The problem is not too few resources, a small population, a lack of investor confidence or some other excuse the politicians use to cover their incompetence. The problem is poor leadership
LEONARD FONG ROKA
PANGUNA - Bougainville is a small island with enough resources for its population and we should be able to deliver good lives to ourselves.
Sure, there’s the crisis of global warming to harm her, but this is a world crisis which we do not face alone.
Life is not meant to be easy but it seems to me that too often we Bougainvilleans make our lives harder than they should be.
Somehow the people of this island have to understand and feel and attain what we voted for so overwhelmingly in the 2019 referendum: the opportunity to make our lives even better.
The problem is that Bougainville’s leadership is blind to how this can be achieved.
The terrible armed conflict on our island ended in 1997, so it is 25 years since civil rule returned.
Within these 25 years, Bougainvilleans have participated in six national elections, four Bougainville elections and an important referendum.
That’s a lot of time to get the politics settled and get the economy moving productively.
If I carry Bougainville’s 25 years to South East Asia and do a comparative economic analysis with the Asian Tigers (Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) and the Asian Tiger Cubs (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines), what I see makes me so sad.
In Bougainville, just like in Papua New Guinea, I have observed nothing but 25 years of corruption, underdevelopment and over exploitation of resources by foreigners.
The problem is not too few resources, a small population, a lack of investor confidence or some other excuse the politicians use to cover their incompetence.
The problem is poor leadership.
In both Bougainville and PNG, the leadership is blind to the realities of global economic and political development.
The leadership cannot distinguish between right and wrong and it does not know how statehood should be worked towards to reap the maximum advancement and progress for citizens.
It seems to me that Bougainville’s leaders do not know they are Bougainvilleans, or forget they are Bougainvilleans.
Bougainville’s government officers and members of parliament form an upper class which believes it is entitled.
You might observe that once these people leave office, their assets are high in the sky while the citizens continue to struggle as they have for so many generations now.
And in the pursuit of personal prestige and power by our leaders and upper class, for 25 years they have overlooked the very first step to fix the Bougainville economy – and that is to make it accessible not just to themselves but to the people.
Back in 1997 trafficable road systems were supposed to be the priority.
There should have been a road built from Manetai to Torokina and on to Kunua in the north-west.
There should have been feeder road connections into all the villages of the Kongara.
All the river crossings should have been bridged in the south and north-west.
Other feeder road networks, where needed, were supposed to exist by now.
But sadly, the state has no eyes to see the needs of the people.
It did not build these roads which would have been the backbone of our economy.
However we do not have these roads which would have helped commerce flourish.
Roads are understood by every citizen. People do not have to be educated or trained in roads. When we see a road we know what it is for.
Indeed, citizens need to know what are the real priorities of the government.
Each year, the PNG government provides K10 million to each of Bougainville’s four national members of parliament. That’s a lot of money.
When we look at our own Autonomous Bougainville Government and its development grants and support funds, we ask where they have gone to?
When we look at donor funds from other countries and international organisations, it is fair to ask where are they?
The Japanese sponsored Arawa to Kokopau trunk road would have been started earlier if we had leaders who were Bougainvilleans by heart and not just by money.
And today we talk about independence by 2027. At this time the Bougainville people should be united but instead the political and economic climate is shattered and fragmented.
Individual leaders run their own stuff. The business sector does as it pleases. The citizens, in confusion, dance to their own music.
So the question is: where is the nation?
The people of Bougainville should be talking, behaving and acting in ways that are oriented to the common goal.
For want of a road, people from Torokina die in the sea trying to reach Buka, the home of their government.
People die crossing the open sea from the atolls and islands to mainland Bougainville, but no leader will waste time promoting safety to them.
People climb the mountains to Arawa and cross flooded rivers to reach other towns to sell their produce, but gain very little and even die trying to reach trafficked roads to take them to health facilities.
We do not own resources like cocoa and copra that we waste our bodies for every day.
The government has opened the door to foreigners to take over and enslave us just as it was during colonial era when the Panguna mine was established.
Thus 25 years have been wasted and more will be wasted.
At the end, the Bougainville nation and government will be a replica of PNG where corruption is for the rich and theft and other illegal activities will be how citizens meet their daily needs and wants.