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B'ville ex-combatants threaten violence against Panguna family

Unhappiness at PangunaLEONARD FONG ROKA

IT was reminiscent of the event in which our father was killed by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army on 18 March 1993 during the peak of the Bougainville conflict.

On that day, armed men located themselves at the assassination scene and lied to someone they met and told him to call our father to the scene of his death.

On this occasion, Panguna New Generation Leaders tricked someone to call us to a place for something good but when we reached it, dozens of men appeared and began intimidating us. A number were under the influence of liquor.

Panguna New Generation Leaders consists of former BRA men who are aggressively campaigning for the re-opening of the Panguna mine with funding from the Panguna Negotiations Office of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

The threats have been continuing for almost three weeks.

The crisis sprouted from a belief that “where the population is illiterate, the literate cannot move an inch”. The Roka family was acting in a capacity that we should do something for the government instead of waiting for the government to do something for us.

One of my sisters is a member of Melanesian Indigenous Land Defense Alliance (MILDA), formed in 1997 at Madang to advocate for the freedom of the West Papuans and on other critical issues affecting Melanesia.

MILDA had its last conference in Solomon Islands. My sister attended and saw the need for MILDA input to the Bougainville referendum.

MILDA saw that the PNG government had great influence on the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which is still a problem the ABG is dealing with. The PNG government does not respect the peace agreement by complying with its commitments.

The MILDA conference for Bougainville was to be held in the Panguna District from 14-18 August. The aim was for MILDA to listen to the locals express their needs for the coming referendum and to start supporting Bougainville in lobbying for support within the Melanesian states.

MILDA also sees that Bougainville should have a seat in the Melanesian Spearhead Group and alongside other Pacific organisations but has not reached this point yet.

But, according to Panguna New Generation Leaders, the Roka family with MILDA was interfering with the ongoing re-opening of Panguna mine.

Its leaders Henry Pipino, Junior Itamari and community government officer Francis Nasinui said at their first meeting with us that they had won the hearts of all ex-combatants in Bougainville and the Rokas were here to destroy that effort and the future of Bougainville.

They claimed the Rokas do not have respect for their authority despite us showing them the documents of approval from the ABG and other authorities. They said we are showing off with our university degrees and destroying the Panguna people.

Then they ordered the MILDA officials who were here from New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and PNG to depart Panguna.

They said they had prepared excavators to block MILDA and Roka family access to Arawa if they continued their conference in Panguna.

They also said they would smash the Rokas and any local community members and women’s groups supporting us.

They said former Panguna combatants are fighters and do not fear and will not hesitate to destroy anybody that sabotages the Panguna re-opening.

The MILDA conference for Bougainville was not terminated, however, people who wanted to listen to what our fellow islanders had to say about the Bougainville referendum moved it to Arawa where it progressed away from some of the most politically confused people of Bougainville.

Photo: Leonard (far left) and other family members under threat


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Chris Baria

Due to our foolishness and the lack of hindsight coupled with self-interest, we almost lost a great opportunity to lobby for Bougainville's Independence.

The "Melanesian Indigenous Land Defense Alliance" (MILDA) was stopped at Panguna from holding meetings at Kavaronau.

"New Generation" a pro-mining group told the Roka family who were supposed to host the meetings, that NGOs were not allowed in Panguna because they might disrupt the process of reopening the mine there.

This, they said was under the orders from BEC and Fidelis Semoso, ABG Minister for Commerce and Economic Development.

One of the reasons why MILDA came over was to see the level of preparedness for the Referendum vote in 2019 so that they can start to lobby for it's outcome which is independence for Bougainville.

There are several facts that we must understand about the forthcoming referendum. Firstly, referendum is not for outright independence as many people believe. It is for political future of Bougainville.

The referendum outcome is not binding to Papua New Guinea, therefore it may or may not chose to ratify the referendum outcome.

It is therefore vital that we seek support of our Pacific neighbours to lobby for independence in the event that GoPNG does not ratify Bougainville's Independence.

MILDA has offered to help wherever and however they can. They had been instrumental in the past in getting the Kanaky independence movement of New Caledonia into the Melanesian Spearhead Group with observer status.

The MILDA meeting was relocated to Arawa where it was well received by the community of Central Bougainville who made significant contributions towards the success of the MILDA program in Central Bougainville.

The MILDA team went away not only satisfied but impressed with the people and how willing they were to share information and experiences they go through every day and in the past. They also shared their vision of Bougainville's future with the visiting team.

Martinez Wasuak

When you stand up for what you think is right, God is behind you.

Take Care Leonard, Theo and the rest of the family members.

Chris Baria

I am behind you and Theo my brother. Stand up for your family, and stand up for the truth. It will prevail.

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