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Bougainville is becoming a poor copy of PNG

The PNG-Bougainville leadership and citizens were designed to be tax and rent collectors, not owners of natural resources. That is why we seem to value foreigners


PANGUNA - In Bougainville we live our lives listening to the sweet talk of the elected members of parliament in Port Moresby and here in Buka.

It’s the same old parley, and still the same old suffering that seems to get worse every day.

Even as we watch, the cost of living skyrockets and citizens increasingly fall into illegal activities to sustain themselves.

And the State works hard to cover its systemic and systematic corruption by inventing more taxes, levies, fees and other charges to impose on the struggling.

Certainly here in Bougainville, that’s the boat we are in.

And looking across the Solomon Sea to Papua New Guinea, the story is just the same.

In Bougainville, the air is also full of talk and speculation about the independence readiness mission.

But, looking at our leadership in the Autonomous Bougainville Government, there is no Chinese Mao, Indian Ghandi or South African Mandela we can be proud of.

In Bougainville elected members and bureaucrats drive around in air-conditioned government sponsored vehicles whilst the people walk the hot, shimmering roads and bush tracks.

Nation builders like the ones I mentioned - true leaders - walked and lived amongst their people to create and develop their nations.

Not the way we do it here.

One of the things the ABG tells citizens is that Bougainville, when independent, will not be a beggar.

We won’t beg or pester for budget support from Australia and the other countries that provide us with funds.

The citizens must know this is not right. The foundation for such a self-dependent nation is not there anymore than it exists in PNG.

The PNG-Bougainville leadership and citizens were designed to be tax and rent collectors, not owners of natural resources.

That is why we seem to value foreigners like Agmark, who people say rob our cocoa, or the Asians who take over the cottage industries that the law says are reserved for us.

Meanwhile we collect the rent, drink more beer and buy Land Cruisers.

We have become spectators in this arena of development that is our land and our seas.

And we’re able to resort to illegal activities where we find them and look out for so-called overseas investors who hover around just outside the laws and rules of the State.

In a sense, we Bougainvilleans are laws unto ourselves.

Thus, just like in PNG, our elections are corrupt and our leaders get rich.

Leonard Roka holding coconut
Leonard Roka - "I've just started my comeback by buying a laptop and a tablet and writing my first two stories. Thank you for being so strong"

Maybe our leaders came upon US president Harry S Truman words that “you can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook”.

Meanwhile, all around us, more and more warlords are emerging.

It does make us wonder where we are. I hope we haven’t forgotten what happened last time.

In truth, nation building is nowhere to be seen around us but a future of anarchy seems to be as clear as the beautiful Bougainville skies.


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Michael Dom

It's fantastic to have you back Leonard.

I was wondering when you'd get stuck into the Bougainville agenda again. Your people have come a long way and clearly has some way to go before realising nationhood.

One exception I'd make on this article is your references to Mao as a great leader, and by an overall assessment of their ability to move an entire nation I suppose Hitler was a great leader too, if we're prepared to discount the billions who died in their pathway to 'greatness'.

Perhaps Lee Kuan Yew may have been a better addition to make to that list- with Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, at least on their ability to move a nation in a more peaceful and secure manner.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Thanks for that Leonard.

It seems to me that what you write about is very little different to what is happening in most countries of the world in various forms.

Bougainville seems no different to anywhere else in terms of corrupt politics and greedy business people.

We are all the victims of neoliberalism.

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