Bougainville Referendum News : Calls for PNG to lift its game over Bougainville


 “A former Papua New Guinea cabinet minister says Port Moresby has to do more to help prepare Bougainville for its referendum on independence.

The autonomous region is set to hold a vote in June of 2019.

A former MP for Central Bougainville and the first Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Sam Akoitai, said the National Government must do everything possible to ensure Bougainvilleans have full faith in the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) ahead of the vote, which is the final stage of the Peace Agreement.”

Mr Akoitai has prepared a statement for the National Parliament’s Bi-Partisan Committee, which met last week on Bougainville, and hopes the MPs will get a better idea of the issues facing Bougainville ahead of the vote.

He told Don Wiseman from RNZ about his chief concerns.


Arawa, Bougainville Photo: RNZI

Bougainville Education News : Bringing training and qualifications to Bougainville!


Some of the new members at Unity Public Library in Buka, Bougainville discovering their joy in reading. 

We are starting a training program in Bougainville! Working with the wonderful and ever supportive Deb from Tafe SA, we have been busy liaising back and forth by email talking about needs and logistics and all of the possibilities. After months of negotiating, the training proposal was written and submitted and we have been approved. Starting this week, our first round of students will begin their Certificate II in Customer Engagement with library electives.

Thanks to Lanies detour to Bougainville blog

The design of the qualification looked at selecting subjects that would be useful, interesting and relevant to securing employment here in Bougainville or indeed further afield. From ‘preparing the work environment for customers’ to ‘assisting with circulation activities’ the student will be learning about working in a customer service environment

The Bougainville Customer Engagement Training Program is a joint project between Unity Library, Haku Women’s Collective (HWC) and the Bougainville Integrated Community Learning Centre (BICLC- located in Southern Bougainville). The program is designed to provide much-needed educational opportunities which are lacking in Bougainville to committed and bright individuals. There is no age limit for admittance to the program, instead the focus has been on selecting individuals who are engaged in their local community; have a proven track record demonstrating their commitment through attendance/ working in their host organisation; and with whom each host organisation can see the potential for capacity development within each respective organisation for continued growth. 

In developing the training proposal with the educational service provider, the training coordinator (me) evaluated relevancy of qualifications in the work environment of Bougainville as well as accreditation. Key subject matter selected from both core and elective options and the integration of existing experience and work being done within each partnership organisation forms the basis of this program.

Each student makes a commitment to not only completing their studies as per the training contract, but also to engaging with their host organisation both within their studies but also contributing to their host organisation with hours worked and continued development of ‘on the job’ skill sets developed through the program. 

The key priorities during the program development was to evaluate and develop a learning framework that will be flexible and robust; qualifications that will be relevant and accredited; and that will be respectful of different learning styles and educational backgrounds considering student needs on an individual basis. Taken into consideration has been logical issues such as the geographic spread of the students, access to the training coordinator, and technological challenges.

The time commitment for the students varies depending on the study period they are in, though hours worked in their host organisation are set. The students will attend a training and study workshop once a month with the training coordinator and their fellow students which will focus on subject content for the study period, further development of computer literacy (which will be ongoing), and time to have one on one mentoring with the training coordinator. Mentoring and ongoing support will also occur within each partnership organisation and key people will be involved in this providing a more sustainable and well-rounded training program maximizing successful outcomes. 

Outcomes for the program are multiple and the program has been designed to ensure that the outcomes are relevant for the students, useful and long-lasting. It is anticipated that through completing the program, each student will be have enhanced computer and english literacy through both classwork and experience. The students will have opportunity to engage with each other and the joint partners thus increasing their networks and developing new relationships. Finally, the development of skills and knowledge, along with completion of the qualification leading to sense of achievement will build confidence and self-esteem for each student. 

The materials are printed, laptop is charged and we are ready for our first workshop tomorrow! Our first subject is ‘Communicate in the Workplace’ supported by cake for morning tea for expanding minds, and curry for stamina at lunch time. Stay tuned for photos and to hear how our students are going in this wonderful new program

Learn about the pilot literacy project on Bougainville founded by James Tanis  :Bookgainville



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



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



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

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

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

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

The Conflict

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

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

The Bougainville Peace Process

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

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

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

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

The Bougainville Peace Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The REferendum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sam Akoitai

17 October 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Simon Pentanu

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

For more info about or book

Bougainville’s PokPok Island and Uruna Bay Retreat