Pacific moves to suppress the media while Australia rests supine
Is this wartime Keravat graveyard still to be found?

The heart can kill, or it can liberate me & my Bougainville society


An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

AT the peak of the Bougainville Crisis my father was gunned to death while my mother struggled to save his life as she confronted blood-hungry Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) men from our own Kieta society in Central Bougainville.

So it was that great inhumanity murdered my dad, John Roka (pictured), who so loved Bougainville and his Bougainvillean family. Inhumanity was perpetrated in the name of Bougainville freedom.

This was an irony so grim, exterminating a man in betrayal of Bougainville and of the peace and harmony the BRA was fighting for.

The BRA had a gun to kill my dad; and a gun is not a living thing that can react to every stimulus with assertiveness to restore or destroy.

I, along with my four siblings, had living and changing hearts that reacted disbelief and trauma to the cruelty the BRA did to us.

We knew every word and every action of these BRA men as they struggled with our mother to kill our dad. Using the laws of the land, we knew what to do to those men when the Bougainville referendum was held and the result known, whether it was independence or not.

Every man we met across the land said to us, “Those BRA men and leaders who have taken the blood of your innocent father will have to pay for their cruelty. Just sit and wait for the time when you will hold them up by the ears to answer to the law.”

But over that time since the year 1993 when my father was killed in the name of freedom, our pain and suffering was the curse of the BRA men who had taken his life from him and from us.

As victims who lost our daddy, we made it through the educational institutions one after another – and with excellence - while hardly any offspring of those BRA men who took our father down had a son or a daughter in the education boat. The boat that is now the only hope for Bougainville peace and harmony.

As victims we can now talk and write openly and freely about Bougainville independence while the BRA men hide in their backyards destabilising a fragile peace while pursuing their own interests and benefits.

As time went by we, as victims of the Bougainville Crisis, began to access power in Bougainville spheres of influence. We provided services to the Bougainville peace building and recovery process.

The men who killed our father in the name of freedom were pushed to the periphery of Bougainville development.

Our hearts sobbed for them.

“See those BRA men….

“During the peak of the Bougainville Crisis they fought to save us and our land but now, under their own peace agreement, they are fighting over cars, money, personal prestige and power. They are becoming corrupt and deviating from the focus of our years of political struggle.

“How do we save them? How do we bring them back to assist our island’s struggles? As victims let us open our hearts to them in reconciliation and peace so they can have meaning and see the culmination of what they fought and suffered for alongside us, as we all were Bougainvilleans.”

Yes we felt sorry for the BRA men who killed our father. They had no future in them as former soldiers of Bougainville freedom. Their own children were not soldiers of Bougainville freedom in the many educational institutions in Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.

We knew by heart that, everywhere in our encounters with them, they were melting away in guilt while we were free and advancing. But these were our fellow Bougainvilleans, our partners to hold hands together in building this new Bougainville.

Unity was our only strength. As a victim of the Bougainville Crisis, who was I not to open my hands to reconcile with and save the BRA man who killed my father?

Nature knew I had suffered in the name of Bougainville freedom and was rewarding me with blessings in accordance with the pain I had endured.

For the BRA man, nature was punishing him for all the pain he had inflicted upon me. But he was a Bougainvillean and I needed him by me to help save Bougainville.

All of us—victims and perpetrators—are Bougainvilleans and our island needs us all for its betterment. Reconciliation was the way; reconciliation was our pathway to peace and harmony throughout the island.

Over the years the spirit of reconciliation for my late daddy, John Roka, has cried in our hearts. We his children heard it; the communities heard it; our leaders heard it; and the BRA men heard it.

The spirit of reconciliation told the BRA men to say sorry to us, John Roka’s children, and it told us to be open and free in accepting the killers of our father with peace.

For when we give peace we save our fellow Bougainvilleans and gain more blessings and good from the nature that owns and creates life.

So on the day of our recent reconciliation and retrieval of the remains of our late father, none of us five Roka children nor our mother broke into tears.

We did not weep wile exhuming the tomb of our father, nor when we stood in front of the killers of our father, nor when we spoke to them.

We, the Roka family, as the victims, and the BRA men, as the perpetrators, when reconciling did make Bougainville proud; we did give it more energy to move forward in search of its lasting peace and harmony.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Arthur Williams

Leonard - a sad personal real life story. But quite a challenging one - especially for this broken world of ours where families, communities and nations cause so many bad things to happen between them.

A positive message for this Christmas time too.

Leonard Fong Roka

Phil, really true. It was unbelievable for me. When we faced the BRA men for reconciliation it was they who shed tears and not us the victims.

But it was that guilt they had that made them feel sorry as we the victims felt joy.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

The first local mssionaries who came to my area with expatriate SDA missionaries were from Bougainville and Musau Island. They were stationed at Pindak village in Kandep, Enga province. I thought Bougainvillians were good, friendly people.

None of us knew how to swim then and one of the pastors dived into the Lai River and brought the body of a young man trapped by weeds at the bottom. We admired him for the feat.

And over the years I have had many classmates and close frinds from Bougainville. Even one of my relatives is married to a woman from the beautiful island. She has given my tribe some beautiful children. One of the boy's name is 'Londati' meaning from far away in the Enga language.

It is hard to believe that the crisis occured and lots of people have suffered. I believe there are many families on Bougainville like Leonard's who have also forgiven, buried the past and want to move on. I appauld Leonard F Roka for this sad tale which relates to the wanton murder of his father. Such stories of open forgiveness can bring total peace and harmony to the once beautiful and prosperous island.

Phil Fitzpatrick

When I was working with Leonard on his book 'Brokenville' I found the detailed account of the murder of his father by the BRA, for no apparent reason, quite confronting and shocking.

When he and his family extended the hand of forgiveness to his father's murderers I thought it was an incredible human response. If the same thing had happened to me I'm not sure I could have been that forgiving.

But Leonard's family is not the only one to do this. There are many families who have extended the hand of peace to their past enemies. It is a measure of the strength of the Bougainvillean people.

I sincerely hope that they can engineer a future that makes all that suffering worthwhile.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)