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Sunday, 24 August 2014

PNG is destroying the Bougainville independence move

Leonard Fong Roka

Papua New Guinea was built at the cost of the alienation of the Solomon island people of Bougainville. Bougainville people were belittled by the influx of non-Bougainville and non-Solomon people and cultures. Bougainville suffered environmental destruction that will take hundreds of years for ecology to put some order cause by the extraction of ore to finance PNG.
For this injustice a people went to an armed struggle against the state of PNG, its peoples, and the miner Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) (I include ‘its peoples’ because the Panguna mine property vandalism and attack on employees came later then the attacks on New Guinean squatter settlements around all Bougainvillean urban areas).

This armed crisis backed by an unprepared political leadership ended in a decade long struggle of a civil conflict and a negotiated multilateral peace process that was more-PNG friendly and not Bougainville oriented.

In PNG, as most literature pinpoints, the Bougainville economy collapsed with the crisis while all provinces were advancing. But with the Bougainville peace process, it is obvious that PNG came stronger to choke Bougainville on its still chaotic recovery process.

In a 2001 article, Agreed Principles on Referendum (online) it is read:

4 a) The constitutional amendments will guarantee that the referendum will be held:

·         No earlier than 10 years and, in any case, no later than 15 years after the election of the first autonomous Bougainville Government,

·         When conditions listed below have been met,

·         Unless the autonomous Bougainville Government decides, after consultation with the National Government and in accordance with the Bougainville Constitution, that the referendum should be held;

         b) The conditions to be taken into account include:

o   Weapons disposal, and

o   Good governance;

After the signing of these terms of referendum, a 2001 article by Norm Dixon, Bougainville: Referendum Terms Questioned (online) appeared. In it, the PNG and the Australian governments hailed the referendum terms as a ‘break through’ and ‘a milestone’ but the Bougainvilleans had questioned it.

Former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) leader Sam Kauona accused the late Joseph Kabui and Joel Banam who led the Bougainville delegation to sign terms of the referendum in Kokopo in 26 January 2001 as ‘given too much away to a dishonest government’ and added that ‘The survival of the PNG/Bougainville peace process depends very much on honesty, fairness and transparency…If we have not learned from our past mistakes then this struggle could go on for another 40 years.’

Honesty, fairness and transparency are foreign attributes in the current nature of PNG’s dealing with the Bougainville people and government. In the whole PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill January 2014 tour of Bougainville he hardly talked about Bougainville rights to referendum or self determination.

In a February 5, 2014 David Lornie Post Courier article, Maurua: PM to clarify views on referendum, a Siwai pastor said ‘I’m feeling that I don’t understand Papua New Guinea’s position on independence. They are not serious about what we think because 2014 is the last year before we enter the window of referendum.’ This is one of the many doubts on Bougainville and those with guns seem to be happy that they did not throw away their guns so that PNG will play on with Bougainville.

Again the PNG thinking was captured by Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, by Regan (2010: 127) that:

The logic is that in the 10 to 15 years from the establishment of the ABG in 2005, the PNG government has the opportunity to work closely with the ABG to promote all forms of development in Bougainville in a way that could be expected to encourage Bougainvilleans to consider the possible merits of remaining a part of PNG when it comes time to vote in the referendum.

 PNG is at work. It succeeded to influence the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) to created friction to the Bougainville progress and now it is all about winning Bougainvillean hearts to see Bougainville has problems through the PNG lens and not the Bougainville lens.

And the Peter O’Neill 2014 tour shows all the proof of PNG activities to undermine the Bougainville government, the ABG.

During the three-day tour the PNG delegation announced multi-million dollar development projects like the re-opening of the Aropa International Airport by the PNG government for Bougainville thus exciting the people and a handful of leaders. In all these projects’ launchings afterwards, a PNG minister flies into Bougainville from Port Moresby to officiate and not an ABG minister.

Bougainville’s ABG had endured continuous loud attacks for not bringing development from Bougainville’s own representatives in the PNG parliament mainly Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro from Central Bougainville and Hon. Steven Pirika from South Bougainville and little from Hon. Lauta Atoi from the North excluding the regional MP, Hon. Joe Lera who had been productively working with the ABG.

And all these condemnation of the government that came out as the result of the peace process with the responsibility to carry Bougainville forward is the national MPs has the financial power then the struggling and PNG-depended ABG.

The three MPs had been so destructive on ABG and not supportive. An ABG parliamentarian sent me a text message few days ago claiming:

We believe PNG has agents in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville to disrupt our preparations for referendum. Our national MPs, except the regional MP, are all agents of PNG. They feel comfortable with what they are receiving [from the PNG government] while majority of Bougainvilleans continue to struggle. They use the DSIP funds to promote “PNG’s might” and attempt to convince and mislead Bougainvilleans thus undermining the ABG. Tasol ol bai tait (But they won’t succeed).

But PNG intentions are all clear they are pursuing their baseless, disrespectful and irrelevant desire of Bougainville’s integration into PNG so it can remain enslaved under its old claws of the pre-1990 days.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bougainville leadership under challenge from PNG

Leonard Fong Roka

There is a war of words around the recently passed Bougainville Mining Law 2014. Yet this means Bougainville has now its own mining law to deal with mining in Bougainville. But mining is a controversial issue on Bougainville since the 1960s. For Bougainville it had sparked a crisis that has cost Bougainville much loss of lives.
And observing the whole conflict of protest over the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) creation of this law on mining and the critics, both sides has a good reason for argument but again all sides has ambiguous problems within where PNG is the catalyst.

Of course Dr. Jerry Semos 1997 James Cook University doctoral thesis, Natural Resources, Nasioi Society and the Colonial and Post-Colonial State in Papua New Guinea: The Mining and the Undermining of Resource Sovereignty and Resource Development in the Bougainville Copper Project 1963 to 1990, stated that ‘In 1964, an Australian mining company, Conzinc Riotinto of Australia (CRA) came to Bougainville, uninvited.’ This forceful entry was legalized by the cruel Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA) of 1967. And this tragedy on the Solomon Island people of Bougainville culminated in the death of 15 to 20 thousand innocent Bougainvilleans since 1988.

Because of this ten year destruction and bloodshed the world saw the need that politics should streamline to accommodate Bougainville and so the state of PNG allowed for the PNG-friendly Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) of 2001.

And the current criticism of the new Bougainville Mining Law should be all thrown at the BPA. Analysis of the BPA would show that Bougainvillean leadership gave in too much to PNG liking and this is the obvious leadership characteristics of the key leader the late Joseph Kabui that had one notable weakness of not hurting others and his desire to maintain positive relations with all.

In the whole peace process of Bougainville, every step under taken blessed or empowered PNG and did not value the suffering of the Solomon people of Bougainville that Dr. Jerry Semos’ work (above) rooted it to 1963.

In the 1990s article, Bougainville: A sad and silent tragedy in the South Pacific, a notable Bougainville leader Martin Miriori wrote:

On 16 September 1975, Papua New Guinea obtained independence from Australia. Bougainville's pleas for the people to be allowed to exercise their right to determine their own political future were ignored. Panguna became one of the largest opencast mines in the world, and the only source of finance for Papua New Guinea's independence. In essence, Australia gave Bougainville and her people as an independence gift to Papua New Guinea.

Bougainvilleans were a piece of object given to PNG by Australia to exploit it and finance their independence!

This throwing of Bougainvilleans everywhere firstly evolved in 1886. A Raspal S. Khosa, in his University of Adelaide 1992 thesis, The Secessionist Crisis, 1964-1992: Melanesians, Missionaries and Mining, highlighted the Anglo-German Declaration of 1886 has halving the Solomon Islands into two spheres of influence between Britain (south islands) and German to the north. But the Anglo-German Convention of 1899 actually got Germany put Bougainville under its total authority with the German New Guinea that in 1975 began PNG.

PNG knows all these chaotic experiences of the Bougainville people that tuned them to struggle for self determination had disturbed their psyche and progress. Since the 1960s the victimize islanders then had the CRA threatening their existence with the Panguna mine to fund the development of PNG; foreign planters took massive land areas to run their plantations and gave nothing back to the people.

All these chaos ended in the armed crisis since 1988 and clearly PNG had no power to handle that and Australia, in the name of regional stability had to back PNG to starve the Solomon Islander rebels without any rights on their island out.

With the support of small Pacific countries, especially Solomon Islands and Vanuatu promoting Bougainville cause overseas, peace process began slowly developing simply because PNG, as the 2010 Anthony Regan’s book, Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, saw that the conflict that was supposed to be its internal crisis but was turning internationalized and PNG would lose ownership of Bougainville.

Peace prevailed on Bougainville not because of PNG (generally the PNG army was a sitting duck on Bougainville and it was Bougainvilleans who were fighting and killing each other) but because Bougainvilleans saw the need to end the conflict by their known phrase, ‘peace by peaceful means’ and worked towards a lasting political settlement for their future.

But PNG took an upper in the peace negotiation once again to disrupt Bougainvilleans right to self determination which they had fought and died for. PNG was not willing to support them and let them freely march into independence but enforced challenges upon the trouble-torn people.

Personal experiences of leaders who had participated in face-to-face negotiations with the PNG and others since the late 1990s towards developing a lasting peace process had shown PNG was always barking wildly at Bougainvilleans demanding them to do-this-and-do-that.

Such anti-Bougainville-independence culture of PNG led to the challenging three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement signed in 2001. These three pillars of the peace agreement are: Autonomy, Referendum and Weapons Disposal. And all these pillars and their associated terms and conditions seen from broad empirical analysis of the history of the Bougainville people’s struggle for self determination, are irrelevant and disrespectful.

In the Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, Regan (2010: 59) wrote:

This strong sentiment was a factor in the PNG government negotiations with parties sometimes arguing for limited roles for not only the UN and the PMG, but also foreign advisers to the Bougainville leaders. Such arguments were a source of tension, as the Bougainville leadership in generally supported expansive roles for the international intervention, and strongly opposed any suggestion of interference by [PNG government] in relation to sources of advice utilized by Bougainville.

PNG was not in to address the injustice faced by Bougainvilleans under PNG but was out there to undermine them from their rights despite obvious anti-PNG sentiments on the table. With this PNG also put harsh criteria on the three pillars of the peace agreement. It is known throughout Bougainville PNG was not willing to sign the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) till it was given a veto power over the outcomes of the referendum in Paragraphs 325 to 328 of the BPA.

PNG criteria that were bullied on the non-reckless political leaders of Bougainville were that Bougainville must be weapon free, economy must be self-sustaining and autonomy government must be functional and so on. But this, especially with economy, is irrelevant where PNG was financed by Bougainville resources and now it is time for PNG to compensate the Solomon island people of Bougainville.

Again the PNG plan was captured by Light Intervention: Lessons from Bougainville, by Regan (2010: 127) that:

The logic is that in the 10 to 15 years from the establishment of the ABG in 2005, the PNG government has the opportunity to work closely with the ABG to promote all forms of development in Bougainville in a way that could be expected to encourage Bougainvilleans to consider the possible merits of remaining a part of PNG when it comes time to vote in the referendum.

All PNG government activities on Bougainville, like the classical Peter O’Neill tour of Bougainville in January 2014, are part of this PNG strategy to undermine the Bougainville people’s right to freedom.

And under this cruel challenge ABG is struggle to create laws like the mining bill to test its functional capacities as a government to carry Bougainville forward as PNG wanted. ABG has to have the money to finance itself as ordered by the PNG state; Bougainville has to be weapon free so that people are not intimidated to vote against integration to PNG as it is planning for with all its undermining of the authority of the Bougainville government.