Bougainville Feed

Alarming questions on referendum eve

John Momis
In times past president John Momis would never have disrespected the very constitutional laws that he himself wrote


PORT MORESBY - The sidelining of Bougainville chief secretary Joseph Nobetau, for what can only be deemed political reasons, should be seen as an alarming concern on the eve of the independence referendum.

At a time when the world is watching and waiting to see just how Bougainville and the rest of Papua New Guinea will respond to the referendum vote, it is unfortunate that what they will see is a provincial government intent on self-interest and power over the rule of law.

Continue reading "Alarming questions on referendum eve" »

Bougainville’s referendum. Uncertain journey

Bougainville and PNG flags (ANU)BAL KAMA

CANBERRA - From Saturday 23 November, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will conduct a referendum on whether it will remain within Papua New Guinea with greater autonomy or establish an independent state.

The referendum is part of the Bougainville Peace Agreement between the government of PNG and the leaders of Bougainville that was signed in August 2001.

Continue reading "Bougainville’s referendum. Uncertain journey" »

The Road Forgotten

The road
Construction workers on the Hagus to Haku section of the Buka ringroad in Bougainville that was neglected for many years until prime minister James Marape visited Bougainville recently and allocated funds to renew it


The road forgotten had been found
Gone are those pot holes rest in peace
Find your place among those souls
We shall weep nor whine no more

For though we complained
We know it was not your fault,
Through good and bad times
You still took us through

Continue reading "The Road Forgotten" »

Relics of B’ville crisis buried in Darwin dump

Russian-built Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters at RAAF Base Tindal  1997
Russian-built Mil Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters at RAAF Base Tindal, 1997

| Australian Broadcasting Corporation | Extract

DARWIN - It is an unlikely setting for the final chapter of an international diplomatic scandal, but Darwin's waste dump holds an extraordinary secret beneath the surface.

"A few years ago, we had a couple of shipping containers turn up here that were required to be buried," Nik Kleine, the City of Darwin's executive manager of waste and capital works, said.

Continue reading "Relics of B’ville crisis buried in Darwin dump" »

180 steps down to the beach

180 steps a
The footpath reconnected the present to the past by catering to children, women and the elderly who had not visited the beach for a very long time


BUKA - In many rural parts of Bougainville youth plays a vital part in communities through sports, cultural organisations, church groups and small development projects funded by non-government organisations.

This is a story of a small group of youths from Kohea village, in the Haku constituency of Buka Island, who succeeded through sheer hard work and dedication to complete a small development project in their community.

Continue reading "180 steps down to the beach" »

Nobetau declines payout; seeks day in court

Joseph Nobetau lands
Joseph Nobetau - "My continued work to address corruption and hold law breakers to account was causing some political discomfort"


BUKA - Sidelined Bougainville chief secretary, Joseph Nobetau, has declined to accept an offer to compensate him for his termination from office by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

“The ABG’s lawyer presented me with a cheque for K660,692.80 together with a deed of release in which I would be expected to waive my constitutional rights,” Mr Nobetau said.

Continue reading "Nobetau declines payout; seeks day in court" »

Bougainville spurns Chinese referendum money

Bougainville-flagJONATHAN BARRETT | Reuters | Extracts

SYDNEY - The United States and its Pacific allies have plugged a funding gap that endangered next month’s independence referendum in Bougainville, a strategic move that also sidelines China.

Western nations are looking to rein in China’s influence in the increasingly contested Pacific, where it has recently drawn away two of Taiwan’s allies, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, triggering a strong rebuke from the United States.

Continue reading "Bougainville spurns Chinese referendum money" »

Bougainville beyond the referendum

The flags of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville

| The Strategist | Australian Strategic Policy Institute

CANBERRA - Bougainville knows far better than Britain that a referendum vote to go or to stay is only the first mountain. Then the second mountain must be climbed—the negotiation to turn the outcome into a reality.

For decades, Bougainville has been trekking towards the first summit that’s now in view—the vote on independence or greater autonomy, to be held from 23 November to 7 December.

Continue reading "Bougainville beyond the referendum" »

The legacy of Bougainville’s 1960s struggles


Moses Havini, a Bougainville Interim Government / Bougainville Revolutionary Army representative at a crisis rally in Sydney around 1997


PANGUNA - The 1974 book, ‘Bougainville Nationalism: Aspects of Unity and Discord’, tells of Bougainville’s first taste of a referendum in 1969 and anticipates similar political trends as we march into the window of November’s referendum on our political future.

The book, written by Alexander Mamak and Richard Bedford with support from Bougainvillean leaders the late Leo Hannet and the late Moses Havini, describes how the earlier referendum was the direct result of a 1968 meeting in Port Moresby of some 23 Bougainvillean students attending tertiary institutions in Papua New Guinea.

Continue reading "The legacy of Bougainville’s 1960s struggles" »

Bride price needs re-examination

Negotiating bride price on Bougainville
Negotiating bride price on Bougainville


PANGUNA - Indigenous Bougainvillean wealth was different from what we practice in this era where Westernisation has so disrupted and polarised our societies.

In that context, the three ‘G’s colonisation presented us - God, Gold and Glory - need better alignment with the traditional culture of bride price we still practice.

Continue reading "Bride price needs re-examination" »

'Crisis' if PNG doesn't ratify B’ville result

| Australian Broadcasting Corporation | Extract

Link here to the complete article by Natalie Whiting and Sue Lannin

PORT MORBESBY - There is potential for another "regional crisis" in the Pacific if the people of Bougainville vote for independence but are unable to reach an agreement with the Papua New Guinea government to ratify it, a Lowy Institute research paper is warning.

The people of Bougainville will head to the polls next month and they will have two options on their ballot papers: greater autonomy or independence from PNG.

Continue reading "'Crisis' if PNG doesn't ratify B’ville result" »

Bougainville needs credible referendum turnout


PANGUNA - In 2012, while I was still studying in Madang, I read a newspaper report saying that Bougainville president John Momis and his wife’s names were missing from the election common roll and thus they could not cast their votes.

Real bad! Who did this shit and why?

Now this year, just before the set date of 26 September for all independence referendum voters to have enrolled, I did a final check and I saw that my wife did not have her name registered.

Continue reading "Bougainville needs credible referendum turnout" »

Panguna people & the money syndrome

Gold dust
Digging for gold near Panguna - "We dig for gold everywhere. And those who can't dig watch like eagles"


PANGUNA - There is no other place in Bougainville I can compare with us, the Panguna people, when it comes to loving and dealing with money.

We in Panguna have eagle sharp eyes and razor sharp claws to catch and attack money.

We make peace with money and we destroy harmony with money. Money is us.

Continue reading "Panguna people & the money syndrome" »

Bougainville: If it’s to be capitalism, let it be moral

Roka - Leonard on the shore at Kangu
Leonard Roka on the shore at Kangu - looking across to the Solomons triggers thoughts of the small friends who helped Bougainville achieve its post-crisis peace


PANGUNA - The population of Bougainville is around 300,000 so, when looking at other small Pacific island states and their standard of living, the province’s development does not need a mine operating at the scale we knew at Panguna before the Bougainville conflict.

All of us know that the Papua New Guinea government does not clothe us, it does not feed us and it does not protect us.

Continue reading "Bougainville: If it’s to be capitalism, let it be moral" »

Bougainville’s freedom depends on killing corruption

Leonard holding coconut
Leonard Roka - "We have paid a heavy cost for development on Bougainville over the past 50 years – too big a cost to now fall into a pit of corruption"


PANGUNA - As a cocoa farmer and education entrepreneur in Panguna without official responsibilities in the Autonomous Bougainville Government or public service, I have no influence over the decisions my necktie-wearing, long-sleeved and shiny-booted bureaucrats take in their fine Buka offices and elsewhere in the province.

But I can talk as a Bougainvillean who endured the pain during the 10 year civil war after 1988 and who strongly desires to see my Solomon Island of Bougainville progress to nationhood. That is our goal and we have paid for it with our tears and our blood.

Continue reading "Bougainville’s freedom depends on killing corruption" »

We stripped & skinned; but money’s not security

Roka - Teacher in the Panguna classroom
Inside the John Roka school, but "the able population tilts each day not to education but towards where it smells the money in the burrows"


PANGUNA – No, I’m not lost from my PNG Attitude family; just accumulating more energy living in the midst of the corporate-mining-politics ridden Panguna mountains trying to educate my young people in a little early childhood institution.

It’s known locally as the John Roka Memorial School and was established by my siblings in honour of our West New Britain father, John Roka, killed by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in that terrible civil war.

Continue reading "We stripped & skinned; but money’s not security" »

‘World is watching Bougainville’, says Ahern

Referendum commissioner Bertie Ahern and PNG prime minister James Marape. Ahern wants the referendum to be "a joyful celebration"


NOOSA - The chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission, former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, says the “world is watching Bougainville” as it prepares for a referendum on its political future.

And he says he wants the process to be “a joyful celebration”.

“I congratulate the two governments and the people of Bougainville for reaching this historic point,” Ahern said.

Continue reading "‘World is watching Bougainville’, says Ahern" »

Bougainville atolls people given chance to vote

Magalut leaves harbour carrying a 12-person referendum team to Bougainville's remote atolls

| Bougainville Referendum Commission

BUKA – Last Friday a voter enrolment team from the Bougainville Referendum Commission departed for the remote Tasman and Mortlock atolls.

The trip to the atolls had been frustrated for weeks by bad weather and the lack of a suitably sized boat to safely make the often rough crossing to the two isolated communities.

Continue reading "Bougainville atolls people given chance to vote" »

Unity in diversity: why we’re still together 44 years on

James Marape
James Marape - "Let's show the world that Melanesian consensus can provide answers to PNG's internal problems"

| Edited extract from an address by prime minister Marape to the Bougainville House of Representatives, Wednesday 11 September

BUKA – Forty-four years ago, we claimed independence from colonial rule over our land and resources.

Yet some legacies and shackles we still try to get out of today show that both Papua New Guinea and Bougainville are not truly independent in terms of economic strength.

Continue reading "Unity in diversity: why we’re still together 44 years on" »

Fired B’ville bureaucrat says ‘I was tackling corruption’

Joseph Nobetau - "An orchestrated attack on my character and credibility because I adhered to the government’s direction to tackle corruption"


BUKA – Bougainville’s top public servant has initiated proceedings in Papua New Guinea’s national court seeking a judicial review of his sacking by the Bougainville cabinet.

The decision by chief secretary Joseph Nobetau to contest his dismissal will have enormous repercussions throughout the autonomous province as the referendum on its political future approaches in November.

Continue reading "Fired B’ville bureaucrat says ‘I was tackling corruption’" »

Whatever Bougainville’s future, we need good govt

Momis & Marape sign joint resolution on Bougainville
John Momis and James Marape after their top level meeting in Bougainville last week

| Speaker, Bougainville House of Representatives

BUKA - I want to reflect on the upcoming referendum and the future political path of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

As a Bougainvillean and a Papua New Guinean, I am less concerned about greater autonomy, independence (or the ‘third choice’ whatever it might be).

The simple fact is that two options are already guaranteed, and it is now for the people to make their choice.

Continue reading "Whatever Bougainville’s future, we need good govt" »

Aita’s memorial for civil war dead brings closure

Maika Somi
Chief Maika Somi - "“We were caught off guard,” he recalls, “people did not have time to take cover"

NEWS DESK | International Committee of the Red Cross

GENEVA - Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the rugged ranges of Wakunai, the people of the village of Aita were forced to abandon their subsistence way of life and flee into the mountains.

It was during the Bougainville civil war of the 1990s and Aita’s 3,000 people had to escape the deadly bullets of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

They had lived safely in the tropical jungle until the fateful afternoon of 17 May 1992, when a band of rowdy soldiers attacked their camp while the villagers were celebrating the region's self-proclaimed independence day.

Continue reading "Aita’s memorial for civil war dead brings closure" »

Stark images of Bougainville’s ‘blood generation’

Gori standing in Buka passage (Taloi Havini & Stuart Miller)
Gori standing in Buka passage (Taloi Havini & Stuart Miller)

| National Gallery of Victoria

MELBOURNE - The National Gallery of Victoria recently acquired three powerful and disarming photographs from the series Blood Generation, 2009–11, by Bougainville-born artist Taloi Havini and Australian photographer Stuart Miller.

This important series is dedicated to the ‘blood generation’ of young men and women born during the bitter and prolonged war between Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville (1989–98).

Continue reading "Stark images of Bougainville’s ‘blood generation’" »

Bougainville’s referendum: Part 3 – The future

Marape Momis
James Marape and John Momis - "Both governments must be prepared to negotiate in good faith whatever the outcome. They must be ready to negotiate hard with the aim of getting an outcome that is acceptable to both sides" (John Momis)

JOHN MOMIS | Bougainville President

This is the last of three edited extracts of Dr Momis’s recent speech to the Papua New Guinea parliament in which he addressed the history, current state and what processes will follow upon November’s referendum on Bougainville’s political future

PORT MORESBY - The provisions of the referendum on Bougainville’s political future leave the outcome to be negotiated between the Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments, with the national parliament having the final say on what happens.

This means that some time will be needed after the referendum to negotiate and decide what happens next.

Continue reading "Bougainville’s referendum: Part 3 – The future" »

Bougainville’s referendum: Part 2 – The status quo

Bougainville 2016JOHN MOMIS | Address to the Papua New Guinea Parliament

PNG Attitude is publishing edited extracts of Dr Momis’s address in three parts representing the history, the present and the future of November’s referendum on Bougainville’s political future

PORT MORESBY - The referendum on independence for Bougainville is the third pillar of the peace agreement between the PNG government and Bougainville leaders signed on 30 August 2001.

The referendum is being held in accordance with the agreement from late November to early December.

Continue reading "Bougainville’s referendum: Part 2 – The status quo" »

Bougainville’s referendum: Part 1 – The history

John Momis - "The Bougainville peace process has been remarkably successful and is recognised around the world as one of the best in the last 25 years"

JOHN MOMIS | Bougainville President

PNG Attitude is presenting edited extracts of Dr Momis’s recent address to the Papua New Guinea parliament in three parts representing the history, the present and the future of November’s referendum on Bougainville’s political future

PORT MORESBY - You may ask why there is such a strong interest in independence on the part of so many Bougainvilleans.

The origins of that go back at least as far as the early years after World War II, and probably began with resentment of the colonial administration’s neglect of development of Bougainville.

Continue reading "Bougainville’s referendum: Part 1 – The history" »

Kramer explains reasons for Tokura-Manning RPNGC switch

David Manning
David Manning, whose replacement of Francis Tokura as acting police commissioner has created a few waves

BRYAN KRAMER MP | Minister for Police | Edited extracts

PORT MORESBY – This week the National Executive Council (NEC) revoked the appointment of Acting Police Commissioner Francis Tokura and appointed Acting Deputy Commissioner (Operations) David Manning in his place.

The reason behind this decision was twofold.

Firstly, to reinstate Mr Tokura to his substantive position as Deputy Police Commissioner for Bougainville to oversee the preparation and conduct of the Bougainville referendum in November.

Last week, member for South Bougainville Timothy Masiu raised an issue on the floor of Parliament over the decision to remove Mr Tokura as the head of Police on Bougainville, placing him as the Acting Commissioner for Police.

Continue reading "Kramer explains reasons for Tokura-Manning RPNGC switch" »

Momis challenged on spending as Bougainville politics hots up

President Momis
President Momis - now under fire for excessive spending as division wracks the Bougainville government


BUKA - The political struggle in Bougainville is heating up as the people of Buin District in the south of the autonomous province demand that President John Momis explain the use of K30,000 allegedly spent on refurbishing his private home in the district.

It is understood the funds were expedited by the Department of Finance through the Office of the President to upgrade Dr Momis’ private home in Morou village before prime minister James Marape stays there for a joint PNG-Bougainville meeting on Friday next week.

The petitioners said Dr Momis has on numerous occasion gone on record to condemn the misuse of public funds by Bougainville government officials and politicians.

“Procuring these funds to refurbish his private home is contradictory to his principles on good governance and the anti-corruption drive that is currently being instituted in the Bougainville Administration,” the petition said.

Continue reading "Momis challenged on spending as Bougainville politics hots up" »

High level governance in B'ville destabilised by Nobetau affair

John Momis and Joseph Nobetau
President John Momis and Joseph Nobetau - serious dispute at a high level of government destabilises province as independence referendum nears


BUKA - President John Momis has blamed the Bougainville senior appointments committee (BSAC) for mishandling the disciplinary case against chief secretary to the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Joseph Nobetau.

Dr Momis has accused BSAC of foul play by not adhering to cabinet’s decision for the removal of Mr Nobetau.

BSAC was petitioned by public service minister Robert Hamal Sawa on 13 March when Mr Nobetau was accused of undermining the ABG and issuing instructions that bypassed compliance processes.

A supplementary petition was raised against Mr Nobetau by finance minister Robin Wilson on 8 April alleging that he failed to support a cabinet decision.

BSAC deliberated on the matters and found the petitioners had no grounds for a board of inquiry to be set up, adding that the petitioners could not provide additional evidence or facts to support their call for the immediate convening of the board of inquiry.

Continue reading "High level governance in B'ville destabilised by Nobetau affair" »

Joseph Nobetau responds to his surprise dismissal by John Momis

Joseph Nobetau
Joseph Nobetau - “I believe in adhering to due process. That is all that I ask"


BUKA - Ousted chief secretary to the Bougainville government, Joseph Nobetau, has remained firm in the belief that the law will be on his side to acquit him of charges brought against him by the Bougainville cabinet that saw his dismissal.

“Whilst I accept that, in this case, some members have issues with my performance and conduct, it is a fact that constitutionally the final decision regarding termination must rest with the Bougainville senior appointments committee,” Mr Nobetau said.

“This is a process that I have always fully respected and this is evidenced by the fact that to date I have petitioned a number of department heads for misconduct.

“I believe in adhering to due process. That is all that I ask in relation to the matters now being raised.”

Mr Nobetau explained he has always acted consistently with the mandated powers and functions of the office of chief secretary as prescribed by law.

Continue reading "Joseph Nobetau responds to his surprise dismissal by John Momis" »

Buin-born mining veteran David Osikore joins BCL board

David Osikore (second right) briefs colleagues about the Wafi gold deposit south of Lae (Mike Porter)
David Osikore (second right) briefs colleagues on the Wafi gold deposit near Lae (Mike Porter)


PORT MORESBY – Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) has announced the appointment of David Osikore to the company’s board of directors.

Osikore, 57, was born in Buin and has spent 30 years in the exploration and mining industries in Papua New Guinea and Australia.

His career began with the PNG Department of Mines and has since traversed roles ranging from exploration geologist to managing director. He is currently also on the board of Pacific Niugini Minerals PNG.

Osikore nominates his involvement with the prefeasibility study associated with PNG’s Hidden Valley and Hamata gold projects among his career highlights.

BCL chairman Sir Mel Togolo said Osikore was well-respected and brought invaluable industry experience and a keen local perspective to the board.

“We are delighted that David has agreed to join given his breadth of experience, technical expertise and the industry knowledge he has garnered having worked for three decades in PNG, Bougainville and abroad on various gold, silver and copper mining projects,” Togolo said.

Police commissioner says B’ville fraud investigations not ‘political’

Francis Tokura
Acting police commissioner Tokura - concerned by Bougainville rumours


SINGAPORE – Papua New Guinea’s acting police commissioner, Francis Tokura, has sought to damp down speculation about fraud squad investigations into a number of matters in Bougainville.

Tokura said that social media claims that the investigations are aimed at destabilising Bougainville ahead of November’s referendum on the province’s political future are untrue.

“I want to make it clear that the investigations taking place are the result of  allegations made regarding a number of audits and financial matters,” he said.

“These investigations are not political in nature.

Continue reading "Police commissioner says B’ville fraud investigations not ‘political’" »

Further delay to B'ville referendum – now scheduled for November

JOHN MAIR | Reuters | Extract

SYDNEY - An independence referendum for Bougainville has been again delayed by the governments of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea but will be held this year, the referendum commission has said.

Voting in the referendum will now open on 23 November, having been pushed back from a revised date of 17 October.

Under a peace agreement signed after the nine-year civil war with PNG that ended in 1998, Bougainville has until mid-2020 to hold the referendum, which had originally been scheduled for June.

"The referendum will be held this year," Bougainville Referendum Commission chair Bertie Ahern said after the two governments decided on Friday that extra time was needed to create a more credible electoral roll.

"We will use these precious few weeks wisely, and we ask for public support to make this referendum roll as inclusive as possible and one that people can trust," said Ahern, a former prime minister of Ireland.

The conflict between Bougainville's rebel guerrilla army and Papua New Guinea forces left as many as 20,000 dead.

The outcome of the referendum, which analysts expect to support independence, is then subject to ratification by PNG's parliament.

Ahern urges focus on post-referendum peace in Bougainville

Bertie Ahern with António Guterres (Evan Schneider  Flickr)
Bertie Ahern with António Guterres (Evan Schneider,  Flickr)

NEWS DESK | Irish Times

DUBLIN - Former taoiseach [prime minister] Bertie Ahern on Wednesday stressed to the United Nations the need for focus on maintaining peace in Papua New Guinea after an independence referendum in the region later this year.

Mr Ahern met UN secretary general António Guterres in New York to discuss the progress of the peace process in the autonomous region of Bougainville.

Mr Ahern was appointed chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission in December 2018. An independence vote originally planned for June was due to take place in October.

The commission has applied for a further extension on the date and it will be discussed at next week’s meeting in Port Moresby.

Continue reading "Ahern urges focus on post-referendum peace in Bougainville" »

Oh Bougainville, my Bougainville, sorry I caused you pain

Danny Gonol - "Marape, if I were in your position, I would apply my brakes and re-look at the whole Bougainville issue"

DANNY GONOL | Edited from an Open Letter

MT HAGEN – James Marape rose to the top of our country nearing the 44th anniversary of its independence.

He boldly announced he would consider himself a failure if by 2029 he had not made Papua New Guinea the richest black Christian nation on earth.

The world’s social and economic indicators puts our country in the Third World. Some say it is a developing country. Others say it is a poor country. Still others say it is a rich underdeveloped country.

Our country does not top the world in commerce, in military strength, in politics. But it tops the world in the number of languages our eight million people speak. What unity in diversity.

The last time l was in the land down under, a white man was heard speaking.  "This man comes from the nation of a thousand tribes,” he said, pointing at me.

I was at ease with this. He said to me, “Your country is like no other. You are a nation of nations.”

Oh, what a great feeling of patriotism flowed through me. I shed tears of joy.

Continue reading "Oh Bougainville, my Bougainville, sorry I caused you pain" »

The fallen calophyllum tree & our real connection to Bougainville

Calophyllum treeSIMON PENTANU

BUKA - A fallen calophyllum tree hacked to death and felled into the sea by the most predatory species on the planet.

This is old growth beach tree is more than a century old.

I know this tree, this is where we used to roam, run and swim along the beach and foreshore when growing up as children in the early 1950s into the 1960s before some of us left the village to get educated in classrooms.

Some of the calophyllum of similar age and size, along with other old growth beach tree species, are still standing along the beach. It is always a great relief to see and touch them and get a sense of perspective of how small a man is compared to their height and huge shade-providing foliage.

This fallen calophyllum met with its fate because, compared to the others along the beach, it had a straighter trunk attractive to provide a couple of sawn planks which were used to contribute to building material for teachers’ housing at the local island school.

Continue reading "The fallen calophyllum tree & our real connection to Bougainville" »

B’ville referendum choice clear, but where does Australia stand?

BRA guerrillas
Never again, surely. In 1994, from a hilltop position, Bougainville Revolutionary Army guerrillas observe the Papua New Guinea Defence Force garrison at Koromira (Ben Bohane/Australian War Memorial)


NOOSA – Two apparently unconnected events in Bougainville and its neighbouring and culturally related Solomon Islands have highlighted to a looming Australian dilemma in Bougainville.

If the autonomous Papua New Guinean province votes for independence in an October referendum, a decision requiring approval from the PNG parliament, how will Australia respond?

Earlier this month, as the Bougainville and PNG governments announced they had further refined the referendum choices for Bougainville’s political future, the Australian government announced a $250 million aid program for Solomon Islands.

In addition, Australia said it will provide $3 million in loans to Solomon’s workers who want to come to Australia under labour schemes as well as funding a new building for its prime minister's office and foreign affairs ministry.

The ABC commented that this “swift redesign of parts of the aid program [signalled] Australia's determination to reinforce its influence in the Pacific as strategic competition intensifies and China continues to pour resources into the region.”

Continue reading "B’ville referendum choice clear, but where does Australia stand?" »

A Kiap’s Chronicle: 25 – The Administration versus the People

Map - The mine access road
The access road to the proposed Panguna minesite was the locus of most of the resistance action by landowners in 1969. At the copper company's insistence the colonial Administration began to harden its stance on forcing the people to comply


THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - I thought Administrator David Hay’s decision to send a ‘welfare group’ - a team of outsiders – to visit Panguna for a week or two in May 1967 was extraordinary.

He told the Canberra bureaucrats that their task was to seek “further information about the people’s views and attitudes and the possibility of improving the Administration’s image.”

What made his statement bizarre was that only six weeks earlier he had directed Patrol Officer John Dagge and me to ignore the people’s protests and escort personnel from mining company CRA across the Kawerong River.

He must have realised that operation would have besmirched the Administration’s image beyond repair.

During the following weeks the villagers vented their displeasure. On a single night the wooden pegs that had been precisely positioned by surveyors around the Moroni hillside in a week-long operation were removed and dumped at Barapina on what we termed the parade ground.

Up the road at Panguna, a stack of cement posts was smashed to pieces in an overnight raid and dumped on CRA’s doorstep.

To the south of Panguna, at Deomori, Marist Father Woeste was accused of helping CRA and told that, as his mission station was on native land, he should follow the people’s wishes or get out.

The people around Panguna were still seething in the last week of May, when Terry Daw (1), Judy (JK) Peters (2) and Lukas Waka (3) arrived in Kieta to carry out the Administrator’s task of ‘improving the Administration’s image’.

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 25 – The Administration versus the People" »

As Marape settles into office, Bougainville looms large

John Momis
John Momis - many issues for James Marape about the independence referendum


BUKA - Despite the changes in leadership in Papua New Guinea’s national government there are still important aspects of the Bougainville peace process where urgent action and direction is needed, says Bougainville president John Momis.

Dr Momis said new prime minister James Marape has now assumed these responsibilities and must jointly implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement together with the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

He said his first concern relates to the promised funding from the PNG government to the Bougainville Referendum Commission, funds which are necessary for the commission to effectively prepare for and carry out the referendum scheduled for 15 October.

“I ask that the new Marape government take action to ensure that the additional K20 million promised to the commission by the national government is paid as soon as is practicable,” Momis said.

The second matter concerns regulations for the conduct of the referendum.

“The draft regulation relating to the enrolment of voters were prepared some weeks ago but have yet to be approved by the PNG cabinet and sent to the governor-general for approval,” Momis said.

Continue reading "As Marape settles into office, Bougainville looms large" »

Can you vote in the Bougainville referendum? John Momis tells

Dr John MomisGRAND CHIEF JOHN MOMIS | Office of the President
| Autonomous Region of Bougainville

BUKA - I am aware of discussions around who is eligible to vote in the referendum.

Let me start with reminding all that the Bougainville Referendum Commission was set up by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the National Government to administer the referendum in an impartial and inclusive manner.

They must implement the law as it stands, and I support their efforts to do so.

The rules for who can register and vote at the referendum date back to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which states – in section 315 - that “eligibility to vote in the referendum will be the same as for national elections in Bougainville plus non-resident Bougainvilleans.”

Continue reading "Can you vote in the Bougainville referendum? John Momis tells" »

A Kiap’s Chronicle: 24 – An unwelcome call to Canberra

Brown map BougainvilleBILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – It was early 1967 and John Dagge and I knew something must be in the wind when District Commissioner Wakeford advised he was sending Ken Hanrahan, the Assistant District Commissioner of Buka Sub-District, on “a familiarisation visit to Panguna before the Karato exercise.”

Karato, Mainoki and Daratui were the three areas of mineralisation that Conzinc Rio Australia (CRA) said it needed to test before deciding whether Panguna was the best site to mine.

Mainoki was eight hours’ hard walking from Panguna and Karato was even further into the hills. The people of both villages refused to allow the CRA teams onto their land.

Ken (KJP) Hanrahan (Footnote 1), based at Hutjena on Buka Passage, was responsible for the northern end of Bougainville and had nothing to do with Karato, which was in the Buin Sub-District.

John (JE) Wakeford had been in Bougainville for only five months, after being transferred from the Sepik in November 1966 to take over from District Commissioner Mollison who was considered too old. (Wakeford was actually the older of the two but he had shaved eight years off his age before joining the Territory Administration in 1946.) (2)

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Commanders whose troops fought B’ville war reconcile

Ishmael Toroama successfully led the Bougainville Revolutionary Army against PNG troops
Jerry Singirok
Jerry Singarok - PNG army commander who quit when government sought to recruit mercenaries

KEITH JACKSON | From New Dawn FM report

BUKA – Health minister and member for Bolave in the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Dennis Lokonai, has praised former Papua New Guinea Defence Force commander Jerry Singirok for reconciling with the Bougainville people.

Mr Lokonai also thanked Mr Singirok for the courageous stand he took against a decision of the then PNG government to engage mercenaries to fight against the Bougainville people in the civil war that raged for 10 years from 1989.

As PNGDF commander, the then Brigadier-General Singirok defied the government which, following the retreat of regular forces from Bougainville, was seeking to bring in mercenary soldiers organised by a company called Sandline.

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Australian media (but not NZ) is missing in action on Bougainville

Momis O'Neill
As John Momis and Peter O'Neill unsetadily edge Bougainville towards its referendum on independence, the ABC goes missing - but not Radio New Zealand

ANNMAREE O’KEEFFE | The Interpreter | Lowy Institute

SYDNEY – Bougainville, the autonomous region of Papua New Guinea which suffered a brutal 10-year civil conflict in the 1990s, was due to have a referendum in June to decide if it would separate from PNG.

But because funding and arrangements for the plebiscite were well behind schedule, the voting date has now been postponed to October.

Does this matter beyond PNG? One would think so.

This referendum is a celebrated element of the 2001 peace agreement that finally brought the bloodshed to a close and could result in Bougainville becoming another independent but under-developed, economically struggling small island state in the Pacific, with a population of 350,000 people.

If it achieves independence, this small archipelago just over 1,000 kilometres from Cairns will have as its legacy a still festering internal debate about the future of its fabulous mining wealth that was at the heart of the conflict that claimed around 20,000 lives.

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A note on Peter Lalor & the mining of Bougainville

BRA at Panguna
Bougainville Revolutionary Army fighters look down on Panguna mine, 1996 - PNG Public Solicitor Peter Lalor did his best to avoid the terrible conflict that mining triggered in Bougainville


SYDNEY - I had intended to leave discussion of former Papua New Guinea public solicitor Peter Lalor’s vital role in the Bougainville story until a later chapter of my Kiap’s Chronicle, but a comment from Peter Salmon suggests I should include Lalor’s view now.

Salmon noted, “It's interesting to ponder that our Aussie enslavement to British law and the concept of crown mineral rights led to this tragic situation in Bougainville”.

Lalor had expressed his views on this unequivocally in a long letter to the editor of the South Pacific Post (now the PNG Post-Courier) in October 1966:

“The common law of England always was and is that the owner of land is entitled to all minerals beneath and within it with the exception of the royal metals, gold and silver, which belong by ancient prerogative to the Sovereign…. Copper is owned by the landowner....

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A family conversation about Bougainville independence

Londari  Peter Mision Yaki and Besini at Gordons
Blending of culture: Londari and Besini when small children, in the arms of their dad Peter Mision at Gordons Estate in Port Moresby


WABAG – A message about Bougainville posted by me on my timeline and responses from my dear relatives, Gayle Tatsi and Peter Mision.

Daniel’ message

It is my personal wish that, in their referendum, the people of Bougainville do not vote to break away from the rest of Papua New Guinea.

It is better for us to remain united, especially from a family point of view.

This thought came to my mind when Londari Mision Yaki whose mother, Galye Tatsi is from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB), celebrated his 22nd birthday a few days ago.

His dad, Peter Mision Yaki, is my Aimbarep tribesman from Kondo village in Kandep, Enga Province.

All of us uncles, cousins, bubus and wantoks on both sides celebrated the occasion.

But how will this be if the majority of the Bougainville people vote for independence?

It is hard for me to imagine Londari and his sister Besini getting a passport to visit their maternal relatives.

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Momis urges strong vote for independence in referendum

Konnou Disarmament
Ex-combatants from Konnou in South Bougainville surrender weapons in preparation for the referendum. Member for Konnou Willie Masiu MP said peace building is a priority in his constituency


BUKA - Bougainvilleans have been urged to present a unified front in casting their votes when the Autonomous Region of Bougainville goes to the polls for the referendum on its political future in October.

“As your leader I urge you all to vote for option two and that is independence,” President John Momis said during the final stage of the week-long Bougainville referendum roadshow.

“Having a result that presents a unified Bougainvillean choice gives our leaders the power to negotiate with the national government,” Dr Momis said.

He reminded the people that after the referendum the result will still have to be ratified by the PNG parliament as stipulated under the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“If the national parliament fails to ratify the result of the referendum then we still have the option of a negotiated outcome where both governments will collaborate to get the best outcome for the people of Bougainville,” he said.

“This is our time to exercise our right to self-determination, it is our time to forge a new future for our children and the generations to come.

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Bougainville’s referendum show hits the road

Kaybing - John Momis
President John Momis at the referendum roadshow


BUKA - The Autonomous Bougainville Government’s referendum roadshow kicked off last week as leaders gathered to address people in the former provincial capital of Arawa.

The roadshow is an initiative of the United Nations in conjunction with the ABG with the objective to meeting with key stakeholders in the three regions of Bougainville with the underpinning key message – ‘Peace by peaceful means, unity and rule of law’.

It will also give leaders the opportunity to inform and engage with the people enabling referendum related activities to be widely discussed.

The main members of the roadshow were president John Momis, Bougainville affairs minister William Samb, peace agreement minister Albert Punghau and UN resident coordinator Gianluca Rampolla.

They were accompanied by the ABG house of representatives Speaker Simon Pentanu, members of the Bougainville Referendum Commission as well as several leaders from Central Bougainville.

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The looming & crucial question of Bougainville independence

Mt Bagana
Threat and majesty - Mt Bagana volcano symbolises the contradictions of Bougainville as its people near a vote on its political future

GRANT WYETH | The Diplomat

WASHINGTON DC - Earlier this month the date of the Bougainville independence referendum was pushed back. Initially — although tentatively — scheduled for 15 June, the poll will now be held in October.

Under the 2001 peace agreement that followed a decade-long civil war in Papua New Guinea, it was negotiated that a referendum on the future status of Bougainville would be held prior to mid-2020.

While preparations have been ongoing, it is believed the Bougainville Referendum Commission, headed by former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, would have been both financially and structurally struggling to meet the referendum’s requirements by June.

While the delay in the referendum isn’t a great surprise, the exact meaning of the referendum continues to be contested.

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Bougainville red flags ignored back then - and again now

Bill Brown  Canberra  1969
Bill Brown in Canberra in 1969 - wise words on Bougainville not listened to


ADELAIDE - Reading Bill Brown's account of the development of Bougainville’s copper and gold mine at Panguna, you can only marvel at the number of red flags fluttering in the breeze.

Clearly, the great and the good in the Moresby and Canberra bureaucracies had decided the mine would proceed come what may, leaving Bill and his colleagues on the ground in Bougainville in a hopeless position.

Fast forward to today and it is abundantly clear that many of those same red flags are again flying, yet the same old script appears to be playing out.

More than 50 years later there are another lot of players, most of whom are even less equipped to know what is going on than their predecessors.

The Canberra based politicians and bureaucrats do not, as Paul Oates has observed, understand the truth about what is going on at grassroots level in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere in the Pacific.

Australia’s gross under investment in developing a genuinely deep and profound relationship with these countries for the last several decades is going to cost us dearly.

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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 22 – Trapped amid landowners & bureaucrats

Brown 22 mapBILL BROWN MBE

THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES – In late September 1966, CRA’s geologist Ken Phillips left for his New Zealand homeland, supposedly for a short holiday.

The gossip was that he was unwell and close to a stress-related breakdown. That may not have been true but if it was, I wasn’t very far behind.

Tom Aitchison, the assistant director of my department, had not replied to my letter in which I had told him in the strongest terms that I did not like the task I had been given and wanted out. I expected another officer to fly in unannounced to take over my job at any time.

Two senior kiaps, Phil Hardy and Bob Blaikie, who knew the people well, were based at either end of Bougainville just a 30-minute flight away.

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