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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Unsettling Bougainville weapons disposal tale

Leonard Fong Roka

The late Bougainville leader, Francis Ona, had stated this agenda by saying in the Darren Bender & Mike Chamberlain 1999 film documentary, Coconut Revolution, that: ‘My fighting on Bougainville [is] based on these factors: (1) that is, we are fighting for man and his culture, and (2) land and environment; and (3) one is, independence.’ Thus the said issues facing Bougainville that are exploitation, indoctrination and genocide were boosted by BCL mining in Panguna and the PNG ignorance of Bougainville cry since the 1960s.
In fact Bougainville struggled for self determination and its push on maximization of shares in its resources that were exploited by PNG as off 1963 led Bougainvilleans in Panguna to stand against the injustice thus in 1988 armed protest was the solution to show BCL and PNG that for Bougainvilleans, nothing should come in between them and their land resulting in the loss of 10-15 thousand Bougainville people and loss of property.

The art of war was new since the Second World War era population was not around to educate the young and Bougainville through time fighting the Australia-trained PNG army, Bougainville learned and got access to PNG military resources. Bougainville also re-conditioned WW2 ammunition and guns and used them against the enemy, the PNG military might.

And the former BRA general commander, Samuel Kauona defended this well. In the 1999 film documentary, Bougainville: Our Island our fight, Sam Kauona said, ‘All weapons that the BRA has presently are from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. Like my weapon…there are now hundreds and hundreds of them at this point of time.’ This signifies that the BRA learned the art of warfare and took on the PNG government; in due process, the number of weapons on Bougainville increased with the fighter so loving the weapon he took at high risk.

It was a ten year civil war and generations of youngsters grew up and joined in the fighting that even the PNG army was demoralized thus getting the pro-PNG resistance fighters killing them or just snatching their weapons and joining the BRA.

Rapidly born was the gun-culture across Bougainville and Maryanne Moses, a refugee, clearly stated this by saying in the Bougainville: Our island our fight, that, ‘We have deprive the children from what was rightfully theirs; children are growing up without [formal] education, they are in a war situation…and that’s all they know.’ Evident throughout the war was the growing love of guns for so many reasons.

After many failed peace initiatives as seen in the website, Bougainville Copper Limited article, Brief History of the Bougainville Crisis, the Bougainville Peace Agreement, after a series of talks starting from the Honiara Accord of 1994, the Arawa Peace Conference of 1994 and the establishment of the Bougainville Transitional Government (1995) under the leadership of BRA advisor late Theodore Miriung who was later assassinated by the PNG army, was reached and signed in 2001.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement, unlike other previous peace initiatives, had more concrete emphasis on the gun-culture and the guns now available across Bougainville; it stands frankly that Bougainville must be free from guns.

It is stated that the Bougainville referendum to be held between 2015 and 2020 will be carried out when certain conditions are met; one of which is that Bougainville must be weapon free. These conditions are in Bougainville Peace Agreement’s Paragraph 312 (b) weapons disposal and good governance. The reason for these demands is one purpose and that is Paragraph 317 (The referendum will be free and fair).

But so far these directives had not being upheld by the ex-combatants and the new set of Bougainvilleans that love to own a gun. Many blame the Autonomous Bougainville Government for not putting efforts as one Bougainvillean lawyer said in  Aloysius Laukai 2010 story, No Bougainville referendum until weapons are gone, in New Dawn in Bougainville notes ‘He said although the referendum is guaranteed under the PNG and Bougainville constitutions there first must be weapons disposal before it can take place.’ But does this goes well with all ex-combatants? Most Bougainvilleans that never set foot on Bougainville turn to be so vocal myopically. This is a question that is yet to be answered, though.

To many ex-combatants the ABG should now look at the Bougainville crisis through a Bougainville lens since the issue is still fresh in the hearts and minds of people. The so popularized 50-50 success of the UN backed weapons disposal has a reason and as Bougainvillean it is about time politicians recognized that and act.

There are still sources of conflict in the midst of Bougainvilleans as to how the ABG should function and how the peace agreement should treat Bougainville. And to Anthony Regan, in his 2010 book, Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville,  he stated, ‘Despite agreements, diverse sources of tension and conflict usually tend to simmer, even once the main conflict is resolved—the previous intensity just finds new outlets.’ This is a normal situation for crisis environments and hope Bougainville is through these stages.

Yet on Bougainville many ex-combatants purposely do not want to throw away their guns and Anthony Regan is coming short here; and their point is that their life was risked to win these guns from the PNG government forces or others want their tales of war be recorded for the future; or that the main ambition of the war—independence—is not yet achieved.

A notable Meekamui group leader Chris Uma is one such figure against the weapon disposal exercise. He told Al Jazeera TV (2009) film, Bougainville: Reopening the old wounds, that ‘...I fought the PNGDF, I got the rifle. I grab it from the enemy [and] that is why I cannot give my arms. People who are putting their arms to containment [are] stupid.’ There is also a new wave of combatants thinking along the line of not destroying weapons but keeping them safe for the future generations to have a touch with Bougainville history.

These are the issues now Bougainville is caught with. Though weapons disposal stage 2 in Paragraph 329 (Endorsement of Weapons Disposal Plan), Bougainville had only are 50/50 percent success rate. But Bougainvilleans are not reckless gun welders against themselves in the post-conflict Bougainville.

Combatants see weapons disposal as disrespect and need new way

Leonard Fong Roka

Signed in Arawa on the 30th August, 2001, the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) officially ended the 10 year Bougainville civil war. It has three major pillars for Bougainville to uphold till referendum is held between 2015 and 2020.
The three pillars: (1) Autonomy (Part B of BPA), (2) Referendum (Part C of BPA) and (3) is the Weapons Disposal (Part E of BPA). Part E specifically targets all combatants of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and the Bougainville Resistance Force (BRF).

Around mid-2003 the United Nations verified that the Bougainville weapons disposal program had reached Stage II (Weapons locked in containers ready for destruction). But hitherto the weapons disposal so far has occurred only 50-50 success/failure ratings.

This is not because Bougainvilleans want war; or are hostile to each other, but it is because many combatants are now viewing the third pillar as an outright disrespect for the 20 thousand Bougainvilleans that perished in the conflict and, the long history of struggle Bougainville and its people endured since the colonial era to the creation and maturation of PNG.  

To the few silent former combatants who now see the Third Pillar negatively stand that only the gun gave Bougainville the kind of respect it now has from the cruel Papua New Guinea state and the Bougainville Copper Limited. Without the combatants taking up arms in 1988 Bougainville soon have been a legend.

‘Our land would have being for the PNG government and people if we did not take weapons and chase them out,’ Chris Bitunau, a 1988-1997 BRA fighter, told me from Panguna. ‘So I do not and I will not destroy my stock of weapons since I value them as the means that halted the sedimentations from the Panguna mine and the colonization by illegal PNG squatter settlers.

‘We cannot throw away our Bougainville history; the future generations have to see and feel these guns, they have to know the owners of these guns in pictures and in stories.’

The number of combatants standing by Chris Bitunau’s hopes of preserving weapons and the stories associated to them is increasing throughout Bougainville. To them the United Nations and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) should do changes in the Third Pillar and find an honorable disposal of all weapons on Bougainville.

‘The UN and ABG should fund and built three museums each for north, central and south Bougainville,’ Chris Bitunau told me, ‘and then get writers like you [referring to me] to collect our stories in the war; asked questions like ‘why did we joined the BRA or BRF?’, ‘where did and how did I get this weapon?’ and so on and preserve them with our guns and photos in these museums for people to come and see and know what happened.

‘Under such a weapons disposal project then we as uneducated ex-combatants can also financially benefit in the long run as could our children. You know visitors can pay a little fee at the gate and visit the combatants’ museum and we benefit.’

To Chris Bitunau such a weapons disposal approach for Bougainville shows high respect for combatants, their families, the killed 20 thousand Bougainvilleans, and the long history of struggle for Bougainville against colonial and PNG suppression.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Louis Taneavi avoided death in Bougainville war but killed in Lae

Leonard Fong Roka

The slain Louis Taneavi left Tumpusiong after he heard schools in Buin were up and running in the PNG army controlled areas of Buin Town. But like another place then, his former rebel mates, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) was a force the PNG army and its supporters, the Bougainville Resistance Forces (BRF) was not capable to shield off from.
While Louis Taneavi was a student at Buin High School and dwelling with his cousin sister at Ipirai, a one of the few care centers operated by the PNG army, the BRA infiltrated and attacked at will. To take a break from the constant BRA raids, the PNG army leaders so often made mini-peace deals with the notorious BRA commander, late Paul Bobby Kiaku.

During these peace deals, the BRA freely came into the care centers and the care center people like Louis Taneavi also moved around to visit friends in other care centers in the PNG areas or in the BRA controlled areas.

It was in one of these peace deals that Louis Taneavi got his second lucky escape from death. His first escape from death was in Torokina whilst serving as a BRA soldier against a PNG army patrol in 1993 where he and his mates walked into a PNG army ambush.

But in Buin while Louis Taneavi was a student in 1995, a PNG soldier named as Phil Dengde made a peace deal with the BRA man, Paul Bobby Kiaku in early 1995. His peace lasted for few days and also many other peace deals had own durations neither for weeks or just hours.

In these fragile peace deals the BRA, the BRF and PNGDF chatted and when the time was out, guns went off and the game of killing began. And from Ipirai care center, in what is now the Buin town, was where Louis Taneavi was watching all these development in Buin.

In one of these truce days, a Sunday, Louis Taneavi went to visit a Panguna man, Clement Taruoi, who was a businessman and health extension officer and dwelled in Tangtareke care center in what is now the Buin Town.

As he was passing a BRA gang with Paul Bobby was boozing at Mamaro care center, a pro-PNG camp, without realizing that the mini-peace had ended.

The PNGDF took the opportunity to attack the most feared BRA man, Paul Bobby Kiaku. In an ambulance PNGDF reversed into the Mamaro care center spot towards Bobby and the band of his men. The BRA thought the PNGDF ambulance was approaching them to fetch a sick somewhere so they kept calm.

But from inside the reversing vehicle the PNGDF open fire at the boozing BRA band and shot one BRA soldier death but their number target Paul Bobby left down into the nearby Loruru River gorge and left unhurt.  

Paul Bobby was ruthless in battle and the resistance knew he was returning for payback and as anticipated in the afternoon the Laguai-based BRA units returned into the Buin Town area that house a number of care centers in close proximities.

Without realizing that the BRA was back in their midst but still waiting for the exposure of their targets, the Panguna men Clement Taruoi and Louis Taneavi decided to take a walk to the edges of Tangtareke where Clement would watch Louis go for Ipirai.

But as they gained distance, they were told a BRA man has being killed at Mamaro so Clement told him to go and see the situation and if the situation was tense and there was no one around he had to return back to his residence.

Louis went and saw no one but only met a young girl, Merolyn Tukiau, who was his girl friend from Ipirai and she told him that nobody was home so you come with me. Louis rejected the invitation and started to return back Tangtareke.  

And as Louis approached the junction into Tangtareke, the BRA began to attack the main center, the Buin Independence Oval area that hosted the PNGDF base.

Louis Taneavi was caught in between the long ambush of BRA men that suddenly appeared around from hiding firing guns at the Mamaro camp and then they suddenly withdrew after Paul Bobby fired a M203 grenade into the PNGDF direction sending the PNGDF fleeing before his eyes.

On the run a dreadlocked BRA man started questioning him as he stood hopelessly in their midst. ‘Do doi oraigu?’ (Where are you from?).

Louis answered him: ‘Kietarai’ (From Kieta).

The BRA then asked: ‘Eke oke tungtumoru?’ (where do you live?).

Louis told him: ‘Ipirai’.

Then in fury the BRA man, then placing a sharp knife on his neck said: ‘Do tou resistance denden? Do dopa engtano o dekipoino’ (You must be a Resistance? If you are a resistance I will kill you now).

Louis then told him: ‘Tou, ne touno resistance! Ne school erumo igoke nunu ngoma mango nonoi.’ (I am not a resistant but I reside with my sister there and attend school).

With relieve the BRA man said: ‘Okay. Do dengo toio omorogim. Deke Kieta toi bio torokim (Okay. Come with us and we will bring you to Kieta; we travel regularly through the jungles to Kieta).

But after running a few distances under the PNGDF mortar and gun fire the BRA man changed his mind and told Louis: ‘A tou! Do buaga-are touno tokasi. Ne ninu buaga-are promise etasi. Do mururara (Oh, no. You are not promised for death. I am promised to death so you go back).

So the BRA left Louis Taneavi to return back to the care center as they moved on.

Those bullets of the Bougainville war did not take you down brother. May your soul rest in peace. Louis Taneavi was killed on 7 April 2014 in Lae,  PNG, by Sepiks who were fighting with Morobeans  while a student attending Multi Skills Training College. Was flown home to Bougainville by relatives Camillus Kabui and Francis Nazia on 19 April 2014 to Panguna.  


Literature as betterment road for Bougainville: my dream

Leonard Fong Roka

Having submerged into the spell of literature or writing since my Arawa High School days from 1997 to 2000 I have seen change in me personally; I have learned a lot about Bougainville, my people and the problems we have.
Before actually paddling the writer’s canoe I narrowly believed that the Bougainville crisis was a Panguna mine created setback for Bougainville and Bougainvilleans. But having to write, that actually gets me into a little bit of other literary checks and balances since 2011, enhanced my scope further.

I now feel that I am standing on a peak by honestly advocating that the colonial masters over Bougainville, British, Germans, Japanese and Australians gave all their powers of eradicating Bougainville and Bougainvilleans from the surface of the Pacific to PNG; and there are three tools now with Papua New Guinea for this job.

Exploitation, the very first, came in 1767-68, the years of discovery by Europeans. It oversaw the stealing of Bougainville’s mostly natural resources by non-Bougainvilleans; reaching peak with the development of cocoa/copra plantation to mining since the 1930s. The next tool is indoctrination. Indoctrination was started off with Eurocentric education that did not consider Bougainvillean ways, knowledge and technology marriage to the introduced ideas. Hitherto the PNG state and people still indoctrinate Bougainvilleans to forget that they are Solomon Islanders but rather New Guineans; stand a Bougainvillean next to a New Guinean, but he does not look like a New Guinean. And the two tools, lead to one grave for Bougainville identity and dignity and that is the third tool, genocide and that is why there is the right for Bougainville to be independent and save itself.

PNG, from its constitution to its education curricula, supports genocide to gobble the Bougainville people. Bougainvilleans are geographically and ethnically Solomon Islanders but, for example, the PNG education system does not uphold and respect that fact. Under PNG Bougainvilleans do not learn Bougainville history, geography, and politics and so on so that they have the awareness to be good decision makers of their island.

And as a writer/author this is where I love to come in to tell my people this is what we are going through since the westernization landed on our island home. I told Arawa Secondary School my dreams in 2013 (pictured assembly waiting for me).
My 2013 books, The Pomong U’tau of Dreams (poetry collection) and Moments in Bougainville (short stories collection) shoulder those old problems. From the covers down to the content they are awareness of the anti-Bougainvillean tools exploitation, indoctrination and genocide.

And the writing spree I am going through is so powerful since I went through that war and I cannot hide that fact in the third 2014 book (crisis memoir), the Brokenville (pictured in my hand). I have no reason to hide but tell my suffering and endurance in that 10 year war that foreigners created for us. 

And as a writer I am finding blessing and the will to write on when Bougainvilleans react with love to my works. When I first walked the streets of Arawa in 2013 October returning home from Madang, an old teacher, broke into tears shaking my hands and telling me: ‘You are doing Bougainville good; keep telling our side of the story that PNG keeps polluting us.’

Another father of 6 children was driving to work but spotted me wandering a lonely egret and halted to shake my hands and express his feelings. ‘Thanks. I just saw the cover of your book and anointing enveloped me. Keep writing for you are the true son of Bougainville.’

Since my 2011 books entered the Arawa Secondary School, my former school from 1997 and 2000, students are always rushing to sit with and copy of the books. One of the students sent me a Facebook message saying: ‘Real Bougainvillean writing.’

Getting such comments makes my heart whole. That was the purpose of writing as a Bougainvillean and that is for Bougainville to love my works since all my work is for Bougainvilleans. Impact will come with time and my dedication to my career of writing.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Bougainville Manifesto (13) An Island Economic Road

Leonard Fong Roka

Whilst Bougainville needs protectionism for its politics, economy and cultures in order for the island and its people to gain the maximum benefit of their resources and existence in the face of globalization and so on, the rebel leader of the Bougainville Crisis since 1988-2005, late Francis Ona, had stated this agenda by saying in the Darren Bender & Mike Chamberlain 1999 film documentary, Coconut Revolution, that: ‘My fighting on Bougainville [is] based on these factors: (1) that is, we are fighting for man and his culture, and (2) land and environment; and (3) one is, independence.’
Francis Ona, had along the way, the fact that the Bougainville land and its people were staggering to their fate under the three tools PNG and BCL had to kill them and these were, exploitation so great in Panguna mine; indoctrination so forceful through the PNG education system and patterns of democracy and the foreseeable fate through genocide where Bougainville identity and dignity would be nothing.

And thus he had in mind that the only way to saving the Bougainville people was through independence where Bougainvilleans could at least have a say in the development or decision making of their island that was geographically, ethnically and culturally not relatives of Papuans and New Guineans.  

Bougainville is the largest and the resource rich island of the Solomon archipelago but that resource had been stolen to develop foreigners that are PNG, shareholders of BCL and Riotinto (Australia) and the many non-Bougainvillean business tycoons who had rushed onto Bougainville during the colonial era running coconut and cocoa plantation industries and others that grew their finance getting contracts with BCL.

All these massive exploitation of Bougainville wealth happened under the sun as the indigenous people sang the PNG national anthem and preached PNG perspectives of democracy that absolutely had no relevance on Bougainville and the rest of the Solomon archipelago thus leading into the civil war since 1988 to 1997; and its aftermath still being felt in the post conflict Bougainville.

The Bougainville Constitution as sections that need upholding when planning and executing the Bougainville economy and economic recovery.

Looking at the whole island, the Bougainville Constitution prepared itself to accommodate all things/matters arising in Section 44 (Land Matters) and Section 47 (Fisheries). Here all the resources Bougainville has are catered for when investing to creating the best of policies in mining, agriculture, or fishing and so on; upholding these sections by the government, businesses and the people, a positive economic leap is practical.

But in the post conflict Bougainville as the island marches towards referendum for independence between 2015 and 2020, ordinary Bougainvilleans, their leaders in the ABG and observers are bombarding the island authorities with two questions of economic revival or economic strength to carry Bougainville forward: (1) where does the island economy starts off?, and (2) how does the island economy kicks off its economic engine? These have the answers in the Bougainville Constitution.

The base of the Bougainville economic drive should start from Bougainville Constitution’s Section 22 (General Social and Economic Objectives). Bougainville must have social and economic objectives for its people and the island. With this in focus, Bougainville must be aware of Section 27 (The Environment and Conservation); that is sustainability of any form of development is paramount in a small island state in the midst of the Pacific.

With this fundamental requirements activated, Bougainville must connect the above provisions or directives to Section 23 (The Land and Natural Resources) since the right path to built a nation out of scratch is from the resource it has available; and not from exploitative foreign direct investment upon a shattered domestic foundation.  Then, Bougainville can kick-start its economy from Section 24 (Development) (1) In order to facilitate development, private initiative and self-reliance shall be encouraged. But the right decision makers in parliament are a vital resource to uphold the Bougainville’s constitutional ambitions.

With all the economic frameworks in place, however, Bougainville had had a leadership that feared the economic status quo so far; they feared being associated with a cash strap Bougainville and wanted an economic miracle. Since attaining a functional and legitimate government in 2005 setbacks that disregarded the Bougainville Constitution was visible.

The first president, late Joseph Kabui, attempted to sell 70 percent of Bougainville wealth to Australian Canada-based businessman Lindsay Semple for K20 million; the next president, James Tanis, stood undecided in the centre of the economic continuum of forward or reverse scenario; and the current, Dr. John Momis looks at China and BCL but the people’s ‘tide of stubbornness’ had being sweeping his government everywhere.  

But in the situation of an island economy like Bougainville where the citizenry is not that all literate the focus should be the agricultural sector for takeoff.

And W.W. Rostow’s 1960 work, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, outlined the basic steps into building a nation’s economy to maturity from zero. Rostow’s steps from stage one, were: (1) The Traditional Society, (2) The Preconditions for Takeoff, (3) The Takeoff, (4) The Drive to Maturity, and (5) The Age of High Mass-Consumption. Bypassing the steps fails a state unless the political masters are creative; and Bougainville, is problematic looking at Rostow’s guidance.

Rostow’s order of progress is centered on agriculture; and Bougainville has agriculture and fisheries for Stage 1 that needs fixing up in accordance to the tiny but growing intellectual and technological capacities of the citizens; plus borrowed technologies, related to downstream processing so often advocated by NGOs to move onto Stage 2, and there is no setback and snailing down of progress when Bougainville is in the age of foreign donor funding.

But Bougainville government and people must be focused when utilizing resources on the United Nation’s Agenda 21 that according to Richard J. Estes 1993 work , Towards Sustainable Development: From Theory to Praxis (page 8), calls on,

…the husbanding of the planet’s wasting resources. Along with the roster of problems familiar to environmentalists—the ozone layer, global warming, deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, biodiversity—Agenda 21 addresses action to be taken against poverty, infant mortality, malnutrition, epidemic disease, illiteracy and other affiliations that waste that other resource of the planet: its human population. 

Bougainville is a tiny island and running along with Agenda 21 is a way to success for the government and its people.

Bougainville natural resources are to hitherto being exploited by non-Bougainvilleans since discovery in 1767 (sighted by British sailors) and 1768 (sighted and landed on by French sailors). Thus in the new drive for change, it is the Bougainvilleans that must used their resources for their betterment. And the primary task for a responsible government is to create and implement economic and social laws that create for Bougainvilleans a conducive environment for business and economic advancement that reflects Section 24 of the Bougainville Constitution.

 Then Bougainville plans per region (North, Central and South) which goods and services each have to be specialized in depending on the climate and topography of the regions, especially with agriculture and downstream processing; and light manufacturing.

Harnessing a strong agriculture, fisheries and tourism base is what Bougainville should be investing on when it has low fiscal and monetary power. And this should on the road where focus is on both wealth and social cohesion for the people as not to fail as it was in Nauru where wealth was supreme over social cohesion.

Bougainville must start simple as the saying ‘Think Big But Start Small’ dictates; and roll out low cost entrepreneurial drives for the people; Bougainville should own and operate business in the island and export to strengthen its foreign currency pools.

And these are few ideas by Tim Ashton (personal communication, July 12, 2012) on few income earning resources and how they should be run:

  • Work on developing agriculture;
    • Cocoa: Take over the marketing of your own beans as they have done in Vanuatu
    • Fresh coconuts to Australia: Currently they are imported from Thailand
    • Develop industry around laminated bamboo products
  • Fishing;
    • Fresh reef fish for the Australian market
    • Fresh frozen Yellowfin Tuna bring $5000+ in Tokyo properly killed and prepared
      • To do this you need ice machines so your fishermen can chill the catch and transfer it to strategically located freezers
  • Tourism
    • Japan: Buin is where their wartime hero, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto died. Build a shrine
    • Torokina War relics  
    • The Japanese are the most prolific birdwatchers in the world. Guided tours..
    • Butterfly farms
    • Orchid nurseries
    • Adventure tourism
      • Trips up Bagana
      • Green island; Feid island, the most beautiful in the Pacific
    • Build guest houses like the Arawa women’s centre. Feed them fresh reef fish. Be respectful and above all, do not be greedy and the money will flow

These are a few industries forgotten by politicians on Bougainville. Bougainville should look into banana, taro, fruits and other staple garden stuff and secure markets. Bougainville should look into fresh river farming for food like prawns and eels and others that have market out there; they should look into animal husbandry for animal like chicken, duck, pigs (less land area for domestication).

Rice, that is one of foods that sucks most incomes for Pacific countries, has the growing plains in most south Bougainville; alongside sugar cane for sugar. The Wakunai-Torokina area produces some of the best vegetables like peanuts, cabbage and potato and that needs attention by Bougainville for Bougainvilleans to invest into. Coffee also grows well across Bougainville.

With all these, Bougainville now needs local Bougainvillean companies to take control of the export powers and function. For the start a state enterprise or Bougainvillean business joint ventures for control of these natural resources with ABG backing is vital; removal of foreign companies like the Singaporean Agmark Industries, Asian businesses  and others that the myopic ABG loves so much. 

And the Bougainville directive is: If cocoa grows in Bougainville, then Bougainville must produce chocolate powder; if coffee grows on Bougainville, then Bougainville must produce coffee powder; if a coconut palm sways on Bougainville, then Bougainville must produce oil cosmetics; if the sea girds Bougainville, then Bougainville must produce salt for his table; and if the Bougainville child is born on land, then that child owns the land and everything that grows on it belongs to him but he must care for them and trade them to get what his land will not give him.

Bamboo Band—war time music and dance in Kieta, Bougainville

Leonard Fong Roka

In most of central Bougainville’s Kieta area, the pre-crisis years did not see much of this unique Solomon-wide music instruments made of the bamboo species known by the Kieta and Nagovis people as the kabaki and its vibrant dancing moves generally referred to as the Solomon Dance.

 But this lack of interest to the then dying art was landed hard on the Kieta and Nagovis people by the Australia-back PNG blockade on the Bougainville and its people after 1989.

The desperate times of 1989 on Bougainville turned Bougainvilleans into the local genres of music that were been slowly eradicated by the glory of the Panguna mine. The crisis made the Bougainvillean urban centers especially Arawa out of bound for the natives. Papuans and New Guineans ruled those streets and the Bougainvillean had to remain in the bush or the care centers under the PNG security forces protection; or otherwise remain in the jungles, hiding.

It was in the Kaino care center that hosted us the mountain people of Kupe since July 1989 that I began to note the drastic change in church music patterns. Bamboo band tubes, panpipes and others rocked the Catholic chapels made mostly of government supplied canvas.

On the Arawa’s Section 18 where mostly the Darenai villagers of the Tumpusiong Valley they also had a few PMV pipes for their bamboo band to enlightened their boring days under the watchful and often intimidating eyes of the PNG security forces.

Most of these 1989-1990 care centers were more prison camps thus music from the bamboo was a great way that our people sang and danced for merriment.

After March 1990 the people, with the ceasefire and the withdrawal of the PNG army, mostly youngsters, took their skills home into the mountains. Bamboo band music rocked the mountains of Kupe as a fine home coming music for the populace.

The art soon spontaneously spread all across Kieta and beyond—it was a revival of a genre of Solomon music that was dying but the war revived it for us to find some peace of mind.

In the intervening Australia-backed PNG blockade of our island we had no means to get vital goods and services; no music from guitars or electric instruments, thus the various Solomon-wide bamboo instruments filled the vacuum for the music-loving Bougainvilleans.

On the 27 of October 1991, which was the feast day of the Our Lady of Mercy church, I was just mesmerized on the wet lawns of the church when bamboo band rocked us all. Bamboo bands from all around Kieta rocked the day as we danced on and on.

Soon after the celebration at Arawa’s largest Catholic Church’s Our Lady of Mercy church we went onto the ordination of a local Catholic priest, Fr. Patrick Baria. Here just like Arawa, bamboo bands led the way instead of electric instruments.

When the PNG army began attacking Kieta’s coastal areas, refugees and those of us the war did not move about, gave life to the jungles and our mountain homes with bamboo band music.

In fear of being attacked and killed by the PNG army, the music from the bamboo band and the dancing and singing made us walk over the enveloping fear of death.

Mortar shelling rained; helicopter gunfire made us run, but music from the bamboo crept low beneath the thick jungle canopy of Bougainville’s central mountain backbone, Crown Prince Range and ebbed our intruding fear.

In important church days, in the festive seasons like New Year and Christmas, in those dates of political significance in Bougainville’s struggles and many more we danced and danced to the sound of bamboo band.

It was so funny, though our young and able men were out fighting the PNG army; we were out dancing in the mountains. Sometimes armed men would join us in the dances out of nowhere after their hours of duty.

In Kupe, each hamlet and refugee camp had its own sets. When one hamlet or refugee camp hosted a dance, all others came to play there using their sets. Bamboo band groups and dancers were fed with big food throughout the night by the hosting hamlet or refugee camp.

On the next celebration we went to the next camp and did the same.

Down on the coast where the PNG army run care centers there was no such merry events since the BRA was too deathly in hit-and-run attacks.

Profile of Kupe Village in Kieta

Leonard Fong Roka

The Kupe Mountains is positioned in the centermost part of the central area of the major Bougainville mountain backbone in the hinterland of the former provincial capital, Arawa, the Crown Prince Range. The lagoon-shaped valley is infested with rugged slopes and gigantic boulders; wild waterfalls and brawling rivers, cool mountain views towards the east coastal plains where one sees Arawa, the Arawa bay and the lowers villages like Topinang and so on, satisfies a weary traveler here.
The main river that cuts through Arawa, Bovong River, has its sources in this high altitude homestead.

From oral records, the first settlers of these mountains were the warring maangta (a clan in Bougainville that has its totem as the hornbill) clansmen. These people first settled on a spot called Bobakuu and began trading with the outsiders further south-east like Karakung area in the Kieta harbor for clay pots, duku (shell money) that came from Malaita.

Towards the east the Kupe people traded for bows and arrows, toraa (traditional weaved bag) with the Ioro people (Panguna) that is a hill walk to the west.

This trade routes resulted in the arrival of the Basikang (clan with the mairobe (a bigger species of lizards) clan marrying the maangta)) from the Panguna area and settling in the Kupe mountains. Thus today, the main clans in order of population in Kupe are the maangta, Basikang, Bakoringku and Barapang. 

The first Europeans to reach Kupe were the missionaries in the early 1900s. They introduced Christianity that the Kupe people still hold today; after them came the colonial administration from its base at Kieta harbor since 1905.

The Germans and later the Australians took many of the young men to walk in the Kekereka (now Arawa) plantation along others from south Bougainville. In the 1929 gold was discovered in the backyard of Kupe and Europeans became residence in Kupe. More cash economy flourished amongst the people that after its closure around 1937 led to more men looking for work in the plantations.

Before independence of PNG, more people from the Kupe were educated by the mission run schools. This lot of mostly young men ended in the work force of the Conzinc Riotinto mining in Panguna and other sectors in the then economically booming Bougainville.

After 1975 the interest in education faded since the government made no attempt to bring services like roads into the mountains. Despite the fact that the most of Kupe was under the special mining lease (SML) of the BCL, roads did not reach the people.

The Kupe Mountains today is made up of four main villages that are Nengkenaro, Sirona, Debereke and Turampa (the source of the Bovong River). This rugged land has a population of approximately 10 thousand people.

In 1988 they were some of the very first people to support the late Francis Ona to uphold militancy to shut the Panguna mine and remove the PNG squatter settlements in the outskirts of Arawa that abused them daily (my new book, ‘Brokenville’ captures a few moments of this).

Through the duration of the crisis Kupe did produce some notorious killers for the BRA and had being loyal to the independence movement. Today they still remain optimistic of the ABG and the PNG influence on the ABG.

Having faced a long drought from quick access to vital services like roads since the 1970s that only reached the low-lying villages beneath their mountains, the Kupe people engaged on bringing their primary school right into the mountains as off 1998.

They slowly revived the old Kupe Gold Mine and fundraised to raise their money to purchase roofing iron and other materials from the coast in Arawa. Hired trunks then drove all the materials to Kaino village where human strength brought them on a walk that takes three hours through rugged terrain and wild merciless river systems.

In 2007 the school graduated its first Grade 8 class of some 16 students.

With the high labor gold panning works improving lifestyle also has being changing rapidly. Sago palm thatched houses had faded with new roofing iron taking the course. Nearly all families have a small canteen selling a few goods like soap, rice, tinned meat, clothes and so on to the public. But again cargo comes up here on the shoulders of the people.

To cater for this exercise, there are groups that were formed for hire to carry cargo and so on from the nearest car-stop, the Kaino village. Any individual or businessman that wants his work done books one or more of these groups for an amount of money, most charge a K100.

In 2012, however, to bring four-wheel drive vehicles closer home, the people began to dig their own road from Kaino. So far, the heavy Land Cruisers cannot use the road but only the lighter Toyota Hilux is helping a little.

The digging is still continuing from the estimated 2 kilometers done so far.


Students Frustration on Bougainville Government

Leonard Fong Roka

As shock and fear of the slaying of the Divine Word University’s Sepik student Nigel Laki and injury sustained by Ishmael Palipal and others holds every nerve on campus, Bougainville students cry that their government in Kubu has failed them by failing for so long from building them their own university on Bougainville where they have freedom and peace in their home island.

The number of Bougainvillean students entering Divine Word University is steadily increasing annually. For many of the 2014’s first year students they have made it here since DWU is making itself known as a hub of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in PNG that continuing students turn to promote when touring their secondary schools every November with the Bougainville Youth Foundation (BYF) awareness programs.   

For many first timers out of Bougainville, they know the ‘Beautiful Madang’ tag is a reality but just as their flight touches on the Madang airport, its unkempt vicinity and the standard of peoples’ dressing and housing in town and rugged commuters intimidating stares tells them that they had believed a lie.

Since arriving at DWU, over 11 students across the Madang Town’s tertiary institutions had been robbed by thugs in town. Two first year male students from DWU were repeatedly harassed and threatened with small kitchen knives in a bus ride from town to DWU main campus for their shopping cargo till one of them punched the thief in the neck choking him and darted into the DWU main gate. Another student from Madang Teachers College was withdrawing cash from an ATM in town when a rascal held him up inside the outlet and walked away with his K2000 school fee cash.

In another incident, encountered by Bougainville students away from the safety and peace of their island, a trio of Madang Technical College students were pick pocketed in town but they attacked the child rascals. However a bigger criminal mob was getting on them and they have to run for safety and rush back to school.

“This is really a strange place,” one of the pair harassed in the bus ride to DWU, said. “And thank God the crisis chased these rascals out of our island. I have gleaned even without any cash on hand they are there wandering around their town looking for opportunities to rob us.”

In a informal gathering outside the AJ Hall (pictured) as they waited for the funeral service to start Bougainvillean students were sharing all the things they are seeing and experiencing that are of real contradiction to their island home, Bougainville.

To them, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) must use all that funding that the PNG government is giving to build a university in Bougainville so they can transfer and complete their education back home.

A female student was saying, “I am fed up with our members in Port Moresby and Buka for not building us a university back home and ignorantly letting us attend this crime infested place. I had bad night with all those police gunfire last night and this morning. Hate to be here.”

Another shared, “The ivitu (redskins in Buin) love to kill each other and so all of us boys must try to avoid all these life-threatening developments. We have suffered enough and we are here to get an education and return home to remove all those old leaders who are not functioning well.”

Students also ran through a list of their fellow students slain or disadvantaged through past and recent history everywhere in PNG as they told their final year students that they have to go home and get into positions that have say in policy making and prepare their way after completing their studies in DWU.

To all Bougainvillean students the ABG must now speed up the development of standard technical and teachers colleges and universities back in Bougainville since they are fed up coming into PNG to be harmed.

They have waited and got frustrated for a university said by the Catholic Church at Mabiri in Central Bougainville. But they are happy that colleges as in Tinputz, Koromira, Mabiri and so on that give a little trade skill to Bougainvillean youths.

They are also excited of the development of a technical school and a teachers college in Buin, South Bougainville. But all have a collective concerned that non-Bougainvilleans must not be allowed into Bougainville to create the slums and deprive them from their own land as it was before 1989.

All laughed when one student rose and said: “Boys if you want a wife now that you are a university student, find your wife in this family and girls, do the same too; a thing from Bougainville must return back to Bougainville.”


Social inconvenience compensation was unknown in Panguna Mine

Leonard Fong Roka

There is truth that BCL was not observant to local values in dealing with the landowners of Panguna before the crisis as there is also emerging truth that the landowner leaders of the pre-1989 period were exploitive to the illiterate landowners they were suppose to protect and defend their rights.

To the many young leaders helping in positions in the 9 landowner groups related to the Panguna mine but were just ordinary students in primary and high schools before the crisis, they are now learning a lot of things that their poor illiterate parents never knew thus were denied for what was rightfully theirs.

To the many young leaders BCL was committed in delivering whatever compensation that it was required to pay under the then exploitative legal structures like the Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA) of 1967. But it seems evident that the local leaders were more than cruel to build their own financial status.

This has been the case for two young leaders now in charge of the Panguna’s Upper Tailings Office administration in Arawa. The pair Camillus Kabui and Francis Nazia were surprised in learning from BCL that there was a compensation package referred to as ‘social inconvenience’ that the company paid to their people for the noise, dust and so on created by mining activities like plants on the roads 24/7 but their parents or relatives back home never knew this existed.

“Our people in all the Panguna mine affected areas had no idea of this social inconvenience compensation,” they told me in their office. “All that money under social inconvenience was stolen from our elders by the few educated elites inside the old Panguna Landowners Association that the late Francis Ona rebelled against.

“Those few stole the money and benefited with their families whilst we suffered with the noise and dust storms the BCL plants made along our roads and homes.”

Most people in the Upper Tailings zone only knew about the Special mining, the tailings and the PMAR (port-mine-access-road) that involved bush, occupation and physical disturbances compensation packets.

But the people are today learning from the new leaders about the social inconvenience compensation that BCL paid that covered the disturbances from BCL plants and so on and this covered the Guava access road, the Panguna-Jaba road, a tailings trust fund and many others sections within the mining areas.

On the compensation package note released by BCL in Buka in December 3-5 2013 to the landowners, it showed that from the annual compounding of base amount of March 1990 figure that is K1 375 966.85, the BCL owes the landowners—calculated using the annual treasury bills—some K13 913 177.36 for the various compensation packets.

Out of this, social inconvenience stands at K4 035 111. 42 and the people that the pre-crisis landowner leaders had denied them are happy that they have something in this category at last.

In this packet, it is obvious that only the Lower Tailings association in the Bana District of South Bougainville will not have the social inconvenience compensation led by James Tauriko since they took their share in the 1990s and invested it in other business activities in Lae, Morobe Province in PNG and back home where they now have cocoa plantations.

BCL was prepared to pay this amount but the current landowner leaders delayed it because they want two other financial institutions provide other calculations beside this so they can compare and receive a better price.