited.’ This forceful entry was legalized by the cruel Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA) of 1967. And this tragedy on the Solomon Island people of Bougainville culminated in the death of 15 to 20 thousand innocent Bougainvilleans since 1988.

Because of this ten year destruction and bloodshed the world saw the need that politics should streamline to accommodate Bougainville and so the state of PNG allowed for the PNG-friendly Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) of 2001.

And the current criticism of the new Bougainville Mining Law should be all thrown at the BPA. Analysis of the BPA would show that Bougainvillean leadership gave in too much to PNG liking and this is the obvious leadership characteristics of the key leader the late Joseph Kabui that had one notable weakness of not hurting others and his desire to maintain positive relations with all.

In the whole peace process of Bougainville, every step under taken blessed or empowered PNG and did not value the suffering of the Solomon people of Bougainville that Dr. Jerry Semos’ work (above) rooted it to 1963.

In the 1990s article, Bougainville: A sad and silent tragedy in the South Pacific, a notable Bougainville leader Martin Miriori wrote:

On 16 September 1975, Papua New Guinea obtained independence from Australia. Bougainville's pleas for the people to be allowed to exercise their right to determine their own political future were ignored. 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.

Bougainvilleans were a piece of object given to PNG by Australia to exploit it and finance their independence!

This throwing of Bougainvilleans everywhere firstly evolved in 1886. A Raspal S. Khosa, in his University of Adelaide 1992 thesis, The Secessionist Crisis, 1964-1992: Melanesians, Missionaries and Mining, highlighted the Anglo-German Declaration of 1886 has halving the Solomon Islands into two spheres of influence between Britain (south islands) and German to the north. But the Anglo-German Convention of 1899 actually got Germany put Bougainville under its total authority with the German New Guinea that in 1975 began PNG.

PNG knows all these chaotic experiences of the Bougainville people that tuned them to struggle for self determination had disturbed their psyche and progress. Since the 1960s the victimize islanders then had the CRA threatening their existence with the Panguna mine to fund the development of PNG; foreign planters took massive land areas to run their plantations and gave nothing back to the people.

All these chaos ended in the armed crisis since 1988 and clearly PNG had no power to handle that and Australia, in the name of regional stability had to back PNG to starve the Solomon Islander rebels without any rights on their island out.

With the support of small Pacific countries, especially Solomon Islands and Vanuatu promoting Bougainville cause overseas, peace process began slowly developing simply because PNG, as the 2010 Anthony Regan’s book, Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, saw that the conflict that was supposed to be its internal crisis but was turning internationalized and PNG would lose ownership of Bougainville.

Peace prevailed on Bougainville not because of PNG (generally the PNG army was a sitting duck on Bougainville and it was Bougainvilleans who were fighting and killing each other) but because Bougainvilleans saw the need to end the conflict by their known phrase, ‘peace by peaceful means’ and worked towards a lasting political settlement for their future.

But PNG took an upper in the peace negotiation once again to disrupt Bougainvilleans right to self determination which they had fought and died for. PNG was not willing to support them and let them freely march into independence but enforced challenges upon the trouble-torn people.

Personal experiences of leaders who had participated in face-to-face negotiations with the PNG and others since the late 1990s towards developing a lasting peace process had shown PNG was always barking wildly at Bougainvilleans demanding them to do-this-and-do-that.

Such anti-Bougainville-independence culture of PNG led to the challenging three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement signed in 2001. These three pillars of the peace agreement are: Autonomy, Referendum and Weapons Disposal. And all these pillars and their associated terms and conditions seen from broad empirical analysis of the history of the Bougainville people’s struggle for self determination, are irrelevant and disrespectful.

In the Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, Regan (2010: 59) wrote:

This strong sentiment was a factor in the PNG government negotiations with parties sometimes arguing for limited roles for not only the UN and the PMG, but also foreign advisers to the Bougainville leaders. Such arguments were a source of tension, as the Bougainville leadership in generally supported expansive roles for the international intervention, and strongly opposed any suggestion of interference by [PNG government] in relation to sources of advice utilized by Bougainville.

PNG was not in to address the injustice faced by Bougainvilleans under PNG but was out there to undermine them from their rights despite obvious anti-PNG sentiments on the table. With this PNG also put harsh criteria on the three pillars of the peace agreement. It is known throughout Bougainville PNG was not willing to sign the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) till it was given a veto power over the outcomes of the referendum in Paragraphs 325 to 328 of the BPA.

PNG criteria that were bullied on the non-reckless political leaders of Bougainville were that Bougainville must be weapon free, economy must be self-sustaining and autonomy government must be functional and so on. But this, especially with economy, is irrelevant where PNG was financed by Bougainville resources and now it is time for PNG to compensate the Solomon island people of Bougainville.

Again the PNG plan was captured by Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, by Regan (2010: 127) that:

The logic is that in the 10 to 15 years from the establishment of the ABG in 2005, the PNG government has the opportunity to work closely with the ABG to promote all forms of development in Bougainville in a way that could be expected to encourage Bougainvilleans to consider the possible merits of remaining a part of PNG when it comes time to vote in the referendum.

All PNG government activities on Bougainville, like the classical Peter O’Neill tour of Bougainville in January 2014, are part of this PNG strategy to undermine the Bougainville people’s right to freedom.

And under this cruel challenge ABG is struggle to create laws like the mining bill to test its functional capacities as a government to carry Bougainville forward as PNG wanted. ABG has to have the money to finance itself as ordered by the PNG state; Bougainville has to be weapon free so that people are not intimidated to vote against integration to PNG as it is planning for with all its undermining of the authority of the Bougainville government. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Scrap metal was a liars and drunkards business of Kieta


Leonard Fong Roka

Driving through the industrial areas of the old BCL mine, Panguna and Loloho port today, there is hardly any structure frames of those massive workshops, crushers, plants, and other smaller equipment, and yards of spare parts and old material storage areas. All that now remains is a few brick walls, rusting irons, concrete drainage systems, and the vast gravel and rock surface area of Panguna.
All these tons of BCL property went overseas as scrap metal to the benefit of us the Panguna people and a few former BRA elites around Kieta.

Scrap metal business came to Bougainville around 1995 on the small scale but erupted into a massive scale just after 2005 on. The earlier small scale operations captured foreign opportunists and genuine agents and buyers thus catapulting the business up.

There were Koreans, Indians, and Chinese groups and even a few non-Asian brokers, and all the market destinations were Asian. A few known market destinations were in Korea, Vietnam, India, China, and Malaysia.

And in Panguna, especially, company names and groups sprang us and all specialized in buying and collecting scrap metal; a few had rights over areas within the mine site, and even the former BRA had their own groups alongside the Meekamui groups. But most in common, in terms PNG law had no IPA (Investment Promotion Authority) or BCL authorization to exploit BCL property and export it.   

I worked for about two years, 2008 to 2009, with a local group called Doborubu Scrap Metal Group (DSMG) that was based only in Panguna as an on-site assistant administration officer assisting our operation boss and as a tallyman keeping records of the scrap metal loads we made every day.

DSMG was owned by the Pirurari villagers who owned most lands in the Kusito area of the mine site. In this area, the DSMG just collected any metal and in others like the concentrator, the pit, the town areas.

The DSMG operated in partnership with a Korean financier and market dealer. From Korea he provided trucks, forklifts, and other heavy metal cutting equipment. In return DSMG sent scrap metal containers in his name to markets he chose.

Then the scrap buyers paid him the money and he deducted what DSMG owed him in equipment and plants with a little profit and sent what was left back to Bougainville.

DSMG with its two trucks, one a 25 ton truck and another was a 15 ton, was required to produce 15 tons for the 25 ton truck and 12 tons for the 15 ton truck. The operations had packers at Kieta port and harvesters in Panguna. Most employees were young and from a single clan extended family with only a handful of us from other clans.

Each shipment of scrap from the Kieta port in all cases must meet the required quota of scrap in tonnage. If the Korean boss wanted 150 tons of scrap metal then DSMG had to produce that or above. And working to these directives from Korea DSMG raked up every scrap in its own traditional land areas and began buying from others.

We group our boys to two groups. Some only did the cutting of buildings frames and plants; others waited for sellers who had stocked up their scrap and came to us to buy, and some had laid claim on plants or buildings and asked us to cut them down and buy them. We did just that all that for 6 days and rested only on Sundays.

In most cases we did not pay them on spot but I recorded the mass of scrap to each respective person’s name and truck it away to Kieta. In Kieta our packing boys packed the scrap in containers. We were required to pack its container with 25.5 tons of scrap metal.

It was only when this containers had left PNG then we money came into Bougainville from Korea and we paid our employees and the scrap owners.

And the most painful characteristic of all Panguna scrap metal tycoons was that it was a liars and drunkards’ business.

With cash or without cash, all weekends were wild boozing and partying. This phenomenon raised the number of retail outlets serving goods and liquor up. Nearly all residents of Panguna were a scrap metalist. Small retail businesses staggered as credit increased when workers used scrap as security to get goods.

And for DSMG we promised two Panguna District primary schools staff houses but till we ceased operations in 2011 because all stock of scrap has zeroed. Dapera Primary School had not seen a DSMG funded house and Darenai Primary School (Location 2) had not seen a DSMG house that we promised.

Promises we did to people since we, the top bosses in DSMG, were earning at the range of K600-K1000 per shipment were not realized. And today with scrap metal gone our level of financial happiness had shrink far too low than those that only lived on their gardens and we often boozed and called them penniless.  

Monday, 9 June 2014

Philip Miriori, a problem in Bougainville politics


Leonard Fong Roka

It was in May when travelling to Port Moresby for the Lowy Institute’s PNG Young Voices Conference that a Bougainvillean academic told me that ‘President Momis should retire from politics if he loves Bougainville.’ But his words, though significant in its own terms, did get me back to my homeland, the Panguna District and all its nasty and irrelevant politics.
Bougainvilleans sometimes should appreciate us, the stubborn Panguna people, for our contribution to physically rebel the old Bougainville problems of exploitation, indoctrination and genocide landed on us by the colonial administration of the Germans since 1886-1905 window, supported by the Australians and inherited by the Papua New Guinea state since 1975.

We the Panguna people also played significant roles in the peace process on Bougainville since 1997 and also before that; but our problem is that we have that internal mi-tu-man (I am also a difference) conflicts.

Looking down the history of the Bougainville ‘armed’ crisis in 1988 we can see that there is a replica of past events with external bonding this time that further complicates Bougainville progress in the Kieta area.

In the 1980s when the late Francis Ona of Guava village was up with his militant activities, the late Joseph Kabui from the neighboring village of Enamira was in the podium of the North Solomons Provincial Government representing the authority of the day. This was, to the eye of a politically illiterate Panguna man, a Panguna man vs. Panguna man crisis then.

And coming the peace process efforts since 1997 it was a Panguna man, the late Joseph Kabui, running the pro-peace game and it was a Panguna man, the late Francis Ona, that run a anti-peace campaign. Thus this has direct impacts on Panguna District itself and the wider Kieta area of Central Bougainville. I do believe the psyche of the people was affected.

This is not a Panguna problem anymore for it had spilled over from the brim of Panguna politics and beyond to the ends of Bougainville.

Soon after traditional figures of Bougainville politics, Francis Ona and Joseph Kabui were off the screen by way of their death Panguna saw a rise in too many little-men running for the shoes of their relatives. And all these little-man are vying to be the next Francis Ona at the wrong time in the political transition of Bougainville.

And one of this little-man of Panguna is Philip Miriori.

Before I talk about who Philip Miriori is, we need to know the realm Philip Miriori is playing in or from.

The 2013 research paper, The Gangs of Bougainville: Seven Men, Guns and a Copper Mine, by Stan Starygin says that:

 

 Philip Miriori, and Philip Takaung declaring themselves Ona’s successors. Miriori and Takaung brought Pipiro back to command the MDF troop severely depleted by the departure of Uma’s loyalists.

Miriori and Takaung rebranded Ona’s Kingdom of Me’ekamui into the Me’ekamui Government of Unity (‘MGU’) and significantly softened Ona’s stance on the ABG resulting in a landmark memorandum of understanding (‘the Panguna Communiqué’) in 2007. The Panguna Communiqué signaled, in part, a complete break from Ona’s positions and, in part, their significant alteration. As such, through it, the MGU denounced Uma’s checkpoint as having “abused and misused its objectives and rules of engagement under the Me’ekamui government” and as having the purpose “to blockade the Panguna people”,65 condemned “the use of arms and violence”66 and acquiesced to what can, perhaps, be best termed as a ‘two political viewpoints, one administrative structure’ arrangement with the ABG.67 In return, even though ABG has no such authority by any constitutional provision and ABG reciprocated by allowing the MGU to have its “own contingent plans on arms containment”68 and, of course, a promise of bringing resolution of “social issues and development issues”,69 “financial assistance, economic benefits, development packages, good and service”,70 and “other services”;71 all of these translate into ABG bringing money into the MGU-dominated  area, which doubtless was the main reason for this rapprochement for the MGU.

 

Philip Miriori, Philip Takaung and Noah Musingku were the trio vying to be successors of Francis Ona when he died. But conflict pushed Noah Musingku to Siwai where he pursued his Papaala Twin Kingdoms and Chris Uma out of Panguna to Arawa to run his anti-Panguna version of Meekamui. With two non-Panguna rivals out Miriori, Takaung and a BRA man, Pipiro, all from Panguna created their Meekamui Government of Unity (MGU) with Philip Miriori as president.

 

And so the 2007 signing of the Panguna Communiqué between the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) under the late Joseph Kabui and the MGU that catapulted Philip Miriori to be a nosiest and hard-to-trust destructive little-man of Panguna.

 

And we the Kietas are good noise-makers. I said this in my 2012 PNG Attitude story, Bougainville politics & the characteristics of its people, that:

 

 In Central Bougainville where the Kietas are politically and economically dominant, I see a lot of ‘big mouths’ that just cannot stop talking. Central Bougainvilleans are creative in exporting their dreams without testing the practical outcomes of those thoughts. But this population also readily absorbs change and adapts change to create results.

 

We talk and talk and talk. This could be noted even with the Central Bougainville MP in Waigani, Communications Minister Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro who talks hard in the media negatively attacking ABG but when the ABG responds with real facts, he hides for awhile to get fresh air.

 

And with Philip Miriori and the current exchanges with the ABG on the Panguna mine re-opening issue Miriori is an Octobers with too many hands.

 

In a New Dawn on Bougainville (3 June) story, Me’ekamui’s Miriori challenged to be honest about mining, our President Dr. John Momis blasted Miriori:

 

I challenge Mr. Miriori to tell us about his foreign advisers, and what they are doing to make money for foreign interests. They included two Americans with the Tall J Foundation, Stewart Sytner and Thomas Megas. There are documents freely available on the Internet that show they claim that Mr. Miriori sold them mining rights in areas to the north of the Panguna Special Mining Lease. I challenge him to tell us is what Sytner and Megas claim is true.
What about the other investors in Tall J? What advice did they give to Miriori? What about the Tall J investor who brought in the Chinese scrap metal dealers? What advice did he give? What about the advice that Mr. Ian Renzie Duncan gives?
“Mr. Miriori is not being honest about the future of mining. His hands are not clean in relation to mining.
“Mr. Miriori is not being honest about foreign advisers. Again his hands are not clean.
“I challenge him to be honest on these matters. I challenge him to enter these debates only when he has clean hands.

 

Dr. Momis attacks are real facts that Philip Miriori when accusing ABG on mining runs his own deals to attract foreign mining and even scrap metal groups into Panguna. With the scrap exhausted scrap metal industry Panguna people at most had gain nothing when foreign groups walked away with tonnes of Panguna scrap.

 

And the general culture of these Meekamui figures is known by all foreign opportunists: ‘just decant a cup of K1 coins into their mouth and they open the door wide’. And this is a chronic characteristics; their existence is the ABG’s politics that does not satisfy the hearts and minds of us, Bougainvilleans.

 

And even their political fantasies, so cocooned with threats, is hanging on the thread and they will get a natural dead if ABG plays a kind of politics that wins the hearts and minds of the people of Bougainville.