Bougainville’s nation-building goes off track
02 November 2022
The government is telling the world about our forthcoming independence while in practice inviting foreigners to take over our available resources and turn Bougainvilleans into beggars
LEONARD FONG ROKA
PANGUNA - From childhood and into maturity most Bougainvilleans have being subjected by our elders to the word ‘Independence’.
Especially around Panguna in Central Bougainville, my own mama graun, we grew up with all the associated politics of our island forcefully seeking to become a nation in its own right.
During the decade long Bougainville Crisis (1988-1997) and thereabouts we faced and endured the suffering of freedom fighting, and constantly felt suffocated by a fear of failure.
To us, fear of failure remains influential. It emerges from our hearts and our culture and affects the style and character of life here in Bougainville today.
In Bougainville, and the world needs to know this, we the ordinary people in the villages do not know what the government is doing for us.
We do know that within the government, particular members do not know what the other members are doing.
This is a darkness, and it can be seen in quite a few areas.
For example, this year’s Jubilee Australia report, ‘Scramble for Resources’, noted that five companies were interested in re-opening the Panguna copper and gold mine.
This is a number already known in Bougainville but we also know there are more negotiations underway.
Bougainvilleans are now very knowledgeable about their resources and we are proficient in attracting all sorts of potential developers, or partners as they are called.
If one enquires whether a particular company or person on Bougainville has an interest in Panguna, the usual response is that some politician or bureaucrat is behind their arrival or that a former combatant leader or group is associated with them.
In this context there is darkness, and the State and the people are not together. Even individuals in the government or the villages are not united.
A number of people have been killed when exploring potential mine development sites. Just recently foreign workers were killed at the Tonolei logging site in Buin.
So individual Bougainvilleans are running their own agendas on our future. The common interest is not represented and the nation-building project is off track.
But most worrying is that we Bougainvilleans, even though we own the land, have been turned into nobodies by the government we have being electing since 2005.
All members of the Autonomous Bougainville Government know that as politicians their central task is to build a strong and resilient country which is able to protect its available resources.
Right at this moment in Bougainville the available resources are cocoa, coconuts, betel nut, vanilla, gold, mini-hydro electricity generation and so many other crops and aquatic resources available for people to convert into cash.
So what has the ABG done with this?
It is telling people the world over about forthcoming independence while in practice it is inviting foreigners to take over our available resources and turn Bougainvilleans into beggars.
Asians now control the business sector in Buka and are branching out to the rest of Bougainville.
Non-Bougainvillean businesses like Agmark, Monpi, Pristine 101 and others virtually own the cocoa and coconut industries.
Alluvial gold ends up in Port Moresby where the good prices are.
This happens as the ABG’s officers and elected members fight to maintain the privileges of office and seem not at all interested in lifting the price of a dry bean cocoa bag from the present K400s to K1,000 plus, thus keeping the farmers poor.
This is not an approach that is compatible with nation-building.
There are plenty of good books on leadership associated with nation-building.
But in Bougainville’s case, everything seems to falter while our leaders promote themselves as anointed gods.
During my time in the ABG a few years ago, we were looking to model Bougainville on East Timor, South Sudan and some others because they came about as the result of a referendum.
But to create a strong independent Bougainville, what we wanted was not there.
Through its ‘independence-ready’ mission the ABG is saying we are about to create a state that shall be, firstly, economically independent and all the rest will follow.
We will be the first Pacific island nation in history not to head south to Australia to beg for financial support.
But these are words from politicians who know nothing about the realities of statecraft in a globalised world controlled by the American empire; a world where most money is controlled by independent banks and not by governments.
Bougainville’s politicians are lying to us but the people still believe them.
They still believe they are the big men and women appointed by god to liberate us.
The last line tells it all. Big manmeri and appointed by God.
My father, a God believing man, not fearing, told me as a small boy, "God gave us the knowledge of right and wrong and He gave us the intelligence to be able to do the right thing.
Having given us these great gifts, He then does not interfere in the affairs of Man.
Posted by: Steve Day | 03 November 2022 at 10:38 AM