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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.