Bougainville Day 2017 Reflections on the past : Are our greatest resources the environment, our cultures and our people ?

 “June 15, is a very symbolic occasion. It marks the anniversary of the day when Bougainville’s political aspirations were recognized with the formal establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, in this sense Bougainville Day captures the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Bougainvilleans.

The last twelve years have been some of the most challenging, yet fruitful, for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville as we continue to forge ahead to decide our ultimate political future.”

Happy Bougainville Day and God bless you all.

Chief Dr. John L. Momis GCL, MHR
President

” As another Bougainville Day arrived and passed us by we continue to contemplate, celebrate and share the belief, hope and faith that with the right efforts and proper use of resources Bougainville will continue be a resilient society among its Melanesian brothers in the country and in the Pacific Islands.

What are Bougainville’s greatest resources?”

Simon Pentanu asks in Part 2 below

Part 1 The President

The Autonomous Bougainville Government has made significant progress in strengthening its faculties through passing important laws in the Bougainville House of Representatives and revitalizing the Bougainville Public Service into a lean and effective service delivery mechanism.

We have passed many new and important laws such as the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 which is one of the very best in the world as it gives Bougainville resource owners more control over their land and resources. The recent partial lifting of the Mining Moratorium on Bougainville is a clear indication of the ABG’s drive to foster fiscal self-reliance in the region.

Over the years our public service has been plagued by corruption; it is a deeply rooted problem that continues to hamper our development but we have since made efforts to curb this problem.

The setting up of the Auditor’s Office and the recent opening of the Ombudsman Commission’s office in Bougainville has provided us with the necessary means to tackle the corruption problem head on, not just in the public service but throughout Bougainville. The recent developments in the public service shows that the ABG will no longer tolerate corrupt practices.

We have set the indicative date for the referendum to be held on June 15, 2019. The ABG is already preparing for this very important event and the newly created Department of Peace Agreement Implementation will be taking the lead on this.

I would like to remind you all that our people are a people highly favoured. We have been blessed with the right to self-determination and this right we have paid for with the blood, sweat and tears that we shed through the darkest hours of our history, and that was the Bougainville Crisis.

We will not go quietly into the night, we must stand firm and stand united and make our voices heard, for at this juncture, unity is our greatest bargaining power on the eve of the referendum.

Today I ask all Bougainvilleans to reflect and to consider what you can each do to help Bougainville achieve its true destiny and dreams.

All of us have a role to play – our farmers, industrialists, students, teachers, health workers, public servants and our elected leaders.

By working together and moving ahead with a common goal there is much that we can achieve.

My challenge to you is to embrace this change and contribute to the journey. Together we can achieve greatness and as your President that is my ultimate goal – for a proud, united Bougainville.

Happy Bougainville Day and God bless you all.

Chief Dr. John L. Momis GCL, MHR
President

Part 2 Simon Pentanu

Not everyone will agree with me, but I believe they are our environment, our cultures and our people.

When we think about how to transform Bougainville into a developing, progressive region in the modern world, it’s important we do so by harnessing and protecting these resources.

Our environment, cultures and people are the things that have sustained us for countless generations past – and they can continue to do so today and into the future if we are smart.

Keeping our natural environment healthy while transforming Bougainville into a modern, progressive region is something the ABG can achieve only in close consultation with communities – the land owners and culture custodians.

Wherever we look around the world, there are lessons we can learn. Some communities and their environments have become victims of progress, not partners in development.

Think about the Melanesian people of West Papua. In the past 40 years vast quantities of their gold, copper, timber, palm oil and other resources have been mined, chopped down, extracted and exported, but few impartial observers would say this has been to the benefit of West Papua’s environment, cultures and people.

Of course, the vast majority of the resource extraction that has happened in West Papua has been undertaken with little or zero community consultation.

We have the opportunity to do things differently. To this end Bougainville’s mining legislation and policies address this. Let us hope it works in practice so that all parties involved in this industry and any such investment which harnesses resources are equal opportunity benefactors.

When we consider the various options open to us, I believe a CGP (community government partnership) is a more sustainable choice than a PPP (public private partnership).

CGP has the community as its starting point. CGP is a partnership that regards and protects the environment as enduring capital for sustainable humanitarian development.

A PPP is fine if it regards resource owners in communities as equal partners. But too often PPPs see resources merely as disposable commodities and consumables in a profit-oriented business model.

That way of thinking ends up depleting our strongest long-term assets for short-term gains that are here one year and gone the next.

Bougainville’s greatest resources – our environment, our cultures and our people – deserve so much better than that.

We can learn from the lessons from the past – some of which have been the most profound insofar as they have affected our society more than any other society in Melanesia, and the whole of the Pacific for that matter.

 

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