Bougainville News : Reflections of turtles and our culture

Simon Turtle

Story by Simon Pentanu Pok Pok Island

When I was a kid growing up we use to see a lot of greenback turtles on the sea  surface around our waters.They would come up to breathe every now and then. Leather back turtles were also around but they were not as numerous. The old people use to say leatherbacks preferred less populated and less travelled sea lanes and preferred to go ashore to bury and hatch their eggs on black beaches. 

Our mode of sea transport was canoe of course. The indomitable motorised Yamaha boats flooded Bougainville very quickly only following the advent of mining on the Island. Anyways, with canoes we could paddle very close to the turtles, as kids we were tempted to jump on them but tales of turtles taking kids into the deep were told to us to discourage us. You could say that this and similar fables served a very practical conservation purpose. 

There are greenback turtles still around but the hunting “grounds” for the big ones are far and away from the Island. These days they are caught mostly for feasts and other special occasions. On the rare occasions when young turtles have been sold alive at the fish market at Mangkaki, I’ve seen expat NGOs and other visiitng folk buy them and walk down to the beach and release them to swim away into their habitat. There is no doubt the message has been clearly understood and you will not see any live turtles being sold amongst the fish. This has not stopped turtle meat being sold though, it has its own deicacy. But it is an achievement that RSPCTF (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Turtles and Fishes) would be proud of. 

The last time I was home just last month I thought a lot about turtles while my daughter and two villagers were on a picnic day out on Tausina Island. I thought then, if there aren’t turtles to see on the day we should imitate some turtle postures, turtle swimming, turtle spins, turtle flaps and getaways. Turtle whatever !! 

So here, in this photo I have turned turtle imitating a turtle float. I am a really huge turtle, a leatherback if you like, afloat and lost to the world. You will notice that I am floating face up with my back down. Turtles float and swim with heads and beaks down and backs up.

 

Bougainville Development News: Chocolate voyage aims to upgrade plantation in Bougainville

photo

A tasty initiative launching on November 6 aims to link New Zealand and the Pacific region of Bougainville through crowdfunded chocolate making.The Wellington Chocolate Voyage kickstarter campaign is run by Wellington chocolate makers Rochelle Harrison and Gabe Davidson and international development worker Sera Price. The Voyage will raise funds to upgrade a cocoa plantation in the Pacific region of Bougainville, improving the farmers’ equipment then buying a crop of rare, high-quality cocoa beans from them at a fair price. Gabe and Rochelle will transport the beans to Wellington themselves on a sailing ship and turn them into a uniquely flavoured artisan ‘Bougainville Bar’ at The Wellington Chocolate Factory.The Bougainville Bar will be gifted to Kickstarter backers and Bougainville cocoa bean farmers – many of whom have never tasted chocolate.‘The Voyage is an adventure for anyone who loves chocolate and wants to see amazing places like Bougainville get a fair deal,’ said Mr Davidson. ‘We built the idea out of passion for great food, ethical business, and extraordinary people. By backing us you get to follow the entire journey from bean to bar. Plus there’s a sailing ship and everyone can get chocolate!’Bougainville, an autonomous region in Papua New Guinea, is familiar to many Kiwis from the book and movie ‘Mr Pip’. New Zealand has a long-standing connection with the region, which experienced a devastating civil war during the 1990s.

‘Bougainville once had fine quality cocoa but the industry suffered, as did the rest of the region, from war and neglect.’ said Ms Harrison. ‘They are rebuilding and we want to help put their cocoa back on the map!’

photo (6)

 

Running the Wellington Chocolate Factory is a dream job for the pair, but it’s also made them keenly aware of the difficulties faced by cocoa farmers worldwide. Through a chance meeting with international development worker Sera Price, they learned of a cocoa-growing legend in need of some support.

‘James Rutana is Bougainville’s Mr Cocoa’, said Ms Price. ‘He’s been growing and developing cocoa beans since 1958, and runs a programme to share his knowledge and planting materials with other farmers in the region. James is an inspirational figure but has faced many setbacks – the Wellington Chocolate Voyage is way for Kiwis to get behind his dreams for Bougainville.’

‘The Voyage is part of the new revolution in artisan chocolate, where mega-industrialised production takes a back seat to skill, care, and people.’ said Mr Davidson. ‘We want everyone to be part of making great chocolate and a better tasting world.’

The Wellington Chocolate Voyage aims to raise $36,000 or more, with backer options starting at $10. It launches on Kickstarter Thursday November 6.
Video preview is available at http://youtu.be/vRRgShmDxEI

Bougainville Communication News: PNG to impose a cybercrime policy and mobile phone regulation

SoMe

 

COMMUNICATIONS Minister and Member for Central Bougainville Jimmy Miringtoro according to expert and technical analysis, will be the first Pacific island member of parliament to impose a cybercrime policy and mobile phone regulation.

With modern day crimes being committed using technology, it remains a threat and a grave concern for Papua New Guinea’s national security.

Republished from PNG LOOP

Speaking to PNG Loop the Minister stated things will be moving forward now for his ministry in technical terms, upgrading of systems and also imposing rules on the use of certain systems, programs and materials.

“Our main aim is to crack down on a lot of scams being done using our social networks such as Facebook and Twitter,’’  Miringtoro said. “It is now time to say no to these crimes that are being committed day to day by professional criminals.”

Miringtoro said his policy was published in both the nation’s daily newspapers and the policy was  clearly aligned with certain acts already in place. Namely the PNG Customs Act and the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) Acts.

“In other countries these laws are already being practised, and people are abiding by it and PNG will be doing the same thing. Some people have been given a lot of freedom technology wise but they are also abusing that freedom which is bad,’’  Miringtoro said.

“For instance China being a communist nation has now banned Facebook. We’re lucky here in PNG that we’re only going to regulate it.”

Most terrorist organisations are recruiting using the internet and cyber thieves are also using the internet in order to steal from other people.

PNG will now be on a technological revolution this time to block and apprehend who ever commits a cyber-crime

– See more at: http://www.pngloop.com/2014/10/27/minister-sets-combat-cyber-crime/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#sthash.mdIqjP0F.dpuf

Bougainville News: Torokina Community have welcomed Operation Render Safe

Delegation Welcomed in Torokina

 

The Torokina Community in South Bougainville have welcomed Operation Render Safe into their area and see it as a positive step toward development.

Apart from reservations raised by ex-combatants and some leaders the Torokina people when welcoming the dignitaries from the representative nations taking part in the operation expressed their gratitude to them.

On hand were the National Member for South Bougainville and Minister for Bougainville Affairs as well as the ABG President Chief Dr John Momis.

President Momis said that the help from the Australian Government as well as the other nations participating in the operation will create a conducive atmosphere for the people and the government to embark on new socio economic development.

Delegation aboard HMSA Choules

“I would also like to thank the leaders and people of Torokina for accepting the development into their communities and to allow this operation to create safer communities in the District.

“With the ABG’s aspirations to create a democratic government which is our primary objective, we also have to provide services for our people, with this being said services are not an easy task,” the President said.

President Momis said that despite the incapacities of Bougainville’s internal revenue the government is still committed to providing basic services to the people of Bougainville/

The President added that Operation Render Safe will pave the way forward for development in the area.

The President’s sentiments were shared by Minister for Bougainville Affairs Steven Pirika who stated that for too long the people of Torokina suffered from the remnants of war left behind by the allied forces.

UK soldier demonstrates to President, High Com Deborah Stokes & Torokina MP Steven Suako

Minister Pirika said that move by the governments of the allied forces to remove the unexploded ordnances in the area is a sure sign of development and partnership between all the stakeholders involved in the operation.

Operation Render Safe is currently underway and involves military personal from Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, New Zealand and police from the Solomon Islands.

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams from the taskforce nations have uncovered over 3000 landmines and bombs from WWII.

The EOD teams will be stationed along in Torokina for the duration of the operation and try to cover as much land area as possible.

 

Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainville Panguna News : President Momis in depth response to controversial Jubilee report

President Momis

 

Members of the Board and Academic Advisory Board 24 October 2014

Dear Board Member,

I refer to my letter of 20th September 2014 expressing concerns about Jubilee Australia’s report, ‘Voices of Bougainville’. Almost five weeks have elapsed, and I’m yet to receive even an acknowledgment of my letter, let alone a considered response.

On the other hand, there have been several public statements made about the report. Some were made by Jubilee CEO, Ms. Brynnie Goodwill, both in advance of, and since, my letter. Others were made only after my letter, by Jubilee Board Chair, Luke Fletcher, and by Kristian Lasslett (an academic who acknowledges overseeing preparation of the report). In this letter I raise grave concerns about misleading statements made in those statements, and raise issues about aspects of the report additional to those raised in my earlier letter.

Jubilee’s Condescending Public Response

See printed version here Jubilee Australia_Board Response to President Momis

I have general concerns about the remarkably condescending nature of the position taken by the Chair of the Jubilee Board, Luke Fletcher, in his comments reported on Radio Australia on 2nd October.

First he claimed that ‘some of the comments on the report may reflect people who perhaps didn’t read it carefully enough, in terms of some of the criticism that have been made’. In the context this appears to refer to my assertion that the report claimed to represent views of ‘mine-affected communities’, and not merely the few people interviewed. I can assure Mr. Fletcher that I have read the report with great care. As he challenges my assertions in regard to what the report claims, I have little choice but to set out clearly for him (and for Mr. Lasslett, who made much the same comment), in the next part of this letter, exactly what the report says as to it representing the views of the mine-affected communities.

Second, Mr. Fletcher said that Jubilee will carefully consider the criticisms of the report. But by also saying that it’s ‘very unlikely’ that the report will be ‘withdrawn’, he made it quite clear that Jubilee had essentially pre-judged the issues involved. To me, it’s like a court announcing publicly before a criminal trial that it will consider the evidence seriously, but it’s ‘very unlikely’ the defendant could be innocent.

Jubilee’s Claim that Report Represent only the Views of those Interviewed

In my letter of 20th September, a key concern was that the report claimed that interviews with 65 people (and a ‘focus group’ of 17 others) represented the views of the 10,000 or more people of the former Panguna mine lease areas. I vigorously disputed that claim.

Fletcher responded by saying: ‘The report stated a number of times it represented only the people in Panguna who were consulted in the study’ (Post Courier, 8/10/2014). Fletcher was ‘echoing’ Lasslett, who said: ‘The report never claims to speak on behalf of Bougainvilleans. It only claims to have presented the views relayed by 65 interviewees’ (see his response to a critique by Dr. Don Mitchell: http://ramumine.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/momis-makes-a-predictable-attack-on-voices-of-bougainville-report/).

It’s true that at some points the report does state that it records views expressed by interviewees (mainly in sections dealing with ‘research findings’ derived from interviews).

But in fact the report makes far grander claims. Significantly, such claims appear mainly in sections discussing research goals (under the heading ‘Addressing Gaps in Knowledge’) and conclusions. Frequent and explicit statements are made that the report represents views of the people of the ‘mine-affected areas’, or ‘mine-affected communities’, or ‘stakeholders … affected by the Panguna mine’.

Given the limited understanding that those involved in overseeing preparation of the report evidently have about many aspects of contemporary Bougainville, it may assist the Board if I explain what the term ‘mine-affected areas’ means in Bougainville. It covers a swathe of land areas once covered by mining tenements held by BCL (though recently done away with by the ABG Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act), or land leases associated with the Panguna mine. These include:

 The three main former ‘leases for mining purposes’, namely:

o the Loloho lease, used for port facilities, power station and a recreation area;

o the Port-Mine-Access Road lease; and

o the Tailings lease, and

 the former Special Mining Lease; and

 the Siokate Lease, involving Arawa Village land used for part of Arawa Town.

The term also includes large areas adjacent to those former leases that were also affected by mine. These include an extended area south and north of the main leases on the western side of the mountains, where landowners received compensation from BCL for loss of fish in creeks and rivers that feed into the Kawerong and Jaba rivers.

The people of all of these areas are represented by the nine landowner associations mentioned in the Jubilee Report (p.6). It is estimated that well over 10,000 people live in the areas covered by the former BCL tenements and the Siokate lease, and several thousand more live in the area where many once received fish compensation, and now covered by the Bolave Fish Owners Association (one of the nine landowner associations).

Under the heading ‘Addressing Gaps in Knowledge’, the report talks of ‘this study’s systematic attempt to record the views of those living in the mine affected areas’ (emphasis added). It goes on to say that ‘this study was undertaken in order to empirically gauge the feelings of the mine-affected communities towards current plans to reopen the mine’ (emphasis added). The report states that important questions associated with that major goal include examining: ‘To what extent have communities been adequately engaged with, and consulted’ and whether ‘they’ (i.e. ‘communities’) ‘want the mine to reopen’ and so on (p.17). Very clearly, the report aims to draw conclusions from the research as to what ‘mine-affected communities’ (not just those interviewed) believe about the future of mining.

Similarly, in the ‘Appendix: Research Methodology’, under the heading ‘Aims and Objectives’, the report discusses research aims as recording ‘perceptions’, ‘experiences’, and ‘understandings’ of the ‘community’ and of ‘mine-affected communities’ (p.48).

At page 46, under the heading ‘Conclusion’, the report states that it is presenting ‘a number of preliminary observations about the views of the mine-affected communities’ (emphasis added):

 ‘First, and most importantly, the stakeholders who have been most affected by the Panguna mine and subsequent conflict, are at present staunchly opposed to any discussion of the mine’s reopening’ (emphasis added);

 In relation to the second observation, that ‘people we spoke to were deeply critical of the mine consultation process’, the report draws a conclusion that ‘any attempt to reopen the mine in the present environment would almost certainly be received by most in the landowning community as illegitimate’ (emphasis added);

 The third observation is that ‘the people of Panguna have developed a sophisticated understanding of the actors involved in the conflict’, an observation which while expressed to be based on the views of ‘the people who have been consulted in this study’ is clearly stated to be a conclusion applying far beyond just those people (emphasis added);

 The fourth observation concerns the view of ‘those who participated in this study’ on the need to consider alternatives to industrial scale mining. But the report goes on to say: ‘These are the deeply held views of large sections of the mine-affected communities, and cannot be simply dismissed as an outside agenda, or as materially infeasible’. The report then takes a stronger stance on the extent to which such views are held, stating that ‘the mine-affected communities would like to see a modality of development take place that they control … (emphasis added).

In a sub-section of the Conclusion headed ‘Connecting the Past and the Future’, after several paragraphs that do refer to the views of the people spoken to, the report says: ‘The people of Panguna clearly say that, unlike in the past, they would like a say in how they control natural resources of the land in which they live’, which ‘would appear to preclude the sort of industrial scale operations that the ABG appears to have in mind… (emphasis added) (p.46).

There seems little doubt as to what Jubilee believed, at least initially, as to the views of those interviewed in fact representing the views of many others. Jubilee chief executive, Ms. Brynnie Goodwill, is reported as having said in a discussion of the report and its findings on Radio New Zealand on 17 September, before any public criticism had been made of the report:

 ‘Currently there is near unanimity among the Pangunans that they do not want mining in their region’ (‘Pangunan’ is not a term used in Bougainville);

 ’I think that what has been loudly said by the Panguna communities is that other opportunities need to be explored …;

 ‘So I think what the Pangunan communities are saying is that many more issues need to be addressed first and foremost…,

(emphasis added).

Not only does the report reach conclusions about what ‘mine-affected communities’ want, but it records conclusions about what the relevant views of those communities ‘preclude’, in terms of ABG policy!

I was undoubtedly the most outspoken critic of the report prior to 2nd October, when Mr. Fletcher made comments on Radio Australia on 2nd October concerning criticisms made of the report. As noted already, responses from both Fletcher and Lasslett attacked assertions that the report claims to represent mine-affected communities. In the context, I must assume that Fletcher’s remarks about critics not having read the report ‘carefully enough’ were at least in part directed at me.

In circumstances where the aims and concluding sections of the report are so clearly expressed as broadly representative, I am compelled to seek an explanation for his response, which is not only condescending, but also false. Of course, I do not suggest Mr. Fletcher or Mr. Lasslett have been deliberately dishonest in their responses on this issue. Is it they, perhaps, that have not read their report carefully enough? If not, what other explanation could there be?

Representation of Voices not Heard

The report makes much of the claim that it ‘endeavours to relay voices from mine-affected communities in Bougainville, voices that have been distant from recent public discussions surrounding the mine’ (p.5). Ms. Goodwill is quoted as saying the report was intended to ‘support the airing of voices of mine-affected communities …and to ensure those voices could become part of a broader discussion and debate.’ (Helen Davidson, Guardian Australia, 1st October 2014).

Not only does Jubilee imply that it is breaking remarkable new ground by revealing opposition to mining, but there is also a strong implication that such voices have been excluded from debates on the subject. There is absolutely no basis for such views.

It is absolutely no surprise that there Bougainvilleans, especially in the mine-affected areas, that oppose resumption of mining at Panguna. Their views are well-known, well-understood, well-respected, and accepted. Those who support resumption of mining are not trying to suppress such views, for invariably they too have deep concerns about, and make strong criticisms of, mining, especially (though not only) in relation to the way it was conducted at Panguna from the late 1960s.

There is no exclusion, however, of anti-mining views from debate on the future of mining in Bougainville. If you or your researchers had engaged with the ABG or the executives of the landowner associations, you could have heard much more about the role of such voices in the ongoing debates. At the various public forums on the future of mining, vigorous debate has always included voices strongly opposed to mining. Such voices have been welcomed, and listened to with care.

For example, at the two day Women’s Forum on the future of mining, held in Buka in March this year, over 200 women attended. They were selected not by the ABG, but rather by a wide range of women’s organisations. After a day of general discussion, involving a multiplicity of voices, some strongly opposed to mining, they broke into their district groupings to discuss their views. In the report-back session at the end of the second day, of the 13 district groups all but one reported support for resumption of mining at Panguna, subject to strict conditions. Panguna district was amongst those in support. The exception (where mining was opposed) was Kunua District, on the north-west coast. No pressure was applied to any individual or group to support or to oppose resumption of mining.

Again, it’s not surprising that there are some Bougainvilleans who hold negative views of the consultation processes conducted by the ABG and landowner associations. Part of the problem concerns access difficulties arising from such things as scattered settlement patterns, limited transport, limits on access to some mine-affected communities resulting from the armed Me’ekamui roadblock at the Morgan Junction, and the limited financial resources available under the ABG budget. But to suggest that those few views about the consultation processes are representative of ‘most in the landowning community’ (Report, p.47) is deeply misleading.

The ABG is a government committed to consultation and to listening. We are not squashing any voice. We welcome the contributions of those who oppose mining. The strong opposite implication in your report is unjustified and unfair.

Fear and Trepidation on the Part of Interviewees

Mr. Fletcher is reported as saying that Jubilee’s decision not to talk to the ABG or Landowner associations ‘was deliberate’. As there was no communication of any kind with us at any point from initial planning through to public release of the report, he clearly believes that to communicate with us in any way at all and at any stage may have made it difficult for landowners ‘to feel comfortable’. It seems that the only option for Jubilee was total secrecy! Accordingly, Fletcher says, it was ‘a deliberate strategy to try and come in as independent and not be perceived and to be part any particular agenda’. This approach, he says, was demonstrated to be needed because some people ‘wouldn’t have spoken to us if we were allied with these groups’ (Radio Australia interview, 2 October 2014).

The clear implication here goes beyond suggesting that opponents of mining are excluded from debate. The suggestion is that they must also live in in fear of the ABG or the landowner associations should they express views contrary to mining. That is simply not the case. In all the extensive public consultation about mining conducted by the ABG and landowner associations, all voices are encouraged and supported to speak out. Read the daily newspapers, listen to the two main radio services, look at social media (such as the Facebook Bougainville Forum), and you will find many contributions to the debate on the future of mining coming from opponents to mining. These contributors freely provide their names, clearly not feeling any fear of retribution for their actions. There is absolutely no sense of this reality portrayed in the report, with its suggestions of the need for secrecy.

Given the limited contact that some people in parts of the Panguna area have with the outside world, it’s no surprise that some might express concern about researchers not being independent. But being in communication with the ABG is not the same as being allied to it. Surely independence can be demonstrated by means other than having no communication of any kind, or at any time, with the ABG or the landowner associations? Many other researchers work in Bougainville, and remain independent, whilst at the same time maintaining communication with us. At the very least, Jubilee could have been in contact with the ABG after the interviews had been done. 6

The ABG and the landowner associations are significant stakeholders, and as such at the very least a draft of the report could have been provided to us. We may even have assisted you with information that reduced the factual errors and significant mis-representations that litter the report.

Frankly, the most likely explanation of your failure to have any contact with the ABG and the landowners associations seems to be completely unfounded assumptions made by those involved in overseeing development of the report about voices opposed to mining being excluded or suppressed by the ABG.

Research Methodology

In addition to the critique of the methodology used in the research that I made in my earlier letter, I note that providing key stakeholders an opportunity to comment on a draft report before it is released is usually part of appropriate and robust research methodology. Jubilee’s failure to follow this quite standard approach is yet another grave weakness in methodology.

Second, I request Jubilee to consider the critiques of Jubilee’s research methodology made by Dr. Don Mitchell (above) and also by Joanne Wallis on the Dev Policy Blog on 3rd October (http://devpolicy.org/the-dangers-of-development-ngos-sacrificing-accuracy-for-advocacy-20141003/).

I emphasise again my deep concern that the actual interview questions asked of the interviewees have not been provided as part of the report. Dr. Mitchell quite rightly said: ‘I’m sure I could go back to Nagovisi …and create a series of questions to get pretty much any response I wanted to. Anybody could …It’s not difficult; it has to do with the nature of the questions and the way that they’re asked, as well as of whom they are asked. It’s basic research design, and research reports that do not divulge the questions cannot be taken seriously’.

In that connection, I draw your attention to issues about the broad ‘research questions’ which were the focus of the research (see p.17 and p.50). Were the interview questions asked in the same order as those broader research questions (listed on p.50)? If so, that involved taking interviewees through discussion of first, their concerns about and/or experience of the mine and the conflict, and only then asking their views on re-opening of the mine. As I presume you are aware, the ordering of the subjects discussed could alone have a significant impact on answers about re-opening the mine. (As Dr. Mitchell says of interview questions, ‘the way that they’re asked is critically important’.) Anyone conducting even a basis public opinion survey is well aware of the need to avoid such problems.

The report states that there was ‘a list of questions and main topics for the interviewers to draw on and use as guides to orient the interviews’ (p.49).

If this report is to have any credibility, it is essential not only that the list of questions asked, but also the order in which they were asked, be revealed.

Who Did the Research?

Dr. Mitchell also asked: ’Who did the data analysis? Were any of the fieldworkers social scientists?’. When Lasslett defended what had been done, Mitchell commented further: ‘I didn’t see the names and credentials of the researchers. I think that is important. Can you tell me why that is? Field research isn’t something just anybody can do, or, putting it another way, even a first rate researcher’s skill set might not be appropriate to a particular research setting. I’d like to know whether the two researchers were social scientists, whether they had advanced training ..’. I concur with Dr. Mitchell.

Similarly, in answering criticism of the Report, Mr. Fletcher states that even though Jubilee will look at comments made, it ‘is very unlikely’ that the Report will be withdrawn. He advances what he calls a ‘particular reason’ for that view: ‘…that the people who were involved in this report are all very highly qualified academics and all the questions that are being raised about the report are questions we had with ourselves and very deeply before we released it’. Lasslett ‘echoes’ Fletcher in his response to Don Mitchell.

These points do not advance Jubilee’s cause. The claim that ‘highly qualified academics’ were involved means little when their names are not provided. Moreover, as Mitchell notes, even the best researchers may not be well qualified for particular tasks. Please advise us who they were.

Finally, the argument advanced by both Fletcher and Lasslett that those involved in the research asked themselves questions similar to the criticisms now being made in no way answers the criticisms. If those questions were in fact asked by Jubilee, then it seems clear that its answers were, at best, somewhat flawed.

Jubilee’s Collaborators

In my earlier letter I commented upon Jubilee having collaborated in this research with organisations ‘vehemently opposed to large-scale mining and to the ABG’s mining policy’ (namely Bismarck Ramu Group – BRG – and International State Crime Initiative – ISCI). Mr. Fletcher responds by saying that Jubilee has ‘found them to be thoroughly professional’ (PNG Post Courier, 8/10/2014).

Perhaps Mr. Fletcher has not had the opportunity to examine the remarkable range of utterly unsubstantiated, deeply unfair and unbalanced, and often quite inflammatory and divisive attacks on the ABG, on me, and on advisers to the ABG, made on the BRG Blog, PNG Mine Watch. These attacks are part of a concerted campaign mounted against the ABG since about February 2013, in relation to its efforts to develop an appropriate mining policy for Bougainville. Significantly, most attacks on the Blog are anonymous.

Should Jubilee Board members not be familiar with it, the link to Bougainville material on the PNG Mine Watch Blog is https://ramumine.wordpress.com/tag/bougainville/.

Perhaps Mr. Fletcher is also unaware of the wide range of contributions by Lasslett on various forms of social media, again since early 2013. Lasslett is apparently well-intentioned, He is articulate, writes well, and is able to debate issues well. He often puts well-reasoned positions, and can make positive contributions to debates. But he is cocooned in a particular view of Bougainville’s history, one he shares with a small group of others, and which shapes all his views on Bougainville.

He is focused on what he sees as not only the single worst set of wrongs that has occurred in Bougainville – namely actions of Rio Tinto/BCL in the 1988-1990 period – but also the imperative to hold Rio Tinto/BCL to account for such wrongs. In his view, Rio Tinto/BCL can have no place in contemporary Bougainville without first being held to account. Should we Bougainvilleans (or the government Bougainvilleans elected to represent them) foolishly decide otherwise, he would seek to save us from our misguided course.

Yet his is at best a highly contested view not only of our complex history (despite his claims to the contrary), but also of the way the difficult and complex problems and issues we face should be dealt with. But it is clearly very much his particular analysis that informs the ‘historical’ account in the Jubilee report, at pp.7 to 16.

Contributions by Lasslett to ongoing debates can be found on the PNG Mine Watch Blog (above), the PNG Exposed Blog (http://pngexposed.wordpress.com/tag/bougainville/) Bougainville Forum, (https://www.facebook.com/index.php#!/groups/bougainvilleforum/), the ‘closed’ Facebook group, Mind, Body and Spirit Bougainville (see https://www.facebook.com/groups/mbsbougainville/).

While his ability to understand contemporary Bougainville is severely restricted by the position he takes on Rio Tinto/BCL, Lasslett often presents his position reasonably. There are, however, a few instances where he too makes unsubstantiated and false allegations. One example involves those made in an April 2013 article rejected by Crikey, after the editor was advised that a number of false allegations against ABG advisers made in the article were defamatory. Much the same allegations had been made to SBS television a few days earlier, but the story was not taken up when the lack of factual basis was explained to SBS. A version of the article rejected by Crikey, with a few of the most baseless allegations modified, was published a few days later by New Matilda (though it still made baseless allegations against ABG advisers (see https://newmatilda.com/2013/04/23/ausaid-fuels-bougainville-mining-tensions). Unlike Crikey, the New Matilda editor at the time failed to provide any pre-publication opportunity to refute the allegations made. It’s interesting that remarkably similar allegations are amongst those regularly made in the anonymous attacks on the ABG in the PNG Mine Watch and PNG Exposed Blogs.

Perhaps the most serious issue here is not so much the ongoing grossly unfair campaign against the ABG, but more that those involved (Lasslett, BRG, the moderators of PNG Mine Watch Blog, the anonymous author(s) of the attacks on the Blog, etc.) have never put any of their allegations to me, the ABG or the advisers that they are attacking. They never check the facts, which seem to be phenomena irrelevant to their purpose.

Let me be clear: there has been absolutely no contact with me, the ABG, nor the relevant ABG advisers by not only Lasslett, but also the anonymous attackers on the BRG website, and those administering the BRG Blog. Is this really the track record of ‘professional organisations’?

A Skewed Historical Account

The historical account advanced in the report, pp.8-16, is highly selective and unbalanced, and in parts quite incorrect, often reflecting the BRG and Lasslett view of Bougainville. Amongst many problems in that account, I mention just a few.

The claim is made that the New Panguna Landowner Association executive elected in 1987 ‘opposed the mine’ (p.9), and that the BRA demanded ‘the mine’s permanent closure’ (p.10), and that any view to the contrary – such as those advanced by me in a 2010 speech ‘contradict the archival material on Ona’s position with respect to the mine’ (p.14). As a person who attended the 1987 meeting where the new executive was elected, who remained in communication with the new executive for a considerable period thereafter, and who personally discussed with Francis Ona his views about the future of the mine as late as June 1997, I assure you from my personal knowledge that the report’s assertions on this issue are quite wrong. If Lasslett had ever troubled to interview me, I could have provided him with personal, as opposed to archival, evidence about Ona’s views, and advised him of the names of key ‘founders’ of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and others, whom I am confident would substantiate my views in this regard.

The claims on pages 10 to 11 concerning BCL’s roles in the early period of the conflict are a muted version of claims Lasslett advances elsewhere. I can state from my personal knowledge as a Cabinet minister at the time, that in many respects his view of what happened is quite unbalanced. To give just one example, the report talks of BCL’s request for police mobile squad units being made on 26 November (p.9), failing to mention that the North Solons Provincial Government also made that request, and that the National Government strongly supported the request, and had its own strong reasons for doing so. Neither government was in any way bowing to pressure from BCL.

There are many other factual errors in the relevant pages, as well as in other parts of the report. Some of the major ones are mentioned elsewhere in this letter. But there are many more.

Using the Historical Account to Substantiate Baseless ‘Research Findings’

Perhaps the greater concern about the skewed historical account is what is perhaps best described as a ‘sly’ approach to using it to provide some substance to otherwise baseless allegations attributed to interviewees in the latter part of the report.

For example, it’s reported that the ‘majority of interviewees (49 out of 53) expressed dissatisfaction with what they saw as the illegitimate role of Australia (though AusAID) in the peacebuilding and consultation processes … There was strong disapproval of the perceived interference of the Austrian Government or AusAID in both the past and present of Bougainville’ (p.37). No indication is provided in the report’s discussion of what interviewees said constituted the ‘illegitimate role’ or the ‘perceived interference’. In the absence of such material, the reader would expect to look to the earlier historical account. And there it is, in the discussion of ‘The Consultation Process’ (about the future of mining): ‘The Australian government has assisted UPMALA and the ABG through the provision of advisors, paid for out of Australia’s foreign aid budget, for the development of a new mining bill, and in the process of community consultations surrounding the mine’ (p.16).

Of course, this fits so neatly with the endless allegations about the role of Australia and of Australian advisers in Bougainville advanced by Lasslett and the anonymous contributors to the Mine Watch Blog that it seems most unlikely that there is no connection here. To my mind, this reflects bias.

Yet the notion that provision of advisers, in accordance with ABG requests, is in fact ‘illegitimate’ or constitutes ‘interference’, must be challenged. There is a deep paternalism – even racism – involved. It is clear that those who constantly advance such views assume that Australian funded advisers necessarily act only in the interests of Australia, and are somehow (in a manner never defined) readily able to bend the ABG to their wills. That advisers could be provided without being controlled by or answerable to Australia, or that they could be professional and independent, and might act only in accordance with ABG direction, is clearly inconceivable to Lasslett and the BRG. Lasslett, also exhibits a ‘holier than thou’ attitude in his criticisms of advisers, regularly reporting how much he is opposed to those in the pay of foreign, working as consultants, all of whom are tainted in his purist view of the world. It is his particular, somewhat warped, and certainly biased, view of Bougainville that has clearly influenced the content of the Jubilee report.

Inaccuracies Advanced as ‘Research Findings’, Without Qualification

Many positions on issues claimed in the report as advanced by interviewees are grossly inaccurate. The report advances them without qualification, implying that they are in fact accurate. The result is presentation of a seriously flawed picture. Moreover, the material derived from interviews is presented under the general heading of ‘Research Findings’, a term that seems intended to convey substance in what is discussed.

In the interests of shortening this letter, I’ll provide examples from just the first three pages of the 25 pages of ‘Research Findings’ (pp.20-45). However, similar problems exist with many of the following pages:

 Apparently summarising views expressed in interviews, the report claims that (at the time the Panguna mine was being established) ‘the introduction of ‘land titles’ and individual male ‘land title owners’ who later formed the old landowners association (PLA), was denounced by some interviewees’ (p.20). That is a profoundly inaccurate picture of what in fact occurred. From 1969 to 1974, the Land Titles Commission (LTC) held public hearings in relation to each piece of customary land within mine related tenements or leases. This exercise did not involve ‘introduction of land titles’. Rather, the LTC files for the period show clearly that, on the basis of the evidence presented at each public hearing, the LTC determined: the boundaries of the piece of land in question; which clan lineage, descended from a named ancestor, owned that land; and the member of the lineage who should be recognised as the ‘customary head’ of the lineage (for the purposes of receiving and distributing rents, compensation and royalties, payable in respect of the land). ‘Customary heads’ were not all males – many were females. As males are members, together with their mothers, aunts and sisters (and sister’s children), of matrilineal clan lineages, it was often in order for a male to be recorded as ‘customary head’. At some point, and for reasons that are not yet clear, the term ‘title holder’ became used instead of ‘customary head’. While use of the former term may have contributed to some confusion about ‘titles’, it introduction of land titles was not involved.

 An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘Another big issue was to do with the title holders …our leaders gave the land to their children while it should have been given to the women’ (p.20). This too is incorrect. LTC files show that when a ‘customary head’ died (something that occurred as early as 1970 in relation to a few pieces of land previously dealt with in early LTC hearings), fresh LTC hearings were held, and a new ‘customary head’ was appointed. In a few instances, a child of a deceased ‘customary head’ (and so not a member of the deceased person’s clan) was designated as the new ‘customary head’. But this occurred only where the LTC had received satisfactory evidence that the appropriate customary arrangements had been made between the clan lineages concerned, before the death of the ‘customary head’ – for example, kirinula in the case of Nasioi landowning clan lineages.

 An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘There was this problem with BCL using other people to sign on behalf of the true landowners’ (p.20). In fact, BCL played no role in the processes for determining boundaries, ownership and ‘customary heads’ of land. That was all handled by the colonial administration (to 1975), mainly through the LTC and the kiaps. BCL was required, by law, to make payments to those identified by the LTC as ‘customary heads’. It is true that there were disputes about whether a few of the ‘customary heads’ were really entitled to be designated as such, but such problems were not the fault of BCL.

 Experience of the period of mine operation was ‘a negative one’, with only one respondent suggesting any positives (p.21). Many in the mine-affected communities are clear that while there were many major negatives for many there were also at least as few important positives, many mentioning BCL’s training.

 An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘Only those who had landowner titles were getting benefits’ (p.22). That is completely incorrect. ‘Customary heads’ recognised by the LTC were expected to distribute rents, compensation and royalties to members of the lineage. In the absence of not only genealogies (or social mapping), but also clear customary principles for distribution of money from such sources, problems did occur in some cases. But in many cases, ‘customary heads’ were regarded by clan lineage members as doing a good job.

Clearly, no attempt was made by those overseeing preparation of the report to sift inaccurate opinions from ones based on fact.

A partial explanation for the presence of such inaccuracy may be provided in footnote 104 (p.20). It states that interviewees ‘were specifically asked to talk about their ancestors’ general living conditions during the mine’, and that those interviewees not born at the time in question ‘answered these questions based on personal knowledge of what they had heard from other community and family members’. Because views of such younger interviewees ‘cohered with what other, older participants …recalled’, the report records that the analysis does not separate answers of youth from those of adults and elders.

This explanation suggests, however, little interest in accuracy. Interviewees have been ‘specifically asked’ to talk of things of which they have no personal knowledge. The fact that those views ‘cohere’ with views of older people does not improve accuracy.

The real concern is that this lack of accuracy is not acknowledged in any way in the report. Perhaps those involved might seek to justify such inaccuracy on the basis that the report merely records views. But when those views are advanced as representing the views of the ‘mine-affected community’, then advancing them without qualification carries significant implications.

The reasons for failure to qualify inaccuracies need to be considered. For example, reasons could include poor knowledge of the subject matter by those overseeing production of the report, or perhaps bias on their part or that of the researchers (a not unreasonable conclusion given the significant evidence of bias already discussed). Perhaps those involved might be able to suggest some other explanation.

In conclusion

It troubles me that, beyond a very narrow spectrum of issues, filtered through a particular view of what happened in 1988-90, Jubilee and its collaborators appear to have such little understanding of, or interest in, the complexity and difficulty of the current situation we face in post-conflict Bougainville. Yes, the concerns and fears of the interviewees presented in the report are present amongst Bougainvilleans, and yes, there are a few for whom such views are dominant. But most of us hold far more complex and nuanced views that we bring to bear in trying to weigh the still rather limited options that face us as we try to find a sustainable road to development, to highest autonomy, and possibly to independence.

In the fragile situation we are dealing with, advancing the views recorded in this report as truly representing the views of Bougainville’s ‘mine-affected communities’ – as this report does – is misleading, divisive and destructive.

I can only repeat what I said in concluding my earlier letter: The Jubilee Report is deeply flawed. Jubilee Australia’s Board bears responsibility for allowing such a misleading and irresponsible document to be released, and for limiting and redressing the damage it can cause.

In addition, however, I call on Jubilee to withdraw this defective document.

Yours sincerely,

Chief Dr. John L. Momis

President

Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Contact: Anthony Kaybing

Media Director

Dept. of President & BEC

Email: anthony.kaybing@gmail.com

Phone: +675-70259926

Bougainville Tourism News: New Aropa airport to boost Bougainville Tourism to the world

Aropa

The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister ,Peter O’Neill,  will open the Arupa international airport in Bougainville in December.

Regional events and protocol officer of Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), Joe Maineke confirmed this to the Solomon Star last Friday at Madang airport.

See Solomon Star report here October 22

He said the establishment of the airport will boost the tourism industry in Bougainville particularly, access flights to Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

It would create employment opportunities, improve standard of living and boost the national economy.

Maineke said once the airport is open there will be a connection flights for PNG, Solomon Islands and Australia.

“Our government has redirect its economic focus to tourism for locals to engage in,  because of mining industry continues to deplete”

“Potential tourism sites in Bougainville are the war relics and their cultural dances and traditions. Our tourism division is working in partnership with our government to build the tourism hub at Buin.

“Increasing of tourists and international visitors coming to the Island is a clear manifestation for us to improve our infrastructure development in the years to come.

“The airport is a major infrastructure achievement of ABG with its people to propel developments in Bougainville.”

Aropa 2

 

Maineke confirmed that a Solomon Islands government delegation will also be part of the opening.

Picture below Bougainville Experience Tours blue team Zhon Bosco, Colin Cowell, Simon Pentanu and James Tanis in Port Moresby recently promoting tourism to international tour operators: www.bougtours.com

 

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Bougainville News: Ex Arawa students support development projects for the high school

 

ex-arawa fundraiser

After a lot of voluntary and part-time preparations in the course of the year by some committed former students, the ex-Arawa High School reunion was hosted on Saturday night 25 October at Dynasty Restaurant, Vision City in Port Moresby.

It was a commendable effort by the Ex-Arawa High School Reunion Inc. through its students organizing committee. As this was the first attempt the committee should be pleased with the numbers that turned up and with the pledges for support for development projects for the school, now upgraded to Arawa Secondary High School.

Photo and text Secretary of the PBA Simon Pentanu

The old Arawa High School was not spared the torching and arson that decimated much of Arawa town which was one of the most modern towns in the country at the time. It is admirable that many of its former students want to give something back to the school as a way of saying thank you to the school and the teachers that prepared them for a life and future outside the classrooms.

In his opening remarks the Chairman of the organizing committee Mr Gordon Kevon spelled out that the primary objective of this inaugural reunion and for any future get-togethers and fund raising events is to raise funds for four projects that are the initiative of ex- students, to start with.

These are: 1) provide a 35kva generator set; 2) add a multi-purpose school hall; 3) additional teacher’s housing; 4) a new school administration block; 5) a computer room with proper attendant facilities.

Speaking at the Re-union, the President of the Port Moresby Bougainville Association Mr Paul Nerau said the objectives announced at the reunion and fund raising event may sound adventurous but the Committee and the ex-students have the right attitude.

Mr Nerau said nothing is impossible if we get our mind to things we want to achieve. The efforts starting at the first reunion are commendable. He encouraged all ex-students as well as others to contribute to a much greater cause which is the education for our future generation of Bougainvilleans. “What the former students of Arawa High School have done culminating in this successful event tonight should encouragement for ex-students of other high schools in Bougainville” said Mr Nerau.

For the record a list of corporate sponsors will be published to acknowledge and thank these sponsors for their generous support towards hosting the first reunion. Details of how and where future contributions can be made will also be published for the information of any ex-Arawa student anywhere in the country or overseas.

Speaking after the event the President, Mr Nerau and the Secretary of the PBA Simon Pentanu said the Association will cooperate in working with Ex-Arawa High Reunion towards its endeavors commenced at the reunion in Port Moresby.

The nature of most of this assistance will be to play a part in maintaining connectivity and interest with the major drives and initiative coming from the ex-students.

The Re-union organizing committee of Gordon Kevon (Chairman), John Becks (Deputy Chairman), and Committee members William Tondopan and John Lahis and deserve thanks and congratulations for the efforts and the fact that the Re-union has commenced and is a reality after 24 years.

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If you would like to donate e reader kindles to Arawa High School

Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

 

 

Bougainville News: Promoting literacy with mobile phones in rural Papua New Guinea

Bougainville should be promoting literacy with mobile phones ?

hey, my ears are ringing -- might that be the Ministry of Education calling with today's lesson?
hey, my ears are ringing —
might that be the Ministry of Education
calling with today’s lesson?

Last year I spent some time in Papua New Guinea (or PNG, as it is often called), where the World Bank is supporting a number of development projects, and has activities in both the ICT and education sectors. For reasons historical (PNG became an independent nation only in 1975, breaking off from Australia), economic (Australia’s is by far PNG’s largest export market) and geographical (the PNG capital, Port Moresby, lies about 500 miles from Cairns, across the Coral Sea), Australia provides a large amount of support to the education sector in Papua New Guinea, and I was particularly interested in learning lessons from the experiences of AusAid, the (now former) Australian donor agency.

For those who haven’t been there: PNG is a truly fascinating place. It is technically a middle income country because of its great mineral wealth but, according to the Australian government, “Despite positive economic growth rates in recent years, PNG’s social indicators are among the worst in the Asia Pacific. Approximately 85 per cent of PNG’s mainly rural population is poor and an estimated 18 per cent of people are extremely poor. Many lack access to basic services or transport. Poverty, unemployment and poor governance contribute to serious law and order problems.”

Among other things, PNG faces vexing (and in some instances, rather unique) circumstances related to remoteness (overland travel is often difficult and communities can be very isolated from each other as a result; air travel is often the only way to get form one place to another: with a landmass approximately that of California, PNG has 562 airports — more, for example, than China, India or the Philippines!) and language (PNG is considered the most linguistically diverse country in the world, with over 800 (!) languages spoken). The PNG education system faces a wide range of challenges as a result. PNG ranks only 156th on the Human Development Index and has a literacy rate of less than 60%.  As an overview from the Australian government notes,

“These include poor access to schools, low student retention rates and issues in the quality of education. It is often hard for children to go to school, particularly in the rural areas, because of distance from villages to schools, lack of transport, and cost of school fees. There are not enough schools or classrooms to take in all school-aged children, and often the standard of school buildings is very poor. For those children who do go to school, retention rates are low. Teacher quality and lack of required teaching and educational materials are ongoing issues.”

[For those who are interested, here is some general background on PNG from the World Bank, and from the part of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that used to be known as AusAid, a short report about World Bank activities to support education in PNG from last year and an overview of the World Bank education project called READ PNG.]

If you believe that innovation often comes about in response to tackling great challenges, sometimes in response to scarcities of various sorts, Papua New Guinea is perhaps one place to put that belief to the test.

Given the many great challenges facing PNG’s education sector, its low current capacity to meet these challenges,
and the fact that ‘business as usual’ is not working, while at the same time mobile phone use has been growing rapidly across society,
might ICTs, and specifically mobile phones, offer new opportunities to help meet many long-standing, ‘conventional’ needs

in perhaps ‘unconventional’ ways?

A small research project called SMS Story has been exploring answers to this question.

Project overview

In the words of a very interesting impact assessment report [pdf] that was recently released (those pressed for time may just wish to make due with the executive summary [pdf]),

“The aim of the SMS Story research project was to determine if daily mobile phone text message stories and lesson plans would improve children’s reading in Papua New Guinea (PNG) elementary schools. […] The stories and lesson plans were designed to introduce children to reading English and followed an underlying phonics and key word based methodology. Teachers in the trial received a cartoon poster explaining how to use the daily text messages and received a total of 100 text message stories and 100 related text message lessons for two academic terms. They did not receive any in-service training. Research was conducted in rural elementary schools in two provinces, Madang and Simbu, and has involved a baseline reading assessment, mid-point lesson and classroom observations and an end-point reading assessment.”

Results and impact

The project, which was funded by the Australian Government and designed and managed by Voluntary Services Overseas, in partnership with the PNG Department of Education, was implemented as a small controlled experiment utlizing the popular Frontline SMS tool.

Some key results observed include (I am quoting directly from the evaluation report):

[-] Children who did not receive the SMS Story were approximately twice as likely to be unable to read a single word of three sub-tests (decodable words, sight words and oral reading). In other words the intervention almost halved the number of children who could not read anything compared with the control schools.

[-] The research did not find a statistically significant improvement in reading comprehension and generally children showed low reading comprehension skills in both grades and little progression between grade 1 and 2.

[-] All participating schools had very few reading books, if any, available in the classroom.

[-] In the absence of reading materials and scripted lessons in elementary schools SMS Story provides a simple and cheap strategy for raising reading standards.

The evaluation also notes that:

[-] There remained a worryingly large number of children who scored zero on the tests, particularly in grade 1, even after the intervention.

As Amanda Watson, one of the researchers, commented in a recent interview about the project with Radio Australia, “I think the content was really important, because no one involved in this trial would suggest that schools shouldn’t have books. We all would like to see more books in schools, but the reality is that in these schools there are very few books and so the content created a lot of enjoyment for both teachers and students.”

In addition to whatever value the content itself offered, Watson noted another benefit: “the teachers were actually receiving materials and ideas and suggestions daily. So rather than perhaps being given a training manual a couple of years ago or having been given a guide at the start of the school year or something. The teachers actually received almost like a reminder to teach, a bit of a motivator to keep teaching and they received that every single day and we think that really helped them to realise that they’re supposed to be teaching reading every single day, five days a week.”

While most of the attention of developers and researchers excited by potential uses of mobile phones in education focus on the creation and usage of various ‘mobile apps’ on smartphones, lessons from SMS Story project remind us that, in some of the most challenging environments in the world — especially rural ones — the existing infrastructure of low end phones offers opportunities for creative and innovative groups who wish to engage with teachers and learners in these communities. The results may not be ‘transformational’ on their own, and doing this sort of thing may not win any style points among the ‘cool kids’ in technology-saturated capital cities in much of the ‘developed world’ interested in the ‘latest and greatest’. That said, the best technology is often the one you already have, know how to use, and can afford. In a rural school in Papua New Guinea today, that technology is usually a mobile phone. In many other similar communities around the world, it may be well.

Those who would like more information about the SMS Story project may wish to read the full report on the VSO web site and/or a related paper [pdf] published by the researchers involved.


You may also be interested in the following post from the EduTech blog
, which draws on experiences and lessons from places like Papua New Guinea:
[-] 10 principles to consider when introducing ICTs into remote, low-income educational environments

Note: The image used at the top of this post of men from Koroboa in Papua New Guinea (“hey, my ears are ringing — might that be the Ministry of Education calling with today’s lesson?”) comes from the Wikipedian Yves Picq via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainvile Education News: Applications now open for prestigious Australia Awards scholarships

Applications now open

 

 

James Hall, the Australian High Commission’s Minister Counsellor with representatives from the PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons at their bi-annual conference held in Port Moresby.

On 1 October, the Australian High Commission opened applications for the prestigious Australia Awards scholarships. PNG’s next generation of leaders will have an opportunity to undertake tertiary study, research or professional development in Australia in 2016.

The Australia Awards team will conduct promotional roadshows across the country about the Awards. Visits will include provinces that have not been well represented in previous years including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Further information about the Australia Awards can be found at: www.australiaawards.org.pg

The first Australia Awards information session was held on Friday 3 October at the regional PNG Assembly of Disabled Persons meeting in Port Moresby. Factsheets, information booklets and posters were provided to each representative to disseminate through their regional disability networks.

Australia’s Minister Counsellor for Development Cooperation, Mr James Hall said, “More than 2000 Papua New Guineans have participated in the Australia Awards program since 1996 and are making a significant contribution to the future of PNG. This year, women, people living with a disability, and people living and working in the provinces are particularly encouraged to apply.”

“I would urge you all to reach out to young Papua New Guineans, especially those living with a disability, and support them to pursue an opportunity of a lifetime by applying for an Award,” Mr Hall said.

The Australia Awards program is an initiative of the Australian Government. The Australia Awards aim to contribute to PNG’s long term development needs by awarding scholarships in areas that align with PNG’s development partnership with Australia including health, education and law and justice.

Scholarships are highly competitive with selection based on academic ability, leadership, employment record, the developmental benefit of the proposed field of study, and overall preparedness to study in Australia. Each year the Australian Government offers around 150 Australia Award scholarships. At least fifty percent of these will be awarded to women.

Applications close on 16 February 2015. The Australia Awards team will conduct promotional roadshows across the country about the Awards. Visits will include provinces that have not been well represented in previous years including Manus, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, East Sepik, Enga, West New Britain, Gulf, and Oro. Further information about the Australia Awards can be found at: www.australiaawards.org.pg

The Australia Awards PNG Information Centre is equipped with institutional handbooks and internet access to help potential applicants research courses. Staff are available to provide assistance with applications and to assist alumni to look for employment where they can apply their newly obtained skills. The centre is located in Port Tower, Hunter St, Port Moresby, and is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm.

And do not forget our current project for our young kids to get this opportunity  ; DONATE TODAY

Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainville voice of Simon Pentanu”let not outsiders pit us against ourselves”

A Bougainville voice:

Simon Pentanu

AUSTRALIAN NGO Jubilee Australia published a report in September on views held by villagers near the mine on the re-opening of the Panguna mine in Bougainville.

SEE OUR REPORT and reports in Bougainville24

Jubilee, which claims to be a “scientific research body”, prepared the report jointly with two highly partisan organisations, the International State Crime Initiative and the Bismarck Ramu Group.

Kristian Lasslett, an Ulster-based Australian academic who is a constant purveyor of attacks on the Bougainville leadership, generally with little or no evidence, was heavily involved in the preparation and writing of the report.

In response to criticism of the report in the social media, Lasslett has defended himself and Jubilee notably in posts on the PNG Mine Watch blog (run by the Bismarck Ramu Group) and on Facebook’s Bougainville Forum.

Australians, Vicki Johns and Dantares Midway Jones (aka Andrew Jones) and Australian-based Bougainvillean, Clive Porabou, have all joined Lasslett in defending the report on the Bougainville Forum.

Jubilee and these others domiciled abroad will have us believe that they know more about Bougainville than anyone living on Bougainville and that they are privy to the personal views of the majority of Bougainvilleans today, including mine site landowners.

The spread of these dubious “research findings” in Australia can be likened to a new malady that is about to hit Canberra, the cure for which only the bearers of the ill tidings possess and can administer.

Jubilee is at the forefront and is in this for exposure and publicity, not for the benefit of Bougainville.

Every time these desktop researchers return to their own countries after a very brief foray into their own mystical Bougainville, they carry a hastily packaged fantasy that reveals the ‘undeniable truth’ about what the majority of Bougainvilleans think about Panguna.

Jubilee is in Australia. They believe that a brief visit by anti-mining Bougainville researchers to Panguna, armed with questions to which they already ‘know’ the answers, provides better credentials than they had as remote-controlled observers of Bougainville from afar.

After ticking off their questionnaires, the organisation can make a jubilant exit, highly satisfied that their “research” confirms what they always believed.

With a prejudice and orientation against anything and everybody engaged in, or supportive of, what they see as the sordid business of mining, organisations like this will always be predisposed to searching and commenting to satisfy and confirm their very own views, which they can then confidently sell to Canberra.

Kristian Lasslett works and schemes from Ulster in Northern Ireland (UK). On matters concerning Bougainville he is the self-made expert – chopping, pasting and moulding Bougainville like plasticine to be forced into his desired shape and form.

Like the operatives at Jubilee, he drives a metal car, flies in metal planes and eats, I assume, mainly with metal cutlery. He and the Jubilee operatives do not suffer from metal fatigue, despite their disdain for industries that extract useful minerals.

Kristian will swear by his comments and views, defend them and feed them to anyone who likes to lap up tales of deceit and conspiracy against Bougainville by mining giants and governments.

At best he is a socialist, born to save the world’s downtrodden. At worst he is a Trotskyite, peddling and romanticising his thoughts around Melanesia.

He is a smooth operator, armed with mind-boggling academic qualifications, but why should PNG and Bougainville take notice of him?

He does not add value to our attempts to resolve our issues on Bougainville island, or in PNG for that matter. His activities simply feed his own ambitions.

He tells us that he knows Bougainville from the 1960s, though his appearance indicates he was barely an adolescent at the time of the Bougainville crisis.

He arrived after the crisis, well after the peace process took hold, only to collect the crumbs when the smorgasbord was over. This is obvious in his comments about wanting to return to Bougainville’s past. Bougainvilleans be warned: this fellow cannot be trusted.

There’s little I can say about Vikki John. I believe she’s relatively harmless because I understand she rarely expresses her own views, assuming she has some. Apparently, her function is to cut, paste and disseminate any anti-mining material she comes across, in order to alert poor, ignorant Bougainvilleans to the dangers of doing further business with notoriously nasty mining companies.

I don’t know who DAntares Midway Jones (aka Andrew Jones) is, but I gather he has been searching for his ancestry/roots, as his interchanging name suggests.

He has suddenly splashed himself onto the Bougainville scene with grandiose ideas for the salvation of the island and its population. He believes he has a profound proposal to rid Bougainville of its muddled past.

He proposes a Peoples Tribunal with draft terms of reference comprising Bougainvilleans who will preside as judge, jury, prosecutor and terminator. He even has a Tribunal Facebook page.

He claims he has aboriginal ancestry. He dons a Fidel Castro type cap, is clad in khaki clothes with an Australian Aboriginal flag badge sewn on the breast and he sports a Fidel Castro beard. He is calm, cool and does not flinch at his critics.

I don’t know where he popped up from. He says he made a single visit to Bougainville, a lone trip that has convinced him that he knows Bougainville well enough to insert a Tribunal there to disable the culprits responsible for the island’s demise.

He has some strange ideas about what might be best for Bougainville. He impresses me as someone who has probably been wandering around admiring rock drawings in arid caves and sacred aboriginal sites and suddenly thinks he is sufficiently indigenous to transplant himself into another traditional society like Bougainville.

Clive Porabou is the next best thing to cheese, biscuits and shiraz. Just as these tasty and intoxicating items make party conversation flow freely, Clive’s presence and discussion with the likes of the people I have mentioned above make their adrenalin flow from both excitement and anger.

Clive lives abroad and, for those who have no personal experience on Bougainville, he is the Bougainville expatriate expert who satisfies the appetite of a certain mould of Australian academic, environmentalist, social psycho and welfare benefactor.

Always with an acoustic guitar in hand, he longs for the day when Bougainville might be governed by Me’ekamui, financed by Noah Musingku’s new Bougainville currency.

Hearing from Clive is enough to convince most non-Bougainvilleans that they have a duty to rescue Bougainville from bondage, and the government outfit to accomplish this is the version of Me’ekamui that Clive peddles abroad.

In truth, the Me’ekamui in central Bougainville have been consulting and beginning to work and cooperate with the Autonomous Bougainville Gobvernment (ABG), which was always bound to happen.

I can’t be too critical of Clive, because in his heart of hearts he will always remain a true Bougainvillean, but suspicious of his expat friends. It suits him fine if they are gullible enough to believe him, because as long as this unfortunate business lasts, he can continue to enjoy peace and a relatively convivial lifestyle offshore.

Take heart, the reason why most Bougainvilleans won’t whinge about, or flinch at, research that is carried out overnight from abroad is because it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

If you were to enter the same Bougainville communities in the same locations and conduct your own research to extract a ‘yes to mining’ response, you would get it. It really depends on how the comments and questions are framed. The Jubilee research is simply a means to an end.

Jubilee, Kristian, Andrew Jones and all of these parties will always support such research and support each other. They are birds of a feather, flocking, scheming and screeching together. As some Bougainvilleans have commented in the Bougainville Facebook forum, this is all “bullshit”.

The ABG must make the Australian government aware that Jubilee is going to the Australian Parliament entirely of its own accord, without the knowledge, authority or respect of the ABG and most Bougainvilleans.

If we are not careful and if the ABG turns a blind eye, the confusion, disunity and anger these people can generate could pit Bougainvillean against Bougainvillean, community against community, clans and families against each other, and even the people against their leaders and government.

These are people coming into a society they really don’t know much about or understand. They are attempting to ride roughshod over the programs and projects the ABG and landowners have been involved in towards resolving every issue in Panguna.

There has been steady progress towards addressing many outstanding Panguna grievances that affect everyone, not just the sampling of villages Jubilee has selectively interviewed.

There are senior ministers in the Abbott government, like foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, who always have an ear and heart for Bougainville. There is no reason why the president and senior bureaucrats who have the carriage of different aspects and areas of discussion over Panguna, e.g. Steve Burain, Raymond Masono and advisers like Dr Naihuwo Ahai, cannot approach Canberra and confront the Jubilee research.

This is how absurd it is: Jubilee operatives come to Bougainville, do their fact finding visit up the road, fold up all the work and turn up in Canberra unbeknownst to ABG and most of Bougainville.

They do not even have the courtesy to call on the authorities on Bougainville to explain or share what they have done. If this is not conspiracy against ABG, for reasons only known to themselves, then I don’t know what it is.

There is a real risk that foreign elements that have no responsibility or obligations on Bougainville and that are not accountable to anyone can derail fifteen years of peace process and reconciliation achieved without meddling from uninvited offbeat academics, latter day NGOs, busybodies and socialites that have nothing better to do in their own countries.

If they have nothing to contribute to their own governments and people, it is hard to accept the claim that their reconnaissance on Bougainville will enhance our future.

Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG