Bougainville Communications : New Investment connects 300 + Bougainville public servants

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Helping Bougainville public servants get connected

Two years ago, a pair of Bougainville public servants sat under a shady tree in Buka, working on a plan that would transform the autonomous region’s developing bureaucracy.

The men represented the Autonomous Region of Bougainville’s information and communications technology division.

Picture above : Kakarouts and Rapula Jnr putting up a downlink at the Division of Commerce and Trade Industry office, Buka

Their task was to design a computer network that would enable the region’s bureaucracy to more efficiently communicate with itself, and the outside world.

Now, more than 300 Autonomous Bougainville Government users in 18 buildings have access to email and the internet for the first time at work.

The project is supported by the Governance Implementation Fund (GIF), a joint initiative of the Governments of PNG, Bougainville, Australia and New Zealand.

It gives Bougainville’s public servants from a range of departments the ability to communicate with each other, and access information on issues like agriculture and finance.

“Once it was setup, there was an influx of people wanting to connect to the ABG network – everyone saw the need to have and use email,” network engineer Jamaine Kakarouts said.

He said public servants had taken rapidly to the new system, and the ABG was now moving from paper-based to digital records keeping.

The GIF supported the Information Communications Technology division with equipment, transportation and infrastructure.

The ICT division provides a range of services including maintenance, network setup and hardware and software installation.

“The power outage is a major issue which frequently disrupts the network’s services,” engineer Justus Rapula Jnr said.

Enhancing the capacity of the ICT division is cost-efficient and effective, according to the ICT team.

“The Education Department have come to us to use our network because it is reliable,” Kakarouts said.

“Our next priorities are to focus on maintenance, staff training, and expanding the team to support ICT in Arawa and South Bougainville,” Rapula Jnr said.

Bougainville Business News: Will new $10 million kina foreign investment laws stop community unrest

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As both Bougainvilleans and Christians we cherish our values of tolerance, unity and the peaceful resolution of disputes, this incident does not represent what we stand for and I condemn the perpetrators and their actions outright,”

We must welcome foreign investment as a means to secure our economic prosperity, we must be seen to be a community that demonstrates our values in every aspect of our lives.”

President Grand Chief Dr John Momis has condemning the recent outbreak of violence in Buka Town where locals attacked and ransacked a business house.

The National Government in its October parliament session is expected to pass legislations that would prevent foreigners from entering to businesses reserved for only Papua New Guineans.

After the passing of this law, foreign investors coming into Papua New Guinea would not be allowed to go into businesses like trade store, restaurants, mechanical workshops, retail trading and others that are reserved only for Papua New Guineans.’

Foreign investors would only be allowed to go into businesses worth K10 million and above.

Regional Member for Bougainville, Hon. Joe Lera (Full coverage below )

The President also congratulated the Bougainville Police Service’s response to the incident noting this as a sign of how the rule of law has matured in Bougainville.

“There is no reason why anyone should ever take the law into their own hands,” Momis stressed.

To further build on this the President announced that the ABG will consider;

  • The introduction of a rapid response team capable of responding to similar situations that may arise in all areas of Bougainville.
  • Boosting the numbers of Police Officers and Community Police, and running further bridging training programs for prospective Bougainvillean trainees; and
  • Introducing a Bougainville Security Council.

“The situation this week has also prompted my government to review the reserve list of the types of businesses that are permitted to be operated in the ARoB exclusivelyby Bougainvilleans,” President Momis said.

President Momis has issued a stern warning to all Bougainvilleans that law and order will be enforced across Bougainville at every turn.“We must welcome foreign investment as a means to secure our economic prosperity, we must be seen to be a community that demonstrates our values in every aspect of our lives,” President Momis said.

“Anyone who promotes to their community to do otherwise are not true leaders, real leaders do not follow their followers, real leaders inspire their followers to become the people they should be,” Momis added.

He added that with the referendum drawing closer Bougainvilleans must acknowledge that the past is behind them and their future lies in an orderly, peace loving and respecting society.

Until this review has been conducted a temporary ban has been enforced on the registration of new businesses in Bougainville.

RESTRICTED ACTIVITIES
By Tom Kathoa

The National Government in its October parliament session is expected to pass legislations that would prevent foreigners from entering to businesses reserved for only Papua New Guineans.

This was revealed by the Regional Member for Bougainville, Hon. Joe Lera when speaking to people who attended the beginning of a weeklong Flower and Craft Show in Buka Town yesterday.

Member Lera said after the passing of this law, foreign investors coming into Papua New Guinea would not be allowed to go into businesses like trade store, restaurants, mechanical workshops, retail trading and others that are reserved only for Papua New Guineans.

He further clarified that these foreign investors would only be allowed to go into businesses worth K10 million and above.

He further explained that foreigners who are now involved in businesses worth less than K10 million would have to handover them to the locals and enter into the K10 million business category.

Meanwhile, our reporter says such a policy is already in existence, but it is the policing of these laws that needs to be strengthened and given the teeth to bite offenders.

Our reporter says this law was introduced immediately after independence, but has never been properly administer by government agencies responsible for its implementation.

 

Bougainville News: Are gold bars or chocolate bars our economic future PART 2

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A cocoa farmer in the Tinputz area of North Bougainville, Mr. James Rutana says Bougainville is capable of producing 200,000 tons of cocoa annually.

And, this can earn Bougainville K2.8 billion annually in which the ABG government would collect K280 million in taxes.

By Tom Kathoa | New Dawn

Mr. Rutana said with this kind of money around, there would be no need for mining in Bougainville.

A New Zealand Chocolate Factory in Wellington is exporting Mr. Rutana’s cocoa to be made into chocolate bars for consumption.

They are braving rough seas and blistering sun to bring a tonne of Bougainville cocoa beans to New Zealand in a sailboat.(Picture below the Tinputz community welcome the crew)

SEE BOUGAINVILLE NEWS STORY HERE

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Mr. Rutana is strongly asking Bougainvilleans to turn to cocoa production because he believes this can meaningfully contribute millions of kina to develop and sustain the region’s future.

He said a small backyard cocoa farm of one hectare if maintained well can earn the farmer K30, 000.00 annually, money that can be used to pay the children’s school fees and the family’s other needs.

Mr. Rutuna further said, Bougainville has everything that one needs to make a living to survive, but all it requires is the commitment to turn the land into its usefulness.

Cocoa

SEE COCOA REPORT HERE

Bougainville Chocolate News : NZ chocolate makers arrive to take a tonne of Bougainville cocoa beans to New Zealand in a sailboat.

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Two Wellington chocolatiers are braving rough seas and blistering sun to bring a tonne of Bougainville cocoa beans to New Zealand in a sailboat.

Photo above the sailboat arriving in Buka a few days ago : thanks to Kuri Resort for Photo

Picture below : Tinputz community waiting to load Update : 2.00 pm Boat has arrived

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Wellington Chocolate Factory co-owners Gabe Davidson and Rochelle Harrison will arrive back in Wellington in early September after nearly two months away.

Report today from DOMINION POST NZ

Last year a Kickstarter campaign raised $30,000 for them to work with James Rutana, a cocoa grower in Bougainville, between Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. After civil war devastated the area, he had almost had to give up his crop.

Now his beans will be added to the Wellington Chocolate Factory’s growing list.

But first the beans will be transported to New Zealand in a Samoan vaka.

Marketing manager Maxine Macaulay said the boat was chosen because it was the most sustainable way to transport the beans.

The chocolate factory, hidden away in Eva St in central Wellington, creates ethically produced organic chocolate.

In the 18 months it has been open, it has grown from making 200 bars a week to 2000.

It already uses Samoan, Dominican and Peru cocoa, or cacao, beans. Bougainville is the latest to join.

Macaulay said most people believed chocolate was the same no matter where the beans came from.

“I didn’t realise until I started working here that there is as much diversity in chocolate as there is with wine or coffee,” she said.

“[Our chocolate bars] are essentially the same ingredients – 70 per cent cocoa, 30 per cent sugar – and then you get this vast array of differences in flavour because of where it comes from.”

She had already tried a sneaky taster of the Bougainville chocolate.

“It’s tasty and interesting. It’s kind of like smoky yoghurt and it’s a lot lighter.”

General manager Miriam Ramos said most chocolate was made from cheap beans from West Africa.

She said having an open factory where people could see the chocolate being made showed them all the work that went into making ethically produced chocolate.

“People are able to come here, see it and learn about it,” she said.

“It’s very important that people realise the work that is involved with any food. Nothing is instant.”

The factory’s small staff do everything from hulling the cocoa beans to hand-wrapping the finished bars.

“We stone grind our chocolate, and we don’t add any dairy, additives or emulsifiers.”

The factory doesn’t just make plain chocolate. Among its flavours are Salted Caramel Brittle, Chilli Lime Nuts and a Coconut Milk Chocolate.

Its latest collaborations are a Great War Bar with the Great War Exhibition at Te Papa to recreate the historic World War II ration chocolate bar, and a Peanut Butter Bar with Fix & Fogg.

To sweeten the success, it won the best small emerging business award at the Mindfood Producer of the Year awards last week.

The Wellington Chocolate Factory bars are sold throughout New Zealand, and in Sydney and Melbourne.

 – The Wellingtonian

 

Bougainville’s Economic Future : Gold bars or chocolate bars -Cocoa report

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“I treat each cocoa clone like it is a gold bar. I don’t want to see poverty among my people.

That’s why I say cocoa is like gold to us.” Close Quotes

David Vaorete
Cocoa farmer

Since the cocoa had been introduced to Bougainville, there is no millionaire in the cocoa industry, the local farmers are just sweating their guts making money for other big companies like Agmark, Monpi and others, We have been working for our bread and butter with no such improvements to date.

“I want to challenge leaders to put in some strategic plans to revive that quality of cocoa Bougainville had seen and produced before the conflict and make it possible for processing to happen in the region rather than selling our dried cocoa beans.”

Simeon Karena, once a subsistence farmer of Doreinang SEE PREVIOUS REPORT

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In the 1980s, Bougainville produced the most cocoa of any province in Papua New Guinea. Alongside copra, this was the backbone of a thriving rural economy, and it provided critical income for thousands of people.

But from 1989, Bougainville was to experience a devastating nine year conflict. The economic impacts were crippling. Industry was decimated; villagers were unable to access their land or markets – and production of cocoa and copra grounded to a halt.

After a limited revival, the cocoa industry has stagnated: aging trees mean poor yields, and cocoa pod borer (CPB) has ravaged remaining crops. Cocoa production in Bougainville fell by more than 41% from 2009, to reach its lowest level since the crisis.

Cocoa has declined as valuable skills and knowledge have been lost

The highland areas of Tinputz, on the east coast of Bougainville, are known for their fertile soils, and were once a hub for agriculture in Bougainville.

David Vaorete, from the village of Namatoa, has watched the community’s cocoa gardens turn to jungle. He says that the younger generation now lack the skills and knowledge to take cocoa production forward. During the conflict, many young people were killed in the fighting. Many more grew up away from their land.

“Looking at the new generation after the crisis, a lot of them did not know how to plant and cultivate the cocoa crops,” he explains. “So it was done by those who had already learned how to tend to cocoa – mostly elders in the community. The younger generation was not taught how.”

A new project is restoring skills, tackling CPB and helping revive interest in cocoa

Now, David is involved in implementing a new program, the Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP). Supported by the World Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development  and the European Union, it engages farmer groups and the cocoa industry to help rejuvenate growers’ gardens.  Several lead partners—including exporters; NGOs or grower cooperatives—have been recruited by the project to help farmers revive cocoa production.

As part of this project, David chairs the Namatoa village nursery, which is growing and distributing hundreds of new cocoa plants to participating farmers. These seedlings are hybrid clones, specially grown to be more resistant to CPB. The trees are shorter and easier to manage, and they are relatively quick to bear fruit. He is also working with schools to develop skills and interest among young people.

Farmers are further supported with training, crop diversification activities and tools provided by lead partners.

Where the new cocoa varieties have been planted, growers are already seeing a big difference in the amount of cocoa they can harvest, which is translating into higher incomes for their families. With good management, growers can eliminate as much as 98% of CPB infestation and bring it firmly under control.

Maristella Sira is a farmer in Tinputz and she has received training, seedlings and tools through a PPAP-initiated partnership with Monpi Cocoa Exports.

“I think we have produced over a 100 bags – we’ve seen an increase. With the additional income, I’ve been able to build a new house, buy a new water tank, a lawn mower and other household tools,” says Maristella.

For David, Maristella’s story is not surprising, and explains growing interest in cocoa among villagers. He sees cocoa as key to restoring economic vibrancy to Tinputz.

“I treat each cocoa clone like it is a gold bar,” he says. “I don’t want to see poverty among my people.

Expanding the project is producing results for small farmers

Earlier this year the World Bank Board approved an additional $30 million to expand PPAP, aimed to double coffee and cocoa production, and increase income for an estimated 60,000 smallholder farmers.  The European Union has recently contributed an additional EUR5 million, and IFAD will soon add $22 million of financing to further increase these benefits.

This year is the first that farmers are really seeing the impact of the project. In the cocoa sector alone, as of May 2014, nearly a million trees have been rehabilitated or planted, to benefit thousands of smallholder cocoa farmers and their families.

Rejuvenating the cocoa industry in Bougainville

For Papua New Guinea’s cocoa industry, this is merely the beginning. Like many others, David believes there is huge potential for Bougainville-origin chocolate on the global market.

It is a product which is granted coveted “fine flavor” status; the industry also stands to benefit from its proximity to Asian grinders in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia – countries which are now buying as much as 46% of PNG’s cocoa.

“The saying used to go about a ‘stream of cocoa’ flowing, back when it used to thrive. Now they can say, the ‘stream of cocoa’ is flowing again to Tinputz,” David assures. “And I must stress, it will be of the very best quality!”

UPDATE from NEW DAWN FM

There are more unregistered Cocoa Fermentries in Bougainville than those that are registered.

Regional Cocoa Board Inspector, Mr. Moses Burin revealed that of the 1,162 fermenteries only 292 are registered with the Cocoa Board whilst many are unregistered and operating illegally.

Mr. Burin revealed this in his awareness program on how best farmers should look after their cocoa and fementries.

He said the high number of unregistered fermentaries could be due to the Cocoa Pod Borer outbreak several years ago.

But he urged owners to be honest with themselves by registering their operations with the authority.

Mr. Burin has also publicly announced that the Cocoa Board calendar ends in September and is appealed to farmers to renew their licenses when they are due.

He said it is better for those involved in the industry to abide by the rule of law to ensure top quality is maintained.

Bougainville WW2 history : Admiral Yamamoto site at Buin to feature on Australian TV

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“This Sunday 16 August on Channel 7’s 6pm bulletins in Australia there’ll be another Mark Donaldson VC special report featuring Bougainville and New Britain. It’s on the shooting down of Admiral Yamamoto. We trek into the wreck deep in the jungle near Buin and trace Yamamoto’s stronghold from where he took off that fateful day. There’s some amazing archive, from the Americans and the Japanese, including Rabaul footage never aired outside of wartime Japan.”

WATCH VIDEO HERE

Producer : Max Uechtritz

Tour Operator : Bougainville Experience Tours : The visit was coordinated and operated by Zhon Bosco Miriona (Bougainville ) and Colin Cowell (Australia)

This assignment is to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific (VP) with two news features in PNG which was the forward base for Japanese forces during WW11.

Our reporter is Australia’s Victoria Cross recipient Mark Donaldson VC, who has previously filed history features or channel 7 from France and Belgium. Mark is a real history buff and has a deep, abiding interest in all aspects on military history. The producer is Max Uechtritz and the cameraman is Tim Stewart.

The story will be a news feature on how Admiral Yamamoto – Japan’s architect of the attack on Pearl Harbour and navy fleet commander sometimes based in Rabaul – was shot down over Bougainville.

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In one of the most secret and successful code breaks of the war, the Americans had intercepted a radio message detailing Yamamoto’s flight coordinates. In a massive blow for the Japanese wear effort,  US fighters shot him down and his plane wreck lies near Buin on Bougainville.

 

Historic WWII crash site opened to tourists in Bougainville for first time in more than five years

“The plane is still sitting there in the jungle. But at the moment, the people there have made gardens close to the site,” Zhon Bosco, owner of Bougainville Experience Tours, told Pacific Beat, adding the area was being cleared.

“We’re having a lot of inquiries, people are already booking with us to see the site. But most of them haven’t confirmed the dates to come in.”

Interest in the war strategist and Japanese navy commander is as strong as ever, particularly among the growing number of Japanese tourist travelling to the Pacific to learn more about their military past.

“For Japanese people, it’s one of the most significant World War II history sites around,” Mr Bosco said.

He said visitors would not be deterred by the long travel time or land disputes surrounding the crash site.

“We have a network with the locals. For Yamamoto crash site, we have connection with them so every time when people want to go there, we tell them there are people coming in, so they prepare themselves,” Mr Bosco said.

“I think people coming here, they will not have any problems with security.”

Yamamoto’s legacy remains

Yamamoto is remembered for his role in the attack on Peal Harbour in the US, which left more 2,400 Americans dead and another 1,000 people injured.

Japanese Admiral Yamamoto Isoroku

“Yamamoto is the most exalted hero in the imperial Japanese navy’s history. And he’s been untainted by Japan’s defeat, and he’s been untainted and any hint of war crimes,” US naval historian Mark Stille said.

“He remains a hero in Japan today.”

Yamamoto was instrumental in planning the attack on Pearl Harbour, which was not a strategic priority of the Japanese navy until he agitated for it.

“Here’s a man who thought he knew the American psyche. He thought that by — putting it simply — sinking a few battleships that he would shock the Americans into a negotiated peace,” Mr Stille said.

“Of course the exact opposite thing happened. Had the Japanese stuck to their strategy, perhaps occupying the Philippines on their way to Malaysia and Singapore, and the areas down south, that they had to have for the oil they needed to break the US embargo.

“Had they done that there would have been a different US reaction.”

Yamamoto was shot down after American code-breakers found out he was planning to visit troops stationed off Bougainville.

For Tour bookings contact Zhon Bosco Miriona

www.bougtours.com Tel International : +675 736 56050+675 736 56050 Local PNG

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Bougainville Referendum News: Bougainville: hard choices looming for Australia? (part II)

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Differences could arise in a number of ways but at the more serious end of the range, possibilities include either a refusal by the PNG Parliament to recognise a pro-independence referendum outcome, or a failure by Papua New Guinea to agree to a referendum going ahead at all.”

Author James Batley worked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and in AusAID, between 1984 and 2014: Originally published in the Strategist

In my earlier post I argued that, notwithstanding the strong legal underpinning of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, it’s possible that Bougainville and Waigani may be on a collision course. What would such a collision mean for Australia?

In the event that a referendum were held and clearly favoured independence with the outcome subsequently ratified by the PNG Parliament—accompanied by an orderly transition—Australia would have little choice but to accept the result. But while this is a possible outcome, it’s by no means the most likely scenario.

Far more likely is a situation in which Papua New Guinea and Bougainville find themselves at odds. Differences could arise in a number of ways but at the more serious end of the range, possibilities include either a refusal by the PNG Parliament to recognise a pro-independence referendum outcome, or a failure by Papua New Guinea to agree to a referendum going ahead at all.

To this, it might be countered that Article XIV of the PNG Constitution includes a range of dispute resolution provisions including through the courts. Yet this ignores the fact that any differences that may arise are far more likely to be political differences than matters of interpretation that are amenable to mediation or judicial resolution.

In either of the disputed situations outlined above Australia would be faced with difficult choices. Of course, Bougainville isn’t Australia’s responsibility, but Australia has a stake in Bougainville’s future, including its relationship with Papua New Guinea. Australia doesn’t have the luxury of not having a view on these questions. In any serious dispute, both sides would look to Australia for support.

Whatever the legal niceties, the PNG government would expect to have the greater claim on Australian support, both on historical grounds and in the light of more recent experience—you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours (i.e. Manus) grounds. For their part Bougainvillean groups would point to Australia’s role in acting as midwife to the BPA back in 2000.

In any such scenario a range of Australian interests would be thrown into the balance: Australia’s stake in Papua New Guinea’s long-term security and stability; the state of the bilateral relationship; the risks of renewed violence on Bougainville; the implications of any action (or inaction) on Australia’s part for its broader role in the region.

Many decisions are yet to be taken by the parties themselves, and many variables remain in play. While there are the beginnings of discussion in Bougainville on possible transition scenarios, there’s no requirement for a referendum to be held before 2020, so any breakdown in the process—assuming one does occur—might be years away. So it’s wise not to take the scenario-building too far.

For Australia, however, the key point is this: Downer’s 2000 formula (Australia would ‘accept any settlement negotiated by the parties’) has served successive governments well over the past 15 years when all parties could sincerely declare themselves committed to the BPA. It’s a good formula, and if anything it’s been reinforced by the regular commitment to honouring the BPA included in Ministerial Forum communiques. That said, enough risks are now apparent to suggest that this formula may be reaching its use-by date. Events beyond Australia’s control may require Australia to declare its hand one way or the other.

None of this will be news to Australian officials engaged in PNG policy and, given her personal interest, it’s safe to assume that Julie Bishop understands what’s at stake. That doesn’t make the choices that may be faced any easier.

Much of the above analysis renders the Bougainville issue down to a binary choice: independence or not. Might there be another way of framing the issue? It’s possible that the parties themselves could think of a ‘third way’, even if no such options have been canvassed publicly so far. Even if the PNG and Bougainville governments find themselves seriously at odds on the referendum issue over the course of the next five years, it shouldn’t be assumed that they wouldn’t be able to come up with creative solutions. A worst case scenario isn’t inevitable or even the most likely outcome.

This is where Australian diplomacy could play a role. In 2000, Alexander Downer moved the peace process forward by helping the parties see beyond the immediate binary choices they felt confronted with at the time. The BPA may not have solved the Bougainville question definitively, but it has given the people of Bougainville fifteen years of peace.

It may yet turn out that the key contribution that Australian diplomacy can make is to help the parties see the future as something other than an exclusive yes/no choice.

Bougainville Referendum News: Bougainville: hard choices looming for Australia? (part I)

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“In Canberra the orthodox view remains that an independent Bougainville would complicate Australia’s strategic environment. It could destabilise both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and would inevitably be a weak and possibly internally conflicted state requiring substantial external assistance for an extended period, with this cost being largely borne by Australia.

The counter-argument—that a peaceful separation of Bougainville from the rest of Papua New Guinea would settle once and for all what has been an issue for all of Papua New Guinea’s history as an independent country—is rarely heard.”

Author James Batley worked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and in AusAID, between 1984 and 2014 including postings in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. He currently works as a Distinguished Policy Fellow in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU: Published The Strategist
Picture Above Arawa 2014: Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has taken a personal interest in Bougainville.

The 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) marked the formal end to the 1990s Bougainville conflict, even though a truce, and subsequently a ceasefire, had been in place since late 1997. Among other things, the BPA provided for a delayed referendum on Bougainville’s future relationship with Papua New Guinea. Under an agreed formula, the referendum will be held between June 2015 and June 2020.

There are now clear risks, however, that the BPA mightn’t last the distance. This post looks at where things are headed on Bougainville and, in particular, at some difficult choices the Australian Government may need to make in the coming period.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has taken a personal interest in Bougainville, having visited it both in opposition and in government. She’s been careful to avoid commenting on the independence question although there’s no reason to think that the Abbott Government’s approach will be different from that of its predecessors; it will have a strong preference for Bougainville to remain part of Papua New Guinea.

In Canberra the orthodox view remains that an independent Bougainville would complicate Australia’s strategic environment. It could destabilise both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and would inevitably be a weak and possibly internally conflicted state requiring substantial external assistance for an extended period, with this cost being largely borne by Australia.

The counter-argument—that a peaceful separation of Bougainville from the rest of Papua New Guinea would settle once and for all what has been an issue for all of Papua New Guinea’s history as an independent country—is rarely heard.

For all that, Australia’s formal position on Bougainville’s independence is in fact one of neutrality. This position was first set out in March 2000 by then-Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. During the course of negotiations on the Bougainville Peace Agreement, Downer announced that Australia would ‘accept any settlement negotiated by the parties’.

Downer never made any secret of the fact that Australia’s preference was for Bougainville to remain part of Papua New Guinea. Even so, his March 2000 announcement was seen—particularly on Bougainville—as a significant change in Australian government policy because it meant, in theory at least, that Australia was open to any negotiated outcome, including independence. Previously, during the course of the Bougainville crisis from 1988 onwards, Australia’s position had been that Bougainville was an integral part of Papua New Guinea; that position was part of the reason for strong anti-Australian sentiment among pro-independence leaders on Bougainville.

The perception of a significant policy change was reinforced by Downer’s role, later in 2000, in helping to broker the crucial ‘delayed referendum’ provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA). These provide for an independence referendum 10 to 15 years after the election of a Bougainville government (as it subsequently turned out, this means June 2015–June 2020), plus a requirement for the outcome to be ratified by the PNG Parliament. Downer argued that this outcome gave reassurance to both sides: for pro-independence Bougainvilleans a successful referendum, although non-binding, would have irresistible moral force among the international community; for the PNG government, at the same time, sovereignty would ultimately be preserved by giving the PNG Parliament the final say.

The BPA has a strong legal foundation. Its terms were enshrined in law through an amendment to the PNG Constitution (Article XIV). Furthermore, no amendments to that part of the Constitution can be passed unless also approved by a two-thirds majority in the Bougainville legislature. On the timing of the referendum, the language included in Article XIV is unequivocal:

The Referendum shall be held … not earlier than 10 years and, notwithstanding any other provision [emphasis added], not more than 15 years after the election of the first Bougainville Government.

Australia took as a given that PNG governments of any stripe would want Bougainville to remain part of Papua New Guinea—and that they would (and should) take advantage of the delay in the timing of the referendum to convince Bougainvilleans of the benefits of autonomy over independence.

Whatever Papua New Guinea’s efforts over the years since the BPA was signed, most informed observers would now take the view that majority Bougainvillean opinion remains firmly pro-independence, even if differences exist on the question of how ready Bougainville is for independence and therefore on the best timing for this.

Campaigning for the May 2015 elections in Bougainville was conducted explicitly on the grounds that the incoming government (which has a five year term) would be the one to negotiate the exact timing of the referendum. All presidential candidates, including the winner, John Momis, were pro-independence in outlook.

The PNG government hasn’t publicly walked away from the BPA; on the contrary, it continues to assert its commitment to it. The communiques from successive PNG–Australia Ministerial Forums continue to include routine (perhaps by now ritual) affirmations of the PNG government’s ‘ongoing commitment to the full implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement’.

It would be prudent at least to contemplate ways in which all this could go wrong. Papua New Guinea’s reaction to the May 2015 budget announcement that an Australian consulate would be established in Buka suggested that Australia had touched a raw nerve in Waigani, and gave a valuable insight into the importance and sensitivity of this issue for the O’Neill government. Certainly, the Port Moresby rumour mill increasingly suggests that Prime Minister O’Neill is giving serious thought as to how Papua New Guinea can preserve its interests in Bougainville in the long term.

Many on Bougainville fear that the PNG government will find a way to prevent the referendum from going ahead at all. So it’s at least possible that Bougainville and Waigani may be on a collision course. In a second post I will look at the implications of any such collision for Australian policy.

Bougainville Referendum News : Bougainville taking steps towards the referendum

 

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“Discontent over the electoral roll among the general public was often expressed in terms of national identity. One community leader stated: ‘If your name is not on the roll, this means you are not Bougainvillean’. This suggests the issue with the roll constitutes much more than a technical problem. In the lead-up to the referendum on independence, amending the electoral roll must be a priority. Unless significant effort is put towards not only improving the quality of the electoral roll but also affirming public faith in its integrity, there could be serious repercussions for the referendum process.”

Kerryn Baker and Thiago Cintra Oppermann (see ANU article Below )

A MEDIA STATEMENT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT

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Panguna Meekamui Leader declares support to the Referendum Preparations

Mr Moses Pipiro, Commander of the Meekamui Defence Force that has territorial control over the giant Panguna Mine has thrown his weight behind the ABG preparations for conduct of a free and fair referendum on the Bougainville future political status with a choice for separate independence for Bougainville as agreed in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

He presented to a small delegation of officers from the Department of Referendum, Veterans’ Affairs and Peace, a five member Meekamui Working group that is tasked with producing a Meekamui schedule for awareness, reconciliation and weapons disposal as well as their views on reopening of Panguna Mine.

Mr Pipiro agrees that it is important that Bougainville must be free from fear of guns and that Bougainville needs a massive economic boost to fund its government and people of the choice was in favour of Meekamui aspiration for independent Bougainville. “Meekamui stands in support of the ABG to enable Bougainville fulfil its commitments to the Peace Agreement,” assured Mr Pipiro.

On the whole Central Bougainville is immediately taking steps to ensure their constituencies can be referendum ready. Vice Minister of Referendum, Veterans’ Affairs and Peace and Member for South Nasio, Hon Simon Dasiona as of last week has engaged in consultations with senior Ex Combatant leaders to move towards a post ABG reconciliation for Presidential Candidates from Central Bougainville with the ABG President, Hon Chief John Momis. He firmly believes that Bougainville Ex Combatant leaders must be united with the Political leadership to achieve peace in the referendum process for a powerful outcome.

VICE PRESIDENTS MISSION TO PORT MORESBY

After tasking his Vice Minister, the Ministry and the Department of Referendum, Veterans Affairs and Peace to engage in ground consultations for the preparation of the conduct of the referendum Hon. Patrick Nisira departed for Port Moresby on a similar mission at the National Government level and the International Community.

Hon Nisira’s mission to Port Moresby has four objectives. To establish departmental contacts with political and administrative heads of PNG National Government and agencies that may be relevant in implementing the Bougainville referendum. This will help ABG to gain a better understanding of the conduct of the Bougainville Referendum and the consequent ratification of the relationship with the PNG National Government counterparts to ensure that peace prevails in the post referendum period. In this mission the Vice President will update the relevant PNG National Government partners on the Ministerial and Departmental broad frame work of Bougainville preparations for the conduct of the Bougainville referendum.

Bougainville Peace Agreement is a Joint Creation of the PNG Government and the people of Bougainville therefore we must work hand in hand to implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

The Vice President also stated that in this trip he will establish direct contacts with diplomatic missions in Port Moresby to ensure that the international community receives briefs on the ground situation on Bougainville in terms of preparation.

“My mandate as the Minister is to ensure that Bougainville meets its part of the bargain under the Bougainville Peace Agreement and to help me do that I must know how my counterparts are preparing and also that I must have fair idea of the trend of world politics today. I am confident my ministry and department will deliver on the Bougainville commitments to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, Mr Nisira said.

The Vice President returns to Bougainville over the weekend and will proceed immediately to Central and South Bougainville areas to link to the ground teams there.

Bougainville looks towards the referendum

31 July 2015

Bougainville went to the polls in May 2015 for the third Autonomous Bougainville Government election since the Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed in 2001. The election was a significant political milestone for the region, marking the beginning of a five-year window in which a referendum on independence is scheduled to be held. It also saw the first woman member of the House of Representatives to be elected in an open seat, Josephine Getsi of Peit constituency.
Elections were held for the seats in the House of Representatives and for the presidency of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. In the house there are 33 open seats, three seats reserved for women, and three seats reserved for ex-combatants. Each voter has four ballots: for the presidency, for their constituency, and for their regional women’s and ex-combatant representatives. The election used a system of limited preferential voting, in which voters rank their top three preferred candidates on each ballot.Bougainville presents significant logistical challenges when it comes to election administration. While there were some considerable issues, overall the election was relatively peaceful. For the most part, the result was accepted by the Bougainvillean people. Despite delays, both polling and counting were completed within their respective designated two-week periods. The success of the election was due in large part to the community goodwill towards the electoral process within Bougainville.Campaigning kicked off with nominations on 30 March, which included colourful motorcades and some of the largest rallies seen in the campaign. A total of 342 candidates nominated, including 35 women. Only 12 of these women were contesting open seats; the remainder competed for the three seats reserved for women. Nine men, and no women, contested the presidency.Campaigning was mostly peaceful. The presidential race was dominated by the issues of the referendum, good governance and economic development, with mining also significant in certain regions. None of the presidential candidates campaigned for autonomy. Candidates differed as to how forcefully they proposed independence from Papua New Guinea but all argued in its favour. The referendum was thus discussed mostly in terms of candidates representing themselves as the best option to achieve a successful referendum.

In Bougainville, ‘good governance’ has acquired the character of a piety that nobody disowns, but its practice is another matter. Candidates defending their seats faced barrages of (credible and not-so-credible) accusations of corruption. Often the absence of visible delivery of services by a politician was construed as evidence of corruption in itself; yet the delivery of some services was also labelled corrupt by some. According to one such critic, ‘the work of a politician is to pass laws and set policy, not to give schools’ – yet even this critic went on to complain that his approach to a politician for funds had been rebuffed.

The expectation that politicians will personally deliver services, resentment at preferential gifting, and pervasive, politicised rumour of corruption are all facets of an underlying political economy of distribution and its discontents. This is deeply enmeshed at all levels of Bougainvillean society, from the state to the household. It is extremely difficult for politicians and voters to extricate themselves from expectations and obligations to present and receive ‘gifts.’

The pervasiveness of this politics of distribution poses a particular challenge to women. The political economy of gifting is fundamentally gendered and favours men, while women are expected and encouraged to be ‘clean’ candidates. This emphasis on women’s ‘purity’ means that harsh judgement falls on women who act in ways that would be tolerated or even welcomed in the case of men. While some women — including Josephine Getsi and a few others who placed highly — performed exceptionally well, most of the women who contested races against men polled last or second-to-last.

One major issue arising from the election was the quality of the electoral roll. Issues with the roll have also been noted in past elections. But as Bougainville looks toward a referendum by 2020, the extent of these problems in 2015 was of particular concern. Many people were turned away from polling stations because their names did not appear on the final roll, including many who claimed to have voted in previous elections. In all regions, many appeared to have been disenfranchised; at some polling stations, observations showed up to three in ten people being turned away.

Discontent over the electoral roll among the general public was often expressed in terms of national identity. One community leader stated: ‘If your name is not on the roll, this means you are not Bougainvillean’. This suggests the issue with the roll constitutes much more than a technical problem. In the lead-up to the referendum on independence, amending the electoral roll must be a priority. Unless significant effort is put towards not only improving the quality of the electoral roll but also affirming public faith in its integrity, there could be serious repercussions for the referendum process.

Kerryn Baker and Thiago Cintra Oppermann are research fellows in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University.