Bougainville Feed

Marape welcomes Toroama's rise as leader

Inauguration of Ismael Toroama (right)  James Marape (left) and former President John Momis (behind) (Bougainville Electoral Commission)
Inauguration of Ismael Toroama (right) James Marape (left) and former President John Momis (behind) (Bougainville Electoral Commission)

NEWS DESK
| Radio New Zealand

BUKA - Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape is in Bougainville today to witness the swearing in of the autonomous region's new president.

Ishmael Toroama, a former rebel militant commander, was elected as Bougainville's president last week.

Continue reading "Marape welcomes Toroama's rise as leader" »


Toroama sets sights on Bougainville independence

Toroama
Bougainville president-elect Ishmael Toroama

NEWS DESK
| Radio New Zealand

AUCKLAND - Former commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, Ishmael Toroama, yesterday won a clear majority to take over the presidency of Bougainville.

In his acceptance speech, Toroama appeared to hit back at allegations from the outgoing president, John Momis, who suggested there had been corruption in the poll.

Continue reading "Toroama sets sights on Bougainville independence" »


Ishmael Toroama – rebel, peace-maker, farmer, leader

Colonel Siale Francis Diro & Ishmael Toroama
Colonel Siale Francis Diro of the PNGDF meets former foe and BRA commander Ishmael Toroama

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – Ishmael Toroama, who has just been voted in as President-elect of Bougianville, built his reputation as a bold fighter and later a commander in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA).

The BRA was engaged in a 10-year civil war in the 1990s with the aim of closing the Panguna copper and gold mine and gaining the independence of Bougainville from Papua New Guinea.

Continue reading "Ishmael Toroama – rebel, peace-maker, farmer, leader" »


Toroama surfs towards presidency in Bougainville

Ishmael Toroama head
Ishmael Toroama

KEITH JACKSON

MONDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE

NOOSA – The nineteenth elimination count in the Bougainville presidential election was completed this afternoon with the candidate who has led throughout, Ishmael Toroama, maintaining a significant lead.

Toroama is still more than 13,000 votes ahead of the second-placed candidate Fr Simon Dumarinu, while former Bougainville president James Tanis found himself eliminated.

Continue reading "Toroama surfs towards presidency in Bougainville" »


Toroama continues his surge in Bougainville

Toroama
The longer the count continues, the further ahead moves Ishmael Toroama, who seems to have the Bougainville presidency in his keeping

KEITH JACKSON

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE

NOOSA – After the eighteenth elimination count in the Bougainville presidential election, the leading candidate Ishmael Toroama has surged even further ahead of the field.

With the elimination of Wesma Piika and Sione Paasia this morning and the pending elimination of former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander Sam Kauona, Toroama is now more than 13,000 votes ahead of the second-placed candidate Fr Simon Dumarinu.

Continue reading "Toroama continues his surge in Bougainville" »


Toroama increases lead in Bougainville count

Ishmael Toroama head
Ishmael Toroama has consolidated his position as  front runner in the Bougainville presidential election

KEITH JACKSON

LATE SUNDAY UPDATE

NOOSA – The trend is your friend, it is said, and the trend in counting votes for the next president of Bougainville remains firmly with Ishmael Toroama, who continue to move ahead of the field.

With the elimination of the fourteenth presidential candidate late afternoon it became clear that only the two leaders amongst the 11 remaining contenders can come close to an absolute majority of 71,725 votes.

The release of updated figures this afternoon showed Ishmael Toroama consolidating his position as the likely winner as he moved out to a 10,500 vote lead over second placed candidate Fr Simon Dumarinu.

Continue reading "Toroama increases lead in Bougainville count" »


Elimination starts in Bougainville presidential race

VotingKEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – The Bougainville presidential election has moved into its final stage with the end of counting of the 283 ballot boxes and completion of three days of quality checks.

None of the 25 candidates got even close an absolute majority of 72,213 votes so the elimination of lower placed contenders has begun.

Continue reading "Elimination starts in Bougainville presidential race" »


BRA chief leads Bougainville presidential race

Former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander  Ishmael Toroama
Former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander Ishmael Toroama - presently leading the Bougainvlle presidential count

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA – Former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) commander, Ishmael Toroama, was retaining his lead in the Bougainville presidential election after the 280th count this morning.

The Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commission registered 222,333 voters and 446 candidates for the election.

Continue reading "BRA chief leads Bougainville presidential race" »


Living with Rio Tinto’s deadly legacy

Woman-panning
Woman panning for gold in Bougainville

NEWS DESK
| Human Rights Law Centre

MELBOURNE - Mining giant Rio Tinto is responsible for multiple human rights violations caused by pollution from its former mine in Bougainville.

For 45 years, the Panguna copper and gold mine on the island of Bougainville was majority-owned by the British-Australian mining company, but in 2016 Rio Tinto divested from the mine, leaving behind more than a billion tonnes of mine waste.

Continue reading "Living with Rio Tinto’s deadly legacy" »


Bougainville presidential polling starts today

Booth
Demonstration for Bougainville high school students on how polling booths operate

JONATHAN BARRETT | Reuters

BUKA – Young people in Bougainville are seizing the opportunity to help reshape the future of the autonomous region of Papua New Guinea as they began head to the polls yesterday to elect a new leader.

The general election is the first since Bougainville voted overwhelmingly for independence from PNG in a referendum at the end of last year, and the new president will manage negotiations on the terms of separation.

Continue reading "Bougainville presidential polling starts today" »


Bougainville must complete political journey

Tanis
James Tanis - "Our aspirations for independence cannot be waylaid by impractical approaches"

JAMES TANIS
| Former President of Bougainville

BUKA - Greater voter participation in this year’s Bougainville government general elections will demonstrate the province’s seriousness to initiate progress following the 98% affirmative independence vote in the referendum last year.

The outcome of the referendum does not mean Bougainville is well on its way to being a fully-fledged independent nation.

Continue reading "Bougainville must complete political journey" »


Tanis urges optimism on Covid-19

James Tanis
James Tanis - "“My people of Bougainville will get through this pandemic. We are a resilient people who have faced adversity and prevailed time and time again...."

ANTHONY KAYBING

BUKA - Bougainvilleans are being urged to remain vigilant and to comply with state of emergency orders in light of the growing concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic which has already hit Port Moresby.

Former Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) president James Tanis has urged Bougainvilleans throughout PNG to adhere to restrictions to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Continue reading "Tanis urges optimism on Covid-19" »


Colourful field for Bougainville presidency

Joseph Nobetau (2)
Joseph Nobetau - a large, mixed and colourful field of candidates are offering themselves for election as president of Bougainville -

JOSEPH NOBETAU

BUKA - With 25 candidates set to contest the upcoming election for president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the opportunity for renewed leadership in the fledgling autonomous region is greater than ever before.

Coming off the internationally applauded independence referendum at the end of last year, Bougainville is now at a crossroads.

Continue reading "Colourful field for Bougainville presidency" »


Momis bows out with 'sense of fulfilment'

John Momis & mic
John Momis today - guided Bougainville through some stormy seas to the threshold of independence
John Momis as a young man (Douglas Oliver)
John Momis as a young leader, 1970 - mature and already wise 

NEWS DESK
| Radio New Zealand

AUCKLAND - In his last speech in the Bougainville parliament last Thursday, president John Momis spoke passionately about a political career that began nearly 50 years ago.

He spoke of how it began in the early seventies when he was anointed by chiefs in Kieta in a cultural ritual and sent on a mission to help the people determine their own future.

Continue reading "Momis bows out with 'sense of fulfilment'" »


John Momis: A man of principle

Ted wolfers
Professor Ted Wolfers
John Momis & mic
President John Momis

NEWS DESK
| Radio New Zealand

AUCKLAND – Australian academic Professor Ted Wolfers says Bougainville's John Momis will be remembered for his ability to draw people together.

In February the Bougainville parliament voted down an attempt to change the Constitution to allow a president to contest a third term.

Continue reading "John Momis: A man of principle" »


Radio Days: Brink of secession

Somare cuts trip - head
Thursday 11 January 1973 was a tough day for chief minister Michael Somare - helicoptered out of Panguna when felt to be under threat only to be confronted by an angry protest in Kieta

KEITH JACKSON

BOUGAINVILLE 1970-73 – Bougainville is a magnificent gem of an island; and its people are warm and generous in that customary Melanesian way.

Kieta, which had become the Bougainville district headquarters just before I arrived in late 1970, was an idyllic seaport nestling on the side of a steep ridge; its deep harbour protected from the ocean by Pokpok Island.

Continue reading "Radio Days: Brink of secession" »


Hey Rio! Get back & fix your mess

Jaba-river
How Rio Tinto left the once pristine Jaba River - now a toxic 40 km drain to the coast

KEITH JACKSON

NOOSA - The Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne has said Rio Tinto Ltd should fund an investigation of health and safety issues and clean up the environmental mess from the Panguna copper and gold mine in the 20 years from 1970 to 1990.

It says the review would be a starting point for compensation talks and negotiations about rehabilitating the old minesite at Panguna and nearby waterways including the ruined Jaba River.

Continue reading "Hey Rio! Get back & fix your mess" »


A Kiap’s Chronicle: 27 – The UN Visiting Mission

Bill Brown MBE and Kaad OBE
Bill Brown MBE with Fred Kaad OBE. A recent photo of two of colonial Papua New Guinea's distinguished district commissioners

BILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - It was not a massive upheaval, but the last quarter of 1967 and the first quarter of 1968 saw two of the kiaps enmeshed in Conzinc Rio Tinto’s (CRA) operation leave Bougainville and four newcomers arrive.

District Commissioner John Wakeford moved to another hotspot, the recently created West Sepik District. His headquarters were situated at Vanimo, just 45 kilometres from the border with West Irian. (1)

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 27 – The UN Visiting Mission" »


Bougainville: Ringing in the change?

Momis
John Momis - winds of change blow for this towering figure in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville politics

ANNMAREE O’KEEFFE
| The Interpreter | Lowy Institute

SYDNEY - Bougainville’s president John Momis has long been a towering figure in local politics.

President for two consecutive terms since 2010, he was a leading instigator of the archipelago’s early secessionist movement in the 1970s while still a Catholic priest, then an important facilitator during the protracted peace process in the 1990s, and later governor from 1999 to 2005.

Continue reading "Bougainville: Ringing in the change?" »


In defence of a Momis recontest

John Momis
"It is to the advantage of Bougainville that we have John Lawrence Momis as a uniquely experienced leader"

JOACHIM LUMMANI

RABAUL - The parliamentary select committee on constitutional law headed by former Papua New Guinean chief ombudsman Simon Pentanu is looking at Bougainvillean views on whether their constitution should be modified to allow the current president to recontest for a third term.

The committee is also considering whether to abolish the three seats reserved for ex-combatants from the three main parts of Bougainville.

This is because of the critical importance of Bougainvillean unity and leadership continuity to enable successful negotiations with the national government in this post-referendum period.

Continue reading "In defence of a Momis recontest" »


Will the longest plea be heard?

Koro Rot
The Kana people of south Bougainville call this the Oruru Road. Not trafficable at all in the wet season it is their only connection to the outside world and a huge constraint on economic development

LEONARD FONG ROKA

PANGUNA – “When election times comes around,” a Kanauro community leader exclaimed, “I see our three sitting members in parliament are really friendly to us.

“But when they are in power, they are really angry looking. “I fear them.

“So how can I tell them that the Kana people of Paubake need a trafficable road?”

Continue reading "Will the longest plea be heard?" »


Momis accuses mining company of lying

Panguna dereliction
The carcasses of massive ore trucks still lined up in the derelict Panguna mine, closed more than 30 years ago after guerilla warfare erupted

KATE LYONS
| Guardian Australia | Extract

SYDNEY - The president of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) has accused an Australian-linked mining company of lying to the Australian Securities Exchange over its plans to reopen one of the world’s largest copper mines.

In a scathing statement, ABG president John Momis accused the Australian-linked RTG Mining of “lies and deceptions” and said his government “will not rest until all RTG and their executives are banned for life from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea”.

Continue reading "Momis accuses mining company of lying" »


Me & corruption – a true story

Leonard Roka holding coconut
Author Leonard Fong Roka - "Why should I vote for the political leaders under which this rot is happening"

LEONARD FONG ROKA

PANGUNA - I re-entered the service of the Autonomous Bougainville Government in May 2017 after a short stint in late 2014-15.

My desire was a permanent career in the Bougainville Peace Agreement and Implementation Department’s referendum directorate. But, as the bosses said, I was kicked out for non-performance.

Continue reading "Me & corruption – a true story" »


Bougainville govt to change name

BvilleNEWS DESK
| Papua New Guinea Today

BUKA - The Autonomous Bougainville Government is set to change its name to the Bougainville Constitutional Transitional Government to reflect the people’s vote for independence.

Bougainville’s post referendum minister Albert Punghau told The National newspaper that because 98% of Bougainvilleans had voted in favour of independence in last year’s referendum, the Bougainville government felt the need to change its name to reflect the overwhelming result.

Continue reading "Bougainville govt to change name" »


Bougainville ‘dictatorship and suppression’?

John Momis
President John Momis - a Bougainville hero, but is he pushing too hard to assert control or do the difficult times need him?

RICHARD EWART
| Pacific Beat | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

MELBOURNE - Three proposed amendments to the Bougainville constitution are set to be tabled in the provincial parliament, and one in particular is causing consternation in many quarters.

That change would allow the current president, John Momis, to run for an unprecedented third term at the election later this year.

Continue reading "Bougainville ‘dictatorship and suppression’?" »


Bougainville: Which way, big man?

Yamin
Yamin Kogoya

YAMIN KOGOYA

“This land must become holy again, Me’ekamui. We prayed to God and he gave us strength. This directed us to engage in clean battle. We were fighting for our rights, to get rid of all these bad companies and their effects. All BRA and all Bougainvilleans practiced this holiness… Our spirits had to be holy, so God would get rid of Satan [the mining companies} …And God helped us…” (the late Francis Ona, Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander)*

CANBERRA - A staggering 98% of Bougainvilleans voted for independence from Papua New Guinea in the recent referendum held between 23 November and 7 December.

Despite the overwhelming desire for autonomy, Bougainvilleans require political support and good faith from the PNG national government in Port Moresby before a new sovereign state can be established.

Continue reading "Bougainville: Which way, big man?" »


Cliodynamics & Bougainville

Clio
In Greek mythology, Clio is the muse of history

CHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - Many readers may be as surprised as I was to learn that there is a thing such as cliodynamics, much less that it may have any role in explaining what is happening right now in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere.

Cliodynamics is defined as a transdisciplinary area of research (stay with me) integrating cultural evolution (how societies change over time), cliometrics (a form of economic history), macrosociology (the study of social systems and populations on a large scale), the mathematical modeling of historical processes over the very long term, and the construction and analysis of historical databases.

Continue reading "Cliodynamics & Bougainville" »


Trying to form a country

BvilleASHLEY WESTERMAN
| National Public Radio (USA)

BUKA - "The people have spoken," says Albert Punghau, an official in Bougainville, speaking about the region's referendum on independence from Papua New Guinea.

After nearly three weeks of voting and counting, the results announced on 11 December showed residents of the South Pacific island group overwhelmingly voted to break away from Papua New Guinea and form their own nation.

Continue reading "Trying to form a country" »


A Kiap’s Chronicle: 26 – The plot against Bougainville

Brown Pic 1
The mining agreement between the copper company and the colonial Administration passed into law without the field officers in Bougainville being forewarned, let alone fully briefed

BILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - As far as my kiap colleague John Dagge and I were concerned, everything was going well around Barapina and Panguna.

We were not gaining acceptance, but the people were at least listening to our explanations about CRA’s prospecting activity.

Then, on 29 August 1967, the House of Assembly – Papua New Guinea’s parliament - passed into law a mining agreement bill between the company and the Administration.

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 26 – The plot against Bougainville" »


B’ville finance minister under pressure

Robin Wilson
South Bougainville community leaders want president John Momis to answer questions about finance minister Robin Wilson who is under investigation

ANTHONY KAYBING

BUKA - The community governments of South Bougainville have called upon Bougainville president John Momis to answer questions surrounding his embattled finance and treasury minister, Robin Wilson.

Mr Wilson is the subject of official corruption charges before Papua New Guinea’s national court and is under active investigation on a range of matters but retains his portfolio in the Momis cabinet.

Continue reading "B’ville finance minister under pressure" »


Geologist killed by B’ville ‘thugs’

John Momis
Dr Momis expressed disgust at the Kalia Group for allowing its geologist into an area where there were criminal elements resisting exploration. He has suspended the company's mining licence

NEWS DESK
| Radio New Zealand | Extracts

BUKA - A geologist has been killed in Bougainville by what president John Momis has described as a group of criminal thugs.

The victim, Terry Win Kilya, from Enga Province was an employee of Kalia-Toremana Joint Venture Limited, which has been conducting mineral exploration in a disputed area.

Continue reading "Geologist killed by B’ville ‘thugs’" »


Independent Bougainville not so easy

Bougainville-referendum-Batley-scaled-e1576553126524JAMES BATLEY
| Australian Strategic Policy Institute

CANBERRA - It seems that the overwhelming outcome of the referendum on Bougainville, with over 97% of eligible voters supporting independence, surprised even seasoned observers.

Still, as is well known, the vote is not binding. Under the terms of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, the governments of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville are now required to consult over the outcome of the referendum, and the result of that consultation will be subject to ratification by the PNG parliament.

Continue reading "Independent Bougainville not so easy" »


Osikaiyang landowners out of order

Osikaiyang Landowners
BCL is tiring of Osikaiyang landowners who under the Bougainville Mining Act have no status in representing landowners and own no mineral rights

DENIKA SEETO
| Bougainville Copper Ltd

BUKA - Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) says it is both regrettable and disappointing to see members of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA) issuing misleading and provocative statements following Bougainville’s peaceful and successfully conducted referendum.

BCL again repeat its calls for SMLOLA to desist from purporting to speak on behalf of all Panguna landowners as part of its ongoing campaign to undermine Bougainville Copper Ltd.

Continue reading "Osikaiyang landowners out of order" »


Geo-strategy & Bougainville’s future

Bville
Bougainville is strategically located in the south-west Pacific  and that locational advantage can be traded for aid, underpinning a viable economy

PHIL FITZPATRICK

TUMBY BAY – The discussion about the future of Bougainville seems to be coalescing around its economic viability, which seems to be the lever that will be used by Papua New Guinea in its attempt to retain the province as part of the nation.

What seems to be missing from the debate so far is the issue of identity.

Continue reading "Geo-strategy & Bougainville’s future" »


Bougainville: Powder keg awaiting a match?

Bville2
"A truth commission might provide an easing valve for past hurts, short of that Bougainville remains a powder keg, awaiting to be lit"

BINOY KAMPMARK
| Eurasia Review

ALBANY, USA - It would be an understatement to claim that Bougainville, that blighted piece of autonomous territory in Papua New Guinea, had been through a lot. 

Companies have preyed upon its environment with extractive hunger.  Wars and civil strife have beset its infrastructure and economy.

Continue reading "Bougainville: Powder keg awaiting a match?" »


Complex path to nationhood

Marape
James Marape - "Both of our flags must fly until we reach the conclusion of this process" (Natalie Whiting, ABC)

NATALIE WHITING
| Australian Broadcasting Corporation | Extract

Link here to the complete version of Natalie’s analysis of the Bougainville referendum

BUKA - A ceremony to announce the results of Bougainville's historic referendum opened with a chorus of the Bougainville anthem.

When the overwhelming result for independence was handed down, people spontaneously started singing it again.

Continue reading "Complex path to nationhood" »


Bertie Ahern explains referendum role

Bertie-ahern-16-390x285
Bertie Ahern being interviewed from his office in Bougainville

GRÁINNE NÍ AODHA
| The Journal

DUBLIN - Former Ireland taoiseach [prime minister] Bertie Ahern has explained his involvement in the Bougainville Referendum and the significance of the result, as chair of the referendum’s commission.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1, he said that “this is a big issue with Australia and New Zealand, this is an everyday news story.

Continue reading "Bertie Ahern explains referendum role" »


“We are reborn,” say Bougainvilleans

Bougainville men in Upe hatsNEWS DESK
| Bougainville News | Reuters | AFP

BUKA - “That’s my dream, to go and rebuild,” says Pajomile Minaka from Bougainville’s southern region, a child during the civil war and now 36 years old and taking a law course to equip him to help rebuild his homeland.

“We need the best policies and the best laws to be the best country,” he told the Reuters news agency. “We are reborn.”

Continue reading "“We are reborn,” say Bougainvilleans" »


Bougainville votes for independence

Members of the Bougainville Women's Federation
Members of the Bougainville Women's Federation cheering after hearing voters overwhelmingly supported independence (Serahphina Aupong)

DAMIEN CAVE
| New York Times | Extracts

SYDNEY - Bougainville has voted overwhelmingly to become independent from Papua New Guinea, aiming to become the world’s newest nation.

In a referendum linked to a peace agreement that ended a bloody civil war between separatists and PNG security forces nearly 20 years ago, nearly 98% of those who voted supported becoming an independent nation.

Continue reading "Bougainville votes for independence" »


Independence - so say 98%

Flag
Bougainvilleans have voted 98% for independence in an overwhelming expression of desire for political autonomy. This will pose significant problems to a PNG government that has always been reluctant to agree that this was the best course and which has the final say

KATE LYONS
| Guardian Australia

BUKA - The autonomous region of Bougainville has voted overwhelmingly in favour of becoming independent from Papua New Guinea, paving the way for the group of islands to become the world’s newest nation.

More than 180,000 people in Bougainville participated in a referendum over the last few weeks that has been nearly 20 years in the making.

Continue reading "Independence - so say 98%" »


Bougainville voting ends, what next?

Flags and flutes on Bougainville (Asahi Shimbun)
Flags and flutes on Bougainville - the exhilaration of the feeling of freedom (Asahi Shimbun)

AVREET KAUR
| Foreign Brief

MELBOURNE – Yesterday marked the last day of the independence referendum in Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea.

The referendum provided citizens with two choices: the enhancement of current autonomy arrangements or independence.

Continue reading "Bougainville voting ends, what next?" »


B’ville votes & prays for independence

Francesca Semoso  women’s representative and deputy speaker of the ABG House of Representatives  on the opening day of voting (Leanne Jorari  The Guardian)
Francesca Semoso,  women’s representative and deputy speaker of the ABG House of Representatives,  on the opening day of voting (Leanne Jorari, The Guardian)

LEANNE JORARI
| The Guardian | The Pacific Project

BUKA - In the coastal town of Buka a solemn procession of people makes its way from the Catholic church to Bel Isi park, where worshippers kneel before a makeshift cross.

There is one subject that dominates the prayers in Bougainville today. “We are gathered here this morning in Bel Isi Park to ask you to bless the referendum. May it be peaceful and successful,” says the priest.

Continue reading "B’ville votes & prays for independence" »


Quest for national sovereignty

A jubilant voter casts his ballot in Bougainville's referendm (Post-Courier)
A jubilant voter casts his ballot in Bougainville's referendum (Post-Courier)

LISA HÄNEL
| Deutsche Welle

BERLIN - Bougainville, an island of just 250,000 inhabitants, belongs to Papua New Guinea — but it may not be for long.

The tiny Pacific island has held an independence referendum and, according to experts, Bougainville's residents look set to overwhelmingly back the nonbinding vote. The results are expected soon.

While independence movements like those in Catalonia and Scotland have made headlines in Europe lately, independence referenda and movements are much more widespread in Oceania and the surrounding area today.

East Timor, previously annexed by Indonesia, was the first country in the region to gain independence in the 21st century.

"There is one thing that unites all pacific island states: namely their colonial past," said Hermann Mückler, a professor of social and cultural anthropology at Vienna University.

Some states, he added, were even colonised by more than one power.

The Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Japan, Spain, Portugal, France and the US — there was hardly a powerful state that did not colonise parts of the south-western Pacific.

To this day, Oceania remains of special geopolitical significance to global powers like the US and China.

The US was keen on expanding its influence in this area especially during the Cold War era. These days, however, both the US and China are vying for power in this region, with Beijing seeking to win over Pacific island states with a lending splurge.

Some of these states, however, recognise the self-governing island of Taiwan as an independent nation, even though Beijing considers it part of its territory. And this is a matter that China finds hard to stomach.

The Pacific region's colonial past and its geopolitical importance have caused conflicts and dependencies, as illustrated by the case of Chuuk State, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.

Chuuk has a population of only 49,000 and has been striving for independence since 2015. Its referendum has been postponed again and again but is now planned for March 2020.

Chuuk, however, depends on the millions of dollars the US pays to keep military bases there. If the island does become independent, the US will cease its payments. 

Mückler says apart from this, the region lacks economic independence. "All of these island states can barely exist on their own, they rely on money coming in mainly from Australia, the US and the EU — and most recently China," he said.

The reason for their reliance on foreign money is that they are in remote locations and have barely any natural resources.

Any goods they do produce are too costly to sell due to the significant transport costs involved. And so effectively, these states remain reliant on large states even though the colonial era has passed.

Even so, many regions yearn for independence. This has to do with the fact that many ethnic groups feel their rights are not being respected, which becomes clear in West Papua, the western half of the vast New Guinea island, an area that is rich in natural resources — particularly copper.

After the colonial era, West Papua became part of Indonesia, a Muslim majority country, which waged a violent campaign against the local, Christian minority. "A civil war has been raging there (over Papuan rights) for decades, but it has been largely overlooked by the global community," said Mückler.

The odds that Indonesia will grant the resource-rich area independence are very slim, he added.

In Oceania, the combination of a colonial legacy, geopolitical interests and suppressed minorities has spawned numerous independence movements.

Yet Mückler says this cannot be applied to understanding independence movements elsewhere in the world, as each is unique. Some emerge over current conflicts, while others date back to arbitrarily drawn borders in the colonial era, stretching back hundreds of years ago.    

Mückler says these Oceanic independence movements could "set an example" if they manage to strike a balance between respecting regional dependencies while also maintaining their cultural identity. But, he says, "Right now it does not look like they will achieve this."

"Many global independence movements exist for a good reason," Mückler said, but adds that these are also often hijacked by charismatic leaders with an axe to grind.

This, he says, leads to old dependencies simply being replaced by new ones, without bringing the freedom and independence that supporters had hoped to see come to fruition.


That’s all you get, says Buin

Buin
Buin is a truly beautiful part of the world but local leaders are angered by the actions of the Autonomous Bougainville Government

ANTHONY KAYBING

BUIN - The collective community governments of Buin District have petitioned the Bougainville government not to extend its term in office.

Chairpersons of the community governments claim the Bougainville government led by president John Momis has acted unconstitutionally and deprived the people of their right to democratically sound process.

Continue reading "That’s all you get, says Buin" »


Voting ends in Bougainville

Upe_boys-in-wakunai
Giving Upe hat- wearing youths a chance to vote at male-only polling stations was one of many referendum firsts

NEWS DESK
| Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — They voted in highland villages and on remote atolls. Even 15 youths, living in the jungle and wearing bright Upe hats as they underwent traditional training to become men, had the chance to vote.

All across Bougainville, people have voted in a historic referendum to decide if they want to become the world’s newest nation by gaining independence from Papua New Guinea.

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B’ville to revive mining proposal

Raymond masono
Raymond Masono - "“Panguna is the most likely project that can bankroll Bougainville’s independence from PNG”

NEWS DESK
| Reuters | Extract

SYDNEY — Bougainville vice-president Raymond Masono said he will revive a plan to overhaul the region’s mining laws after its ongoing independence referendum, which could strip the former operator of the Panguna gold and copper project of its interests.

The proposed changes, which have been criticised by Panguna landowners, would also erase an interest in the project held by the Papua New Guinea government, potentially complicating negotiations between the two governments after the referendum.

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Bougainville’s challenges lie ahead

Mel-togolo
Mel Togolo - "it has been a long road"

SIR MELCHIOR TOGOLO
| Chairman, Bougainville Copper Limited

PORT MORESBY - The beginning of the referendum on Bougainville’s political future marks both an historic and proud moment for all of us who identify as Bougainvillean or have links through marriage and other customary arrangements.

It has been a long road and everybody who has been involved in ensuring Bougainville is well prepared should be happy with the outcome of their efforts.

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Will Bougainville reopen Panguna?

Bville
The Bougainville people are delighted to be voting in their long-promised independence referendum, but the hardest decisions still lie ahead

JOSHUA McDONALD
| The Diplomat

WASHINGTON DC - The Panguna mine on Bougainville is one of the largest copper and gold deposits in the world.

The mine was also at the centre of a decade-long civil war fought between the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force in the 1990s. The conflict cost as many as 15,000 lives and displaced 40,000 of the island’s 200,000 inhabitants.

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