Bougainville Referendum News : A record of the issues and concerns of the Wakunai community



This statement has been prepared after the meeting at the request of the National Parliament Bipartisan Committee to provide a record of the issues and concerns of the Wakunai community leaders, both male and female, expressed at the meeting by Mr. Akoitai and by other leaders of the Wakunai Community.



The Bougainville Crisis began because of concerns of Bougainvilleans about environmental damage of the Panguna Copper Mine without fair compensation for Bougainville under the mining agreement made between the Australian Colonial Administration and Conzinc Riotinto Australia (CRA) without any voice for the Panguna and other impacted landowners, or for other Bougainvilleans. There is clear evidence of the impacts and the unhappiness of the people in films, newspapers and documents from the time.

The Colonial Administration gave a limited recognition to the concerns of the people by agreeing to Sir Paul Lapun’s 1967 demand for 5 per cent of royalties to go to landowners, by increasing the compensation and occupation fees a little from the small amounts originally offered, and by the 1971 imposition of a ‘moratorium’ on further exploration or mining development other than what had already been authorised for Panguna. But none of this went anywhere near to meeting the concerns of landowners and other Bougainvilleans.

From the late 1960s concern about the mine being forced on Bougainville, mainly for the benefit of the rest of PNG, added strongly to already existing support for Bougainville’s independence. Independence support had been developing for many years before that as Bougainvilleans became increasingly aware that artificial colonial borders separated Bougainvilleans from their relatives in Solomon Islands and made them part of PNG without their agreement.

The demand by Francis Ona in 1988 for K10 billion compensation for the damage caused by the mine expressed the anger of the Bougainville people about the impacts of the mine. The refusal of BCL and the National Government to listen to that demand, and the violence of the Police Riot Squads sent to Bougainville from the end of 1988 resulted in greatly increased support for Bougainville independence.

The Conflict

This is the history that caused deaths of many Bougainvilleans and people from other parts of PNG, and massive destruction in Bougainville. Many believe as many as 20,000 Bougainvilleans died. Bougainvillean families and communities were divided. Brother killed brother. In my place sons even killed their own fathers.

Many very important leaders died violent and completely unnecessary deaths. They included Ken Savia and Theodore Miriung, then Premier of the Bougainville Transitional Government, who was striving to build peace. He was assassinated by members of the PNGDF and the Bougainville Resistance Forces. The outcry over his death, in Bougainville, PNG and internationally, led to an inquiry into his death by a judge from Sri Lanka. It identified those involved, but has never been made public. No prosecutions ever occurred. Deaths of other senior leaders since the conflict ended were in large part caused by the stresses of the conflict, including those of Francis Ona and Joseph Kabui.

The Bougainville Peace Process

The conflict, which ended in 1997 (almost 20 years ago) is now history. It was ended by the Bougainville Peace Agreement, signed on 30 August 2001, more than 15 years ago. It was after four years of hard work by both Bougainvillean and PNG leaders to build peace. So it was a joint creation of both PNG and Bougainville.

Key leaders contributing on the PNG side included Prime Ministers Skate and Morauta, and ministers for Bougainville Affairs. I was the first of those, and followed by Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare and Sir Moi Avei. Key leaders on the Bougainville side included Chief John Momis and Joseph Kabui.

Our efforts in building peace and signing the Peace Agreement would not have been possible without support from the international community. As first Minister for Bougainville Affairs during the peace process, in late 1997 I negotiated on behalf of the National Government to establish the regional mission – the New Zealand–led Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) which also included Fiji, Vanuatu and Australia. The TMG and then its successor the PMG were in Bougainville from November 1997 to June 2003. Early in 1998 I was also involved in negotiating for a United Nations observer mission. It was present in Bougainville from mid-1998 to June 2005.

These contributions of the international community, together with strong financial support from many donors, enabled the very divided parties to begin to trust and work with one another and then to slowly negotiate for the Peace Agreement. Both the PMG and the UN observer mission played key roles in facilitating the negotiation process. They reported back regularly to their home governments in the region, and to the United Nations. The progress of the Bougainville Peace process was discussed regularly in the United Nations Security Council.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement

To overcome the many divisions that had caused, or arisen during, the conflict both the PNG National Government and the Bougainville leaders made many compromises on key issues. Those compromises by both sides are recorded in the Peace Agreement. The parties committed themselves to all the things in the long Agreement when they signed it in Arawa on 30 August 2001, in the presence of many international leaders. The Agreement was endorsed by the United Nations Security Council, and the United Nations continues to follow closely the progress being made in implementation of all aspects of the Agreement.

The commitments from the National Government and the Bougainville leader in that Agreement were approved by the PNG Cabinet and by the Bougainville political leadership before the signing. After the signing, as had been provided for in the Agreement, officials of both sides formed a joint technical committee to oversee the drafting of the Papua New Guinea Constitutional Laws that gave force to the Agreement.

Those draft laws were unanimously approved by votes of the National Parliament early in 2002. The requirements of the Peace Agreement are now just as much a part of the PNG Constitution as the provisions that create the National Parliament or the Supreme Court.

It is those Constitutional Laws that created the political structures of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), and elections for its House of Representatives. The laws also provide for the calculation and payment of National Government grants to the ABG. The existence of those grants, and how they are calculated each year, are not just matters of agreement, or of negotiation as part of the annual PNG budget. No – they are things clearly stated in the National Constitution. If the National Government does not comply with the financial commitment in the Peace Agreement and the Constitution, then it is breaching the National Constitution.

During the negotiation of the Peace Agreement, and in the two or three years after it was signed, there were many awareness programs in Bougainville about the Peace Agreement, weapons disposal, and the making of the Bougainville Constitution. But after the ABG was established in June 2005, awareness programs stopped for a long time. As a result, many Bougainvilleans have limited understanding of what is in the Peace Agreement.

At the same time, arguments between the National Government and the ABG about such things as the calculation of grants due to the ABG, or issues about the future of the Panguna mine and Rio Tinto shares in BCL, add to the difficulties of Bougainvilleans understanding the Peace Agreement. They make them loose faith in the Agreement.

The National Government sometimes seems to believe that it can make decisions about matters in Bougainville that the Peace Agreement makes clear are responsibilities of Bougainville. It seems to forget that the Autonomous Bougainville Government, and its powers and responsibilities to make decisions for Bougainville, come from the National Constitution.

On behalf of the leaders of Wakunai, I call on the National Government and the ABG to work closely together to implement the Peace Agreement, and the provisions of the National Constitution.

The REferendum

They particularly need to cooperate now, as we head towards the Referendum. In setting the date for the referendum within the five years from 2015 to 2020, the ABG needs to meet good governance, weapons disposal and fiscal self-reliance benchmarks. In addition, because the Peace Agreement and the National Constitution require the Referendum to be ‘free and fair’, much needs to be done in terms of weapons disposal, good governance, and establishing basic respect for the rule of law.

The main objective of the Peace Agreement is to achieve restoration of total peace within Bougainville and between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. For that to happen, the National Government must do two main things. First, it must do everything needed to give Bougainvilleans full faith in the ABG – only in that way can Bougainvilleans judge whether autonomy really meets their needs.

Second, it must fully support the agreed, constitutionally based referendum arrangements. Those arrangements were included as part of the compromises that all parties made. If what was agreed about the referendum is not honoured, progress towards restoration of peace will stop. That will be a recipe for a return to conflict.

The National Government must assist the ABG and the people of Bougainville in carrying out a reconciliation process in Bougainville before the referendum is held.

The National Government must avoid dealing with Bougainville issues unless it does so through the ABG, or with its agreement. There is no other way of dealing with Bougainville issues. Bougainville is not a province, the ABG is no a provincial government. No – Bougainville is an autonomous region, and the ABG has full autonomy to decide matters given to it by the PNG Constitution.

The Peace Agreement states why we agreed to autonomy – it was to empower Bougainvilleans to solve their own problems and realise their own goals. The ABG was the main institution established to enable Bougainvilleans to do this. When the National Government refuses to work with the ABG, or attacks the President for speaking up on behalf of Bougainville, the chances of the Agreement bringing peace are undermined.

It is heartbreaking to hear statements made by certain National Government leaders attacking the President of Bougainville. He was voted by more than 60,000 Bougainvilleans. As a defeated presidential candidate, I fully recognise him and support him as the true leader of Bougainville. Not only is he President, he is also a paramount chief, and deserves nothing but respect.

The recent decisions made about the 17.4 per cent Rio Tinto shareholding in BCL are an example of what happens when the National Government ignores the ABG. The National Government has refused to listen to the ABG, and has interfered in Bougainville’s internal affairs in ways that could cause serious problems and internal conflict. And yet the 17.4 per cent BCL shares are almost worthless.

The whole Rio Tinto issue was badly handled by the National Government. It negotiated direct with Rio Tinto without consultation with the ABG. It allowed Rio to walk away without dealing with environmental damage, the terrible problems of relocated villages, and other legacy issues.

The 17.4 per cent Rio shares issue is seen by most Bougainvilleans as evidence of a divide and rule tactic by the National Government. The landowners now are left with all the legacy issues, and shares worth nothing. Yet other Bougainvilleans think those same landowners should be contributing compensation for those who died during the conflict.

Under the Peace Agreement, the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) is intended to be the main body that implements the Agreement. It is also supposed to deal with disputes between the two governments. So it is an important institution. It cannot be treated as just a rubber stamp for the National Government.

There are now so many major issues where the ABG and the National Government are in dispute. They include the calculation of the Restoration and Development Grant and other grants, revenues from migratory fishing licences associated with Bougainville, and the Rio shares issue.

The National Government must seriously engage with the ABG to resolve these and other major outstanding issues as soon as possible, and certainly well before the referendum.

There are also many serious issues about the referendum that have to be negotiated and decided before the Referendum can be held. They include the question or questions to be asked, and the qualifications for non-resident Bougainvilleans to enrol to vote. The National Government must also engage seriously with the ABG on these matters, and must do so as soon as possible.

Because of internal conflict in Bougainville, I ended up fighting against some of my own people, in support of the National Government. I worked with over 4,000 others in the Bougainville Resistance Forces. I shed the blood of some of my own people. We negotiated the Peace Agreement to end all of this.

If the National Government fails to implement the Agreement in full, it will be a betrayal of me and my more than 4,000 brothers who supported the National Government during the conflict.

Now it is time for the National Government to assist me, just as I assisted the National Government – it must fully implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement, in partnership with the people of Bougainville.


Sam Akoitai

17 October 2016

Bougainville Referendum News : President Momis encourages an all-inclusive consultative approach to referendum


The National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government should not be trying to outdo each other in the lead up to the referendum to decide Bougainville’s political future.

ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis made this statement as he welcomed the Parliamentary Bi-partisan Committee on Referendum chaired by Southern Highlands Governor William Powi who was accompanied by Madang Governor, Jim Kas and Nuku MP Joe Sungi to Bougainville.

“Both governments should concentrate on how best to engage each other in a transparent and principled manner that is mutually acceptable to both sides and more over beneficial to the people of Bougainville,” President Momis said.

President Momis encouraged an all-inclusive consultative approach with an emphasis on lateral engagement of issues that pertain to the referendum on Bougainville.

President Momis also told the three national MP’s that the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which is the political roadmap for Bougainville, must be done in a holistic manner and cover the many dimensions of life that both the National Government and the ABG must take under very serious consideration.

“The BPA in no uncertain terms stipulates its joint implementation by the National Government and the ABG and creates the parameters within the process of self-determination by the people of Bougainville is played out,” Momis said.

Momis told the committee members that imposing ideas without respect to the people of Bougainville will be futile as imposition contradicts with their ultimate growth and development as a people.

The sentiments expressed by President Momis comes at a time when the ABG is facing serious shortages in financial resources, disagreements over the grants owed to Bougainville by the National Government and the recent fiasco surrounding the Bougainville Copper Limited shares divested by Rio Tinto.

Many Bougainvillean leaders have seen these recent setbacks as a strong arm tactic by the National Government in having a firm grip on determining how referendum will be played out.

But Momis has maintained his firmness that both governments must come to an agreement and begin to trust each other and to ensure the BPA is fully implemented without any further delay.

Bougainville Lifestyle News : Wonders of the past. Lure into the future . A world to be shared


“We should tell our stories in the first person because this is the best way we used to share our stories and exploits as children growing up in the village. I still see and hear kids in the village doing the same today”.

Simon Pentanu

Picture 1 Above : The faithful canoe still very much in use to take you anywhere : Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.

As I remember, growing up more than three score years ago, Pokpok Island was covered with a lot of primary green forest, thick jungle, dense canopy and impassable undergrowth. Along the coastal beaches the forest laden with its vines and creepers came bearing down to meet the sea.

This was before Lucas walkabout sawmills, Stihl and Husqvarna brand chainsaws, purseiner nets, and material affluence and its effluence from mining arrived and happened on Bougainville.

Growing up on the Island what we mostly liked and enjoyed was what we did, not what we had or acquired. Our idea of abundance and being happy growing up was not toys, computer games, gifts of sorts for every occasion or a treat in shops where mum and dad could get you whatever you asked for.


Picture 2  :Children still create their own fun climbing up or sitting on tree branches above ground

Rather, and looking back, it was more about what we did with a lot of time we had like making kids bows and arrows, going up trees and hanging from their branches, getting into canoes and paddling out, staying out in pouring rain and playing in puddles or small floods, swimming a lot, or running into the bushes looking for wild fruits and nuts and admiring the pingtu (praying mantis).

Growing up in the village you couldn’t miss noticing the Island always teemed with a lot of life and innocence that was simple. Everyone then seemed more caring. The whole Island also looked bigger and taller with taller and bigger old growth trees still standing from the beaches up to the hills and mountain.

Possums, other tree climbing marsupials, and snakes roamed the island from end to end along tree tops and along the forest canopy without touching the ground. This might sound like something like a story with drawings from a children’s story book.

No, this really is true about what was then before human habitation, starting with first initial years of settlement of the Island by Chief Sarai and his son Miramira.

In the bushes, brushes and shrubs the hissing flow of pristine creeks was unmistakable for anyone walking or doing gardens or hunting and gathering that wanted to quench their thirst.

Near the ground on the small branches and vines the pingtu always camouflaged itself well but its stationary, slow motion stick dances and sways gave them away.

I used to wonder what they ate and lived on. As for the kids we could wander and walkabout most of the day feeding off the bush on wild fruits, ground tucker and tree nuts like the galip.

Birds sang as they liked, the crickets cranked, the cockatoos blah blah’d at the slightest sight of any human movement below. Other birds shrieked and whistled their unique sounds.

You could never miss the flying hornbill couples by the continuous harmonica like noise produced by the flapping of their wings.

We came to know and realise that the deep-thong gooey sounds of some birds meant it was time to make headway home before the sun set and night fell quickly.

A lot has changed since of course. And not all of it for the better. Along with many of the old growth trees have also gone family members, relatives and friends.

But those of us that are still here still remember them by the trees that still stand, the same bush tracks that we used to walk following each other, and by the familiar sound of birds though they aren’t plentiful and boisterous anymore.

Pokpok Island still supports its inhabitants in increasing numbers. The Islanders are more conscious and have increasing awareness and respect for the environment. There is less and less food gardening in the hills.

Fishing is the mainstay of food for protein as well as being the main reliable income earner.


Picture 3  :Modernization has brought speed and progress but will not take the fun and joy away from using canoes.

To all inhabitants this is their Paradise, a safe and peaceful haven where everyone knows and respects each other.

It is an Island of peace, of peaceful people and is quickly becoming an allure for day visitors and short stayers.

Our traditions in Bougainville are founded more in sharing than in giving and taking. This is the case with most traditional societies in most parts of this planet.

We share the lavish beauty that surrounds us, the food that we grow in family or communal plots, the sunshine we allow everyone to get by sharing open spaces with no boundaries, the beachfront where we swim and play together, and staring into each other’s eyes and faces as a gesture to acknowledge we all have similar differences.


Picture 4  : Sharing village beach with young Australian visiting Marist students.

If you venture to Pokpok Island today you can still soak some of the past but it is a stay that is more about how much time you have to enjoy what is around today.

Accommodation is available at Uruna Bay Retreat that is already catering for the quiet, adventurer short sayer type that want to be left on their own, that prefer swimming, snorkelling, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, bit of surfing and other water sports. Trekking  is included in the mix.

It’s fun. Come and rejuvenate, enjoy, and leave with a clear head, as a kinder soul, and with a mindful heart. It is in places and surroundings like this that you can find peace, stop talking and listen to and understand the language of your heart.

😇 May you enjoy the rest of the remaining days of your life with joy, peace and happiness as you desire.

For more info about or book

Bougainville’s PokPok Island and Uruna Bay Retreat


Bougainville Government purchases 500,000 kina shares in BEIG a Chinese Joint Venture


“I want to encourage the people of Bougainville so that we can all be involved in this task of creating a common thrust to empower the people of Bougainville and liberate ourselves from the syndrome of dependency,”

Momis Urges Unity see Press Release 2 Below

Bougainvilleans are a highly favoured people, due to the Bougainville Crises it is only in Bougainville that we have the unique opportunity to develop a new socio-economic political order and determine our own political future,”

ABG President Grand Chief Dr. John Momis

Pic Caption: ABG President Grand Chief Dr. John Momis receives the share certificate from BIEG Ltd Chairman Jason Fong while the ABG Minister for Economic Development, Fidelis Semoso looks on.

The autonomous arrangement on Bougainville cannot function effectively without an economic revenue stream to sustain it.

The ABG Minister for Economic Development, Fidelis Semoso made the statement during the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s purchase of five hundred thousand shares (K1 per share) in the Bougainville Import and Export General Corporation Limited (BIEG) worth K500, 000.00 last Friday.

“Despite the current economic turmoil in the country the Autonomous Bougainville Government continues to strive to create tangible economic development on Bougainville,” Mr Semoso said.

“The purchase of the shares signifies the ABG’s commitment to give meaning to economic recovery on Bougainville,” Semoso said.

Semoso said that the purchase of the shares did not mean that the government was ignoring local businesses.

“The ABG is committed helping indigenous businesses as shown through our initiative to let locals borrow from the National Development Bank start up or support capital for their businesses,” Semoso said.

Semoso said the K2 million given to NDB to allow locals to loan to support their businesses would be increased next year to allow more stimuli in Bougainville’s economy.

The BIEG is a joint venture between the ABG and a Chinese corporation that is involved in numerous projects in the agriculture and manufacturing sector on Bougainville to create a self-sustaining economic drive in the region.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis also congratulated Minister Semoso and the Department of Economic Development for the initiative in creating more economic opportunities for Bougainvilleans.

“I want to encourage the people of Bougainville so that we can all be involved in this task of creating a common thrust to empower the people of Bougainville and liberate ourselves from the syndrome of dependency,” the President said.

The President also made mention of the current financial dilemma in Bougainville but he said the people showed exuberance in creating their own business ventures with minimal help from the government and that showed a dynamic movement of people.

Over one million shares in BIEG Limited have already been purchased by Bougainvilleans prior to the ABG’s purchase and this number has been steadily growing.

On behalf of the people of Bougainville the ABG shares will be held by the government’s business arm the Bougainville Public Investment Corporation Limited.

Momis Urges Unity

The Autonomous Bougainville Government President, Chief Dr John Momis has made a call for unity to all Bougainvilleans as the region prepares to decide its political future through a referendum.

“Bougainvilleans must unite to implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Referendum peacefully and let it be a process of integrity,” Momis said.

“Bougainvilleans are a highly favoured people, due to the Bougainville Crises it is only in Bougainville that we have the unique opportunity to develop a new socio-economic political order and determine our own political future,” he said.

Momis said that Bougainvilleans must understand that they must be prepared to except the consequences of their decisions come the referendum in a couple of years’ time so it was imperative that the people make informed decisions to determine their future.

“If we mess it up now then we are bound to fail and not realize our aspirations but if we follow through with the Bougainville Peace Agreement and respect the rule of law, promote good governance and except the responsibility of our actions then we will be able to liberate ourselves,” Momis said.

Momis also urged Bougainvilleans to do a self-analysis and embrace their core values that comprised of Christian and cultural principles that would refine Bougainville society and give a strong foundation to the people as they move toward the future.

“Our world view is one that not only ends here but extends to the future and onto the next life and is one that looks toward creating a just society that empowers the people and respects their dignity,” Momis said.

The Referendum to determine Bougainville’s political future has been slated for June 15 2019, though only a working date it is highly practical proposal consensually agreed upon by the ABG and the National Government in the Joint Supervisory Board early this year.

Meanwhile both the ABG and the National Government are at loggerheads over the GoPNG’s continued delay in releasing grants owed to the ABG.

The continued financial chokehold the GoPNG has over Bougainville and recent fiasco surrounding the Bougainville Copper Limited shares has sown the seeds of discontent erupted strong nationalist feelings amongst Bougainvilleans.

Even the multi-million kina road sealing projects on Bougainville have come to a halt with the GoPNG showing no imitativeS to move ahead with the projects which have been tendered and contractors already on site.



Bougainville Education News : Improving literacy in Bougainville, one step at a time



Literacy is very important in the community; teaching people to read and write is vital, because a lot of kids here during the crisis did not go to school and are only just now learning to read and write.”

Aravira’s Head Teacher Herman Parito


“There are strong indications that the benefits of mobile reading like kindles are long-lasting and far-reaching, with the potential to improve literacy, increase education opportunities and change people’s lives for the better.

A revolution in reading is upon us…”

Ex President James Tanis Founder of another local Arawa based project

Bookgainville E Kindles Project see Below


Students  from Aravira Primary School in central Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on their walk to school – which for some, takes up to four hours

From Tom Perry World Bank report

After a two-hour drive from the nearest main road, our 4WD can travel no further; me and my travelling companions will have to trek the rest of our journey to Aravira Primary School in Bougainville on foot. As we set off, a group of students from the school emerge from the bush in front of us. They smile, extend their hands in welcome and immediately offer to take my backpack.

I politely refuse, yet within minutes I regret my decision to turn down help. As we move through the long grass along the mountain ridge, the heat which a few minutes ago was manageable is now unbearable. I’m pouring in sweat. My backpack feels 10 kilograms heavier, and the ground beneath me feels as if I’m stepping onto ice. Ten minutes into our journey, I lose my feet, slip into a crevice, and land face-first in the nearest bush.

As I’m helped back onto my feet by the kids, I ask them how much further we have to go to get to the school. They giggle, then simply start walking again. I discover soon enough that the answer to my question is ‘two and half gruelling hours.’ This is a seriously hard trek, clearly not for the faint of heart.

An hour later, I struggle up the next ridge, hiking boots still soaked from yet another river crossing, and it really hits me; this is their daily walk to school.

Aravira Primary School is located deep in the Bougainville mountains. It’s a remote, picturesque spot, and is home to 120 students from Aravira and Remsi, the two communities located within ‘walking distance’ of the school. Yet given the school is at least four hours’ journey from the nearest town, Chairman Henry Topowa tells me after I arrive that ‘walking distance’ is a relative concept up here.

“Access by road is very difficult. Both communities are quite far from the school, so the students have to walk a fair distance and cross rivers to come each day to school,” Henry explains. “When it rains, we have to send the children home because of the weather, because it’s very risky in certain areas.”

Henry says that for those coming to the school from beyond the two nearest communities, it’s an even bigger challenge.

“A lot of people here, especially the teachers, travel back and forth on foot. It takes between four to five hours by foot. If we travel into town as early as 6am, we usually arrive back in the village around 9pm or even 10 pm.”

Due to this remoteness, my travelling companions and I are the first non-Bougainvillean visitors to the school in over a year. Yet this is not an unusual story across much of the country. An estimated 60% of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas, which in Bougainville means they’re likely living in dense, mountainous jungle or in small villages dotted along the coastline. In these areas, services such as schools and medical clinics are few and far between, a fact further compounded by the island’s ten-year conflict that saw tens of thousands of families living in hiding in the bush for much of the 1990s.

This remoteness and decades of limited opportunity has driven the students and teachers at Aravira – and many schools just like it – to push for better education, including through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project. In addition to training more than 24,000 teachers, the project has seen the establishment of 21,000 classroom libraries filled with around 1.1 million books to schools across PNG.

More than 21,000 classroom libraries similar to this one have been established across Papua New Guinea through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project in an effort to improve literacy in PNG.

More than 21,000 classroom libraries similar to this one have been established across Papua New Guinea through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project in an effort to improve literacy in PNG.

And having made the brutal trek in to Aravira Primary School, I ask School Chairman Henry Topowa about the challenge of delivering hundreds of books to a place so remote. He beams with pride when he recounts the story.

“The road was muddy and slippery. We crossed a river along the way which was flooding. We had to balance ourselves carrying the books over an unsteady wooden bridge at the river,” Henry tells me.

“It was raining and we were scared that the books would get wet, so we cut banana leaves and placed them over the box of books and onto our shoulders. Others placed them in bilums [a woven bag, common across PNG] and carried them on their backs. It was very hard.”

Henry is steadfast in his belief in the power of education on the lives of the students at his school.

“Literacy is very important in the community; teaching people to read and write is vital, because a lot of kids here during the crisis did not go to school and are only just now learning to read and write.”

Aravira’s Head Teacher Herman Parito says that even before the books arrived, the community deeply understood the value of reading, and therefore are all willing to do their part to support it.

“The community here are always willing to help. When I said we needed labor to build classroom libraries, they did it. We brought in the plywood needed to build the mini libraries, and the parents responded.”

He adds that since the READ PNG books came in mid-2015, he’s already seen their impact.

Aravira Primary School Chairman, Henry Topowa says the school was determined to bring READ PNG books to the school, no matter how challenging the journey to bring them in.

Aravira Primary School Chairman, Henry Topowa says the school was determined to bring READ PNG books to the school, no matter how challenging the journey to bring them in.

“We’ve been using the books for two terms now and I’ve seen a big improvement in students reading according to their test results.”

After our chat, Henry and Herman then invite me to a class to see the new books for myself. As I’m introduced to the class, the confusion I expect of seeing a stranger in class is largely absent. I get a few grins and a couple of giggles, but beyond that, most of the students are focused squarely on their books.

Considering the hard work it took to get those books here and into these students’ hands, it’s no surprise that they’re so committed to soaking up every word in those pages.

Improving Literacy in Remote Bougainville  

 For More Info about Bookgainville this local project contact James Tanis , Simon Pentanu , or Contact Theresa Jaintong at the Arawa Womens Centre


Bougainville Tourism News : Communities See Tourism Gold in Derelict Bougainville Mine


Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,”

Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.

Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,

We envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history

Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government

Originally published here

Picture Landowner Lynette Ona, along with local leaders and villagers in the Panguna mine area, look to tourism as a sustainable economic alternative to large-scale mining in post-conflict Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

PANGUNA, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Sep 7 2016 (IPS) – The Panguna copper mine, located in the mountains of Central Bougainville, an autonomous region in the southwest Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea, has been derelict for 27 years since an armed campaign by local landowners forced its shutdown and triggered a decade-long civil war in the late 1980s.


The former Rio Tinto majority-owned extractive venture hit world headlines when the Nasioi became the world’s first indigenous people to compel a major multinational to abandon one of its most valuable investments during a bid to defend their land against environmental destruction.

“That is what we were fighting for: environment, land and culture.” — Lynette Ona

Today, local leaders and entrepreneurs, including former combatants, see the site playing a key role in sustainable development, but not as a functioning mine.

“Our future is very, very dangerous if we reopen the Panguna mine. Because thousands of people died, we are not going to reopen the mine. We must find a new way to build the economy,” Philip Takaung, vice president of the Panguna-based Mekamui Tribal Government, told IPS.

He and many local villagers envisage tourists visiting the enigmatic valley in the heart of the Crown Prince Ranges to stay in eco-lodges and learn of its extraordinary history.

“It is not just the mine site; families could build places to serve traditional local food for visitors. We have to build a special place where visitors can experience our local food and culture,” villager Christine Nobako added. Others spoke of the appeal of the surrounding rainforest-covered peaks to trekkers and bird watchers.

An estimated 20,000 people in Bougainville, or 10 percent of the population, lost their lives during the conflict, known as the ‘Crisis.’ Opposition by local communities to the mine, apparent from the exploration phase in the 1960s, intensified after operations began in 1972 by Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, when they claimed mine tailings were destroying agricultural land and polluting nearby rivers used as sources of freshwater and fish. Hostilities quickly spread in 1989 after the company refused to meet landowners’ demands for compensation and a civil war raged until a ceasefire in 1998.

In the shell of a former mine building, IPS spoke with Takaung and Lynette Ona, local landowner and niece of Francis Ona, the late Bougainville Revolutionary Army leader. A short distance away, the vast six-kilometre-long mine pit is a silent reminder of state-corporate ambition gone wrong.

According to Ona, the remarkable story of how a group of villagers thwarted the power and zeal of a global mining company is a significant chapter in the history of the environmental movement “because that is what we were fighting for; environment, land and culture.” And, as such, she says, makes Panguna a place of considerable world interest.

Front cover-Sam

Bougainville Experience Tours

Zhon Bosco Miriona, managing director of Bougainville Experience Tours, a local tourism company based in the nearby town of Arawa, which caters to about 50-100 international tourists per year, agrees.

“Panguna is one of the historical sites in Bougainville. People go up to Panguna to see for themselves the damage done and want to know more about why the Bougainville Crisis erupted,” he said.


In a recent survey of Panguna communities by Australian non-government organisation, Jubilee Australia, tourism was identified as the second most popular economic alternative to mining after horticulture and animal farming. Although realising the industry’s full potential requires challenges for local entrepreneurs, such as access to finance and skills development, being addressed.

Objection here to the return of mining is related not only to the deep scars of the violent conflict, but also the role it is believed to have had in increasing inequality. For example, of a population of about 150,000 in the 1980s, only 1,300 were employed in the mine’s workforce, while the vast majority of its profits, which peaked at 1.7 billion kina (US$527 million), were claimed by Rio Tinto and the Papua New Guinea government.

Today, post-war reconstruction and human development progress in Bougainville is very slow, while the population has doubled to around 300,000. One third of children are not in school, less than 1 percent of the population have access to electricity and the maternal mortality rate could be as high as 690 per 100,000 live births, estimates the United Nations Development Program.

People want an economy which supports equitable prosperity and long term peace and local experts see unlimited possibilities for tourism on these tropical islands which lie just south of the equator and boast outstanding natural beauty

“In terms of doing eco-tourism, Bougainville has the rawness. There are the forests, the lakes, the sea, the rivers and wetlands,” Lawrence Belleh, Director of Bougainville’s Tourism Office in the capital, Buka, told IPS.

Bougainville was also the site of battles during World War II and many relics from the presence of Australian, New Zealand, American and Japanese forces can be seen along the Numa Numa Trail, a challenging 60-kilometre trek from Bougainville Island’s east to west coasts.

“There are a lot of things that are not told about Bougainville, the historical events which happened during World War II and also the stories which the ex-combatants [during the Crisis] have, which they can tell…..we have a story to tell, we can share with you if you are coming over,” Belleh enthused.

Improving local infrastructure, such as transport and accommodation, and dispelling misperceptions of post-conflict Bougainville are priorities for the tourism office in a bid to increase visitor confidence.

“Many people would perceive Bougainville as an unsafe place to come and visit, but that was some years back. In fact, Bougainville is one of the safest places [for tourists] in Papua New Guinea. The people are very friendly, they will greet you, take you to their homes and show you around,” Belleh said.



Bougainville Communications/ New Technologies PART 2 : Creating awareness on the referendum and development


People can now listen to information on radio by tuning in to Shortwave 1 frequency; 3.325 kilohertz on NBC Bougainville and the shortwave radio signal covers all parts of Bougainville and can be heard as far as East of Hawaii, Germany, Australia and the Pacific,”

“To stimulate public interest and create awareness on the referendum and development in Bougainville we have since June conducted 10 live talk back shows hosted by ABG’s Mobile Community Radio – Radio Ples Lain and relayed over NBC Bougainville and New Dawn,”

ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis

Pic Caption: ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis (seated), with UNDP reps, chiefs and local leaders at the official launching of the upgraded NBC Bougainville studios last week.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government is making headway in developing the media in the region to allow people more access to information.

This move has seen the upgrade of the NBC Bougainville facilities where the ABG committed K5 million to improve the coverage and broadcasting of the radio station.

In opening the facility ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis said this included the procurement of new studio broadcast equipment, renovation to the Hutjena studio, procurement of a brand new fully digital 10 kilowatt shortwave transmitter.

We intend to embark on a region wide awareness campaign working closely with Constituency members, Communality Government, Village Assemblies, Women, Youth and Churches.

Momis added that the Bureau of Public Affairs, Media and Communication has so far produced and air 160 radio programmes since February to August 2016.

These radio programmes have been well appreciated by the people as they gain insight and understanding on what the government is doing at Department and Ministry level.

Another important development is the ABG’s very own Bougainville Bulletin which has progressed well with well over 150,000 copies distributed all over Bougainville since 2015.

President Momis also revealed that the ABG has started developing resource material to support awareness on the Bougainville Peace Agreement and especially Referendum.

The UNDP as per the ABG’s request has supported the government with the procurement of equipment.

The equipment will be utilised to conduct awareness at the community level and includes a new information center based in Buka Town with literary material and a mobile audio visual vehicle convinently named Piksa Ples Lain.


Bougainville Communications News : New technologies to improve Bougainville Government governance and transparency


The Bougainville Peace Agreement is the real basis for us all being here today. It provides us with an exclusive right to self-determination. We can choose and shape our future, a right unique in PNG, and rare internationally. We should celebrate this right.”

President Chief Dr. John Momis Launching the AROB Website


The new system will strengthen accountability and transparency of Bougainville’s Parliament and its representatives, This equipment will help our electorates have more access to what their representatives are saying here on their behalf and will enable them to ask questions. It will help make the parliament more accountable.”

Overall, the support we have received from UN is helping us improve governance and the Parliamentary Service in particular.” 

Speaker of the House of Representatives in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, Simon Pentanu

Picture: Hansard system handover ceremony with Lawrence Bassie, UNDP Programme Coordinator, Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representative Simon Pentanu and Acting Chief Secretary Paul Kebori.

FROM the new Bougainville Government Website

The Bougainville Peace Agreement is a joint creation of the Government of Papua New guinea and Bougainville leaders, signed on 30 August 2001 in Arawa. It was heralded then as world class peace document. The Agreement provides a road map for all parties, based on three pillars: Autonomy, Weapons Disposal and a Referendum on Bougainville’s political status.


The Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) is the outcome of more than 20 agreements signed by Bougainville leaders and the National Government leaders on August 30 2001 to find lasting peace and a political settlement for the people of Bougainville. The BPA calls for Bougainville to have its own constitution and further calls for a Bougainville constitution that recognizes the sovereignty of PNG and the PNG Constitution.

Among the many agreed aspects contained in the BPA, they can be categorised under the three main pillars described as:

  • The agreed Autonomy arrangement for Bougainville;
  • The agreed weapons disposal plan adopted by the Peace Process Consultative Committee following consultation with the ex-combatants; and
  • The agreement to a constitutionally guaranteed referendum on Bougainville’s political future to be held amongst Bougainvilleans in 10-15 years after the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government. When conditions are right with a separate independence as an option and the outcome subject to the final decision-making authority of the National Parliament.


Read more about the three pillars (AutonomyWeapons Disposal & Referendum) and access the key documents associated with the BPA.

New Hansard recording system

New Hansard recording system has been installed at the Bougainville Parliament enabling it to record and transcribe its sessions and proceedings.

The Hansard system is a digital system used to produce transcripts of the Parliament’s debates and sessions, a global practice that ensures accountability and transparency of the Parliaments around the world. It was brought to Bougainville as part of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) support to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

The Hansard system was installed by For The Record, an Australian based company. It is fitted with the most up to date software and is the same one used around the world including in Australia and UK Parliaments.

The system allows for primary and backup recording in both main parliamentary chamber and committee room. All recordings are then automatically replicated to a central archive server of the intranet, from where  all audio playback and log notes can be accessed and reviewed.

Lawrence Bassie, Programme Coordinator of the Peace Building Fund Programme in Bougainville, who handed over the equipment to the Speaker said that this is part of UNDP’s overall support to help build good governance and capacity of the Autonomous Bougainville Government: “The UN is here to support you in line with the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s initiatives and their aspirations for the people of Bougainville.”

Acting Chief Secretary, head of the Bougainville Public Service, Paul Kebori, noted that the Parliament is critical for democracy and the Hansard equipment will ensure “Up-to-date records of Parliamentary proceedings which will also be accessed in the future by the public.”

UNDP’s support is made possible through the UN Peace Building Fund and is aimed at helping the Government of Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Government consolidate peace, enhance community cohesion, good governance and build capacity of various government departments.


Bougainville Tourism News : Takanupe we must conserve for future generations


 “These aren’t just beautiful islands with white beaches surrounded by pristine waters and bountiful reefs. They serve a multitude of existential purposes for man and for the larger purpose and meaning of nature with which we are inexplicably linked and bound.

It must behove us and is incumbent upon us to do our part to care, respect and conserve these fragile islands and marine eco-systems for our generations to come just as our ancestors have done for our generation. This is a covenant that is sacrosanct and timeless that we must be beholden to in a symbiotic world that we share with living nature.”

Simon Pentanu Uruna Bay Retreat – Pok Pok Island Bougainville

An island of the gods, resplendent in its natural beauty at sea, mimicking a miniature land and forest that Moreha (Bougainville ) is, beatified by its beauty, rich in its colours and alluring with everything it displays, from its crab-like shape with its claws harbouring it’s azure deep sky blue kakunibarra (lagoon) and the beach and trees seeming like a longish body of the crustacean seen from above.

There are more than a dozen small uninhabited islands that dot this stretch of east coast along Central Bougainville, like from Vito past Takanupe and its sister island Kurukiki nearby, and past the Zeunes where the planes make their approach to land at one of most picturesque beachside airports at Aropa.

Most of these small islands have their own kakunibarra of some size, shape, depth or other. But Takanupe’s kakunibarra  is the most conspicuous because it is larger in surface area than the land area of the island itself. It is curiously beautiful and alive from the satellite’s view from above.

These kakunibarra teem with all kinds of fishes of the sea. They are respected by fishermen along with their tales that serve the purpose of conservation when you find out what the moral of these stories is.

Myths and folklore about places and about real life stories are passed down to serve a purpose. Many were passed down to protect and conserve the islands, its reefs and its natural but fragile environment.

It used to be you could only get to this and other islands by canoe, get  enough for your needs as a subsistence fisherman and paddle back home.

If you wanted more fish for a feast or ceremony or some other important occasion you stayed overnight or longer and returned home with a canoe-full of smoked fish mixed with some fresh fish caught as you returned home. There isn’t this abundance of fish stock any more, because of the easy and more frequent forays by fishermen and others using motorized boats to get to these islands and their kakunibarra.

It must behove us and is incumbent upon us to do our part to care, respect and conserve these fragile islands and marine eco-systems for our generations to come just as our ancestors have done for our generation.

Bougainville Mining News: Rio Tinto exit from Bougainville and Panguna landowners



Until Rio Tinto announced its decision to exit Bougainville, extensive consultations over the past 6 years helped develop broad consensus amongst Panguna lease landowner communities, the wider Bougainville community, and the ABG on working towards re-opening the Panguna mine, with majority Rio Tinto owned BCL as the mine operator.

Significant new issues now arise because of the way that Rio Tinto has decided to exit Bougainville. This note deals with some key issues arising from:

  • Rio Tinto dividing its 53.8% equity between ABG (36.4%) and PNG (17.4%),
  • the Prime Minister announcing that the 17.4% PNG received from Rio should be transferred to ‘landowners and the people of Bougainville’, but retained by PNG until agreement on how it should be distributed;
  • Rio Tinto deciding it is not responsible in any way for Panguna legacy issues

Value of the Shares in BCL The only way the shares will ever have significant value is if three condition are met:

1) A new and technically qualified developer must agree to participate;

2) That developer must be able to provide the approximately K20 billion needed to re-open the mine;

3) The mine needs to be re-built and operate profitably. Because of the need for the K20 billion investment, the percentages of all existing shareholder will be diluted to very little if the mine re-opens.

In that case, the real value for landowners will not come from those existing shares, but instead from the guarantees in the Bougainville Mining Act for mine lease landowners to share in mine benefits through: free equity; royalties; and preference in employment and business opportunities.

What is Happening with the 17.4% Now Held by PNG? 

Many major uncertainties exist here. In particular:

The NEC decision of 4th August only approved ‘in principle’ transfer ‘to the landowners and the People of Bougainville including the Panguna Mine landowners’. In Parliament on 18 August the Prime Minister is reported (in Post Courier, August 19) to have said that it is ‘up to the landowners, the people and the government to decide on the percentage allocations’. The PNG Government will continue to be ‘custodian’ until ‘landowners, the people and ABG resolve their differences’.

Determining a monetary value for the BCL shares is difficult. It can be measured in various ways. When PNG was considering buying the 53.8% from Rio, it was discussing a price of $100 million. Informal information suggests this was a reasonable valuation. However, Rio’s exit, its divesting of its shares in BCL, the growing uncertainty about ownership of the 17.4%, and the overall reduced certainty about the future of Panguna all makes the BCL shares less valuable.

The main value that exists in BCL involves:

1) money and securities (about K135 million, some of it already committed); 2) Panguna drilling and exploration data ‘translated’ by BCL into a modern mine planning program; 3) the exploration licence over the former Panguna SML area granted under the ABG Mining Act.


What is meant by ‘the landowners’ and ‘the Panguna Landowners’? how shares would be held by landowners (e.g. as individuals, as clan groups, as representative association), and how distribution/allocation between them will be decided.

Suggestions are being made that the 17.4% will be the compensation for legacy issues. Minister Lera has been reported to say the goal is for landowners to become millionaires.But the value of the shares is uncertain, and undoubtedly quite low, and it is very uncertain who the shares might be transferred to or when they might be transferred. Without the mine re-opening, there will be very little if any money from the shares for the landowners.Even more important is the fact that even if the shares are transferred, that will do nothing to meet the huge expense involved in dealing with environmental damage and the impacts experienced by relocated village communities.

Dealing with Environmental Damage and Impacts of Relocated Villages

In the seven weeks since Rio Tinto first advised the ABG of its decision to exit from Bougainville, the ABG has already initiated steps to get action and funding in relation to the terrible problems caused by the mine and by Rio Tinto failing to accept responsibility for the damage done. In particular, we have acted to:

At this stage, the ABG is aiming to see Rio Tinto, and the Australian and PNG Governments commit significant funds to a Trust Fund to meet the costs of action in relation to mine legacy issues.

Bougainville, and the mine-lease landowners, cannot wait to see if a new developer can be found, and the mine actually re-opens. The earliest possible action is needed in relation to issues such as chemical stock-piles, the breaches to the Tailings levy banks and the flooding of neighboring areas, the damage to the Kawerong and Jaba rivers, and the conditions in which relocated village communities live.

Can the 17.4% be a Basis for Compensation for Mine Legacy Issues?

So no one knows what proportion of the 17.4% shares would go where, and how long it would take, under the Prime Minister’s proposals.

  • create international awareness of injustice and breaches of human rights;
  • get high level advice about action taken, in relation to these problems; and
  • obtain legal advice about possible legal action against Rio Tinto.(a) Awareness: (b) High Level Advice:

The ABG has made direct approaches to numerous organisations seeking advice and assistance. They include:

Much more work is needed to create media awareness. But international awareness can also be contributed by other action and contacts.

Getting international community awareness of the issues involved is a first major step towards putting pressure on Rio Tinto.

After we supplied a senior Australian journalist with extensive information on the issues, he interviewed the President and wrote a major article published in the main Sunday newspapers in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra on 21 August. Several stories appeared in The Australian newspaper after the Prime Minister’s announcement about transferring shares to landowners and the people   of Bougainville.

Numerous stories have been broadcast on Radio Australia and Radio NZ International. In July story was broadcast on Australian ABC TV news. The resident ABC journalist is planning a 4 day visit to Bougainville to develop a major television story for Australia. A journalist from The Australian newspaper is also planning a visit to Bougainville.

The United National Environment Program;

  • Human rights and corporate social responsibility monitoring organisations, including:
  • Human Rights Watch;
  • Amnesty International;

International Alert;

  • Shift (a US-based organization that monitors the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights);
  • Some NGOs and consultancy organisations that deal with corporate social responsibility and businesses and human rights;
  • The German-based Catholic Church development organization, Misereor, in relation to business and human rights issues (a focus of that organization).

Initial legal advice has been obtained from Professor James Otto (mining lawyer and mining economist who assisted the ABG develop its mining policy and mining law). A senior officer in Misereor with experience in corporate social responsibility and human rights has this week provided additional contacts with lawyers who work in this field in Germany and the United Kingdom, and these lawyers will be contacted in the coming days. The initial suggestions are that court action should be initiated, and the various options will be evaluated.


It includes dealing direct with groups of ethical investors with a view to persuading them to withdraw investment from Rio Tinto in protest at their treatment of Bougainville. The aim is to make Rio concerned that their share price will fall if they fail to act fairly in relation to Bougainville. Similarly, we have been advised to enter discussions with organisations that maintain indexes of corporate social responsibility and corporate performance in relation to human rights. Reduced ranking in such indexes can also result in share prices dropping.

We are still in the early stages of obtaining advice and sorting through the information and suggestions being received.