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Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Killing of a Bougainvillean Nation

Leonard Fong Roka

When Bougainvilleans mingle with Papuans and New Guineans (redskins as we know them) freely they are killing their values, institutions and other patterns of behavior that is the pot of dignity; and that is, they become nobodies on their own land.
 One of Africa’s writers, Francis M. Deng, in his 1997 article, Ethnicity: An African Predicament, summed this crisis as: ‘Ethnicity is more than the skin color or physical characteristics, more than language, song, and dance. It is the embodiment of values, institutions and patterns of behavior, a composite whole representing a people’s historical experience, aspirations, and world view. Deprive a people of their ethnicity, their culture, and you deprive them of their sense of direction and purpose’.

Colonization of Bougainville firstly by the Germans, the British, the Japanese, and the Australians and since 1975 by the Papua New Guineans (PNG inherited an annexed Bougainville under the Anglo-German Convention of 1899) had far reaching and detrimental impacts that turned Bougainvilleans into ‘a bunch of humanistic fools without roots to their land’.  

For more than 30 thousand years Bougainvilleans had occupied their island and progressed as a holistic nation till Louis De Bougainville sighted and landed his ships on the 4 July 1768 in the northern tip of the island. This was the date Bougainville should note as the ‘date of destruction of the Bougainville’s natural ecology of life that stretched from Buka through Bougainville and the rest of the Solomon archipelago and sustained us and our islands since time immemorial’.

But colonization and the state of Papua New Guinea employed hitherto three methodologies to eradicate the nation of Bougainville out of the surface of the Pacific; and these are exploitation, indoctrination and finally, the end result of the two is genocide.

On the 1 August 1991, late Joseph Kabui, then an officer in forming Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), led a Bougainville delegation to the UN Committee on Rights of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples forum in Geneva where Bougainville accused the PNGDF [and PNG] of causing atrocities [on a people that are not redskins but Solomon islanders].

Colonialism cared less about Bougainvilleans and their right to their island and exploited the island’s labor and resources at its will and purpose. 

 Colonization ‘exploited’ Bougainville’s land beginning with massive coconut and cocoa plantations in the 1800s for the economic benefit of the colonial masters and gave back nothing to Bougainvilleans. It operated gold mining since 1929 in Kupe and still gave back nothing to the people of the land.

With these changes Bougainvilleans, especially as the impact of the two world wars, slowly began to learn new things. This slowly drove fear into the heart of colonial politics that swiftly enforced ‘indoctrination’ to protect exploitation.

Indoctrination was injected by increase aid to education by government and church run schools across Bougainville. Bougainvilleans have to learn to respect the introduced authority and the rule of law from all angles, physical and spiritual. This narrowed the mindsets of Bougainvilleans to western concepts seeing their world views as detrimental.

So a Bougainvillean today sees the ways of his culture and land that sustain him for 30 thousand years as nonsense and sucks concepts that he knew nothing about causing disarray in his life and land.

All these leads to the problem of genocide of the Bougainvillean race, culture, values, religions and so on that all can be said of as the sources of dignity for the Solomon island people of Bougainville.

Genocide is swiftly engulfing Bougainville today! Marry a New Guinean and you know you are a betrayer and a murderer of Bougainville identity and dignity; break my necklace and you tell me: ‘I will fetch you are new one from the Solomon sellers in Arawa market’ and yet you know you cannot paddle a canoe from Lontis in Buka to Rabaul in PNG as you can from Olaba in Buin to Ovau in Choiseul Island; I called a Tolai a redskin and you say to me: ‘You are racist!’ and I could ask back: ‘Who told you that and why did he told you that? And how does that ideology sustains Bougainville identity and dignity that God gave us?’

Sick is Bougainville and Bougainvilleans! And to built a strong nation on Bougainville we have to reverse ‘no man is an island’ since a man must strengthen himself or his home first before engaging with others because he will be a failure in a weak foundation in a competitive world.

Peter O’Neill and its trail in Panguna

Leonard Fong Roka

In 2012, Central Bougainville MP Jimmy Miringtoro and Prime Minister Peter O’Neill were chatting in the prime minister’s office in parliament when the PM suddenly suggested to Jimmy Miringtoro that he was interested in visiting Bougainville.
And in 2014 the pair had landed and toured Bougainville with a convoy of cars for the highway; three helicopters in the skies and the government charted jet at the Buka airport that shook the people of Bougainville in three days, 27 to 29 January 2014.

In preparing the way for the PM’s visit in November 2013 in a Panguna meet with the Meekamui leaders, Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro claimed the visit was a ‘family visit’ but it was the Bougainville administration that came up by claiming the tour was a ‘good will visit’ getting a chain of thoughts across the psyche of Bougainville’s ordinary people especially in central Bougainville.

Across central Bougainville many know that Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro few actions in recent times had being outside the influence of the authority on the ground, the ABG. A light is shed from the Panguna Landowners deal with the Chinese firm Beijing Aerospace Great Wall for an agricultural investment signed in the Lynchar Hotel in Buka town in late 2013.

ABG was surprised by the deal.

But Waigani’s respect of the authority on the ground, the Dr. John Momis led ABG, sucked Miringtoro to light living the ABG playing the protocol leadership in paving the way for the PM.

Yet though Miringtoro’s deals with the divided Meekamui factions before the ABG took over the planned tour of the PM created a tussle in Panguna and money and recognition was the catalyst deep inside.

The self-style Meekamui group in central Bougainville today is a divided band of individuals striving for status in the midst of the community. In Panguna there is a Meekamui group led by Philip Miriori from Guava and Moses Pipiro from Pangka village that claims their leadership was from the late Francis Ona.

But the Guava villagers today condemn them and say that Francis Ona died without any official announcement that Philip Miriori or Moses Pipiro is now the leader.

Down in the east coast, again is Chris Uma from Kerei outside Arawa, the man running the Morgan Junction checkpoint on the port-mine-access road. His right to rule was again, as he claims, bestowed upon him by the late Francis Ona.

Chris Uma is not a Panguna man but has followers from Panguna mine affected areas and on the other end, Philip Miriori is a landowner but his followers are not landowners thus Chris Uma, who is armed well then Miriori and Pipiro, is a power around the area.

With the PNG’s leader’s visit Philip Miriori and Moses Pipiro stole the show with their hatred of the ABG that backs the Panguna Peace Building Stratey (PPBS), a body that attempts to strengthen peace in and around central Bougainville, that also is followed and respected by Chris Uma who says that PPBS is upholding the principles Bougainville went to war for.

Chris Uma’s growing harmony with the ABG through the PPBS means Philip Miriori and his reckless strongman Moses Pipiro had seen themselves has being sidelined by the people of Panguna. So Hon. Peter O’Neill’s visit of Bougainville was an event that somehow must restore power upon their band to the eyes of the people.

So they acted without public consultation and knowledge within the general Meekamui group.

In a series of meetings in Panguna, the Miriori-Pipiro Meekamui supported the ABG’s Panguna District Administration to invite Peter O’Neill into Panguna with the financial support of Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro and the ABG.

Panguna was prepared for the PM’s visit by a few people without the rest knowing. This shocked Chris Uma and the rest of the population in Panguna that Bougainville’s people that died during the conflict have not being respected by the crooks and opportunists in Panguna.

Thus over the fortnight leading to the 27 January, Chris Uma, was on the road seeking support from other men to stop the PM visit into Panguna by words or the gun which ever they chose.

Seeing the threat, Moses Pipiro and Philip Miriori, also began their media campaign that PM was welcomed at Panguna but were shamed in Panguna as a gang of warlords holding the Panguna people at ransom for their personal gain. Chris Uma and his followers were seen as standing on the principles Bougainville had fought for.

People were divided. So the organizing committee in Panguna came over to Chris Uma’s followers with a K15 000 for him and the anti-Panguna O’Neill visit to allow the visit since money and resources had being used already.

But Chris Uma refused the cash and more ABG ministers also joined the behind the scene negotiation to sort the issue and nearly K40 000 was spent on negotiations to allow the PM to visit Panguna.

The last meeting over the problem ended in 3AM on the 29 January when the PM, Hon. Peter O’Neill’s team personally got involved and promised to uphold the known Bel Kol or domangtamiri in Nasioi language (domangtamiri is a promise that initiates a process towards peace and compensation after some conflict that results in destruction and death).

And the PM visited Panguna and met with Chris Uma as he drove from Panguna to Arawa by a vehicle.

So the show was not with Philip Miriori and Moses Pipiro in Panguna.

Earlier the Panguna people had heard from the Meekamui followers that the PNG prime minister was visiting Panguna to see Meekamui and recognized it has a legitimate tribal government. On the programme they had also that after all activities was done with, Peter O’Neill should have a private moment with the Meekamui.

But for Philip Miriori and Moses Pipiro, Peter O’Neill had given them a nightmare by turning them into laughing stocks in the midst of the Panguna people and Bougainville.

On his speech in Panguna, PM Peter O’Neill, announced as Philip Miriori looked on so shocked with guilt: ‘The ABG is the only legitimate government on Bougainville…Meekamui you have come under ABG and work as one Bougainville people to bring about development and progress in Bougainville.’

After program halted Philip Miriori approached Peter O’Neill on the arena that his team that included two Australians and other Bougainvilleans, especially South Bougainvilleans, but the PM told him he had no time for that since he was travelling down to Arawa.

PM Peter O’Neill’s tour had empowered ABG has the government standing for the rights of the people of Bougainville and further exposed people like the little warlords in central Bougainville as the liars holding the Bougainville people at ransom.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A garden under scrutiny in Arawa

Leonard Fong Roka

To many across Bougainville memory still lingers of who actually was the cause of the violence on Bougainville that actually triggered the conflict that killed the islanders from Buin to Buka and, a fenced garden in the heart of Arawa is unsettling the neighborhoods.

Non-Bougainvillean settlers, commonly referred to as redskins across Bougainville, who were pulled onto Bougainville but ended with no employment in the lucrative Panguna mine were the ones who illegally occupied customary land around all urban centers of Bougainville causing trouble for Bougainville people.

On the bank of the Tupukas River in Section 18 of Arawa town, a wandering redskin from the Highlands of PNG, who after several months of selling self sawn clothes in the main Arawa market, began making a garden that is now a subject of heated debate in the many urban households and the surrounding villages.

Many fear that the old roots of the Bougainville crisis is now back with the leaders ignoring it and our own people being irresponsible.

‘People still do not know that it was because of these nomadic New Guineans and Papuans that we perished,’ irate and drunk Martin Kobu, from Pariro in Buin told me as he uprooted some of the post of the fencing on the garden. ‘The redskins are coming back as good businessman, churchman, and lovers and so on and it is not long squatter settlements will decorate Arawa.’

To Kobu, a self employed businessman, the garden is an eye-sore and it is the government in Buka that is sleeping and allowing trouble back onto Bougainville.

Bougainville is again being exploited and it is all because the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) had forgotten that facts about the Bougainville Crisis.

‘We fought and died because the non-Bougainvilleans were taking over our land and other resources while we stood and watched as insane persons,’ he told me. ‘But I do not know why the leaders in the ABG and those in the PNG parliament cannot create laws that keep away useless people entry into our land that we paid and saved with our blood?’

To Martin Kobu the day he catches the New Guinean in the garden will be the end of his gardening career in Arawa.

‘He will be packing up and returning back to the highlands of PNG for I will not see him here since Bougainvilleans had shed blood to save this island,’ he said uprooting and destroying parts of the fence and littering beer cans in the garden of sweet potatoes, banana and cassava.

‘Bel Kol’ concept and the Panguna mine

Leonard Fong Roka

‘The ‘Bel Kol’ is the promise by BCL and Papua New Guinea that they will compensate the people of Bougainville on all cruel and animalistic actions they did on our land and society as they mined our land for the Papua New Guineans’ development,’ paramount chief of Piavora, Charles Karoro said to me at Panguna.
In the Nasioi society of Bougainville, just like any other societies on the Solomon archipelago, conflict was and is the essence of the way of life of the people; it was more intrinsic to the interaction of the human person to another person or the environment.

All these led or lead to disruption of peace within society resulting from war, destruction and death.

Before colonization the Nasioi society was a world governed by clan leadership and power. Laws that existed over the land were supreme and observed by all thus our society was peaceful with minimum reckless violence against each other.

But in the moment of war and death the Nasioi civilization had procedures to heal the wound and divisions in our midst.

‘When my clan’s enemy killed one of us,’ Karoro explains, ‘we did an analysis to see who is on the wrong. If we have enough warriors and our clan is innocent we attack back or carry out a punitive raid and kill.

‘But if our clan is weak we gesture for peace to save ourselves and rebuilt with intention to wage war in the future—ourselves or in an alliance. The enemy knows that its power is not eternal and also have to make peace with us.

‘And the beginning of the peace process and compensation is the domang tamiri or bel kol as you educated youths are calling it. This is the tiny gesture of promise that you, as the culprit, will work towards healing the wounds and division so that we can coexist peacefully back again.’

And for the Nasioi people and the BCL, to Karoro, the concept is the same. BCL came in the 1960s and robbed the people of Bougainville off their wealth to develop PNG and its people who are not at all relatives of the Nasioi people or the Bougainville people.

BCL extracted the resources of the Bougainville people for the good of the PNG people and gave the Bougainvilleans nothing good except the massive destruction of the environment and society.

‘Since BCL and PNG gave us nothing in return for the destruction of our land,’ Karoro said, ‘we went to war with them both. We fought and died and won the war and now we want development on our island to start our journey.

‘With the massive destruction of infrastructure by war and civil conflict our ABG sees the Panguna mine as the way forward. But we all know that Panguna mine is where the war came from and killed the 20 thousand Bougainvilleans from Buin to Buka Island.

‘So BCL and PNG have blood of the 20 thousand people on their hands but since ABG needs BCL then BCL has to right the wrongs starting from domang tamiri. So it is now BCL, PNG and ABG has to give Bougainville the domang tamiri.’

Domang tamiri, or bel kol as the people are now referring to, will be a little promise in the form of cash and kind or feast to the people of Bougainville by BCL, PNG or ABG saying that they will pay the compensation in the later date.

It is the contract that the trio will pay the compensation to heal the wounds of the Bougainville people from Buin to Buka Island and that the future will not be the cruelty Bougainville saw between 1962 and 1997.

To Charles Karoro, ‘Only the domang tamiri will pave the way for BCL and PNG to set their feet on Bougainville. BCL can start physical presence on Bougainville with that simple promise over the shed blood of the 20 thousand Bougainvilleans that were sacrifices due to BCL and PNG’s inhuman treatment of Bougainville.’

But sadly selfish politicians from Bougainville still undermine the Bougainvillean values that kept Bougainville intact since time immemorial.