Bougainville Elections News: Today 11 May we start the voting to decide Bougainville’s future

 

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Yesterday  was the final day for potential politicians to do more convincing to be voted in! Your vote is not just a vote but has value to choose who our next leaders and know that Bougainville’s political fate will depend entirely on the leaders we choose this week.

However, regardless of whoever wins the presidential seat, whether its John Momis, Sam Akoitai, Ishmael Toroama, Sam Kauona or Rueben Siara and many others representing the Regional Women, and the Constituencies seats.

I’m sure they all have our Bougainville’s future at their hearts interests. And each of them wants to show that they can lead and defend our political interests by serving our people.

Whether we like it or not, at end of the day we have to comply and work together for Bougainville’s future.

Geraldine Paul (see her full article below )

The polling period will fall between May 11 and May 25. Counting will commence immediately after the polling period from May 26 to June 7 and the writs will be returned the next day, June 8, 2015

Polling booths will open at 8am and closes at 4pm . Polling will be held in 215 locations both within the 33 constituencies in Bougainville and in the five provinces in the country including NCD, Lae, Rabaul, Madang and Goroka.

This election starting today Monday 11 May among Bougainville’s estimated 300,000 people brings the issue closer to decision. The Bougainville government’s new president and legislature will hold a promised referendum some time during their five-year term on whether the island stays in PNG or goes independent.

John Momis, who is the current ABG president and favourite for re-election against eight other candidates, is adding another explosive issue. After getting a new mining law passed in March this year, he is pushing for the reopening of the Panguna copper mine that was the original cause of the civil war. With only 11 per cent of his government’s budget coming from local revenue, the rest mostly from Port Moresby grants, the mines are the only prospective source of revenue to make either autonomy or independence a reality.

FROM Australia’s Saturday Paper Hamish McDonald

In his first couple of years as foreign minister, Alexander Downer had a lot of bombs explode in his portfolio.

Among them was the 1997 Sandline affair in which Papua New Guinea’s government brought in South African and other mercenaries to try to end the bitter conflict on Bougainville Island that had closed the giant Rio Tinto gold and copper mine there since 1989.

An army mutiny in Port Moresby scotched that idea, a truce with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army followed, and talks held in a New Zealand army camp led to a peace agreement in 2001 that set up an Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG). Throughout the talks, New Zealand sources say, Downer was out to prevent what he called the “Balkanisation” of Australia’s strategic arc of friendly states to its immediate north-east. The Kiwis were somewhat sceptical this could be avoided. Anyone who’s read the Lloyd Jones novel Mister Pip might agree.

An election starting today Monday 11 May among Bougainville’s estimated 300,000 people brings the issue closer to decision. The Bougainville government’s new president and legislature will hold a promised referendum some time during their five-year term on whether the island stays in PNG or goes independent.

John Momis, who is the current ABG president and favourite for re-election against eight other candidates, is adding another explosive issue. After getting a new mining law passed in March this year, he is pushing for the reopening of the Panguna copper mine that was the original cause of the civil war. With only 11 per cent of his government’s budget coming from local revenue, the rest mostly from Port Moresby grants, the mines are the only prospective source of revenue to make either autonomy or independence a reality. The island has plenty of other goldmines, feverishly worked over by about 10,000 panhandlers who aren’t taxed, but it would take much longer for other, less socially burdened medium-scale mines to eventuate.

According to Anthony Regan, an ANU constitutional law professor who advises the Bougainville government, most Bougainvilleans would prefer Rio Tinto to return to Panguna, under stricter local consent and environmental provisions. “They prefer the devil they know,” he said. Whether Rio Tinto wants to spend the $US5.2 billion it estimates it will take to reopen the derelict mine is another matter.

Other interests are hovering. Momis suspects that PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill wants to buy out Rio Tinto’s 53.83 per cent shareholding in Bougainville Copper Ltd, adding it to his contentious nationalisation of BHP’s former Ok Tedi mine at the other end of the country. Momis said this would lead to a demand for immediate independence. O’Neill denies any such plans.

A new face on the scene is Anthony Johnston, of Sydney-based waste disposal firm United Resource Management (URM) and sponsor of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. Johnston and his old schoolmate, lawyer Ian de Renzie Duncan, have been cultivating former rebels around the mine who call themselves the Me’ekamui Government of Unity. Regan said URM’s interest appears to be in brokering the entry of a new mine operator to Panguna. At a meeting with ABG president Momis in February, which Regan also attended, Johnston and Duncan had argued that while Rio Tinto should be given first refusal, it should be given six months to make a decision. Johnston did not return calls to his Sydney office.

How will the Bougainvilleans vote in the referendum? Dark-skinned, like many of the peoples in the adjacent Solomon Islands, from whom they were separated by colonial rivalry between Germany and Britain in the 1890s, they regard the lighter-skinned people from the other parts of PNG as alien “redskins”. Efforts by Port Moresby to put resources into the ABG may have come too late to overcome bitter memories of the counterinsurgency campaigns by national police and soldiers in the 1990s. “Lack of support for the ABG from Moresby has loaded the dice towards independence,” Regan said.

So the fear of a chink opening in our belt of Melanesian buffer states could be realised. Yet there’s a sting in the peace agreement. At Downer’s urging, it left implementation of the referendum result to the PNG national parliament, contingent on disposal of weapons and development of good governance in the ABG, rather than making it automatic. Regan says there’s some legal opinion in Port Moresby the referendum can be stopped on these grounds. Any such effort, or to block the result, could reopen conflict.

Bougainvilleans accepted the compromise after Downer argued the international community would support implementation of “a free and fair referendum with a clear outcome”, Momis told his outgoing parliament ahead of the election. “The truth is that we may need to rely on international community support at that time,” he said.

FROM Geraldine Paul

Today is the final day for potential politicians to do more convincing to be voted in! Your vote is not just a vote but has value to choose who our next leaders and know that Bougainville’s political fate will depend entirely on the leaders we choose this week. However, regardless of whoever wins the presidential seat, whether its John Momis, Sam Akoitai, Ishmael Toroama, Sam Kauona or Rueben Siara and many others representing the Regional Women, and the Constituencies seats. I’m sure they all have our Bougainville’s future at their hearts interests. And each of them wants to show that they can lead and defend our political interests by serving our people. Whether we like it or not, at end of the day we have to comply and work together for Bougainville’s future.

We need to also take into account that ABG is still in its infant stage, and has a long way to go. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’, as the saying goes… Again, having said this does not give our leaders the excuse to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again – Our chosen leaders can not AFFORD to make any more mistakes – it will be a waste and a loss of all our time, only bringing us 10 steps backward or more!

We still have outstanding issues relating to our service systems which needs attention to details – Health facility centers needs upgrading and staffs needs to be accomdated well, appreciated and compensated for the work they do. Education leaders needs to ensure teachers dont go missing from schools chasing after their pay packet only to end up leaving students unattended for days! More technical schools need to be set up or upgrade our current local technical schools to increase intakes per annum. Skills that are acquired from such institutions will go a long way.

Our police system is quite ineffective that issues are often not resolved. Too many wantokism within the adminstration which becomes a bottleneck to our justice system.

Leaders tend to forget that 99% of our population depends entirely on what they produce in their backyard garden -agricultural activity is the backbone of our people. What we need to do is tap into what people are already doing and expand it, create quality production, tap into niche markets and sell our produces! – we are only exporting Cocoa and copra products overseas, but what about vanilla, coffee, bananas, tapioka, taros and fresh vegetables, green coconut and fishing projects- these foods are growing in our land. Our mindset need to be changed, Think big and think outside the box! Think Commercial and create market opportunities!

Economic development is a must if we want to be independent, if our ordinary farmers are not financially independent – then we basically shooting ourselves in our foot. How can we expect ourselves to be independent when we are not investing in our own people to create local production!

There’s also the issues regarding the access roads which farmers have to travel through to sell their cocoa and other products , the back roads of Tinputz such as Namatoa, Pokapa, Tiobuin, and many places are in bad conditions, including the roads along Tokaino, Nakorei, Tabago, Rukauko, Wisai, Mughuai and not to mentioned acess roads along wakunai and Kieta/Kongara as well. Who’s responsibilities are they to be fixed? Do we always have to wait when the next election is around the corner for a politician to show that he or she cares and then they spend the next entire 5 years neglecting maintenance?…….

Social issues are eating us up like cancer within our societies – women and children are often not considered into decisions making although they make up our 60 or 70% of our population. Domestic violence is brewing like nobody’s business, and we still turn a blind eye, saying its none of our business- we should not be using customs and cultures as an excuse. But create a culture that says ‘No to any form of violence’ – our men folks need to own up and support women by standing up against such abuses – this cycle of violence need to be broken. We need proper services in place to support women, children and men to be helped is such situations…

Ah! Well!! Then again on the brighter side we did achieve lots of good things over the past 10 years and have definitely seen changes, some business houses being prosperous on the account of others or basically out of their own hard work. More land cruisers for our goverment officials have been purchased, hopefully this means more work and patrolling to outer stations instead of ferrying wantoks and families, which I hope not!
Our trunk roads have definitely been given attention to and the plans are in the pipeline for more upgrading, thanks to some hard working people pushing for it.
Aropa airport and the opening of BSP branch in Arawa is a success story of progress!

And I’m sure with all the ‘Bel kol’ iniatitives being carried out to resolve our past greivences, it will pave ways to reopening the mines, this will also mean more job opportunities, or more exploitations if not managed well. People that can afford to are building better homes in their villages, lifestyle is definitely changing with new technology everyday! You’re either in the boat flowing with the change or left behind with anger and blame others because you think its their fault for you being a failure…

I know! I know! this has been quite mouthful, but I thought I’d share my 2 toea thoughts and Happy Sunday to you all. May the Good Lord guide and bless us all as we decide on our future leaders by casting our vote this week, not because they bribed us with cash, but because we truly believe that they are a genuine, honest and someone with the great leadership skills to be our captain for the next 5 years, and most importantly, leaders with good intentions !!! So long every one!!

 

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