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From BRA fighter to a sniper’s role in the Mr Pip movie


Kevin Paibaku (Leonard Fong Roka)HE WAS ONE OF THE MEN who ambushed and killed eight Papua New Guinean soldiers outside Arawa in late 1992. He was wounded at the former Kieta port in mid-1993. And he recently acted as a Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) sniper in the movie, Mr Pip.

Today Kevin Paibaku and his wife and children live a calm life at Bomena hamlet in Pidia village of Kieta, taking up opportunities with openness and a positive mind.

“We all suffered in the 10 year war for independence,” he told me, “but our struggle is still going on. We have yet to reach the destiny we fought and died for and that is freedom from our own selfish leaders, the cruel PNG government and its people, and Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) and its friends that are still running around to exploit us again with old laws.”

Paibaku joined the BRA in 1990, angered by the PNG army and its patrol boats that came and regularly shot at villagers.

According to Michael J Field’s 1998 Chronology of Bougainville Civil War (online), the PNG government, after failing in 1990 to end the BRA rebellion in Panguna, had its National Intelligence Organization create a confidential plan to re-take Bougainville with Australian input. The plan had two strategies: (1) a total blockade, and (2) deliberate setting Bougainvilleans against each other on geographic/ethnic terms.

All this worked out on Bougainville and Paibaku believes that Bougainville was and is still trapped in this PNG and Australian set-up.

In early 1992, when the PNG army began intensifying its attacks on the coastal villages, the Pidia people began moving their families into the hinterland. As they moved to the refugee camps, their village went up in flames in dawn raids.

It was now the responsibility of young people like Paibaku to patrol the Pidia Peninsula. They had the role of containing the PNG army camps at Kobuan and Kieta from which regular attempted ambushes occurred on the narrow trails of entry into the peninsula.

It was these duties that got him engaged in a gun battle that saw him wounded in 1993. His unit of BRA patrol was trying to block a PNG army team from gaining access to Kieta port.

After facing BRA firepower on the Arawa-Kieta access road without any gain, the PNG army patrol sent a unit further up the ridge under cover of night.

Early the next morning, Paibaku and his mates went to look at the scene of the previous confrontation. There they discovered a section of the PNG army patrol.

Paibaku and his men did not waste a moment and started shooting. The panicking PNG soldiers, some forgetting their weapons, fled towards Kobuan.

Paibaku and his team were about to pick up a few discarded weapons from the road when gunshots from the ridge above took them by surprise. Four of his friends were shot but managed to help each other move away from the line of fire.

Paibaku was trying to get a good shot at the ridge position of the PNG army when a stray bullet bounced off a metal frame he was hiding beside and ripped through his buttocks. He ran down hill into the old Kieta township and made it to Karakung village.

As he reached Karakung, he collapsed from loss of blood. His friends carried him further inland.

His wound was life threatening so he was shouldered to Koromira from where BRA boats transported him to Choiseul in the Solomons. He had a life saving operation in Honiara.

Soon after his treatment, Paibaku returned to resume fighting but the peace process began soon after. He thinks peace was a positive development for Bougainvilleans.

“Peace was good since our kids are now in school as our leaders are fighting the war on the table,” Paibaku told me at Pidia village. “But peace again has sadly created irresponsible and corrupt Bougainville leaders who had forgotten our struggles since the 1960s.

“The BRA leaders are worst. They have forgotten what we fought for and now they are running after money. They have also forgotten us, the soldiers who actually suffered to earn them the reputation they have as our leaders. They are recklessly running after money.”

His recent role in the movie Mr Pip as a BRA rifleman was a moment of pride in his life as a fighter for the Bougainville freedom struggle.

“The New Zealanders helped us make our story be felt in the wider cinema world,” he said, “where people will know at least we had suffered in the hands of redskins from PNG who did wanted only to rob us our rights and dignity.”


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