Bougainville News Alert : President Toroama reports on 100-days progress :

The first 100 days of the Toroama led Autonomous Bougainville Government has shown great promise with the government achieving a number of benchmarks since its inception in September.

It has been 80 days following the swearing-in of Ishmael Toroama as the fourth President of the Fourth Bougainville House of Representatives on 25th September this year.

President Toroama presented a progressive report of his government’s First 100 Days in the Bougainville House of Representatives today.

“The priorities for this Government were announced in my inauguration speech. I expected the Ministers to take your cue from my priorities and implement them through your respective Department Plans. I also expected ordinary members to take your cue from my priorities,” President Toroama said.

“My priorities were then packaged into the 100 Day Plan, with 11 Pillars that are being implemented by the various Departments,” President Toroama added.

The very first pillar was the setting up of the new government and cabinet; this was accomplished upon the President appointing his full cabinet to the 14 portfolios in the ABG.

The Toroama government has progressed Bougainville’s Independence preparations which are at an advanced stage, however, consultations are obviously happening slower the expected because of the national political context but the ABG ready to engage as soon as the situation stabilizes in Port Moresby.

The President has also launched the Manetai Lime stone project, the Integrated Agriculture Project at Tonolei in Buin District and the Integrated Landowner Group registration exercise for the Bana Special Economic Zone.

President Toroama said that the ABG is reviewing other failed ABG businesses to find ways of either resurrecting them or shutting them down for good.

In the law and justice sector the President has encouraged dialogue with the Konnou and Tonu factions to encourage reintegration into Bougainville under the ABG.

The Toroama Government is also responsible for funding and launching office space for three key law and justice agencies; the Department of Justice and Attorney General – Community Based Corrections, Office of the Public Solicitor and the ABG Department of Justice and Legal Services in Arawa.

The first 100 Days of the Toroama Presidency is focused on realigning the ABG’s priorities under the President Toroama’s Six (6) Point Strategies on developing Bougainville and making it independence ready.

Xmas Message from the President 

Greetings to you all my people of Bougainville, this is the first Christmas message I am sharing with you as your President, since coming into office 4 months ago.

Christmas is a time of special Joy as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also a time for reflection and renewal in our spiritual and physical lives.

So, as we observe the spirit of Christmas, I want to give you a message of hope and assurance that we are on the right track in our political journey. And to also ask you to do your part as we walk together the journey towards independence.

My people of Bougainville, 2020 has been both very exciting and challenging.

We started the year with the excitement of the 98% Referendum result, without any complaints lodged within the prescribed 40-day period. This was then followed by the State of Emergency of the Covid-19 pandemic which has greatly impacted on the work of both the government, the civil society and the private sectors. Many small businesses are also struggling as a result.

We also experienced the excitement of forming a new Bougainville Government under my Presidency and the end of term of our most senior and longest serving political leader, Dr Chief John Momis.

As we all take a well-earned rest from our hectic duties, but most importantly, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, I want us to also think about the following Christmas Messages.

The overall theme of my Christmas message is “Being Independence Ready by taking responsibility at your own level”:

Whether it is at the Individual level; the Family level; the Clan level; the Church level; the Community level; at the COE level, and at whatever level you belong to, we all have a responsibility to be independence ready.

My people of Bougainville, let me explain what I mean when I say this.

When we talk about “being independent”, it is not just political independence that we should have in mind but also being independent in the way we live our lives at all levels daily.

We must maintain the spirit of independence or self -help that we have always known in our lives. We have always built our own classrooms, health centres, churches, feeder roads and so one. We have always worked on the land or sea to look after our families.

All communities must be socially and economically “independent” through our own initiatives.

At the government level, ABG officers have already consulted with the PNG counterparts and reached a good understanding on the pathway for addressing the 98% vote for independence in 2021.

As we take “independence ready” actions at all levels, I appeal to you to also think seriously about the forthcoming Bougainville Regional seat by-elections. The next 2 years, is a very crucial period as we go into consultations with the PNG Government on the 98% and political independence for Bougainville.

The Bougainville Regional seat, is equivalent to a Governors’ seat in other provinces. This is not a time to vote for beginners. We need quality and experienced political leaders with active national and international links, who can fight for Bougainville independence, on the floor of PNG Parliament, and also lobby with international friends. There are six candidates from which you are to make your choice of 1, 2 and 3. I appeal to you to put party politics aside and vote for who will best deliver the Referendum result and Independence for Bougainville.

Law and Order:

My people of Bougainville, maintaining Law and Order, is a very important part of being “independent ready”.

When a star was borne in the East, according to the gospel of Mathew, three wise men travelled several days long distances, to offer gold, frankincense and myrrh and to honor the new born king. They were not troubled by any lawlessness on their way to see the new borne king.

We, as Christians in Bougainville, also have the last part of the journey towards political independence, and it is important that this journey is not disturbed by any law and order issues.

We must live peaceful and happy lives especially you young boys & girls. Young generation, you have a lot of opportunity where you are to work the land, or the sea and achieve something and live a good happy live.

Do not waste your lives feeling frustrated that you did not continue your education or that you did not find a job? The truth is that no one will give you a good life on a golden plate whilst you waste your life away on drugs and home brew.

The community is the place where we all live so it is up to all of us to make sure it is a safe and a happy place to live in.

It is impossible for Police to be in every community maintaining law and order because there are simply not enough Police men and women.

From now onwards, I expect the Chiefs, Pastors, Ward Councilors and Elders to take responsibility for maintaining law and order in each community.

Our star is rising in the east, and we must walk the journey together towards it as law abiding citizens.

Corruption:

My dear people of Bougainville, addressing corruption is another element of being “independence ready”. Regulating the behavior of the Public service and Leaders is essential to stopping corrupt behavior.

The Ombudsman Commission will be strengthening its presence and role in Bougainville in this regard.

We the people of Bougainville, also have a big role to play in reducing corruption by leaders and the public service. We must stop having expectations of handout mentality by government or the leaders. If we stop expecting leaders to give us money or material goods, the leaders will also stop misusing public monies.

The culture of “false claims” into Govt offices by various stakeholders must also stop because it promotes corrupt behaviors.

Isaiah 1:4 says “Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption. They have forsaken the lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him”.

As we celebrate Christmas as Christians, we voters or constituencies must stop our expectations of leaders for “cargo development” or hand-outs because that will help in reducing corruption.

Economy

My people of Bougainville, another area in which we must be “independence ready” is the economy. At every level, we must be economically independent. The family unit, the clan system and the community are the fundamental building blocks of our Bougainville society. Each of these levels must have strong economic foundations.

Papa or mama noken kamapim pikinini na raun natin natin na spak home brew or marijuana. When you give birth to a child, it is your responsibility to give that child good clothes, good house, good health, good education and a good life for the rest of his/her adult life. From 2021 onwards, I do not want to see idle parent-youths roaming the streets of Buka, Arawa and Buin towns. You mas stap lo ples na kamapim economy blo lukautim pikinini yu kamapim.

At the government level, we have already launched the Manetai limestone project. We are also increasing efforts in progressing the Bana Free Trade Zone through the establishment of the Integrated Land Groups registration process.

In 2021, my government, will develop and implement initiatives aimed at growing the Bougainville economy quickly. These initiatives include increasing the internal tax revenue base, establishing enterprises (such gold marketing) with early revenue returns, reviewing and improving the government business arms whilst also developing medium to long term plans. My government, with the support of international partners, is planning to hold an Economic Summit in April 2021.

Through this Christmas message I want to alert the Bougainville Administration to rise up to the Task of growing our economy and not become a bottle neck to our growth.

Working with Communities

My people of Bougainville, the large majority of our citizens live in villages. And yet we have a system of government where decisions, resources and services delivery are town oriented.

We need a paradigm shift in the way both Govt and private sector do business. On the part of Govt, we must explore ways of transferring some powers and functions down to the district level. This should be supported by necessary social and economic infrastructure and services delivery. People should not be made to travel the whole day to come to Buka to get government services but go to their district headquarters.

Likewise, the private sector should also invest at the District level instead of Buka and Arawa only. That way, both govt and the private sector will promote balanced development throughout Bougainville. I challenge the administration and the private sector to make this change happen.

I am happy to announce to the people of Bougainville that the BEC recently approved the establishment of the Bougainville Strategic Research and Planning Secretariat which will drive the changes that I have been advocating since becoming your President.

Celebrating the meaning of Christmas

Finally, my people of Bougainville, Christmas is a time to remember and celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the earthy beings of Joseph and Mary in a stable in Bethlehem – Bringing Joy to the world!!.

It is also a time of renewing relationships, a time of receiving and giving, and a time of making new commitments.

Some of us may have lost loved ones during the year, and it may be time to remember and honor their memories.

Whichever it is for you and your family, I want to encourage you to stay safe, celebrate and honor in the Christian way.

AND ABOVE ALL HAVE A PEACEFUL AND BLESSED MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY PROSPEROUS 2021

Hon. Ishmael Toroama MHR

President

 

Bougainville News : Reflections of memory and reality , there is rhyme, reason and ritual to hunting, gathering and fishing.

“It is circa 1973/74. We are gutting fish on the main village shore after returning home with a decent haul of tuna to share at the dinner table. The rest will be sold at the fish market. It was a good day out because we returned before sundown with a good amount of daylight still left to do other things.

John next to me in the photograph had recently commenced work and studies with a government entity in Port Moresby. I was almost nearing the end of my undergraduate studies at UPNG and eager to return to full time work with the House of Assembly. We met in the village at Christmas holidays.

These are some of the best times in the lives of our generation. We had just gotten one foot in the modern world in a country with everything going for it, and another foot still supplanted at home so that we combined and enjoyed the best of both worlds. “

Simon Pentanu 

PHOTO above : c1973/74: We are a sensible, sharing and giving society. Greed is incongruent to the values of social egalitarian societies where the community benefits, the family or clan shares from collective efforts of everyone.

It was the land of plenty everywhere in PNG. And it still is but it is not the same place with the same kind of regard it deserves any more. Bougainville, not unlike other  provinces at the time, was a good example of an Island with abundance of resources more than enough to ably support its population.

Generally, then we could not falter people’s enthusiasm. I remember in the villages and in the towns and cities for example no one could falter the enthusiasm for education every child desired to better themselves or to land a good paid job in a government office or in a company business in the city. It was affordable to go to school.

Going back to fishing, we didn’t know, or had heard about overfishing. The fish around our Island waters were schooling around in large numbers. You did not have to go far as we do today to make a good catch before heading home.  The migratory pelagic fish were plentiful  in the harbour, other fish were good game around the the edges of the island’s shoals and shores.

It was worthwhile going out not because you expected to bring in a good catch all the time but because the sea was nice, in good heath,  alive and vibrant and thus able to support a lot of sensible fishing. And we could swim as much and as long as we wanted.

It wasn’t just the sea that mattered and the subject of conversation of fishermen. Looking forward returning home the land looked very lush green with thriving forests. It always gave  us a sense and appreciation that our world of the living was not just about our species but about a world where everything thrived all around us.

Our lives were intimated with the natural surroundings that we are very much a part of.

These kinds of memories and stories are rarer, and far and in between to tell. Why? Because we are no longer able to control the scripts and scenarios and tell the stories they represent. Instead we start our mornings reading gloomy stories that are carried on front page newspaper headlines.

These past weeks, instead of working and thinking things through together for the people and for the love of the country, the first love of those who we elect to represent us is self preservation, by and large.

May be all is not lost. Not yet anyway but we can’t say the scepticism and cynicism isn’t around. If we can go back to telling simple, perhaps unassuming, stories about where we have come from, where we are now and where we might be headed, perhaps some sense and sobriety will remain.

We expect leaders to make the hard decisions. But they must be sensible decisions. It is irrelevant who is making the decisions. What is important and relevant is the decisions are in the best interest and benefit of the People. Our leaders are like our trustees, we are the beneficiaries.

If we are not careful, the first thing we may lose is ourselves, our sense and sensibility of who we are and where we are at. The next thing we may lose is care, love and respect for the state. Beyond this starts to get a bit beyond the pale where  only a handful of people care and we must wonder whether the leaders recognise or know where we are going and might end up.

When all is said and done the worst position to be in is to not realise or recognise or feel whether any of  this  may not be a self indictment of how little we care any more for the country.

There is rhyme, reason and ritual to hunting, gathering and fishing. Not so long ago the  beneficiaries which is the community always recognised this knowing that their hunters, gatherers and fishers always brought home something to the dinner table for all to share.

After two adjournments and a third one yesterday after the intervention of the Judiciary I’m not sure what this House will bring anything to the dinner table that is beneficial and palatable to share with its people that are developing a growing concern (may be even fear) and a reason to be sceptical and cynical about leadership and governance in this country.