McKinnon & Paga Hill writers scheme will truly help our country

Bougainville: More money for government but no advancement


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.


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Arthur Williams

Leonard, this is a good synopsis of the reality of life in Bougainville and I suspect in all provinces of PNG.

So often we hear of massive funds being allocated for 'projects' in many parts of the nation but later read questions from the people on the ground asking, 'Moni igo we?'.

My wife's island had an European Union funded water reticulation project for Taskul. When I was there in 2007 I saw a huge mound of coronos and sand at one end of the 1969-built community hall.

I asked what is was for and someone explained the project and that in a nearby dilapidated building were the pipes, and fittings for the much wanted water supply system for the small government station.

I soon learnt that the project had been abandoned for some years. Back in Wales I read of the EU funding further 'Water & Sewerage' projects for PNG.

I wrote to one of the Welsh EU members about the wastefulness of uncompleted projects and of what I had seen at Taskul.

Eventually I got a lovely official reply that all the projects under the previous tranche had been completed and basically not to question Brussels far greater knowledge available from their files.

And so that is how it goes. Between national treasuries and the village there are huge black holes.

Some from poor management and/or supervision but from media reports in PNG far too many seem criminally inspired.

In days gone by of pre-digital technology it was easier to be corrupt in the knowledge that there were not too many capable officers to audit the book-keeping of projects.

Now it should be easier for quick careful checks to be made on every project but that seems to be circumvented by corrupt MPs and staff at all levels. A simple rule would be no new grant, allocation of funding until previous money had been acquitted.

I have advocated provincial gazettes or newspapers in which every MP's discretionary fund expenditure should be made public for the citizens to see. Likewise all provincial expenditure should be detailed regularly in such media.

I note what you say about President Momis being an orator. Well of course he was trained as a priest and should therefore be capable of good effective public speaking. I have asked several times when did he actually cease to be a priest.

On Lavongai Island ex-priest Francis Karol was stabbed to death on the steps of the old sister's convent at Lavongai parish.

Later, when I was talking about this to Bishop Hesse, he told me that despite Francis being married with children the Pope had refused to allow Father Francis to recant his vows and so though being unable to give the sacraments Francis remained a priest until his untimely murder.

It was about the same time that I started hearing Father Momis being called Mr Momis and wondered why Francis was unable to become a layman again while John was allowed. When did he get his discharge?

Peter Sandery

You have encapsulated the argument in a nutshell, Leonard - the crux of your argument is not confined just to PNG - it has international application and the beauty of it is its cultural and gender neutrality

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