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The making and unmaking of Papua New Guinea

Let us not repeat the mistakes we made on Bougainville

Singirok_Jerry - Gemini News
Ex PNGDF chief Singirok - "I was a seasoned soldier with a future, but a soft target for the government"


MADANG - As Bougainville is gearing up for a referendum in 2019 and as time passes - time being the biggest healer - I reflect on the journey we took from which there are very important lessons to learn.

Firstly we should never have had the Bougainville crisis. The government had no negotiating power against a multi-million corporate giant like Rio Tinto. Collectively we destroyed a province, communities and displaced and disintegrated hundreds of families.

Many mothers are now widowed and raising children without their fathers. Communities are split and deep emotions run through the minds of people affected directly or indirectly.

I was a seasoned soldier with a future in front of me, but I was a soft target for the government to bring more misery to an already broken community.

I was wounded badly at Panguna mine in 1994. I rescued women and children with troops under my command. My troops were human and vulnerable but had a duty, and under the circumstances did what they were supposed to do.

I revolted against a government who did not put people's welfare first. The government was too swift to end my career in 2000. But I made my mark as commander of the PNG Defence Force.

The state versus Jerry Singirok was one of the longest court case against a departmental head and I was acquitted in 2004 on a charge of sedition and today I humbly reminisce the boldness that we took as an important state institution to stop potential massacres and incredible chaos and destruction.

The point is that when our political masters do not take heed of the plight of its people, there are serious consequences.

Jerry Singirok today
Jerry Singirok today - "we all need to be healed"

I paid a personal price. But as a Christian serving my Lord, Jesus paid a higher price for our redemption. So from time to time I share my words in a hope that those affected in the Bougainville crisis will find the healing, peace and move on in their lives.

Wounded soldiers like myself, we carry both physical scares and deep emotional and psychological wounds. Those children without parents and wives without their loved ones also continue to feel a deep sense if loss and pain.

A true reconciliation by soldiers, police, the PNGDF, the PNG government and combatants (both Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Bougainville Resistance Force) is very important. We all need to be healed.

The lesson for future governments is to take the plight and welfare of the people first before all other considerations. Let us not repeat the same mistakes again on Bougainville. We must stand united for our next generation.

Long live Bougainville. God Bless.


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