Bougainville Election 2020 News Alert : Panguna mining is a story that evokes timeless lessons and has some relevance for all of us forever throughout our lifetime.

Every picture tells a story. Every story a picture tells may not be a perfect story but, as another saying goes, there’s more to the picture than meets the eye.

There is a certain poignancy about this picture – and many other images connected with the multitude of matters surrounding Panguna.

Panguna is not merely a history of mining, minerals, money, maiming and the nastiness of the conflict. It is not only a story of lost lives, lost land and lost opportunities.

Panguna is a story of many individuals and groups; of men, women and children of the forest, the valleys, the ravines, the hills and mountains, the rivers and creeks, the sacred sites – all of which people called home, before mining arrived.

Perpetua Serero and Francis Ona both passed away relatively young. The effervescent Damien Dameng – the one with reading glasses studying his notes in this photo – lost his life under dubious circumstances only in recent times.

Francis Bitanuma with the white cap and overgrown beard in this photo, is still around, raising his voice and picking and choosing his fights but with fewer and fewer local allies in tow.

Perpetua Serero had remarkable poise and presence. Had her voice as Chairlady of a splinter Panguna Landowners Association (PLOA) been heeded when she spoke (either with or without the aid of a hand-held loud hailer), some of the fiasco and hurt amongst the landowners could well have been mitigated, if not largely avoided.

Instead, the very early feuds over Panguna over benefits accruing from the land under various leases to BCL were between landowners themselves. Only a dishonest landowner would deny this was the case.

Disputes and differences over land sharing, land use and land tenure preceded the arrival of mining in Panguna. But these were localized and tended to be confined within households, extended families and clans. Agreements were brokered to resolve issues or at least keep them to manageable levels. There were ways for everyone to move on, living and communally sharing the land, rivers, creeks, the environment and everything that more or less made life worth living and dying for.

Differences and feuds over the benefits accruing from the mine such as RMTL (Road Mining Tailings Lease) payments, invonvenience payments, and other payments added fuel to existing disputes between clans, families and relatives. Some of the disputes became vexatious with the advent of mining.

Mining catapulted Panguna women like Perpetua Serero, Cecilia Gemel and others to the forefront as they took on much more active and pronounced roles as mothers of the land in a society that is largely matrilineal.

This photograph shows a woman, leading her male counterparts in the early days of the dispute involving one group of Panguna landowners voicing, in a very public way, early warnings of what might follow.

The significance of her message was either lost to or not taken seriously by most leaders from central Bougainville, BCL, PLOA and relevant authorities in the national Government at the time.

That men are on the periphery in this photo – in stark contrast to the lead role being played by Serero at the front – wasn’t just symbolic. It was real. Her position at the front, with the support of men such as Francis Bitanuma, Francis Ona, Damien Dameng and others was neither incidental, coincidental nor accidental. Her role at the forefront of this dispute over land was natural and logical, because in most of Bougainville it is through the women that land is inherited and passed down the generations.

That more and more landowners became willing to front up in crowds such as this, emboldened by the willing maternal leadership of someone who stood up to carry the mantle of those that bore grievances against their own PLOA, led by men. Serero, and the landowners who stood with her, made a brave and significant statement.

As the differences grew, the younger Panguna generation – alongside women like Serero and Gemel and the emerging, vociferous Francis Ona – turned their attention to Rio and BCL.

Increasingly they saw BCL and the old PLOA as having all the control and influence over what happened in special mining lease (SML) area. The injustice felt in not having much say weighed heavily and became a rallying point as captured in this photo.

All of us observing, reading and writing about the upheavals over Panguna, the mounting dissatisfaction, the criticism of the Bougainville Copper Agreement (BCA) and the rebellious response that shut down the giant mining operations, may find some satisfaction in the common truism that hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The BCA was a document familiar mostly to lawyers, investors and bankers and, of course, to the mining fraternity. It was not until well after the first power pylons fell, after deployment of the security forces and after the mine was closed that interest increase in reading the fine print of the BCA.

Coming, as they did, from a paperless village life, many landowners and Bougainvilleans in the community at large found little compulsion to read, let alone understand and appreciate legal agreements.

When the going was good everything was hunky dory. The landowners were getting their lease payments, social inconvenience compensations, royalties etc. The provincial government was doing well and was financially better placed than others in the country. Employees couldn’t really complain about the job opportunities, good salaries and wages. Their disposable income was far better than the public servant who also had to cope with overheads.

The majority of the landowners the BCA was purported to serve turned against it, despised and rebelled against it.

It is a story new generation of Panguna landowners is born into. It is not a story restricted to past or the future. Rather, it is a story that evokes timeless lessons and has some relevance for all of us forever throughout our lifetime.

It is true, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I have heard a lot about Perpetua

Serero. I never met her. I will never meet her in person because she has passed on.

She served her calling with tremendous support from men and women of the land. She had faith in customs and traditions that gave equal opportunities to women. These customs and traditions gave her the mantle and legitimacy to lead protests against the male dominated RMTL executives in the Panguna Landowners Association.

She faced an awful amount of pressure because of intense feuding over control of PLOA and RMTL in Panguna. She took the baton and ran her lap hoping to influence and change some of the male dominated status quo in the old PLOA.

The Australian Liberal and Labor colonial governments clearly saw what was going on and regarded Panguna mine as a future investment to finance a future, independent PNG. It turned out that any mining, unless the traditional land tenure is understood would be the Achilles of mining investment in Panguna, and indeed as it has turned out, in the rest of the country.

Men like Ona, Bitanuma, Dameng and women like Serero, Gemel and others gradually realised that unless they stood up and were counted, taking a stand against the inequities they saw, they would be swamped and inundated by the complacency that was prevalent, accepted, and that supported a Panguna that seemed all normal driven by profits and benefits of mining.

There are lessons Rio and BCL learnt out of the land dispute. Some of these lessons are harsh. Some even the best legal agreements cannot address, avert or fix, for they are based in customs and culture, not common law.

Panguna may be most uncommon dispute or problem of its time that a foreign mining company has had to face and deal with. Its repercussions and reverberations spread through Bougainville and indeed around the world very quickly. It has unearthed lessons that go well beyond issues normally associated with mining.

The Bel Kol approach initiated by the landowners shows traditional societies also have ways, means and mechanisms by which to resolve seemingly intractable disputes. These ways are local, restorative and win-win in their approach, not adversarial, competitive and foreign.

Some of the continuing pain, ill effects and trauma over lost land and lost dignity over Panguna are more destabilizing and debilitating than the crisis and conflict that landowners and many other Bougainvilleans endured.

Everyone that has lived through the crisis on the Island or has been affected one way or another, directly or indirectly, has had to deal with the horrors of crisis, war and conflict. Rebuilding lives, normalcy and returning to a resilient society is a longer journey that will take many generations over many lifetimes.

Little wonder people are prepared to protect their rights and defend the land with their lives. It is true, isn’t it, that one cannot fully understand and appreciate peace and freedom unless you either lose it or you have been suppressed.

I hope looking back we can pass on to the next generation the genuine benefits of hindsight.

 

 

 

 

55Leonard Fong Roka, Lawrence Daveona and 53 others

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Bougainville Elections 2020 News Alert : Media Statements from the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commission:

 

1. 2020 BOUGAINVILE GENERAL ELECTION SCHEDULE

2.THE Bougainville Electoral Commissioner, Mr George Manu has announced the appointment of returning officers (ROs) and assistant returning officers (AROs) for the 2020 Bougainville General Election

3 WORK on updating the electoral roll for the 2020 Bougainville General Election is currently underway in Bougainville. 

Issue of Writs Wednesday 17 June 2020

Nominations Open Thursday 18 June 2020

Nominations Close Tuesday 23 June 2020

Polling Starts Wednesday 12 August 2020

Polling Ends Tuesday 1 September 2020

Counting Starts Wednesday 2 September 2020

Counting Ends Monday 14 September 2020

Return of Writs Tuesday 15 September 2020

2.THE Bougainville Electoral Commissioner, Mr George Manu has announced the appointment of returning officers (ROs) and assistant returning officers (AROs) for the 2020 Bougainville General Election.

“I am pleased to announce that the ROs and AROs for this election have already been appointed and gazetted. These officers now have the responsibility of ensuring that our preparations are going as planned before the commencement of upcoming electoral activities like the issue of writs, nominations, polling and counting.”

The ROs are Peter Wanga who will be responsible for the presidential seat, Marceline Kearei (north regional women and former combatant seats), Dennis Palipal (central regional women and former combatant seats) and Chris Toke (south regional women and former combatant seats).

The AROs for the fourteen constituencies in North Bougainville include Moses Kivaroy (Atolls constituency), Marceline Butu (Nissan constituency), Brian Kimana (Tsitalato and Hagogohe constituencies), Lawrence Sabin (Halia and Haku constituencies), Wency Saliib (Peit and Tonsu constituencies), George Geobun (Mahari and Teua constituencies), Benny Primus (Selau and Suir constituencies) and Daniel Tokapip (Taonita Teop and Taonita Tinputz constituencies).

The AROs for the eight constituencies in Central Bougainville are Martin Avoata (Rau and Terra constituencies), Wendell Tiotorau (Ioro and Eivo/Torau constituencies), Peter Onabui (Kongara and South Nasioi constituencies) and Gideon Taruna (North Nasioi and Kokoda constituencies).

The AROs responsible for the eleven constituencies in South Bougainville are Benjamin Sinala (Bolave constituency), Joe Nara (Lato and Baba constituencies), John Tsiaka (Motuna/Huyono/Tokunutui constituency), Peter Uniu (Kopii and Ramu constituencies), Michael Lobinau (Makis and Baubake constituencies), Joe Kinani (Lule constituency), Justin Kengkua (Konnou constituency) and Mark Sio (Torokina constituency).

Mr Manu said these officers have a great wealth of experience in the field of conducting elections, before adding that he has trust and confidence that they will play a pivotal role in conducting and delivering a peaceful and successful election this year.

“These are experienced officers and I have confidence in each of them. If you have any query or would like more information on the conduct of this year’s election, you can go and consult your respective RO or ARO.”

The first activity that these officers are currently supervising is the updating of the names of all eligible voters throughout the 33 constituencies in Bougainville.

“Right now they have a big responsibility to update the names of all eligible voters in their constituencies. This exercise is very important as it will determine who will be able to cast their votes during polling. However, I am confident that these officers together with the ward recorders of respective wards in Bougainville will do a good job.”

3. WORK on updating the electoral roll for the 2020 Bougainville General Election is currently underway in Bougainville.

According to the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner Mr George Manu, the roll display and registration of eligible voters has already been completed in most of the 33 constituencies in the region.

“As of today, most of the assistant returning officers have already returned their field work data to either our head office in Buka or through our regional offices in Arawa and Buin towns.”

The roll display and registration of new eligible voters was done by the ward recorders of respective ward assemblies in Bougainville.

The ward recorders had used the 2019 Bougainville Referendum Roll as the working roll to update the electoral roll that will be used in this year’s ABG election.

Upon receiving the field works, the assistant returning officers (AROs) of the respective constituencies will do quality checks on them to ensure that ward recorders have thoroughly done their tasks in registering and updating the list of voters.

The entering of these data will commence shortly after the completion of the quality checks.

“Once quality check is complete we will then proceed with the data entry exercise. This is the time where the data processing officers will be either entering the names of the new voters, deleting the names of those that are not supposed to be on the roll or editing the details of those that may have not been entered correctly on the working roll.”

“The entering of data from North Bougainville will be done in Buka while for Central it will be done in Arawa. For the constituencies in South Bougainville, their data entry will take place at our south regional office in Buin town.”

Once this exercise is complete, all data from south and central Bougainville will be transferred to Buka for collation and compilation of all data into one roll.

The final roll that will be used in the upcoming Bougainville election should be ready for gazettement shortly after the Issue of Writs on the 17th of June this year.

END //

 

Bougainville News 2020 : The Bougainville referendum and the fate of Melanesia: Which Way, Big Man?

“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…”

Francis Ona, BRA Member

Interviewed by Anna-Karina Hermken, Author of “Marian Movements and Secessionist      Warfare in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea” (November 22nd, 2005).

By: Yamin Kogoya from West Papua living in Australia

A staggering 98% of Bougainvilleans voted for independence from Papua New Guinea in the recent referendum held between 23rd of November to 7th of 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.

Recognizing these challenges, the Catholic Bishop Conference (CBC) of PNG and Solomon Islands General Secretary, Fr. Giorgio Licini, asked the PNG government to “listen carefully to the cries of the Bougainville people for independence.”

Former Bougainville Interim Government Leader, Martin Miriori, warned that the reluctance of the PNG national government to acknowledge the wishes of the Bougainvillean people for independence is dangerous. [2]

Bougainvilleans are still traumatized from the civil war that erupted in the late 1980’s, which resulted in the closure of the giant, Australian-owned Panguna mine. The mining investors are untouched by the generational pain that mining and civil war have caused in Bougainville.

Panguna copper mine, now closed, serves not only as a stark reminder of war, but the breakdown of social structure, cultural values, and the destruction of Bougainville’s ecosystem.

The giant void in the middle of the island, left behind by the Panguna copper mine, represents the tragic loss of 20,000 innocent lives – Bougainvillean mothers, fathers and children killed during the civil unrest. The scars of war and the immense loss of life will forever be carved into the hearts of families, clans and tribes. [3]

Tragically, crises such as those in Bougainville are typically reported on as “primitive tribes fighting”. The conflicts in Melanesian mining villages are far more complex: these are wars against industrial machines that uproot cultures and tear apart ecosystems; fighting for the survival of languages, values and land as the threat of extinction rears its head.

The Fight for Cultural Survival

Bougainville is one of the many Indigenous communities around the world fighting to protect and preserve their ancestral knowledge, language and culture. The enemy of the people are the industrial nations with the support of local governments who don’t understand the complex networks of indigenous social structures, value systems and their deep connection to their ancestral land.

Bougainvilleans have long been the target of violence – they have endured decades of exploitation and abuse from Germany and Britain in their colonization pursuits. In an attempt to control protesting against the mine operations, the PNG government used foreign-supplied mercenaries to massacre thousands of Bougainvilleans, with the support of the Australian government.

It is a matter of urgency for Bougainville and other Melanesian communities to ensure thousands of years of cultural knowledge is preserved for future generations.

The Impact of Mining and Politics in Bougainville

The civil war may be long buried by the media, but political leaders in Port Moresby, Canberra, Beijing and Washington are keeping a keen eye on Bougainville as they plan their next moves. Their claims of developing the Pacific Islands are a mere smokescreen for their true ambitions of a regional and global hegemony, as they strategies how to carve up the Pacific region pie.

We cannot forget that the leaders of the Bougainvillean Revolutionary Army (BRA) believed that they were waging a war against what they believed to be between purity and corruption.

Francis Ona, leader of BRA, told his followers that in order to purify Bougainville they must be the first ones to be purified. This meant eliminating “alien viruses” that come from the arrival of foreign nations such as France, Germany, Britain and Australia, as well as the mining companies and the PNG government. [4]

Damien Dameng – prominent leader of the Meekamui movement in the 1950’s, from the Iran-Pangka Valley in Panguna District – recognized the impact of these “alien invasions” and contamination of life on the islands. His movement believed that colonial administration, mining and churches were thieves full of trickeries, and that Bougainville must be restored. [5]

Critics will claim that the war was about demands for the mining royalties, but it was in fact predominately about eliminating deadly poisons that resulted from mining on the islands.

John Momis, a prominent Bougainvillean statesman, referred to the Panguna mine as a “cancer cell” in his letter to the company’s managing director. [6]

Bougainvilleans want to defend the earth while mining companies like Panguna mine are indifferent to the suffering of people and destruction their land, all in the name of progress and development. Those with their hands in the Panguna mine pocket are eagerly awaiting the future of mining on the Pacific Islands.

PNG government’s attempt at national unity involved inviting mercenaries to kill the Bougainville people. National unity for who? The myth of national unity serves only the interests of elites in Port Moresby parliament house and Canberra – those who could not care less about the Melanesian communities whose lives, language, cultures and land have been under severe attack by the project of modernity.

The slaughtering of Papuans every day by Indonesians on the other side of this imaginary colonial border (PNG and West Papua) is being undertaken in the name of “national unity and integrity.” There is no unity or integrity in killing your fellow beings.

Melanesia at stands at a crossroads, Which Way?

As co-founding father of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and Vanuatu’s first Prime Minister, Fr. Walter Lini once said, “Vanuatu will not be fully free until all Melanesians are free.”[7]

Just because PNG and Fiji have their own parliament house, currency and armed law enforcement does not mean that they are more free or safer than those Papuans who are murdered every day in the hands of Indonesian control of West Papua. We are all facing the same existential threats under the current global world order.

The regional body such as the MSG and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) could be very powerful institutions that allow the leaders of the Pacific nations to unite and say NO to cheque book diplomacy coming from large foreign powers. The greed of the elite is causing great pain in the Pacific Islands in the name of development and those local elites (masters of modernity) whose day to day preoccupation is perhaps about what’s tonight dinner menu at a Chinese restaurant tonight.

Solutions to ensure as to whether Melanesia will survive or not require a collective effort. The MSG founding fathers such as PNG former prime minister Paias Wingti, Solomon Islands former prime minister Ezekiel Alebua, and Vanuatu’s first prime minister Walter Lini had visions backed by strong political desire to strive for the entire decolonization and freedom of the Melanesian people and territories under the colonial rule in the South Pacific. Are the current Melanesian leaders still holding onto this important vision?

The Pacific Region is fast becoming important for competing superpowers for geopolitical and economic strategy. Invisible capitalists, whose whole philosophy is based on Scottish Capitalist Adam Smith’s book “The Wealth of Nations”, are cashing their cheques amidst the slaughter of innocent Melanesian, Polynesian, Micronesian, Indigenous Australian and other ancient people across the world.  This is a war between industrial civilization versus the natural world.

The Road to Freedom for Bougainville

A collective solution cannot emerge from divided and fragmented nations wrapped in conflict. The PNG government must decide if it will continue to stand with the global capitalists or with the Bougainvilleans, West Papuans and many other resilient, grassroot communities across Oceania that say NO to colonialism, nuclear testing, climate change, corruptions that lead to mismanagement, and the gambling of their resources, history and future.

It is time for the leaders of the independent nations across Melanesia to look at their decisions, and ask whether they have been manipulated into giving up their equal share of the pie; fooled  into believing that they are free and equal, when in fact, they are merely begging at the table for scraps.

Bougainville is a 21st century tragedy with the potential to be extinguished under the Western capitalist system or live as a spiritual-based, nature centric civilization. It seems that any significant decision about the fate of a single nation is no longer sustainable in the long run.

If humans are to survive as a species, we cannot continue our destructive, terror-reigning path. Ecosystems are being depleted, cultures annihilated, and the money is going into the greedy hands of international pirates and global capitalists.

The root of the problem is our worldview: this civilization is based on individual, materialistic desires and selfish actions. Our fragmented worldview has created a separation theology and our separated theology has divided our sociology. This worldview has destroyed millions of lives on this planet.

Such major change will require a fundamental shift in our consciousness to realize that the value and integrity of life in the indigenous cultures of Bougainville or Palestine is just as important as those in London or Beijing.

PNG playwright and poet, Nora Vagi Brash, in her five plays,  “Which Way, Big man?”, reflect  dramatic changes taking place in PNG and difficult decisions  that Papuans must make about their history, lives and future as they struggle to juggle between the two worlds – the world of their ancestors colonised and the new modern world of coloniser. [8]

It is time to listen to the words of many great people who want to see these island nations thrive under autonomy and renewed freedom.

“Will we see ourselves in the long shadows of the dwindling light and the advanced darkness of the evening dusk, or will we see ourselves in the long and radiant rays of the rising sun? We can choose, if we will” The Melanesian Way (Bernard Narakobi). [9]

“It is time to purify and heal Bougainville” – Francis Ora

“It is time to not let the bird of paradise die in vain” – Airlie Ingram, Sorong Samarai. [10]

To me, the term Melanesia invokes the idea of an alien tree within Oceania that has not yet produced its own fruit. Visitors to the tree have attempted to graft buds from other plants in order to stimulate production, but with little success. Nevertheless, the tree is large and full of potential, and outside visitors are intrigued by its uniqueness. Even if the tree is not producing fruit on its own, visitors still want a souvenir of its exotic potential. They’ve taken the bark, the leaves and the branches, until the tree no longer resembles its former greatness. It is becoming a generic, wilted plant in a thriving forest.

The Bougainville and Melanesian are at a crossroads now, Prime Minister James Marape and your government in Moresby… Which Way, Big Man?

[i]   Hermkens, A.-K. (2015). Marian Movements and Secessionist Warfare in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 18(4), pp.35–54.

[2]  RNZ News (2019). PNG govt urged not to derail Bougainville referendum mandate. [online] RNZ. Available at: https://www.rnz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/405899/png-govt-urged-not-to-derail-bougainville-referendum-mandate [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].

[3] PMC Editor (2016). Bougainville faces mental health issues legacy from the civil war | Asia Pacific Report. [online] Asiapacificreport.nz. Available at: https://asiapacificreport.nz/2016/03/06/bougainville-faces-mental-health-issues-legacy-from-the-civil-war/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].

[4] Mcdonald, J. (2019). Australia, China, and Bougainville’s Choices. [online] Thediplomat.com. Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2019/12/australia-china-and-bougainvilles-choices/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].

[5] ROKA, L.F. (2014). The legacy of Damien Dameng, the father of Meekamui. [online] Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG ATTITUDE. Available at: https://www.pngattitude.com/2014/03/the-legacy-of-damien-dameng-the-father-of-meekamui.html [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].

[6] King, T. (2013). Bougainville President Fails Victims of Brutal Resource Conflict. [online] Culturalsurvival.org. Available at: https://www.culturalsurvival.org/news/bougainville-president-fails-victims-brutal-resource- conflict [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].

[7]  United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). (2018). ULMWP Statement on the Republic of Vanuatu’s Independence Day – United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP). [online] Available at: https://www.ulmwp.org/ulmwp-statement-on-the-republic-of-vanuatus-independence-day-july-30th-2018.

[8] That’s So Jacob (2014). Flip The Script: Nora Vagi Brash, Which Way Big Man? [online] That’s So Jacob. Available at: https://thatssojacob.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/flip-the-script-nora-vagi-brash-which-way-big- man/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].

[9] http://www.alastairmcintosh.com/general/resources/1983-Bernard-Narokobi-Melanesian-Way.pdf

[10] Pacific Media Watch (2019). The genocide next door – West Papuan band spreading message of freedom | Asia Pacific Report. [online] Asiapacificreport.nz. Available at: https://asiapacificreport.nz/2019/11/08/the-genocide-next-door-papuan-band-spreading-message-of-freedom/ [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020]

 

 

Bougainville Referendum Results : ‘We are reborn’: Bougainville votes 97.7 % for independence from Papua New Guinea

” That’s my dream, to go and rebuild, We need the best policies, the best laws, to be the best country. We are reborn.”

Pajomile Minaka, from Bougainville’s southern region the 36-year old, who was a child during the conflict , told Reuters he was taking a law course to equip himself to help rebuild his homeland.

The people of Bougainville, an island group in Papua New Guinea, have voted overwhelmingly for independence.

Voters had two options – more autonomy, or full independence. Of the 181,000 ballots, almost 98% were in favour of independence.

The referendum was approved by the Papua New Guinea government, but the result is non-binding.

Nevertheless, the landslide victory will put pressure on PNG to grant Bougainville independence.

The islands have a population of around 300,000, and 206,731 people enrolled to vote in the referendum.

In total, 181,067 ballots were cast. Of those:

176,928 voted for independence
3,043 voted for greater autonomy
1,096 were classed as informal, or void.

“There’s tears, tears of joy, raw emotion – people have waited a long time, The pen is always mightier than the sword.

The results were announced in the town of Buka by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, the chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission.

“Now, at least psychologically, we feel liberated,” said John Momis, president of the regional autonomous government.

The ABG President, Chief DR JOHN MOMIS was lost for words after the results were declared by the Chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission this afternoon.

In his address to the people who were present at the Hutjena Counting Centre, President Momis thanked the people for giving his ABG the clear mandate to consult with the National Government on the wishes of the people. He said that the people have spoken through the votes and the outcome will not be different.


President MOMIS also thanked the National Government for their commitment to complete the process and the end result must be a total and lasting peace for the people of Bougainville.
He also thanked the Donor partners, International organizations that observed the polling and the count the UN team, High Commissioners of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and many who were part of the peace process on Bougainville.

The President Momis mentioned the people of Bougainville that despite so many problems they have faced in the past kept their faith for the future of Bougainville as clearly demonstrated by their vote. He said nearly 98 percent for Independence is a huge testimony of what the people of Bougainville want for their future.

One Bougainvillian, nursing graduate Alexia Baria, told news agency AFP that “happiness was an understatement”.

“You see my tears – this is the moment we have been waiting for,” she said.

Will this place become the world’s next country?

Why was there a referendum?

Bougainville had a nine-year separatist war that began in 1988, fuelled by economic grievance.

The end of the fighting led to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the creation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, and the promise of a non-binding referendum on independence.

Even in colonial times, Bougainville was an outpost. The islands attempted to declare independence during the formation of Papua New Guinea in 1975 – but they were ignored.

What happens now?

The referendum was non-binding – meaning independence won’t happen automatically.

Discussions will take place with the Papua New Guinea government to decide when – or if – the transition to full independence can begin.

Although the PNG government was against independence, and does not have to accept the result, the huge mandate will make it hard to ignore.

The 98% result is above pre-referendum predictions – most experts expected the figure to be around 75% – 80%.

The PNG minister for Bougainville affairs, Puka Temu, said “the outcome is a credible one” – but asked that voters “allow the rest of Papua New Guinea sufficient time to absorb this result”.

Is Bougainville ready for independence?

The new country – should it happen – would be small, with a land mass of less than 10,000 sq km (slightly larger than Cyprus, and slightly smaller than Lebanon).

Likewise, its population would be one of the world’s smallest – slightly smaller than Pacific neighbour Vanuatu, and slightly bigger than Barbados.

But according to research by Australia’s Lowy Institute, Bougainville self-reliance would at best be years away.

The country is rich in natural resources – especially copper, which has been extracted on a large scale since the 1960s under Australian administration.

But mining has been crippled by the war – and the distribution of revenue was one of the factors behind the conflict.

One estimate cited by the Lowy Institute says Bougainville would only have 56% of the revenue needed to be self-reliant.

Bougainville Referendum News : Regular voting now complete with overwhelming vote expected in favour of independence but the birth of a separate nation may take many years to achieve

 ”  Experts believe people the 250,000 to 300,000 people of Bougainville will vote overwhelming in favor of independence ahead of the other option, which is greater autonomy.

But the process of becoming a separate nation could take years to achieve.” 

Report from the New York Times 

The Bougainville Referendum Commission today acknowledged the tireless effort of nearly 1,500 polling officials as regular polling for Bougainvilleans comes to an end across a record 829 locations in three countries.

Regular polling finished yesterday (Tuesday) at 6pm, with only the submission of postal votes to continue to Saturday 7 December, 6 pm.

 

They voted in highland villages and on remote atolls. Even 15 youth who live in the jungle and wear bright Upe hats as they undergo traditional training to become men had the chance to vote.  ( See full story Part 2 )

All across the Pacific region of 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.

“Today is a momentous occasion for the people of Bougainville , we have waited years to finally exercise our right to determine our own political future.” Vice President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Hon. Raymond Masono upon casting his vote during the polling at Bel Isi Park in Buka.
Hon. Masono acknowledged the work of the BRC and thanked the ABG, GOPNG and donor partners for their support from the very first day up until now.

Regular voting ended on Tuesday while any remaining postal votes will be accepted through Saturday. The results will be announced in mid-December.

The referendum is nonbinding, and a vote for independence would then need to be negotiated by leaders from both Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. The final say would then go to lawmakers in the Papua New Guinea Parliament

Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said there had been long queues and high enthusiasm at many of the 828 polling places.

“During polling we’ve witnessed a festive and joyous mood,” he said. “There have been dancing troupes and whole communities getting together.”

Claudio said that giving Upes a chance to vote at male-only polling stations was one of many referendum firsts. He said election officers hiked for two hours into the jungle to collect the votes.

The young Upe men can remain isolated from their communities for several years as they learn about culture, medicine, hunting and other skills. During this time, they wear the tall, woven Upe hats that hide their hair and are forbidden to be seen by women.

Election officers also traveled by overnight boat to get to some of the five offshore atolls and visited a police lockup to collect votes from prisoners.

Claudio said there was only one disruption, in the Konnou area, where a long-simmering dispute led police to advise referendum officers to close one polling station. The affected voters got a chance to cast their ballots elsewhere.

Complicating the voting process were the limited communications throughout the region and the traditional way many people live, including not owning any photo identification. Added to that, the Bougainville Referendum Commission only secured its funding in March.

But more than 40 U.N. staffers and over 100 international observers helped oversee a process that Claudio said had gone remarkably well.

The referendum is a key part of a 2001 peace agreement that ended a brutal civil war in which at least 15,000 people died in the cluster of islands to the east of the Papua New Guinea mainland.

The violence in Bougainville began in the late 1980s, triggered by conflict over an enormous opencast copper mine at Panguna. The mine was a huge export earner for Papua New Guinea, but many in Bougainville felt they got no benefit and resented the pollution and disruption to their traditional way of living.

The mine has remained shut since the conflict. Some believe it could provide a future revenue source for Bougainville should it become independent.

Experts believe people the 250,000 to 300,000 people of Bougainville will vote overwhelming in favor of independence ahead of the other option, which is greater autonomy.

But the process of becoming a separate nation could take years to achieve.

Part 2 Report and pictures from Ben Bohane

They appeared in a fringe of forest at the edge of Teuapaii village; hesitant, ghostly, looking awed and slightly bewildered at the scene in front of them after their years of seclusion in the bush.

People were chanting and danced in circles beneath a Bougainville flag nearby to welcome the handful of election monitors, and Upe initiates, as the village prepared to vote.

Blown conch shells and bamboo wind pipes reverberated in the air.

Boys as young as 10 and young men of voting age, all wearing the woven Upe hats of initiation that adorn the centre of Bougainville’s flag, made a fleeting appearance to cast their ballot.

In the many years I’ve covered Bougainville it was my first time to see them, and after those of age had voted they drifted silently back into the bush to complete their schooling in tribal law, medicine, building, fighting and love magic, amongst other life skills.

The Upe tradition used to be common across northern and central Bougainville, as well as Buka, but missionary influence stopped much of it over the past 100 years.

Yet in remains in pockets among the Wakunai peoples and some isolated villages we visited inland from the west coast.

They were proud to be continuing this tabu kastom that turns boys into men, and whose hats covering their uncut hair twisted in long dredlocks remains today the symbol of Bougainville.

 

Bougainville Referendum 23 Nov News : Sixty Minutes visits Bougainville to ask why is China on the move in the South Pacific? This Sunday Nov 17 a special #60Mins

 ” The United States and its Pacific allies have plugged a funding gap that endangered next month’s independence referendum in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) region of Bougainville, a strategic move that also sidelined China, two sources told Reuters.

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.

The vote in PNG’s autonomous region of Bougainville, formerly the site of a bloody civil conflict, will run from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7, and could trigger separation negotiations to create a new nation in the strategic waters of the Pacific.” 

Continued Part 1 Below

Background to the 60 Minutes Story to be broadcast Sunday 17 November

The Bougainville visit by the 6 man 60 minutes team was managed by Zhon Bosco Miriona , Steven Tamiung and Colin Cowell from Bougainville Experience Tours Arawa see Part 3 below

 General Sam Kauona and Josephine Kauona.


Main agenda was a link with China in the Pacific and Bougainville

Picture below Steven Tamiung with the 60 Minutes Crew

Part 1 U.S. edges China out of race to fund Bougainville independence vote

Sources with direct knowledge of the arrangements in Bougainville told Reuters that China was not blocked from helping fund the referendum, but neither was it invited to contribute when the shortfall emerged.

“It’s just that the invitation never arrived, or, rather, was never sent,” one source said.

The second source said the West wanted to limit China’s engagement with what could soon be the world’s newest nation, strategically located in waters separating Asia and the Americas.

China’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on whether it was involved in discussions to assist in the referendum.

“China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, and respects the independent choices of people in all countries,” it said in a statement.

The funding shortfall emerged early this year amid preparations, overseen by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, to register the votes of 300,000 people, most of them spread over the main island of Bougainville, nearby Buka and other outlying islands.

The United States, along with Australia, New Zealand and Japan, helped plug the funding gap of 7.1 million kina ($2 million), according to a breakdown of funding arrangements provided to Reuters by the Bougainville Referendum Commission.

Part 2

An independence referendum will be held in Bougainville between 23 November and 7 December 2019, with results declared around 20 December.[1] The vote is the result of an agreement between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. The vote is not binding and the Government of Papua New Guinea has the final say on what becomes of Bougainville in the event of voters choosing independence.[2]

Background

According to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, a referendum which includes the option of independence must be held at the latest by June 2020.[3] The vote was originally scheduled for 15 June 2019,[4] before being delayed to 17 October due to a row over funding.[5] The referendum was delayed again to 23 November at the request of the Bougainville Referendum Commission to ensure the credibility of the referendum roll so more people can vote, most of the promised funding not having been sent by the national government. Both governments said this delay would be the last.[6] Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Karl Claxton said there is a wide expectation Bougainville will vote to become independent.[7] In October 2018, former Taoiseach of Ireland Bertie Ahern was appointed to chair the Bougainville Referendum Commission, which is responsible for preparing the referendum.[8]

In November the BRC completed the official ‘certified voter list’ to be used in polling for the Bougainville Referendum. The number of voters is 206,731.

 
Voting District Men Women Blank [a] Total
Resident Bougainvilleans 98,565 95,371 80 194,016
Non-Resident Bougainvilleans [b] 6,846 5,844 25 12,715
Total 105,411 101,215 105 206,731

Question

The question to be put to voters is:

Do you agree for Bougainville to have: (1) Greater Autonomy (2) Independence?[9]

Results

 
Choice Votes %
Greater autonomy
Independence
Valid votes
Informal votes
Total 100
Registered voters/Turnout 206,731[10]
Vote
Greater autonomy
%
Independence
%

Notes

  1. ^ The gender of the voter could not be determined
  2. ^ Outside the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in PNG provinces, and Solomon Islands and Australia

References

  1. ^ “Bougainville set to hold long-awaited independence referendum”France 24. 2019-09-27. Retrieved 2019-10-06.
  2. ^ “Bougainville referendum not binding – PM”Radio New Zealand. 2019-03-11. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  3. ^ “Move to postpone Bougainville Referendum”Papua New Guinea Post Courier. 2019-02-08. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  4. ^ “Bougainville and Papua New Guinea set target date for independence referendum”ABC News. 2016-05-23. Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  5. ^ “Independence vote delayed for Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville”France 24. 2019-03-01. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  6. ^ Gorethy, Kenneth (2019-08-05). “B’ville referendum dates changed”Post Courier. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  7. ^ “PNG leader apologises to Bougainville for bloody 1990s civil war”Australian Associated Press. 2014-01-29. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  8. ^ “Bougainville ‘very happy’ to have Bertie Ahern involved”Radio New Zealand. 2018-10-17. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  9. ^ “Question agreed for Bougainville’s independence referendum”Radio New Zealand. 2018-10-13. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  10. ^ “Referendum Roll Completed”Bougainville Referendum Commission. 2019-11-08. Retrieved 2019-11-08.

Part 3 The Bougainville visit by the 6 man 60 minutes team was managed by Zhon Bosco Miriona , Steven Tamiung and Colin Cowell from Bougainville Experience Tours Arawa

 

 

Bougainville Referendum News : As we celebrate Independence Day today for 2019, Simon Pentanu MHR GCL reflects on the upcoming referendum and the future political path of the Autonomous Region of #Bougainville.

 ” As we celebrate Independence Day for 2019, 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.

My real concern is more about our insouciance and disregard for good governance that we must sternly guard against, whatever the political outcome of referendum will be. For, good governance is one of the major considerations that must be ticked off or crossed when it comes to ratification of the vote.

Here I say, take heed the soothsayers say, or forever hold your breath.”

Hon. Simon Pentanu MHR GCL : Speaker
Bougainville House of Representatives

Picture Above : Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE and ABG President, DR. JOHN MOMIS signed the joint resolution September 12 at the Presidential villa Buka in front of journalists and the Ministers and members from both the ABG and the National Government. See Part 2 for full details or Download Document Here

12092019_JSB_Resolution

Whatever the choice is, and we know that Independence is the greater expectation of most Bougainvilleans, we have to make it work. This is the essence of my message today. Let us not tire of talking about good governance, honest and transparent leadership, common sense, and not being above or beyond reproach. Let us not forget the foundation stones and the building blocks of good government, regardless of what form that Government takes.

Adherence to good governance must be the message delivered in unison by the people to their representatives in the House of Representatives and to Leaders in Government. All Leaders, whether at the national, provincial or community government level, must be held to account.

Without regard for good governance the writing is on the wall. We know this from the countless examples of developing countries that have been turned into pariah states by their own Leaders in power.

Let us avoid the pitfalls of bad governance by making a conscious and conscientious choice for good governance without making compromises, taking short cuts or looking for quick fixes at the leadership level.

Nothing is more certain than the dire consequences that befall a people whose leaders turn a blind eye, a deaf ear and who play mute to the evils of corruption.

Conversely, nothing is more certain than the successes and gross national happiness and contentment that follows when elected leaders live up to the oaths and loyalties they swear by and the responsibilities they promise to live up to in office, leading the people from the front.

We can grab and take the opportunities to heart or we can squat and squander them. It is my sincere hope this Independence Day, that our leaders take the former rather than the latter path.

Hon. Simon Pentanu MHR GCL
Speaker
Bougainville House of Representatives

Part 2 Editors note

Congratulations to Simon Pentanu, who has been named on the 2019 Independence Day Anniversary Honours List. Simon Pentanu

Mr. Pentanu will be awarded the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GCL) Conerred with the title of “Chief” for distinguished public service in the senior roles of Clerk of the National Parliament, Chief Ombudsman, and currently as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Part 3

Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE and ABG President, DR. JOHN MOMIS signed the joint resolution in the afternoon at the Presidential villa in front of journalists and the Ministers and members from both the ABG and the National Government.

The first Agenda was concerning the request by the BRC to extend the Referendum date by six weeks from October 12th Polling to November 23rd Polling.


The BRC had sought for additional time for the referendum roll to be updated so that the outcome is credible and has integrity.


Agenda two was on weapons disposal, after the joint Weapons disposal secretariat briefed the JSB on the progress of the Me’ekamui Weapons disposal program, the JSB resolved and noted that the weapons disposal work must continue, and also touched on the National Reconciliation ceremony that must be held between the National Government and the ABG and also between the veterans.


Agenda three was on the Post Referendum Transition of which many discussions have been made and also looking at the legal issues going forward.


The JSB noted the progress made so far and resolved for the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Task Force on Post Referendum.


Approved for the Post Referendum Task Force to identify facilitators/moderators to assist in the Post referendum negotiation period.


And there must be one national moderator and one external moderator.


The fourth Agenda looked at the Restoration and Development Grants in which both governments have been at loggerheads over the calculations for the RDG.


The JSB resolved to accept the calculations made by an independent expert engaged by the UNDP and that officers work on these calculations and settle those outstanding through the RDG and SIF programs.


The JSB also resolved to approve a new arrangement for the National Government to provide 100 Million annually to the ABG for the next ten years starting next year.

 

Bougainville Referendum News : Chair of #BRC Bernie Ahern travels from the #UnitedNations in New York to Arawa , Buin and Buka for Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) roadshow this week

5 major news alerts this week ( July 1- 7) on the Bougainville Referendum

Follow Bougainville News on Twitter 

1 : Ahern urges focus on post-referendum peace in Bougainville ( From Irish Times )

2. Dates for this weeks BRC Bougainville Roadshow announced

3. Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

4. With a projected vote on independence from Papua New Guinea just three months away, suddenly Bougainville is the centre of a lot of activity.

5 : THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year. (USA NEWS ) 

1  : Ahern urges focus on post-referendum peace in Bougainville 

 ” Chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC)  Bertie Ahern last  week  stressed to the UN 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.” 

Read full story from the Irish Times

2. Dates for this weeks BRC Bougainville Roadshow announced:

Arawa 9 July 2pm (Christmas Park),

Buin 10 July 1pm (Buin Secondary),

Buka 11 July 2pm (Bel Isi Park).

Information and progress updates from the Chair Hon Bertie Ahern and Commissioners

3. Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

Referendum is one of the pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).

The BPA declares that in the Constitution of the Papua New Guinea National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB) is guaranteed a referendum on Bougainville’s political future to be held amongst Bougainvilleans 10-15 years after the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

ABG was established in 2005 and therefore, according to the Constitution, a referendum can be held between the years 2015 and 2020. Both governments will agree upon the official date of the referendum.

Issue of writs – August 16, 2019

Start of polling – October 12, 2019

See Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

4.With a projected vote on independence from Papua New Guinea just three months away, suddenly Bougainville is the centre of a lot of activity.

A crowd of people in Bougainville watching the handover of the agreed definitions for the two questions for the Independence Referendum. The first Greater Autonomy for Bougainville and the other full Independence from Papua New Guinea. Photo: Autonomous Bougainville Government

The vote, which is scheduled to start on 12 October, has already been moved once from 15 June.

Now there is a call for it to be delayed further, with the Bougainville Referendum Commission, which is in charge of preparing the region for the vote, saying more time is needed to ensure the integrity of the electoral roll.

A six-week extension was mentioned.

But the newly appointed PNG Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said the BRC needed to make a formal request if it wanted to delay the referendum.

“If the BRC thinks they need a little more time because of the credibility issue on the referendum roll then the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) will be the body that will make the final decision. It is not the national government or the ABG, it is a JSB decision.

“If they say no then that’s it. If they agree then we will inform our people and the basis will be the credibility of the common roll,” he said.

That JSB meeting is set to be held in south Bougainville, in Buin.

The PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, then confirmed the National Executive Council, the cabinet, will hold its meeting there at the same time.

Sir Puka, who has significantly lifted the tempo on Bougainville since coming into the role just weeks ago, said it is vital for all of PNG’s leaders to show their commitment to the referendum process.

Two upcoming reconciliations are to be held on Bougainville at the same time before the referendum.

Sir Puka said a national reconciliation and another involving former combatants were postponed last month because of the PNG government’s change of leadership.

“Our commitment is to never again bring the military ever again onto the island – that’s our commitment.”

Sir Puka said these events will include commitments to dispose of weapons.

He said he came back from a visit to Bougainville two weeks ago with an “enormous level of comfort” that the former militant groups had given their commitment to the peace process.

Sir Puka said there are now teams on the ground preparing for the events at a date that is yet to be announced but expected to be the end of the month.

He said he embraced the reconciliations because of their importance to Melanesian culture and the commitment that the final outcome will be jointly negotiated.

“So as part of that is to guarantee the security of the process and also reconcile and rebuild the relationship amongst all of us – our soldiers on this side and ex-combatants on the other side because that will then remove this cloud of suspicion.”

Meanwhile, at discussions this week a British political scientist with experience in referenda said if Bougainville chooses independence from PNG it’s likely to be some years before it is implemented.

Coventry University’s Matt Qvortrup was in Port Moresby to speak to lawmakers about possible scenarios after the referendum.

He said if there is a clear vote for independence it’s still important that there is what he calls a ‘a just and fair divorce settlement’ – not just one party walking away.

Professor Qvortrup said he’d seen other referenda results implemented in a matter of months, for instance in Czechoslovakia and Ukraine, which said were examples of countries that broke up quickly.

“The more successful ones have taken a little bit longer, so I think the process of independence will probably take, my estimate compared to other cases would probably be up to five years, or even more,” he said.

Also, this week a survey of more than 1,000 Bougainvilleans found people still need to know more about the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the referendum.

One of the key findings of the second Bougainville Audience Study is the need for continuous awareness in the lead up to the referendum and beyond.

The ABG’s communications director, Adriana Schmidt, said the report provided a clear picture of the information needs of Bougainvilleans going into the vote.

She said people want to know more about what the two options – greater autonomy and independence – mean in practical terms, and to understand what happens after the vote.

5 : THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year.

Whether it can survive as a stand-alone nation is a key question for its 250,000 inhabitants, and for other separatist movements in the Pacific.

Published Here

The future course of the island could ripple across the region, as the question of Bougainville’s independence will touch on a complicated mixture of business concerns, environmental worries and geopolitical interests stretching from Australia and New Zealand to ChinaJapan and the United States.

It’s an outsized international role for Bougainville, which lies 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the Papua New Guinea mainland. The roots of the referendum stem from a bitter inter-clan and separatist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997, fighting that claimed between 10,000 and 20,000 lives through a combination of violence, disease, poverty and dislocation.

 

A truce brokered and maintained by regional neighbors that included Australia, New Zealand and Fiji helped restore order, and a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in 2001. The island has had its own autonomous government since 2005.

Bougainville’s people are expected to vote decisively for independence in the Oct. 17 referendum, according to Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based policy think tank. The vote is not binding and any move toward independence will require agreement from the central government of Papua New Guinea, commonly referred to as PNG.

Most people hope the two sides can find a “Melanesian solution” that will deliver a workable form of autonomy for Bougainville, says Pryke, using the term that describes the region of the South Pacific that includes PNG, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and other island nations and territories.

James Marape, who took over as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister in late May, said on June 14 he would prefer Bougainville to remain part of a unified nation, but would listen to the people’s voice and then consult over future options.

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Sydney, says the desire for independence in Bougainville remains strong, but from a regional perspective it will be best if the Bougainville people decided to stay in Papua New Guinea. “We don’t need another microstate emerging in the Pacific.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who visited Bougainville on June 19 with PNG’s new minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the referendum and will not pass judgment on the result. Australia is by far the biggest aid donor in the Pacific region, giving $6.5 billion between 2011 and 2017, according to research last year by the Lowy Institute. Most of Australia’s aid goes to Papua New Guinea.

Scars Remain From a Civil War

The Bougainville conflict, in which rival clans on the island fought among themselves and with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, evolved from multiple issues, including land rights, customary ownership, “outsider” interference and migration, mineral resource exploitation, and perceived inequities and environmental damage associated with the rich Panguna copper mine.

Under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement, a vote on independence within 20 years was promised.

A reconciliation ceremony will be held on July 2 between the central PNG government, the national defence force, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Deep scars remain from the conflict, both physical and emotional. Much of the island’s public infrastructure remains in poor shape, educational opportunities are limited, and corruption is pervasive. Clan rivalry and suspicion persists, particularly in regard to land rights and resource development.

Since Panguna closed in May 1989, Bougainville’s people have led a life built around agriculture and fishing. The cocoa and copra industries ravaged by the war have been re-established, there is small-scale gold mining, and potential for hydroelectric power and a revived forestry industry. For now, a lack of accommodation inhibits tourism.

Copper Mine Underscores Doubts over Bougainville’s Economic Viability

Almost 40 years ago, Bougainville’s Panguna mine was the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s export income and the largest open-cut in the world. But the mine, operated by BCL, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (now Rio Tinto Ltd.), became a focal point for conflict over pollution, migrant workers, resource ownership and revenue sharing, and has been dormant since 1989.

Apart from any foreign aid it may receive, Bougainville’s future prosperity may well depend on whether it can restart the mine, which contains copper and gold worth an estimated $50 billion. But customary ownership claims – land used for generations by local communities without the need for legal title – remain unresolved and at least three mining groups are in contention, which means an early restart is unlikely. Jennings cautions against investing too much hope in Panguna, with remediation costs after 30 years of disuse likely to be high.

Likewise, Luke Fletcher, executive director of the Sydney-based Jubilee Australia Research Centre, which studies the social and environmental impacts of resources projects on Pacific communities, says reopening Panguna would be a long, expensive and difficult proposition. He says the challenge for any mine operator would be developing a project that is environmentally safe, yet still deliver an acceptable return to shareholders and to the government.

Bougainville’s leader, President John Momis, believes that large-scale mining offers the best chance for income generation and is keen both to revive Panguna and encourage other projects. That would require outside investment, which was a factor contributing to the outbreak of violence in the late 1980s. The local community perceived that it was not getting its fair share of Panguna’s wealth.

Rio Tinto gave up its share in BCL in 2016, and ownership now rests with the government of PNG and the Bougainville government, each with 36.4%. Independent shareholders own the remaining 27.2%.

At least two other groups are vying to operate Panguna. Sir Mel Togolo, the BCL chairman, told the company’s annual general meeting on May 2 that continued uncertainty about Panguna’s tenure remains a big challenge. “We will need to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to achieve our objective of bringing the Panguna mine back into production,” he said.

Regional, International Eyes on October Referendum

With doubts persisting about Bougainville’s economic viability if it cuts ties with the central government, the referendum outcome will be closely watched by other PNG provinces pushing for greater autonomy, such as East New Britain, New Ireland and Enga.

Across the region, some parts of neighboring Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are agitating for their own separate identities. In the nearby French overseas territory of New Caledonia, voters rejected independence from France by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in November 2018. European settlers were heavily in favor of staying part of France, while indigenous Kanak people overwhelmingly voted for independence.

At the international level, Australia will be keen to ensure that whatever the outcome of the Bougainville referendum, stability is maintained in Papua New Guinea, if only to counter China’s growing interest in offering aid and economic benefits as it builds a Pacific presence.

Along with Japan, New Zealand and the U.S., Australia has committed to a 10-year $1.7 billion electrification project in Papua New Guinea. Australia and the U.S. have agreed to help Papua New Guinea redevelop its Manus Island naval base, which sits 350 kilometers north of the mainland and commands key trade routes into the Pacific.

Jennings says Australia would be likely to give aid to an independent Bougainville to try to keep China at bay. “China is everywhere. Its destructive connections co-opt leaderships in a way that doesn’t work out well for people.”

From a strategic perspective, Jennings says it would be best if Melanesia looked to Australia as its main partner on matters of security.

While China gives most of its aid to PNG and Fiji, the region’s two biggest economies, Jubilee’s Fletcher says China giving aid to an independent Bougainville was “feasible.”

Geoff Hiscock is a Sydney-based journalist with a focus on international business

 

Bougainville Tourism News : Uruna Bay Retreat, Pokpok Island is a community effort and is one way  of looking forward like having a vision beyond the horizon.

This is fabulous. Absolutely, heavenly, fabulous. An endless summer of beauty as nature intended.

I used to paddle this bay in canoes, walk the length of its powder white beaches, and swim the turquoise waters wearing goggles to watch out for the sea anemone and the fury of its inhabitants, the clown fish. They are curious and always come to inspect and protect their base.

The walks from the beach uphill into the forest is an exciting contrast to the sea. Away from the water world it is still an interesting expedition up into the hills.

As long as communities are an inclusive part of tourism with benefits accruing shared at the local level, small scale tourism (including eco-tourism) has a future and bodes well in the region”

Simon Pentanu

Uruna Bay, is one of a number of bays and quays around Pokpok.

Its natural beauty and settling here is like a dream come true from childhood years. In fact it is like a number of dreams still coming through. I decided first on a family beachfront home in 1989. When we moved in eight years later as peace was taking hold after the bloody conflict, we had to readjust and regurgitate coming back to devastated family members and the village community as a whole.

All I can say truthfully is that God has been kind to the population after the devastating conflict. But more importantly, we returned to find a resilient population that was determined not to dwell in the past but look ahead.

Tourism if done with foresight, conscience and careful planning is one way  of looking forward like having a vision beyond the horizon.

Uruna Bay Retreat, Pokpok Island is a community effort and hence a pride of the  Island community. So is Batama Beach Bungalows, more recently completed and run by another family with involvement and support from  the community on the Island as well.

The people’s resilience and joy is what is expressed in the cultural chants, dances and songs that welcome travellers here. A lot of heart, soul and joy goes into the performances for the visitors

The travellers, tourists, visitors and friends of many nationalities turning up here is quite daring. It is what has spurred us thinking about retreats and bungalows where people can stop, stay, enjoy or just pass by. You cannot hide or keep a good thing to yourself is true of Bougainville today.

Developing and growing tourism in Bougainville as we find our feet should be more than just about hard cash and bottom lines. The overriding impetus and interest as Bougainville maps, detours and decides its way to the future it should also be about promoting the beauty, the hard-won peace, unity and serenity of the Island, its environment and art, culture and the people.

Reminiscences about good times in the past  is a good thing. So is imagining Bougainville as my generation and I found it growing up here as a children.

With the annual visit by a cruise ship ‘True North’ every December, the Dive Boat ‘Taka’ adding Uruna Bay on its stops between Solomon Islands and Rabaul it is fantastic. And now with ‘Endless Summer’ the first Super Yacht of its kind to visit Kieta it is fabulous.

We must embrace and savour real opportunities and any serendipitous times and moments on Bougainville.

Endless Summer’ has added a rather personal touch and dimension with the tours here being  arranged by someone who spent some of their childhood growing up in Arawa, a part Morobean who feels and obliges like one of us in promoting Bougainville.

As long as communities are an inclusive part of tourism with benefits accruing shared at the local level, small scale tourism (including eco-tourism) has a future and bodes well in the region.

Contacts

Uruna Bay Retreat – Pok Pok Island Bougainville

Our motto:

“Simple pleasures should be affordable, not expensive and out of reach “

CONTACT direct : mailto: urunabayretreat@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville News Alerts this week : Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne visits Bougainville ahead of independence referendum and amid fears #Bougainville independence will open Pacific door for China  

 “I don’t think the exercise of a democratic process in one of our nearest neighbours would be described as a huge problem for Australia.

The referendum is part of a peace agreement that has been under way for some time.

The important things that Australia is focused on is not forming a view one way or the other on the outcome of a referendum in another country, but importantly supporting that wherever we can to ensure a credible, and a peaceful and an inclusive process.”

Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the Bougainville referendum later this year, and won’t cast judgment on the result, Foreign Minister Marise Payne says.

Hear ABC Radio Coverage

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne this week visited Bougainville for a few hours amid fears an upcoming independence vote there could undermine regional stability and provide an opening for China to establish a strategic foothold in what could become the Pacific’s newest nation state.

Report from The Australian

The visit was the first by an Australian minister since a bungled 2015 attempt to open an Australian consulate led the PNG government to slap a ban on Australian officials travelling to the autonomous region.

Papua New Guinea, which fought a decade-long civil war with Bougainville rebels ending in the late 90s, is trying to convince

PNG Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Bougainville’s people needed to understand what “cutting the umbilical cord from Papua New Guinea” would mean.

“The revenue for Bougainville is only 20 million kina ($8.6m) per year,” Sir Puka said.

“They will need, according to international studies, at least 900 million kina ($390m) a year to rebuild Bougainville as an independent state.” He said independence would also mean “Papua New Guinea will not be able to be politically responsible for an independent Bougainville state”.

Bougainville’s people will vote on October 17 to either become an independent state or to have greater autonomy within PNG.

There is a widespread expectation that Bougainvilleans will vote in favour of independence in a result that would then have to be ratified by the PNG parliament, where it could face opposition from MPs who fear other provinces could follow.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape has said PNG was “stronger with Bougainville than without” but it would listen to the people of Bougainville “and then consult on options for the future”.

Lowy Institute Pacific program director Jonathan Pryke said the referendum outcome would have strategic implications “thanks to the active presence of China throughout PNG and the broader Pacific”. “Given the new strategic landscape, and not to mention the huge reserves left in Panguna (copper) mine, I would expect an independent Bougainville would have a number of potential international suitors to help them with their financial challenges,” Mr Pryke said.

Nana Buba from New Dawn Reports on visit to Bougainville

The visiting Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne this week met with the Bougainville women Peace builders at the Nazareth Rehabilitation centre, Chabai on the northern tip of mainland Bougainville.

She was very keen to know the work of these peace builders who work in their communities working tirelessly to end violence against women and children and also carry awareness on the upcoming referendum.

Presenters assisted Sister Loraine in presenting what the women peace builders have been doing silently to make the place free from violence and human right abuses in the communities.

The woman who made several comments is the former ABG member representing the women of South Bougainville, Rose Pihei who stressed the need to address traumatized people and also address mental health issues in our communities.

Mrs Pihie said that if these post conflict problems are not addressed Bougainville will be facing a big problem with these people in the future.

She said that the work Sr Loraine  is doing must be supported by donor partners. The women had representatives that came all the way from North,Central and South Bougainville for this meeting.

The team was fully informed on the work of these women peace builders at this meeting.

The Bougainville Affairs Minister, DR. Puka Temu this week  acknowledged the important tripartite relationship that the three countries, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have developed over the years.

Minister Temu made these remarks during lunch at the Reasons Guest house in Buka town . He said that this significant relationship between our three countries have grown over the years and continue strengthen our friendship.

Dr Temu also acknowledged the members of the Regional Peace Mission contributing countries like Solomon Islands Vanuatu and FIJI for their continued support for peace throughout the Pacific. He said as the Minister for Bougainville Affairs Minister it was only proper to thank these countries for their continued support especially assisting PNG on the Bougainville issue.

Dr Temu said that PNG will continue to work with Australia and New Zealand to complete the Bougainville Peace Agreement with the conduct of the referendum in October and also manage the transitional period after the vote is taken.

The Minister for Bougainville Affairs, SIR PUKA TEMU has told the visiting Australian and New Zealand delegation that since the change of the government two weeks ago, Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE has announced that the PNG Government is 100 percent behind the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.