40 years in the wilderness; let’s head towards the promised land
PNG still feeling the effects of Australian colonialism

Anger in Bougainville over PM's no independence remarks


A Bougainvillean politician has condemned a statement by Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill that a yes vote in the referendum on Bougainville independence doesn't necessarily mean the island will actually get independence.

Mr O'Neill was reported in The Australian newspaper as saying independence for Bougainville the responsibility of the national parliament.

Bougainville President John Momis told Pacific Beat that in the 2019 referendum he expects 70% of the people will vote to break away from PNG.

Deputy speaker of the Bougainville parliament and MP for Bougainville North, Francesca Semoso, says Peter O'Neill's statement flies in the face of the right of Bougainvilleans to determine their own future, as laid out in the peace agreement which formally ended the civil war.


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Joachim Lummani

A well-balanced awareness campaign would assist ordinary people to be properly and sufficiently informed to make a truly free choice with awareness of the consequences both in the short and long term.

The common saying by people on the ground is more often that it is for the people of the region to decide if they want to remain part of PNG. That maybe so but it would be a good thing to subject the pursuit of independence to some rational evaluation away from emotional arguments such as, "blut i kapsait pinis" and some other similar sentimental viewpoints.

In his own way, I recall, the late Moses Havini tried to intellectually systematize varied historical experiences of the people of the region in his lifelong pursuit of independence for the region for whatever, in his view, it was worth.

I respect him for his convictions although arguments based on pre-colonial historical sociocultural and political experiences, generally speaking, do not appear that convincing in the context of a wider PNG society.

Ideologically, leaders of the region have always argued for decentralization of governmental powers, guided by the principles of Catholic Social Teaching underlying the 'common good'. I personally support this move and, for me, autonomy constitutes independence in this regard.

But at the same time, whatever the Bougainville Peace Agreement says (I have never read it), I also think that the PNG government has a made a serious mistake right at the beginning of the conflict/war. There was no wisdom and clear thinking in making decisions to deal with the situation in a peaceful way through dialogue.

I blame this on the spiritual, moral, emotional and intellectual immaturity of key ministerial advisers of the respective war-time prime ministers and other cohorts in their different capacities.

It was an unnecessary war that unnecessarily claim the lives of innocent people, both Bougainvilleans and ordinary citizens from other parts of the country.

The national government violated its own constitution because of its lack of wisdom and clear thinking and helped cause destruction to its own citizens. It must bow down in shame and accept responsibility and grow up.

In my view, I think what needs to happen is a national reconciliation after enemy individuals in the region sort out their particular differences and reconcile their selves and themselves.

It is quite a deep wound that the national government inflicted upon its own citizens in the region. PNG must learn to solve its own problems in its own unique way in the context of place-based cultural diversity sensitivities.

The wound is deep enough for the region to leave PNG. In the final analysis, it all boils down to "whether Papua New Guineans are spiritually, morally, psychologically and intellectually capable of forgiving one another", of joining hands as brothers and sisters once again, to walk into the future, facing much greater challenges in the economic, scientific the geopolitical world.

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