WE cry money and we cry development; and every day Bougainvilleans are praying that the Lord will guide our leaders that they may bring about lasting pacification and advancement in accordance with the aspirations of the people.
Our money is in the millions; millions which come and go. Every year Bougainvilleans hear about millions of kina.
We hear about millions but to the government, whether Bougainville’s autonomous government or the government of Papua New Guinea, that money is earmarked for a specific item in the annual budget. We the people seem to see little of it.
It is claimed that he who spends those millions knows where that money is. The rest of us—in the atolls, south, north and central Bougainville—await the day of economic freedom.
A group of Bougainvilleans visited Port Moresby recently and, by coincidence I would think, dined in a restaurant said to be owned by prime minister Peter O’Neill. There they sat in a sea of parliamentarians, escorts, cohorts, family, concubines and other hangers on.
They sat observing that upper world of parliamentarians with an officer from the national treasury guiding them and lecturing them about their politicians in Port Moresby; living in a culture too luxurious and unreachable by the village men or women who cast votes for them in the national elections.
‘How do your people and you see your leaders?’ the treasury officer asked the Bougainvilleans.
‘Well,’ the Bougainvilleans chorused, ‘we are seeing regional member working on capacity building for Bougainville in education and health. We think these are vital areas for nation-building in Bougainville.
‘In central Bougainville, the member is buying a lot of trucks for the people. All these trucks are creating conflict and the machines are breaking down since the people lack the capacity to operate them. Yes, and a lot of development is happening.
‘We are not hearing much about the member of the north who some say is buying water tanks for some villages and in the south we cannot tell what the member was doing before he passed on not so long ago.’
The treasury officer—a non-Bougainvillean—nodded his head. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘Bougainville has received K600 million a year since 2010.’
The Bougainvilleans were startled. If true, this was a massive sum of money
K600 million per annum can run Bougainville. Such an amount could have all the Councils of Elders functioning; all our roads sealed; could have made our Bougainville economy independent as we march into the referendum window; the referendum on our independence.
So what or who is the problem?
Many academics, and ordinary citizens too, claim that Bougainville leadership is the problem. The leadership spectrum is an array of personalities with shattered ambitions without a focus on the common good of all Bougainville.
The world knows that Bougainville’s current leader, President John Momis is the most brilliant orator but not an implementer. And before him, the leaders had their own weaknesses that they could not translate into strengths. Thus Bougainville and Bougainvilleans had to suffer.
The strength to move Bougainville will come when the leader knows his weaknesses and turns them into his strengths.
It seems, if that treasury man knew his business, that Bougainville is receiving enough financial assistance from PNG and donors but poor leadership is the threat that is not bringing about positive change.