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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 

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


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.