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Walking out rich from the Bougainville government

LeonardLEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

ALL BOUGAINVILLEANS of sound mind know that in the 1990s 20,000 people perished on our island as the result of a civil war in the name of freedom.

Our relatives’ lives were lost for our island to be free from the claws of Papua New Guinea and its exploitation and subjugation of our land and people.

When our young men took up arms and violence in 1988 against the PNG national government, Bougainville Copper Limited and the illegal Papua New Guinean squatter settlers, we the people stood up for them with our hearts.

The sacrifice is not much recognised by our present day leaders. Post-conflict Bougainville is a massive fireball of opportunists tearing apart the Bougainville our people died to save.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) budget is fast going beyond K300 million whilst tax collected by the Bougainville’s Internal Revenue Commission is snailing behind. In 2013 it’s predicted to be around K12 million.

Despite our ambition for nationhood and despite this alarming financial gap, our people still run around desiring compensation for crisis-created losses.

The few businessmen we have are reluctant to pay tax, loudly calling for compensation for all they lost amidst the ten-year old conflict.

We all lost.

As ordinary Bougainvilleans around my area, the Tumpusiong Valley near Panguna, see it, our politicians ignore the fact they are public figures who should lead the Bougainville people by example to really respect the issues we fought and died for on our island.

To most of us, painfully observing the shit in Bougainville politics, many of our politicians and bureaucrats do not live by the values and directives of the offices they hold.

Many public officials are an eyesore and nuisance to the community. They do not uphold the principles our people died for, instead leading Bougainville into the realm of corruption and personal prestige and power.

In these desperate times, leadership is challenging since the people are also powerful, perhaps more powerful than the government itself.

The people in the Tumpusiong Valley vote people who are weak into power; or we get old timers who had not walked with us through the path of the crisis.

They easily put on PNG shoes to play the game since they do not share the vision of those of us who suffered.

Many ABG parliamentarians are noted by the ordinary people as looters of the public offices they hold.

For reasons well known to lawyers, I won’t name names.

Many Bougainvilleans dream to lead Bougainville; yet they lack the power to influence and educate. It is about time Bougainvilleans start practicing leadership on their own families.

When Deputy Administrator Andrew Pisi died in 2007, his extended family members of Moroni village in Panguna came and ransacked the Administration office in Arawa.

They walked away with office materials like computers, furniture and a vehicle - nearly a million kina’s worth of loot.


With the death of Chief Administrator, Peter Tsiamalili, in late 2007, his family appropriated his official vehicle; all efforts to get it returned failed.

This problem was also present with two former ABG presidents. Presidents have entitlements when leaving office but it should be noted that family members of the pair went beyond the entitlements.

When the first ABG president, Joseph Kabui, passed away in mid 2008, his official vehicle was locked at his residence in Hutjena as a bargaining tool for the release of entitlements. But when the entitlement was honoured, the ABG vehicle was not returned.

The question is: ‘Are leaders and ordinary people interested in saving Bougainville for the benefit and betterment of future generations?’

Ordinary people of Bougainville struggle to make ends meet, yet our lazy leaders leave office with wealth and tell people their island needs more money to run.

With this trend, more money for the island will mean more corruption and possible derailing of Bougainville’s progress to independence.

Can the current Bougainville President, John Momis, and Administrator, Raymond Masono, change this?

I wonder when the ABG will start getting out amongst the people of Bougainville and finding out what their thoughts are about their island.


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Quentin Talingapua

LFR is a true Bougainvillian who speaks not only for himself but for the people of his province, mainly the new generations that still need to be educated about their past history.

In a nutshell the war did not only cause heartpains but also moulded the people to be creative and gave that burning desire to love Bougainville more.

A classic example would be LFR, he has the heart for his province and those people that cannot be heard.

If we have a lot of peopole like him in PNG mainly the young generations we can move to another level.

Change starts domestically and goes out to the international level. Good job LFR.

David Kitchnoge

Phil - Cargo cult is essentially a mechanism to try and manage the expectation gap. And large scale resource projects do create huge expectations.

But let me not distract from Leonard's excellent piece here.

Will discuss cargo cult in another thread.

Joel Tauko

Write on Leonard Fong Roka of Panguna!

Joel Tauko

LFR is a Bougainville history lover and one cannot argue against his strive to get the past known.

That past must not be forgotten to the good of Bougainvilleans not some other aliens!

Bougainvilleans who are growing up must know their past. I enjoy all his articles that sticks mostly to the past.

There are times when he comes in the present and leaps to the future as we can see if we go back to 2011 when he actually entered PNG Attitude.

Bougainville leaders need to preserve his writings in a book form since I see that his works will be of value to the island and people.

Michael Dom

LFR - a blistering write!

More of this, please! This is a searching, honest, uninhibited true-speak. If others have a different opinion, they better be as convincing.

Your observation that ABH leaders have reaped the benefits of their position is a sad norm in PNG.

Mineral Resource rich areas in PNG have almost all failed to make good with their budgets. I dare, nay, I pray someone on Attitue can demonstrate otherwise.

Shallum Tabea

Many people could say all sort of things about Leonard Fong Roka, we the young generation of Bougainville still see him and his works as giving something to us his people to guide us to run a better Bougainville in the future.

History is what that created the present so Bougainvilleans must know that to predict the future of the Solomon island of Bougainville as LFR love to call his home.

Phil Fitzpatrick

That's an interesting comment about resource developments and cargo cults, David. You should expand on it further.

I know from what I do that people's expectations are generally out of all proportion when a resource development comes into their area.

'We're all gonna be rich' is a common refrain but the reality is often very hard to swallow.

I imagine the rumours about the mine starting up again are having the same effect, especially on the people who don't remember or ignore the troubles before.

Tim Ashton

Getting out and listening to the people is exactly what Governor Lera is and has been doing.

PS, well stated Leonard.

David Kitchnoge

Thanks Alex. Nice comments.

Apart from sorcery, one other thing that excites the intuitive mind of PNGans is something called Cargo Cult.

In some ways, large scale resource projects (mining/petroleum etc) have turned into a Cargo Cult of sorts in modern day PNG.

It has sadly thwarted the resourcefulness and the enterprising spirit of our people in a major way.

Alex Harris

The people of Bougainville have proved resourceful and entrepreneurial, and I believe it is these two traits they need to develop further for a sustainable future - not hand outs of money from POM or a mine, both of which, as Leonard says, undoubtedly will end up in the hands of just a few who deem themselves entitled.

Communities could be asking, what can we do for ourselves to better our situation? What can we grow, build or sell? What skills or products can we export? How can we work together to build something of which we can be proud, rather than tear each other down with constant fighting and bickering?

I don't have the answers, and there are many more questions to be asked, but it would be good to see them asked. I'm sure some of the answers would be surprising, and inspiring.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Good stuff, Leonard.

It's going to be a hard road for the people of Bougainville.

Of course, they have an excellent example of how not to run a country not far away to the west. Maybe the lessons from PNG can be applied to Bougainville.

I'm with Jeff too - more articles like this one which look to the future rather than dwell too much over the past make good reading.

Geoff Hancock

It would appear that the ABG has much in common with its counterpart in Waigani.

Perhaps the saying, 'You get the government you deserve' rings true in this case!

Jeff Febi

Leonard a refreshing read. I urge you to write more on topics like this and what you think the future of Bougainville should be or what you would like it to be.

Maybe your ideas and words will one day find a politician and influence his thoughts.

Mrs Barbara Short

Thanks for this update on what you think is happening in Bougainville.

If other people think differently I hope they will comment.

It certainly paints a bleak picture of this tiny sad island.

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