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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.