NOOSA – The Bougainville government continues to make headway in unifying his people as it prepares for consultations with the Papua New Government on independence for the autonomous province.
And on Friday it was with unity in mind that Bougainville president Ishmael Toroama met with U-Vistract leader Noah Musingku.
Musingku formed U-Vistract in 1997 at Tonu in Bougainville’s Siwai District.
As the Bougainville civil war raged, Musingku said he wanted “to create her [Bougainville’s] own independent and sovereign system in order to be free from the control of the other international financial and governing structure.”
He said his method would be “uprooting, pulling down, destroying and overthrowing the existing foreign control system”.
By 1999, the U-Vistract had extended to Australia where it operated a Christian mission.
But that ended in tears when Musingku was arrested and publicly belittled by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for offering an unlicensed securities and investment program.
That didn’t stop Musingku, who went on to construct what has been described as an elaborate Ponzi scheme drawing in ‘investors’ from around the world.
He proclaimed himself ‘King’ and distanced himself and his followers from the legitimate government of Bougainville.
For its part, after its inauguration in 2000, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) has never recognised the U-Vistract faction as a separate government, but it remained as a thorn in its side.
That’s why, in the words of a statement from the Office of the President, there was “much apprehension over President Toroama’s visit to Tonu to visit the U-Vistract stronghold” on Friday.
But Toroama sees Musingku as an important stakeholder in the Bougainville peace process and he is eager to see the relationship soundly based.
Ostensibly Toroama was in Tonu to witness a reconciliation ceremony between Bougainville police minister Thomas Tari and the faction.
The reconciliation was necessitated by a 2006 assault on Tonu that led to several deaths and injuries and caused a serious rift between the ABG and U-Vistract.
It was seen by Toroama as a major step in unifying Bougainville and bringing the faction into alignment with the ABG.
The statement said president Toroama is firm in his resolve that the ABG is the only legitimate government on Bougainville.
“President Toroama said Bougainville is undergoing a spiritual and socioeconomic and political transformation and that those under the banner of the faction are encouraged to embrace it as it prepares for independence.
“He challenged Mr Misingku and his faction to unite with the rest of the region as it continues to consult with the national government.”
Toroama said the national government “will embrace the Bougainville process if the people unite and work together when they put aside their differences to create a prosperous Bougainville.
He also expressed his gratitude to the faction and the communities in the area for cooperating with the ABG.