LEONARD FONG ROKA
FROM THE SUPPRESSIVE and exploitative claws of Papua New Guinea, violent protests gave Bougainville a provincial government. Ten years of bloodletting gave us autonomy. And what will give us nationhood?
The government of PNG under the leadership of prime minister Sir Michael Somare approved the Constitution Bill in December 2004.
After this, the constitution was adopted by the Bougainville Constituent Assembly on 12 November 2004 in Buin, South Bougainville.
The constitution was presented to people of Bougainville by then Minister for Inter-Government Relations, Sir Peter Barter, at a ceremony in Arawa on 14 January 2005.
On the 16 June 2005, we gathered on the lawns of Hahela Primary School to witness the birth of an infant, the Bougainville Autonomous Government that was and is a wedlock child of Bougainville’s 10 years of conflict.
As Bougainvilleans, we did not nurture or purchase this crisis, rather it was our island’s fate as it attempted to skedaddle out of the noisome way of suppression and exploitation.
This new government was founded on a society of haunting nonconformists that continue to affectd us economically and politically. I refer to the two conflicting want-to-lead setups, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Meekamui.
To most Bougainvilleans, the ABG fitted the American concept of ‘a government by the people; of the people and for the people’.
Thus, it functioned well with the people and external forces like the PNG government, aid donors and especially the government of Australia, where most of our development aid is sourced.
But, I am yet to identify where to slot in the Meekamui when considering the sovereignty of PNG and the United Nations-enforced international laws.
Nonetheless, our ABG has survived the nightmare so far, as the Meekamui exposed internal divisions and fragmentation.
In the first ABG parliament (2005-08), led initially by the late Joseph Kabui and continued by James Tanis (2008-10), there were several significant issues for Bougainville that had far reaching impacts on our island.
This first house, in my observation, in terms of decision making was more focussed on creating cordial relationships for our financially zero-balanced government.
This included practical manifestations such as the K95 million Japanese Bakanovi to Rawa bridging project.
However, the stunt of the regime was the Invincible Resources affair with Lindsay Semple, an Australian based in Canada. In this project, Sam Kauona went from rebel army commander to President Kabui's key financial adviser - and was not even on the government payroll.
Kauona, to many, was the man who engineered the Semple project and then coerced his old crony, the late President Kabui (see http://lfongroka.blogspot.com/2012/05/joseph-kabui-and-his-leadership-of.html) who as leader was struggling to make ends meet for his government and people.
The deal, according to the ABC’s Steve Marshall, gave Semple 70% of Bougainville’s untapped mineral resources, fishing rights and forestry rights.
This was just one example of a leadership running in a politically conflicted environment in its desperation to provide goods and services for post-conflict Bougainville.
Many leaders, and even ordinary people, condemned the ABG - Invincible Resource ‘deal’. But we were all visionaries without knowledge of what practical steps might clear the then politically hostile air of Bougainville. The leadership then was the most pressured I had ever seen as it sought to find means and ways to empower government.