The hard task of striking a balance in our views of PNG
Taking risks – is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Oh Bougainville, my Bougainville, sorry I caused you pain

Danny Gonol - "Marape, if I were in your position, I would apply my brakes and re-look at the whole Bougainville issue"

DANNY GONOL | Edited from an Open Letter

MT HAGEN – James Marape rose to the top of our country nearing the 44th anniversary of its independence.

He boldly announced he would consider himself a failure if by 2029 he had not made Papua New Guinea the richest black Christian nation on earth.

The world’s social and economic indicators puts our country in the Third World. Some say it is a developing country. Others say it is a poor country. Still others say it is a rich underdeveloped country.

Our country does not top the world in commerce, in military strength, in politics. But it tops the world in the number of languages our eight million people speak. What unity in diversity.

The last time l was in the land down under, a white man was heard speaking.  "This man comes from the nation of a thousand tribes,” he said, pointing at me.

I was at ease with this. He said to me, “Your country is like no other. You are a nation of nations.”

Oh, what a great feeling of patriotism flowed through me. I shed tears of joy.

James Marape is forced to inherit a decision made 20 years ago. Our country's unity is to be tested in Bougainville. He appointed a very dignified Papua New Guinean statesman to deal with the issue, Dr Puka Temu.

Come October, Bougainville goes to the referendum with two choices put to the people:

  1. Greater Autonomy

  2. Independence

Bougainville already has greater autonomy. Momis wants nothing less than independence. Oh Marape, Oh Temu, pleasè handle this issue with care. You could be putting in motion the beginning of the end of a country called Papua New Guinea.

After Bougainville goes, stand ready to conduct referendums for New Ireland and New Britain. Then move to the mainland and grant the wishes of Papua Besena. Once done, stand ready to handle the uprisings in the Momase and the Highlands.

Oh Bougainville, my Bougainville, I'm sorry I caused you pain over the years. You want to depart from me. You can vote to leave me, but remember l will not let you go. Never.

Some say, I came 50,000 years ago. Others say, l was born in 1975. I will now fly my arrow another 50,000 miles.

Marape, if I were in your position, I would apply my brakes and re-look at the whole issue.

I would rather become someone like Donald Trump and make tough decisions. Decisions that can hurt but are good for the sake of national unity.

I oppose Bougainville independence. I support greater autonomy - an effective state government as those in Australia.

Danny Gonol is a human rights lawyer practising in Mt Hagen. You can contact him on 7917 3894 or at [email protected]


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Robisten Ari

That is very true, as a concerned citizen of PNG, our prime minister must at least take some measures to prevent consequences to come basing on the present decision.

Daniel Darume

The current prime minister (James Marape) is talking about bringing PNG back. That's a big question. How can he get back PNG while foreigners feed his people?

Bougainvilleans, even young people, run their own businesses. You cannot see foreigners in Bougainville running small business.

JK Domyal

Thanks Danny for this piece - a thoughtful talking point.

The simple question the new PNG PM should ask is this! Why did the initial uprising start in Bougainville? What was the reason Sam Kouna and Francis Ona started the uprising in the late 1980s.

The uprising started when most of us were beginning basic primary education, even PM Marape was in high school at that time.

People like Somare, Momis and Paul Lapun were at the peak of their careers when the uprising started; an uprising that later turned into a crisis.

Now I am educated enough to understand the Bougainville issue, I believe the original reason was not for Independence or Greater Autonomy, it was actually a fight against Rio Tinto, the developer of the Bougainville Copper mine for its unfair treatment of local resource landowners.

The leaders of today in Bougainville, except Momis, did not understand the original reason for the 1980s uprising started by Sam Kouna and Francis Ona.

The leaders of today in Bougainville, what they are concerned with is the huge casualties faced and the valuable property destroyed during the crisis by PNG's own Defence Force.

That is why the Bougainvillians today reject the rest of PNG and want to stand on their own. The PNG government used its own army to cause mass destruction to the island. Instead, the PNG government should have mediated between Rio Tinto and the landowners and resolved the crisis.

In Waigani, instead of critically looking at the reasons of the crisis, the government quickly proposed greater autonomy and a referendum on independence as options to win the hearts and minds of the Bougainvilleans. What about Rio Tinto? Without addressing the original reason, we cannot find a lasting solution to the island.

What it will most likely trigger is opening floodgates for more autonomy in the Islands and Highlands of PNG, not just Bougainville.

The new PM need to critically assess the Bougainville issue. His message of “take back PNG” includes integrating Bougainville island into one united PNG. He will be remembered for taking that bold stand.

Making unpopular and unconventional decisions like the US President could be harsh and bad in the interim but worthwhile for the future.

A few clarifying points need to be made. Rio Tinto is no longer involved in the Panguna mine, the vast majority of shares being held by the PNG and Bougainville governments. There were calls for secession in Bougainville as long ago as 1962 and, in 1975 just two weeks after PNG independence, Bougainville declared its own independence (it took nearly a year of negotiation to settle things). And there were many causes of the Bougainville conflict, not just irate landowners around the mine - this paper is one of many authoritative works on the subject file:///C:/Users/User/Downloads/ - KJ

Daniel Kumbon

Good question, Johnny, but didn't America fight a civil war to become the United States of America and emerge as a world power it is today?

Forget Trump, he is just happy to be a bully after a long history of struggle in his country.

Five US presidents were assassinated, most famously Abraham Lincoln, who was shot in a theatre immediately after he outlawed slavery.

Danny means well to say Marape must make a tough stand on the Bougainville issue.

If the landowners want to own the Bougainville copper mine, and if that was the 'eye' of all the problems there, let them own it.

Grand Chief Sir Peter Ipatas has openly said the people of Enga must own Porgera gold mine 100% because "the company has made enough profit" on the single most important resource of the province.

The people of Bougainville must vote for greater autonomy and try and work with the Marape-Steven government and work towards national unity, not jeopardise it.

Johnny Blades

Good piece. But Danny, which tough decisions did Trump make that were good for the sake of national unity?

William Dunlop

Well written Danny. If this referendum is the beginning of the split up of Papua New Guinea, where will it end.

Bear in mind that the North Solomons and the Solomon Islander's are ethnically the same people.

Will this now be the beginning of the end? The consequence of colonial carving up as evidenced in so many parts of our world resulting in much turmoil and bloodshed.

Let sense and sensibility prevail.

Peter Salmon

Well said Danny, so true.

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