“In this day and age, with the high growth rate of the Bougainville population and dwindling of natural resources, the rights to access land has limitations and conditions.
In these circumstances, my daughter is an alien in Bougainville and the law of this island has not served its purpose in protecting her.
My daughter cannot lean on me when in need of land or citizenship, for Nasioi is a matrilineal society, and she cannot lean on her mother since Buin is a patrilineal society.”
LEONARD FONG ROKA ( pictured above with daughter Dollorose )
An entry in the Crocodile Prize PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum Award for Essays & Journalism
Author of 5 books available on AMAZON
I travel regularly through my matrilineal home districts of Panguna and Kieta to my patrilineal Buin where my partner and mother of 10-month old Dollorose comes from.
Whenever I do, a flood of thoughts torments me about the wording of Section 7 of the Bougainville Constitution.
This provision concerns the definition of who is a Bougainvillean.
Section 7 is disturbing because it says a Bougainvillean is a person who is a member (whether by birth or by adoption according to custom) of a Bougainvillean clan lineage (matrilineal or patrilineal) owning customary land in Bougainville.
There’s more we needn’t worry about.
The point is that through the diverse lenses of the 19-plus cultures of Bougainville, Section 7 has no value and relevance.
In all Bougainvillean societies, membership of any clan is a birthright whether male or female was born in or outside Bougainville.
All Bougainvillean societies practice adoption. In the Nasioi society the adopted members of other clans are referred to as bautara but their clan status never changes. They have access to land under the auspices of the individual who adopted them but they still remain bautara without much power in their new communities.
Bautara face their demise once their adoptee parent is dead or the population of their adoptee parent’s relatives strive for resources. Most bautara return to their origin and face a new series of setbacks especially over land rights that time has denied them.
But going back to my narrative. I have no automatic right to land in my matrilineal Nasioi society and my partner has no right to land in her patrilineal Buin society.
In my Nasioi society ownership and access are different issues.
I have access rights to land but the ownership rights are vested to my female relatives; likewise my partner has access rights to Buin land but only her brothers have ownership rights.
In this day and age, with the high growth rate of the Bougainville population and dwindling of natural resources, the rights to access land has limitations and conditions.
In these circumstances, my daughter is an alien in Bougainville and the law of this island has not served its purpose in protecting her. My daughter cannot lean on me when in need of land or citizenship, for Nasioi is a matrilineal society, and she cannot lean on her mother since Buin is a patrilineal society.
Bougainvillean cultures, unlike the Bougainville Constitution, have provisions that grant people like me land ownership rights. In Nasioi society, there are pieces of land where the ownership right is passed from father to the son (and daughter where there is no son).
On the unoccupied plateau above the Kupe-Topinang-Pomaua-Sirerongsi-Pakia Gap-Panguna circle, my grandfather passed to me and my brother such land ownership rights.
Thus my daughter has ownership rights (alongside her cousins from my brother) to this land but broader citizen’s rights are not settled by that since Kieta society recognises her as a Buin woman.
In Buin, there are cultural provisions that allow my partner land ownership rights; yet still our daughter Dolloroseis not a citizen of Buin as she is seen as being from my Kieta society.
The Bougainville Constitution clearly did not spell out the fate of children born to fathers from matrilineal societies marrying into patrilineal society and born to mothers from patrilineal societies marrying into matrilineal societies.
Our beloved children from such families are constitutional aliens on Bougainville. They will remain aliens till such time as Section 7 of the Bougainville Constitution is amended to serve this unique group of Bougainville people.
Our current fundraiser for Bougainville education
DONATE 10/50/100 Kina or dollars here www.bookgainville.com