Bougainville Government News : First 100 days Achievements of Chief Secretary Joseph Nobetau

 ” The challenges that we face are immense. As Chief Secretary I am honoured to be able to serve Government and commit to maintaining the full degree of energy, integrity and direction required to help the Government achieve its objectives.

Whilst much has already been done, it is incumbent on all public servants, both senior and junior, to ensure we deliver the public services that all Bougainvilleans so richly deserve.

Challenges and Upcoming Priorities

Despite some achievements it is clear that much more needs to be done. Key priorities include:

  • Enhancing engagement to ensure a more joined up approach to Government service delivery;
  • Ensuring effective coordination of donor support so that we can maximize the value of existing international development assistance whilst harnessing new and emerging development opportunities;
  • Ensuring effective community engagement so that our people understand what it is that the Government is doing for them;
  • Ensuring that corporate plans are adhered to and remain reflective of Government objectives;
  • Ensuring that the BEC remains well supported and that submissions reflect whole-of-Government considerations and priorities;
  • Continuing work to undertake urban and town planning activities to enhance infrastructure and housing to address need;
  • Getting the new integrated financial management system in place to deliver more effective, transparent and accountable financial management practices across Government;
  • Continued work on the draw-down of powers to support autonomy;
  • Convening the Revenue and Taxation Summit; and
  • Ensuring that the Bougainville Referendum Commission is fully established and that important stakeholder and community engagement work commences.

Joseph Nobetau Chief Secretary ABG

Download a PDF Copy of this report :

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Following my appointment to the Office of Chief Secretary on 17 October 2017, I have been engaged in a process of reform aimed at enhancing the capacity of the Department of President and the BEC and the broader public service.

As Chief Secretary I have engaged extensively with key stakeholders including Ministers, Secretaries, donors, the private sector and civil society. Through this work I have gained valuable insight into the workings of the public sector and the need for change and reform.

The purpose of this statement is to provide the general public with an update of the work that has been undertaken since my appointment, outline the challenges that I see moving forward and to canvass the priorities that are ahead.

Consultations

Ministers

Since commencing as Chief Secretary I have been able to meet with all Ministers. Through these discussions I have gained valuable insight into key ministerial priorities which has in turn informed my work with portfolio Secretaries and keystake holders. These discussions have been invaluable in informing my Department’s broader reform agenda and have assisted with some critical organisational change decisions.

Secretaries

As Chief Secretary I see it as an important part of my role to provide leadership and guidance to Secretaries. Since commencing as Chief Secretary I have convened Senior Management Committee meetings and met one on one with all Secretaries.

In my discussions I have emphasised the President’s key messages around organisational capability and the need to deliver meaningful outcomes with respect to service delivery and public service reform. These discussions have been positive, and whilst there will continue to be some challenges I will continue to ensure that all public servants remain mindful of their need to be accountable and responsive to Government and the people that we serve.

Parliamentary Services

As Chief Secretary I consider it essential that clear lines of communication be in place with the Office of Parliamentary Services. To that end, I have developed a strong working relationship with the Speaker of Parliament with a view to ensuring better links between the public service, the BEC and parliament.

This work is already showing dividends through more effective coordination of public service policy development and programme delivery and parliamentary business.

Community Government

I have been working with the Secretary for Community Government to make changes to Executive Manager arrangements to ensure more responsive community government across Districts. In that context, some immediate changes have already been made to realign resources so that we can better meet the needs of local communities. I will continue to work with the Secretary to ensure that resources at the District level are appropriate so as to enable effective community engagement and service delivery.

International Engagement

International engagement is a critical part of the Chief Secretary role. With significant donor representation in Buka I have reached out to key bilateral and multilateral partners to discuss how donor activities support the work of the ABG and to explore opportunities for more effective engagement and aid coordination. This has included my work as chair of the Australian and New Zealand funded GIF (Governance Implementation Fund) and work with the Australian Funded PNG Governance Facility.

Advisory Support and Donor Engagement

The ABG continues to receive support from a range of donors in relation to the key areas of governance, peace building, health, transport, law and justice and election support. As Chief Secretary I acknowledge the value of this support with a number of key advisers providing advice to my office and across government to progress important initiatives in areas including: recruitment, legal advice and support, draw down of powers, election preparations, media and communication, strategic and corporate planning, economic development, revenue and taxation, urban planning, monitoring and evaluation, financial management and strategic engagement. While in the longer term it is my hope that the ABG will develop the internal capacity to manage these important issues independent of donor support, the support we currently receive has been a critical part of our recent progress.

Aid Coordination

In terms of aid coordination, I continue to engage with key donors regarding how we can target support to get the best possible outcomes. I am of the view that any support must be clearly aligned with ABG priorities and be based on ensuring meaningful capacity building where ABG officers are able to learn from the support provided and manage issues independently in the future. A key future priority will be developing an effective aid coordination mechanism within my Department to ensure the most efficient use of donor support.

Bilateral and Multilateral Engagement

In February 2017 my office coordinated briefing for the visit by NZ Minister for Foreign Affairs the Hon. Murray McCully. The meeting provided a valuable opportunity to talk with a key development partner and friend, with the Foreign Minister committing to ongoing support to the ABG in the lead up to the referendum and beyond.

Vice President Masono hosted a visit by a delegation from the European Union which comprised of the EU Ambassador to PNG, the French Ambassador to PNG and senior officials on 20 February 2017. The visit provided a valuable opportunity to reinforce the ABG’s development priorities and for delegation members to see firsthand some of the challenges that face our young and emerging democracy.

Feedback from the visit was positive, with the EU Ambassador indicating a very strong desire to provide support to Bougainville in key areas including infrastructure, water sanitation and vocational education (amongst others). These are consistent with priorities identified through the PNG-EU dialogue and present opportunities for the ABG to partner with the EU in a number of short to medium term high impact areas. It is hoped that in the near future a delegation led by the Vice President will travel to Port Moresby to meet with senior National Government Officials and the EU Ambassador to explore how this commitment for support can be translated into meaningful action.

Community Engagement

At the community level I have engaged widely with non-Government and volunteer organisations and the education sector. I consider these stakeholders to be essential from a social development perspective.

In December I was honoured to be asked to deliver the keynote address at the Hutjena High School graduation. This was an excellent opportunity for me to deliver a key message on leadership and the value of quality education. My message was that as emerging leaders high school graduates are well placed to make a long term contribution to our economic, social and development goals.

In February I was honoured to speak at the Public Service Dedication Service. I used this as an opportunity to reinforce the need for a responsive public service, noting that planning is the cornerstone of success.

I continue to work with local mainline churches to progress aerial surveys of available land to enhance housing and community infrastructure. This work has included undertaking aerial surveys in Buka, Arawa and Buin to aid town planning, including the potential development of a teachers college in Buin and new housing development in Arawa and Buka.

Organisational Reform

Communication

Communication is the cornerstone of any well-functioning public service. As Chief Secretary my primary aim has been to enhance communication within Government and to our key stakeholders. I have achieved this by chairing Senior Management Committee meetings, engaging with Secretaries and senior leaders, connecting with Districts through radio programmes and working with our civil society partners.

This process is now starting to show results. Department Heads are becoming more engaged and my office has increased visibility of key public sector initiatives.

Despite this it is clear that much more needs to be done, particularly with respect to communicating initiatives to the broader community. In that context I am working with officials in my Department, including my Deputy Secretary, to enhance our media and communication strategy. Whilst there has been some good work in this area many of the initiatives that we need to enhance community awareness have stalled. With the referendum fast approaching this is not acceptable, and a key future priority will be to enhance mechanisms to more effectively communicate with the people.

Corporate Planning

A functional public service requires well thought out policy measures that respond to the needs of Government. This has been lacking in the past. It is clear to me that the public service must be more accountable and responsive.

To that end I have commenced a process to put in place departmental corporate plans. I see these documents as being key to addressing issues of accountability and ministerial expectations. By having in place well thought out plans that reflect Government and ministerial priorities the public service has a means by which to measure whether or not we are meeting core goals and responsibilities. It is my hope that these plans will be finalised in the coming month and that they will in turn help inform the development of a longer term strategic development plan that maps our key development priorities over the years to come.

Recruitment Processes

Open and merit based recruitment processes are an essential part of ensuring that we attract the best and brightest to our public service ranks. I have therefore taken a very close interest in recent recruitment rounds with a view to ensuring that the public service fully adheres to the principles of fair, open and transparent recruitment.

Retrenchments

In late 2016, in consultation with the Secretary for Personnel Management and Administration, arrangements were made to retire a number of officers who had reached the mandatory retirement age. This process was undertaken to ensure compliance with the Public Service Management Act and as part of a broader strategy of ensuring the appropriate resourcing of the public service in the longer term.

Senior leaders Training

As Chief Secretary I have participated in the Australian Government funded senior leaders training which is being conducted by the Queensland University of Technology. I see this training as being a valuable tool through which principles of management can be reinforced, whilst providing an ongoing opportunity for senior leaders to work closely with Ministers.

Overarching MoU on Draw Down of Powers

Work is currently underway to enable the signing of the overarching MoU on the draw-down of powers by the ABG and National Government Public Service Ministers. This will be a critical enabling step in achieving further autonomy.

Financial Management and Elimination of Corruption

Financial Management Systems

In line with the President and Government’s expectations I am heavily focused on financial management and accountability. As Chief Secretary I am conscious of my role in ensuring whole-of-Government financial accountability and working with the Secretary for Finance to enhance our financial management accountability frameworks. In particular, I am actively engaged in work to fast track implementation of the new Integrated Financial Management System within the ABG.

Revenue and Taxation Summit

For some time now it has been proposed that the ABG convene a Revenue and Taxation Summit to review existing revenue raising capacity and to explore means through which the ABG can enhance and consolidate our revenue base.

I am pleased to advise that work in the area is now progressing and that I am working with the Secretary of Finance to convene the summit in the coming months. The summit will provide an opportunity for key stakeholders and subject matter experts to convene.

Referendum Preparations

Bougainville Referendum Commission

On the 24th of January 2017 I travelled to Port Moresby to co-sign the enabling agreement with my national Government counterpart to establish the Bougainville Referendum Commission. The Commission will be an essential mechanism through which the operational management of the referendum will be conducted, and importantly, through which stakeholder and community engagement can occur. I am currently working with the Secretaries for Peace Agreement Implementation and Law and Justice to ensure that all constitutional and organic law requirements have been met prior to the final charter establishing the Commission being signed off by the Governor-General.

Challenges and Upcoming Priorities

Despite some achievements it is clear that much more needs to be done. Key priorities include:

  • Enhancing engagement to ensure a more joined up approach to Government service delivery;
  • Ensuring effective coordination of donor support so that we can maximize the value of existing international development assistance whilst harnessing new and emerging development opportunities;
  • Ensuring effective community engagement so that our people understand what it is that the Government is doing for them;
  • Ensuring that corporate plans are adhered to and remain reflective of Government objectives;
  • Ensuring that the BEC remains well supported and that submissions reflect whole-of-Government considerations and priorities;
  • Continuing work to undertake urban and town planning activities to enhance infrastructure and housing to address need;
  • Getting the new integrated financial management system in place to deliver more effective, transparent and accountable financial management practices across Government;
  • Continued work on the draw-down of powers to support autonomy;
  • Convening the Revenue and Taxation Summit; and
  • Ensuring that the Bougainville Referendum Commission is fully established and that important stakeholder and community engagement work commences.

 

 

 

Joseph Nobetau

Bougainville Peace Walk : Let us keep walking and talking peace !

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 ” A Peace Walk may happen only one day in a year. But we must wear peace on our sleeves and bear it in our hearts everyday. It is the most precious and rewarding gift that we can wear, bear and share with others in our life time.

This is not a project in the conventional or orthodox sense. A message for peace is a potent message, a way of life if you like, that all humanity must subscribe to globally.

Bougainville has something to show for its commitment to peace that was born out of a desire to return to peace by peaceful means.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement, a joint creation by the National Government and the leaders of Bougainville is a testimony to this commitment.

We can better reach and embrace others in peace with us only after we make peace within ourselves.

Simon Pentanu Speaker of the House

Photo above : This is part of the crowd  that participated in the annual Peace Walk from Parliament House, Kubu to Bel Isi Park, Buka town on Friday 09 December 2016. 

The BPA is our political trajectory for peace, a joint memorandum if you like, created between the National Government and Bougainville leaders. That the BPA was agreed to with its signing witnessed by representatives of the international community and Pacific | Oceania regional leaders is a testament by all parties for an unerring desire to see sustainable peace in Bougainville.

If you are looking for impact and performance indicators where peace is at and how we have faired since the signing of the BPA since end of August 2001, one of the best places to look is the last place we often go looking, that is to our heart and within our heart.

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By anyone’s measure or comparison I am prepared to be shot down in saying that the peace process and progress in Bougainville has been exponential. This has required and involved the efforts and commitment of many people and many organizations. But most of all it has required the willingness, cooperation and commitment on Bougainville, of Bougainvilleans to sustain it thus far.

Thank you Buka Town Manager for your support.

Thank you to the ABG Ministers who walked with everyone from start to finish.

Thank you BWF and the many women who braved and enjoyed the walk for a good cause that is universal and very relevant to Bougainville; special thanks to the students from Kamarau International School who were the peace banner bearers on the walk all the way; grateful thanks to members of the civil society whose hearts’ desire always responds readily to occasions like this; thank you to UNDP and other agencies of the UN family for your unequivocal support for peace for a better Bougainville. The mobile support ahead provided by the Bougainville police is appreciated, thank you.

Thank you to the person in the wheelchair who willed and supported this day and wheeled all the way from start to finish. You were not just another person in the Walk. You made a big, special effort. We applaud and thank you.

Thank you Chief Secretary and our senior and rank and file public servants and officials; thank you any political staff that came along.

Thank you to everyone else that took part. Let us keep doing it. You can never have enough, or make enough, peace. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

The onus is on us.

Let us keep Walking !

 

Bougainville Education News : Bringing training and qualifications to Bougainville!

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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

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

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Bougainville Education News : Improving literacy in Bougainville, one step at a time

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Literacy is very important in the community; teaching people to read and write is vital, because a lot of kids here during the crisis did not go to school and are only just now learning to read and write.”

Aravira’s Head Teacher Herman Parito

WATCH VIDEO

“There are strong indications that the benefits of mobile reading like kindles are long-lasting and far-reaching, with the potential to improve literacy, increase education opportunities and change people’s lives for the better.

A revolution in reading is upon us…”

Ex President James Tanis Founder of another local Arawa based project

Bookgainville E Kindles Project see Below

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Students  from Aravira Primary School in central Bougainville, Papua New Guinea on their walk to school – which for some, takes up to four hours

From Tom Perry World Bank report

After a two-hour drive from the nearest main road, our 4WD can travel no further; me and my travelling companions will have to trek the rest of our journey to Aravira Primary School in Bougainville on foot. As we set off, a group of students from the school emerge from the bush in front of us. They smile, extend their hands in welcome and immediately offer to take my backpack.

I politely refuse, yet within minutes I regret my decision to turn down help. As we move through the long grass along the mountain ridge, the heat which a few minutes ago was manageable is now unbearable. I’m pouring in sweat. My backpack feels 10 kilograms heavier, and the ground beneath me feels as if I’m stepping onto ice. Ten minutes into our journey, I lose my feet, slip into a crevice, and land face-first in the nearest bush.

As I’m helped back onto my feet by the kids, I ask them how much further we have to go to get to the school. They giggle, then simply start walking again. I discover soon enough that the answer to my question is ‘two and half gruelling hours.’ This is a seriously hard trek, clearly not for the faint of heart.

An hour later, I struggle up the next ridge, hiking boots still soaked from yet another river crossing, and it really hits me; this is their daily walk to school.

Aravira Primary School is located deep in the Bougainville mountains. It’s a remote, picturesque spot, and is home to 120 students from Aravira and Remsi, the two communities located within ‘walking distance’ of the school. Yet given the school is at least four hours’ journey from the nearest town, Chairman Henry Topowa tells me after I arrive that ‘walking distance’ is a relative concept up here.

“Access by road is very difficult. Both communities are quite far from the school, so the students have to walk a fair distance and cross rivers to come each day to school,” Henry explains. “When it rains, we have to send the children home because of the weather, because it’s very risky in certain areas.”

Henry says that for those coming to the school from beyond the two nearest communities, it’s an even bigger challenge.

“A lot of people here, especially the teachers, travel back and forth on foot. It takes between four to five hours by foot. If we travel into town as early as 6am, we usually arrive back in the village around 9pm or even 10 pm.”

Due to this remoteness, my travelling companions and I are the first non-Bougainvillean visitors to the school in over a year. Yet this is not an unusual story across much of the country. An estimated 60% of Papua New Guineans live in rural areas, which in Bougainville means they’re likely living in dense, mountainous jungle or in small villages dotted along the coastline. In these areas, services such as schools and medical clinics are few and far between, a fact further compounded by the island’s ten-year conflict that saw tens of thousands of families living in hiding in the bush for much of the 1990s.

This remoteness and decades of limited opportunity has driven the students and teachers at Aravira – and many schools just like it – to push for better education, including through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project. In addition to training more than 24,000 teachers, the project has seen the establishment of 21,000 classroom libraries filled with around 1.1 million books to schools across PNG.

More than 21,000 classroom libraries similar to this one have been established across Papua New Guinea through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project in an effort to improve literacy in PNG.
More than 21,000 classroom libraries similar to this one have been established across Papua New Guinea through the World Bank-supported READ PNG project in an effort to improve literacy in PNG.

And having made the brutal trek in to Aravira Primary School, I ask School Chairman Henry Topowa about the challenge of delivering hundreds of books to a place so remote. He beams with pride when he recounts the story.

“The road was muddy and slippery. We crossed a river along the way which was flooding. We had to balance ourselves carrying the books over an unsteady wooden bridge at the river,” Henry tells me.

“It was raining and we were scared that the books would get wet, so we cut banana leaves and placed them over the box of books and onto our shoulders. Others placed them in bilums [a woven bag, common across PNG] and carried them on their backs. It was very hard.”

Henry is steadfast in his belief in the power of education on the lives of the students at his school.

“Literacy is very important in the community; teaching people to read and write is vital, because a lot of kids here during the crisis did not go to school and are only just now learning to read and write.”

Aravira’s Head Teacher Herman Parito says that even before the books arrived, the community deeply understood the value of reading, and therefore are all willing to do their part to support it.

“The community here are always willing to help. When I said we needed labor to build classroom libraries, they did it. We brought in the plywood needed to build the mini libraries, and the parents responded.”

He adds that since the READ PNG books came in mid-2015, he’s already seen their impact.

Aravira Primary School Chairman, Henry Topowa says the school was determined to bring READ PNG books to the school, no matter how challenging the journey to bring them in.
Aravira Primary School Chairman, Henry Topowa says the school was determined to bring READ PNG books to the school, no matter how challenging the journey to bring them in.

“We’ve been using the books for two terms now and I’ve seen a big improvement in students reading according to their test results.”

After our chat, Henry and Herman then invite me to a class to see the new books for myself. As I’m introduced to the class, the confusion I expect of seeing a stranger in class is largely absent. I get a few grins and a couple of giggles, but beyond that, most of the students are focused squarely on their books.

Considering the hard work it took to get those books here and into these students’ hands, it’s no surprise that they’re so committed to soaking up every word in those pages.

Improving Literacy in Remote Bougainville  

 For More Info about Bookgainville this local project contact James Tanis , Simon Pentanu , or Contact Theresa Jaintong at the Arawa Womens Centre

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Bougainville Tourism News : Takanupe we must conserve for future generations

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 “These aren’t just beautiful islands with white beaches surrounded by pristine waters and bountiful reefs. They serve a multitude of existential purposes for man and for the larger purpose and meaning of nature with which we are inexplicably linked and bound.

It must behove us and is incumbent upon us to do our part to care, respect and conserve these fragile islands and marine eco-systems for our generations to come just as our ancestors have done for our generation. This is a covenant that is sacrosanct and timeless that we must be beholden to in a symbiotic world that we share with living nature.”

Simon Pentanu Uruna Bay Retreat – Pok Pok Island Bougainville

An island of the gods, resplendent in its natural beauty at sea, mimicking a miniature land and forest that Moreha (Bougainville ) is, beatified by its beauty, rich in its colours and alluring with everything it displays, from its crab-like shape with its claws harbouring it’s azure deep sky blue kakunibarra (lagoon) and the beach and trees seeming like a longish body of the crustacean seen from above.

There are more than a dozen small uninhabited islands that dot this stretch of east coast along Central Bougainville, like from Vito past Takanupe and its sister island Kurukiki nearby, and past the Zeunes where the planes make their approach to land at one of most picturesque beachside airports at Aropa.

Most of these small islands have their own kakunibarra of some size, shape, depth or other. But Takanupe’s kakunibarra  is the most conspicuous because it is larger in surface area than the land area of the island itself. It is curiously beautiful and alive from the satellite’s view from above.

These kakunibarra teem with all kinds of fishes of the sea. They are respected by fishermen along with their tales that serve the purpose of conservation when you find out what the moral of these stories is.

Myths and folklore about places and about real life stories are passed down to serve a purpose. Many were passed down to protect and conserve the islands, its reefs and its natural but fragile environment.

It used to be you could only get to this and other islands by canoe, get  enough for your needs as a subsistence fisherman and paddle back home.

If you wanted more fish for a feast or ceremony or some other important occasion you stayed overnight or longer and returned home with a canoe-full of smoked fish mixed with some fresh fish caught as you returned home. There isn’t this abundance of fish stock any more, because of the easy and more frequent forays by fishermen and others using motorized boats to get to these islands and their kakunibarra.

It must behove us and is incumbent upon us to do our part to care, respect and conserve these fragile islands and marine eco-systems for our generations to come just as our ancestors have done for our generation.

Bougainville Education NEWS: Quality universal education is the biggest impact

Education

BOUGAINVILLE Children. Children born in the north, central, south and out on the atolls. Born everyday.

To them we will bequeath our senses and sensibilities, values, wisdom, knowledge and cultural traditions. But other than this, what are they going to inherit from us and from the land of their birth and adoption.

As we discuss, debate and differ about approaches to free education, quality, spaces in schools, ratio of teachers to pupil, and the relevance of a fatigued and a lavishly wasteful system, many children still continue to miss out on education for life.

Education, starting with parents and in schools is the most important impact project-still-in-waiting to be rolled out in Bougainville. How we start and the reforms we make will determine where we end up. We must do it now and do it with care, responsibility and integrity.

QUALITY UNIVERSAL EDUCATION IS THE BIGGEST
IMPACT-PROJECT-IN WAITING THAT CAN RELEASE BOUGAINVILLE
FROM THE SHACKLES OF ITS COMPLACENCY

Simon Pentanu

Some children will never see the inside of a classroom. Not all may go past primary school level for one reason or other. For those that do, the system starts culling and rejecting them at the end of high school. Out of those that work harder than others and graduate through secondary schools, only some can find places and resources to pay their way to tertiary education.

There is no guarantee tertiary institutions will shape, form and despatch us our young ones back to us as daring young citizens with the skills and audacity to grow Bougainville. And, anyway the universities in this country are hapless and unprepared to offer degrees if they are poorly financially resourced and cannot guarantee a safe and secure environment conducive to learning.

Are we doing enough from parenthood to the highest echelons in leadership? We are very good and quick in creating children but not so good in looking after them. Reformation of our education system is the most important and urgent impact project yet to be embarked upon.

Education is the first frontier we must prepare our children to bear their cross, starting with their parents at home. The onus in their beginning is with the parents. After enrolment to begin in schools we must ensure that the teachers in whose trust we leave the school age children have the wherewithal to start preparing our future leaders.

Trust, confidence and skills are what every parent must expect of all teachers. It is what we must also demand from our government to achieve a sustainable goal towards quality education for all. We must all bear this responsibility if we want to transform Bougainville into a sustainable and resourceful living entity.

A society without proper and relevant education is a society that will not fully realise its potential. It is a society that will predispose its new generation to an uncertain future. More than that, without proper reforms and long term planning we will resign our children to a society susceptible to abject failure and poverty.

Education, starting with parents and in schools is the most important impact project-still-in-waiting to be rolled out in Bougainville. How we start and the reforms we make will determine where we end up. We must do it now and do it with care, responsibility and integrity.

For more info about our http://bookgainville.com/

Bookgainville Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainville AROB Day 15 June 2016 Feature : Educated Bougainville children are our future

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“Equipping young people with skills and confidence is helping to shape a new future here and further afield. I’m particularly proud that some from the village have gone on to take up youth leadership positions in other parts of Bougainville, including the current President of the Bougainville Youth Federation.”

They are our future leaders and our future generation, so we really value the youths,”

Dorcas Gano, president of the Hako Women’s Collective (HWC)

Photo Kessa children : Aloysius Laukai Article from OXIMITY

Finding a sense of identity and purpose, as well as employment are some of the challenges facing youths in post-conflict Bougainville, an autonomous region in eastern Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands.

They have been labelled the ‘lost generation’ due to their risk of being marginalised after missing out on education during the Bougainville civil war (1989-1998), known locally as the ‘Crisis’.

But in Hako constituency, where an estimated 30,000 people live in villages along the north coast of Buka Island, North Bougainville, a local women’s community services organisation refuses to see the younger generation as anything other than a source of optimism and hope.

“There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened.” — Gregory Tagu, who was in fifth grade when the war broke out.

Youth comprise about 60 percent of Bougainville’s estimated population of 300,000, which has doubled since the 1990s. The women’s collective firmly believes that peace and prosperity in years to come depends on empowering young men and women in these rainforest-covered islands to cope with the challenges of today with a sense of direction.

One challenge, according to Gregory Tagu, a youth from Kohea village, is the psychological transition to a world without war.

“Nowadays, youths struggle to improve their lives and find a job because they are traumatised. During the Crisis, young people grew up with arms and knives and even today they go to school, church and walk around the village with knives,” Tagu explained.

Tens of thousands of children were affected by the decade-long conflict, which erupted after demands for compensation for environmental damage and inequity by landowners living in the vicinity of the Panguna copper mine in the mountains of central Bougainville were unmet. The mine, majority-owned by Rio Tinto, a British-Australian multinational, opened in 1969 and was operated by its Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, until it was shut down in 1989 by revolutionary forces.

The conflict raged on for another eight years after the Papua New Guinea Government blockaded Bougainville in 1990 and the national armed forces and rebel groups battled for control of the region.

Many children were denied an education when schools were burnt down and teachers fled. They suffered when health services were decimated, some became child soldiers and many witnessed severe human rights abuses.

Tagu was in fifth grade when the war broke out. “There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened,” he recalled.

Trauma is believed to contribute to what women identify as a youth sub-culture today involving alcohol, substance abuse and petty crime, which is inhibiting some to participate in positive development.

They believe that one of the building blocks to integrating youths back into a peaceful society is making them aware of their human rights.

In a village meeting house about 20-30 young men and women, aged from early teens to late thirties, gather in a circle as local singer Tasha Kabano performs a song about violence against women. Then Anna Sapur, an experienced village court magistrate, takes the floor to speak about what constitutes human rights abuses and the entitlement of men, women and children to lives free of injustice and physical violations. Domestic violence, child abuse and neglect were key topics in the vigorous debate which followed.

But social integration for this age group also depends on economic participation. Despite 15 years of peace and better access to schools, completing education is still a challenge for many. An estimated 90 percent of students leave before the end of Grade 10 with reasons including exam failure and inability to meet costs.

“There are plenty of young people who cannot read and write, so we really need to train them in adult literacy,” Elizabeth Ngosi, an HWC member from Tuhus village declared, adding that currently they don’t have access to this training.

Similar to other small Pacific Island economies, only a few people secure formal sector jobs in Bougainville while the vast majority survive in the informal economy.

At the regional level, Justin Borgia, Secretary for the Department of Community Development, said that the Autonomous Bougainville Government is keen to see a long-term approach to integrating youths through formal education and informal life skills training. District Youth Councils with government assistance have identified development priorities including economic opportunities, improving local governance and rule of law.

In Hako, women are particularly concerned for the 70 percent of early school leavers who are unemployed and in 2007 the collective conducted their first skills training program. More than 400 youths were instructed in 30 different trade and technical skills, creative visual and music art, accountancy, leadership, health, sport, law and justice and public speaking.

Two-thirds of those who participated were successful in finding employment, Gano claims.

“Some of them have work and some have started their own small businesses….Some are carpenters now and have their own small contracts building houses back in the villages,” she said.

Tuition in public speaking was of particular value to Gregory Tagu.

“I have no CV or reference, but with my public speaking skills I was able to tell people about my experience and this helped me to get work,” Tagu said. Now he works as a truck driver for a commercial business and a technical officer for the Hako Media Unit, a village-based media resource set up after an Australian non-government organisation, Pacific Black Box, provided digital media training to local youths.

Equipping young people with skills and confidence is helping to shape a new future here and further afield. HWC’s president is particularly proud that some from the village have gone on to take up youth leadership positions in other parts of Bougainville, including the current President of the Bougainville Youth Federation.

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There are strong indications that the benefits of mobile reading like kindles are long-lasting and far-reaching, with the potential to improve literacy, increase education opportunities and change people’s lives for the better.

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James Tanis 2014 Founder http://www.bookgainville.com

Bookgainville Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainville News : Nisira’s Australian Lecture ” Leadership challenges for the Autonomous Bougainville Government

PN

” In summary then, the key leadership roles of the ABG include reconciliation and unification of Bougainville, using its powers and resources to make and implement policies and laws that deal with the problems and realise the aspirations of Bougainvilleans, speak for them in dealings with the PNG National Government and the international community, and act in their interests in preparing for their act of self-determination, in the form of the referendum.

While undoubtedly the ABG faces many complex and difficult leadership challenges, we are facing them honestly. We constantly explore our best options for dealing with them. Although our resources are extremely limited, we work hard to change that situation, and to face our challenges head on.”

PUBLIC LECTURE by PATRICK NISIRA, VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE

AUTONOMOUS REGION OF BOUGAINVILLE

” LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES FOR THE

AUTONOMOUS BOUGAINVILLE GOVERNMENT”

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA, 28th APRIL 2016

Picture above

In Canberra this week to speak at the ANU with Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Minister for International Development and the Pacific

I am pleased, and honoured, to be here in Australia, and in Canberra in particular. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to contribute to the ongoing development of positive personal relationships between the leaders and people of Bougainville and the leaders and people of Australia.

So I must express my sincere thanks to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for facilitating my visit. Thank you, too, to the SSGM Program, here at the ANU, for inviting me to make my presentation here today.

The subject that I have been asked to discuss – that is, LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES FOR THE AUTONOMOUS BOUGAINVILLE GOVERNMENT – is, I think, an important one. It raises key issues about the central roles for the Autonomous Bougainville Government (or the ABG) envisaged by the Bougainville Peace Agreement (or the BPA).

Many of the ABG’s leadership challenges are inherent in the general situation of Bougainville in 2016. In a real sense it is a “post-conflict” situation – in that Bougainville’s violent, destructive, and deeply divisive nine year civil war ended almost 19 years ago now, in mid-1997. But of course, divisions, tensions and various forms of conflict (sometimes localised violence) continue. This complex ongoing and endlessly changing situation presents constant challenges for leadership at all levels, including the ABG.

There are, however, some critically important ABG leadership roles intended by the BPA. The reasons for, and the nature and significance of these roles are best understood by reference to the deeply divided conflict situation in Bougainville in the mid-1990s, in the several years before the peace process began.

CONTEXT – THE ABG & RECONCILIATION & UNIFICATION

The ‘moderate’ leadership on both sides of the main divide within Bougainville had by then become increasingly conscious of the long-term dangers for Bougainville if violent conflict between Bougainvilleans continued. Any dreams of self-determination for Bougainville would be under grave threat.

Against that background, it should be no surprise that from the very beginning of the peace process, the focus amongst the Bougainville leaders committed to the process was on unification of Bougainville. It was for that reason that the first step in the process was the extended meeting of opposing Bougainvillean leaders in the Burnham One talks in New Zealand. And of course, those talks were in fact a resumption of the previous talks between the divided Bougainville leadership held in Cairns, Australia, in September and December 1995, initiated largely by Theodore Miriung (then Premier of the Bougainville Transitional Government).

The deep drive for unification was always in large part directed to replacing the parallel and opposing Bougainville government structures generated by the conflict. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army had its associated ‘civilian’ government, the Bougainville Interim Government (or BIG), headed by Francis Ona. The BIG had its own system of local-level government – a three tier system of Councils of Chiefs. Opposing them were the Bougainville Resistance Forces (or BRF), and, from 1995, the Bougainville Transitional Government (or BTG). The BTG began establishing its own system of local-level government in 1996, the Councils of Elders. There were even separate women’s organisations associated with the BIG/BRA, and the BTG/BRF, respectively.

So it’s not surprising, perhaps, that once the Burnham One talks saw the opposing leadership agree to work together for peace, that in the January 1998 Lincoln Agreement they agreed with the Papua New Guinea Government on the need for “free and democratic elections on Bougainville to elect a Bougainville Reconciliation Government before the end of 1998”.

Through 1998 and 1999 a great deal of effort went into achieving the much sought after Bougainville Reconciliation Government. Indeed, the pursuit of that goal itself became divisive. In late 1998 efforts were being made to not only continue the operation of the PNG’s 1977 Organic Law on Provincial Government in Bougainville but also amend that Law to provide a basis for the Reconciliation Government. When those efforts unexpectedly failed, the 1995 Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local-level Governments began operating in Bougainville from 1st January 1999. That should have resulted in establishing of a new Bougainville Interim Provincial Government headed by then Bougainville regional MP, John Momis, as Governor. BIG/BRA leaders, and others, saw this as contrary to the Lincoln Agreement commitment to establishing a Bougainville Reconciliation Government. As a result, the National Government was persuaded to suspend the interim Provincial Government from the instant that the 1995 Organic Law came into operation in Bougainville on 1 January 1999.

That allowed the establishing in the first half of 1999 of an elected Bougainville People’s Congress (or BPC), without a basis in legislation. The intention was that the BPC would be the Bougainville Reconciliation Government. But of course, those who’d hoped Momis would become governor were upset by the suspension action, and the establishing of the BPC, especially when former senior BIG leader, Joseph Kabui, was elected BPC President.

These problems in implementing the Lincoln Agreement provisions for a Bougainville Reconciliation Government, meant that far from unifying and reconciling, the process was itself divisive. As a result, when the negotiations for a ‘comprehensive political agreement’ (also required by the Lincoln Agreement) began on 30 June 1999, those supporting Momis and the establishing of the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government refused to participate.

It was a combination of a range of efforts from mid-1999 to achieve a reconciliation amongst the divided leadership, and a PNG Supreme Court decision late in 1999 that saw a remarkable compromise agreed. The Bougainville Interim Provincial Government would operate as the legal government for Bougainville, but would make all decisions in consultation with the ‘extra-legal’ BPC.

So from late 1999, leadership was shared, between Governor Momis and President Kabui. Though the term used in the Lincoln Agreement – the Bougainville Reconciliation Government – was never applied to this unique, ad hoc arrangement, it was truly a ‘reconciliation government’. It brought together previously opposing factions and opposing leaders in creative, flexible and highly inclusive arrangements that worked.

It was this set of arrangements for the ‘reconciliation government’ that provided leadership and government for Bougainville until the ABG was elected in June 2005. Momis and Kabui jointly led the combined Bougainville negotiating team that from December 1999 negotiated for the BPA, signed on 30 August 2001.

The successful operation of these ‘reconciliation government’ arrangements undoubtedly provided the firm foundations necessary for the ABG to become the true, long-term ‘reconciliation government’ for Bougainville.

These ad hoc arrangements were actually far more inclusive, and reconciliatory, than the single elected Bougainville Reconciliation Government envisaged by the Lincoln Agreement could ever have hoped to be. The flexible arrangements were expensive and unwieldy. They involve the elected BPC of more than 100 members, and the appointed Bougainville Interim Provincial Government of more than 30.

But the result was direct involvement of many people from multiple previously opposing groups, and a long period during which they learned to work together and to trust one another. Together they oversaw the negotiations for the BPA. They jointly took ownership of that Agreement once it was signed, and they oversaw its implementation. They worked together to establish the ABG.

THE ABG’S WIDER LEADERSHIP ROLES

Of course the BPA intends the ABG to be far more than just a symbol of reconciliation and unification. It is also intended unify Bougainvilleans and work to meet the special needs of Bougainville through the way in which it governs Bougainville, under the complex constitutional arrangements for the autonomy promised by the BPA, implemented through the changes to the PNG Constitution, and given an institutional basis in the Bougainville Constitution.

The BPA states that autonomy (amongst other things) is intended to:

“(a) facilitate the expression and development of Bougainville identity and the relationship between Bougainville and the rest of Papua New Guinea;

(b) empower Bougainvilleans to solve their own problems, manage their own affairs and work to realize their own aspirations …

(d) provide for a democratic and accountable system of government for Bougainville that meets internationally accepted standards of good governance, including protection of human rights;”

Under the BPA, the ABG has extensive powers and resources made available to it, intended to enable it to not only develop the policies and laws needed to solve the problems and realise the aspirations of all Bougainvilleans, but also implement those policies and laws so as to make real differences in the lives of all Bougainvilleans.

In addition, under the BPA and the constitutional laws that give effect to it, it is the ABG which speaks on behalf of all Bougainvilleans in dealing with the PNG government, and also with the international community. For the ABG has a range of little known ‘international affairs related powers’ and functions. For example, it has various rights to:

  • deal direct with foreign donor governments,
  • take part in regional meetings and organisations of clear special interest to Bougainville,
  • be represented in negotiation of border agreements between PNG and Solomon Islands,
  • participate in international cultural exchanges, trade and tourism promotion, and sport.

Finally, it is the ABG that has authority, on behalf of all Bougainvilleans, to oversee the preparations for a most significant act of self-determination – the referendum on the future political status of Bougainville (which must include a choice of independence), which must be held before mid-2020.

Under the BPA and the constitutional laws giving effect to it, the ABG and the National Government must cooperate in ensuring that the referendum is conducted. Further, it is the two governments that must consult and agree on the key aspects of the referendum arrangements that the BPA leaves to be decided as the referendum date approaches. These aspects include:

  • deciding on and establishing the agency with responsibility to conduct the referendum;
  • the criteria for enrolment of non-resident Bougainvilleans as voters in the referendum;
  • the date of the referendum;
  • the question or questions to be asked in the referendum.

You may be interested to note that, in my capacity as the ABG Minister responsible for referendum preparations, in the last week I have been deeply involved in discussions with the National Government over these and related matters. Significant progress has been made.

In summary then, the key leadership roles of the ABG include reconciliation and unification of Bougainville, using its powers and resources to make and implement policies and laws that deal with the problems and realise the aspirations of Bougainvilleans, speak for them in dealings with the PNG National Government and the international community, and act in their interests in preparing for their act of self-determination, in the form of the referendum.

Finally, the Bougainville Constitution spells out these and other leadership roles of the ABG, often in detail. The draft Bougainville Constitution was developed between October 2002 and July 2004 through a highly participatory process conducted by the 24 member Bougainville Constitutional Commission. It involved several rounds of public consultation, about successive drafts of the Constitution. The final draft was then submitted – together with a more than 300 page explanatory report – to the Bougainville Constituent Assembly. It comprised the almost 150 members of the BPC and the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government, sitting as a joint body. The Constituent Assembly made very limited changes to the draft before adopting it in November 2004, and it was endorsed by the National Executive Council a few weeks later.

The Bougainville Constitution clearly reflects the views and aspirations of the Bougainville Constitution in setting significant goals for the ABG. For example, the Preamble commits the ABG to:

  • work to ‘provide for self-determination … through both autonomy arrangements and the referendum on independence;
  • ‘recognize the sovereignty of the People’;
  • ‘recognize the autonomy of family and clan lineages and other customary communities;
  • ‘govern through democracy, accountability, equality, and social justice’;
  • ‘protect the land, the sea, our environment and our cultural identity for present and future generations’;
  • ‘strive to eliminate universal problems in Bougainville of poverty, illiteracy, corruption, pollution, unemployment, overpopulation and other ills’.

A full reading of the Bougainville Constitution highlights other roles and goals for the ABG, seen especially in the detail of the Bougainville Objectives and Directive Principles (sections 11 to 39 of the Constitution). But I will not burden you with a detailed exposition of what is largely an elaboration of the main points that I have already highlighted.

I must, however, highlight one fundamentally important goal that the Constitution emphasises the ABG MUST pursue. It is the ‘aim to achieve fiscal self-reliance [for Bougainville] as soon as possible’ (section 153(1)(a)). The Constitution also directs that ‘the need to achieve fiscal-self reliance as soon as possible’ must be considered by the ABG when determining what functions and powers it seeks transferred from the National Government.

LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES FACING THE ABG

I turn now to the question of the leadership challenges facing the ABG in carrying out the roles given to it, and the goals it has been asked to pursue. It is to be expected that there are many challenges inherent in its remarkable range of leadership roles. I propose now to briefly survey 14 areas of particular challenge, or special importance.

  1. Factions, Divisions and Mistrust

It’s hardly surprising that, in the aftermath of such a violent, bitter and divisive conflict, that many opposing factions and divisions exist in Bougainville, and that consequentially, there is still much mistrust. Many of the issues here involve some continuity with problems that occurred during the violent conflict, 1988 to 1997. But there are also significant new development. I’ll mention just a few.

While the ‘mainstream’ former BRA and BRF elements that supported the peace process now largely work well together, at the local level there remain many unresolved divisions, where reconciliation is still required.

While the BRA and the BRF no longer exist as armed ‘militias’, since about 2010 former combatant organisations have emerged as significant political voices in Bougainville. To some extent this development reflects uncertainty for some former senior leaders about whether President Momis, elected in mid-2010, was too much a PNG nationalist, and not sufficiently committed to the holding of the referendum. While that concern has now reduced significantly, I think it contributed to a number of pressures that saw the former combatants become more politically active.

A complicating factor here is the various business and other economic interests of several key former combatant leaders. Some of them use their ex-combatant networks to advance such interests.

Of course, there are other sources or manifestations of significant division and tension. They include:

  • Several different Me’ekamui factions, none of which participated in the weapons disposal process under the Peace Agreement, and so remain in possession of numerous firearms. These factions include:
  • the Me’ekamui Government of Unity, based at Panguna, its leaders having links with several small, but high risk, mining investors;
  • the ‘original’ Me’ekamui, led by Chris Uma, based in Arawa, and controlling the Morgan Junction road block, still sometimes limiting access to the Panguna area;
  • Damien Koike’s Me’ekamui group based mainly at Sinimi and at Tonolei Harbour in the Konnou area of south-eastern Buin, who operates a semi-industrial ‘artisanal’ mining operation engaging about 300 young males mainly from Buin, but also from other areas;
  • Noah Musingku’s U-Vistract scheme, a fraudulent investment scheme that began in Port Moresby in 1998, but which since late 2004 has been based at Tonu in the Siwai area, and is ‘protected’ by about 100 young armed men, headed by a former Fijian soldier;
  • Former BRA leader, Sam Kauona, who has long had interest in establishing mining operations in association with dual Australian/Canadian citizen, Lindsay Semple, and who – whenever they fear their mining interests are not sufficiently guaranteed – attacks the ABG as being under the control of Bougainville Copper Ltd (or BCL) and its 53 per cent majority shareholder, Rio Tinto.

 

  1. Weapons Disposal

The Peace Agreement contained a plan for the BRA, BRF and Me’ekamui groups to disarm, but as we’ve seen, the Me’ekmui people did not join the process and retained their weapons. The agreed plan was implemented under UN supervision, resulting in destruction of about 2,000 weapons. BRA and BRF members were give strong incentives to dispose of weapons by provisions linking UN certification of adequate completion of particular stages in the disposal process to the coming into operation of the constitutional laws giving effect to the Peace Agreement, and the holding of the first ABG elections.

But some weapons contained by BRA commanders were not destroyed, and were later put to use in localised armed conflict in Konnou, 2006 to 2011, in which scores of people were killed. In addition, some BRA and BRF members retained weapons, due to suspicion of PNG or of one another, or for the purpose of sale, or for use in criminal activities. Further, since implementation of the weapons plan ended, in 2005, additional weapons have come into possession of some Bougainvilleans. Though exact numbers are not known, they include: some weapons brought in from Solomon Islands; probably some hundreds of refurbished WWII weapons; and possibly some weapons supplied to former BRF members by contacts of theirs in the PNGDF.

Not only have such weapons been used in localised conflict, they have also been employed in several instances of violent crime. Further, a significant commercial trade in Bougainville weapons has emerged, both an especially lucrative trade into the PNG Highlands, but also a less lucrative internal Bougainville trade.

The ongoing availability of weapons undermines security, and is a constant threat to the strengthening of law and order. We also have growing fears that the presence of weapons could undermine the prospects of a free and fair self-determination process, through the Bougainville Referendum. Paradoxically, the approach of the Referendum provides us with the opportunity to encourage disposal of weapons. Many who have retained weapons claim to have done so for fear that the National Government could not be trusted to allow the referendum to be held. Now that it is becoming clearer that this fear will not be realised, we are finding that Me’ekamui faction leaders and former BRA and BRF leaders are all engaging with the ABG about agreeing a new disposal process that will make Bougainville weapons free before the Referendum is held.

  1. Law and Order, and the Infant Bougainville Police Service

We face many difficulties in improving the law and order situation. While in general it is far and away much better than it was 19, or 10, or even 5 years ago, there is still much to be done. Contributing to the difficulties is the limited understanding and acceptance of ‘outside’ law, and also ‘outside’ law and justice institutions.

Direct colonial administration in Bougainville began only in 1905, and was imposed with violence, and in a very uneven manner. Some areas had almost no administration contact until after WWII. Even then, colonial administration was limited to occasional patrols in many areas.

So even before the conflict, in the 1970s and 1980s, in much of rural Bougainville, most of what we might classify as crime was dealt with by local clan leaders, broadly under ‘kastom’. Such matters were often seen a causes for concern because they could damage relationships, rather than because of ‘criminality’.

After the initial withdrawal from Bougainville of PNG security forces in March 1990, there were extended periods for most of Bougainville when ‘outside’ law, and law and justice institutions, ceased to operate completely. While in some areas customary leadership continued to deal with many of the same things that they had previously managed, in much of Bougainville even that leadership was severely disrupted. In those areas the situation was close to anarchy. The impacts in terms of deaths, injuries, trauma and division were horrific.

Since the early 2000s there has been a significant effort, mainly funded by Australian aid, and to a lesser extent New Zealand, to re-establish law and justice institutions. But unfortunately these changes have largely ignored the 2004 recommendations of the Bougainville Constitutional Commission. It held extensive public consultations around Bougainville from late 2002 through 2003. This established that there was strong community demand for a law and justice system quite different from that operating in the rest of PNG. Our people wants a system reflecting the needs and special circumstances of Bougainville.

I remain committed to much more effort to develop appropriate policies and law and justice institutions. However, a major obstacle here is the limited capacity in the Bougainville Public Service and the still infant Bougainville Police Service to undertake policy development work.

That leads me to the next area of leadership challenge for the ABG.

  1. Capacity of Bougainville Public Service and Bougainville Police Service

In general the ABG faces grave difficulties because of the weakness in administration and policy capacity in both Bougainville’s Public Service and Police Service. It was one of the great tragedies of the Bougainville conflict that the remarkable capacity of the North Solomons Provincial Government administration, built up over the 15 years from 1974, was almost entirely destroyed. It could not simply be re-established after the conflict.

The very much weakened administration of the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government was taken over by the ABG in mid-2005. But during the conflict, management, planning and accountability mechanisms had been severely weakened.

The capacity of the PNG Police in Bougainville had been all but destroyed during the conflict, and a tiny group of officers concentrated in just 2 or 3 urban centres, and with very low morale, was all there was in 2003.

While significant efforts to rebuild the police, in particular, have been made, particularly in terms of recruiting training new officers, many problems remain. They include orientation of the police (more towards urban-based reactive policing than community based rural policing in cooperation with customary leaders), and grossly inadequate staffing for supervisory positions.

In terms of policy development, both the Public Service and the Police Service personnel are mainly trained to deliver existing PNG public service and police programs. They have no experience or training in policy development.

It is very difficult for the ABG to meet the BPA leadership challenge inherent in the goal of solving Bougainville’s problems and meeting the aspirations of Bougainvilleans when policy development capacity is all but lacking.

We are working hard to respond to the problems here. In 2014, all public service functions and powers were transferred to the ABG, with our enactment of the Bougainville Public Service Act. We have since established our own new departmentalised structure. In the process we have raised the seniority and remuneration of most positions to make them more competitive. The PNG Departments of Finance and Personnel Management have been fully supportive in terms of funding the extra costs when calculating the annual Recurrent Unconditional Grant (which I will touch on a little more shortly).

We have since advertised all departmental head and constitutional office positions, and made a number of new appointments. The rest of those new positions should be filled soon. The next stage will be the advertising of the senior management positions in all departments. That will be followed by more junior positions. All positions are open – all current employees will have to compete. By the end of 2016, the new and much leaner structure will be complete.

Will that result in major changes in capacity and performance? While that is our goal, there are still many serious obstacles, including the difficulties in attracting experienced and competent applicants willing to come to Bougainville when they know housing, education and health services are of such low standards compared to those available in major urban centres such as Moresby and Lae.

  1. Transfer of Functions & Powers from National Government to ABG

While the BPA and the constitutional laws make a remarkably extensive range of functions and powers available to the ABG, there is a transfer process involved. It involves the ABG initiating the transfer process by request to the National Government. Negotiation is then required to develop necessary transfer plans within a year. The plans are required to take account of the need to build the necessary ABG capacity and provide it with the necessary financial resources to take over the functions and powers in question.

The transfer process for many functions and powers has become bogged down in problems, misunderstandings and inertia. In general there’s been a failure to address ABG capacity and resources needs.

There have also been some significant exceptions, including public service powers and mining.

The much slower than anticipated progress in transfer of powers has resulted in frustration, and contributed to widespread criticism of the ABG for lack of performance, and failure to meet expectations.

  1. The Bougainville Economy, and That Fiscal Self-reliance Goal

The pre-conflict economy was dominated by the Panguna mine. Post-conflict, there are limited possibilities for dramatic expansion and development. The small-holder cocoa, and to a lesser extent, copra, sectors have been re-established. But most plantations are worked only by informal settlers, with little incentive to invest in improvements.

The only major new industry is small-scale gold mining, involving perhaps 10,000 miners (some full-time, many more part-time). They generate perhaps K100 million per year for miners.

There is undoubtedly scope for expansion of agriculture – particularly through more efficient management. But despite claims to the contrary by some critics, there are also significant restrictions. Arable land is limited. We also face significant land shortages in many areas. Such shortages are a major factor in localised divisions and conflict.

If the ABG is to achieve real autonomy, or to have independence available as a real option in the future, achieving fiscal self-reliance is essential. But the challenges of achieving that goal – so strongly emphasised by the Bougainville Constitution – are immense.

It is the need to explore realistic means of achieving that goal that has been a major factor leading the ABG to consider the possibility of permitting strictly limited large-scale mining. However, any such mining must be on a dramatically different basis from the grossly unfair conditions under which BCL operated the Panguna mine – matters that I will discuss in more detail a little later.

There are critics of ABG mining policy. The main ones are a few noisy outsiders. They include the NGO, Jubilee Australia, and close associates of Jubilee that post endless ‘anonymous’ postings on the ‘PNG Mine Watch’ and ‘PNG Exposed’ blogs. They refuse to in any way recognise the grave dilemmas facing the ABG. They have no understanding of the realities of Bougainville and the complex leadership challenges facing us.

  1. Revenue Raising – and Fiscal Self-reliance (Again!)

Fiscal self-reliance is at present nowhere in sight. Instead, the ABG is almost completely dependent on grants from the National Government – and donor support. The ABG annual budget of more than K300 million per year is nowhere near enough to deliver reasonable levels of even the most basic services to our more than 300,000 people. Yet more than 90 per cent of that budget comes in the form of PNG grants and donor funds.

The ABG raises less than K10 million per year through our own taxes (liquor licensing fees, sales tax on tobacco and alcohol, motor vehicle registration fees and so on).

Part of the National Government funding is also derived from Bougainville – for we are supposed to receive all personal income tax collected in Bougainville. At present the payment is only K5 million per year, and despite many requests for information on actual collections of that tax, we have no idea of actual figures. We are also entitled to just 30 per cent of the PNG’s goods and services tax collected in Bougainville.

The main-stays of the Bougainville economy are small-holder cocoa and copra production, and small-scale gold production. Their combined income from these sources in recent years averages K250 to a maximum of K350 million per year.

We often consider possible imposition of ABG taxation on this income. But we are deeply concerned about taking too much money from the limited income available to our people.

In addition, we have to consider costs of collection, and the difficulties likely to be created by emerging incentives for black markets.

Probably our best option will be some form of indirect taxation on consumption (perhaps a sales tax additional to the GST imposed by the National Government). But we know that there would be considerable resistance to imposition of such an additional tax. Further, even an additional 10 per cent tax would be likely to generate a maximum of perhaps K50 million – nowhere near enough to bring us anywhere close to fiscal self-reliance.

Does anyone really question why each ABG since 2005, with the clear support of many, many Bougainvilleans, has been open to the possibilities of limited large-scale mining for a Bougainville that is committed to self-reliance as it seeks real autonomy, and prepares for an act of self-determination? What responsible government in our circumstances would not explore that possibility?

  1. The Funding Arrangements in Support of Autonomy

The key aims of autonomy set out in the BPA extend beyond empowering Bougainvilleans to solve their own problems and work to realise their aspirations to recognise the need for the ABG to have the resources needed to achieve those lofty ideals. So it states that the autonomy arrangements are also intended to (and I quote) ‘provide sufficient personnel and financial resources for the autonomous Bougainville Government to exercise its powers and functions effectively’.

Unfortunately, the BPA never delivered fully on that aspect of its goals. That was largely because of the severe fiscal crisis that was facing PNG in the years when the BPA was negotiated. That crisis made it very difficult for the National Government to accept Bougainville demands for generous funding.

Of much greater concern is the failure of the National Government to deliver even the inadequate levels of funding promised by the BPA and the Constitutional Laws giving effect to it. I will not go into detail here. Instead I will highlight two of the most serious sets of problems involved.

First, the main annual grant payable to the ABG is the Recurrent Unconditional Grant. It funds recurrent costs (salaries and operational costs) of ABG functions – both those inherited from the previous provincial government, and new ones taken on in the process of transfer of powers.

Amongst many problems with calculation of the grant has been lack of attention to the costing of the expense to the ABG of transferred activities (a notable exception, however, being in relation to costs of the transfer of public service powers).

Another problem has been National Government failure to extend to Bougainville the significant benefits of new approaches to calculation of the similar grants payable to provincial governments elsewhere in PNG, as it is required to do by the BPA and section 48(2) of the Organic Law on Peace-building in Bougainville.

The second set of problems concerns calculation of the only other major annual grant payable to the ABG – the Restoration and Development Grant (or RDG). Because of the fiscal crisis of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the RDG base amount was not high – just slightly more than the K10 million PNG Public Investment Programme (or PIP) funds available for Bougainville in 2001. But in negotiating the annual RDG calculation arrangements, clear agreement was reached that when PNG’s then fiscal crisis was over, Bougainville would be guaranteed to share in increased tax revenue, as represented by percentage increases in the annual PNG PIP.

So provision was included that the annual RDG payable would not reduce below the 2001 base figure. It would only be adjusted upwards, by the rolling average of the change in the PNG PIP in each of the five years prior to the year of grant.

By 2005-06, as new resource projects came on stream in PNG and commodity prices rose, the annual increase in the PIP became large. Unfortunately, although the National Government did increase the RDG, to K15 million a year, it simply did not make the annual calculations required by the BPA and the Organic Law. RDG calculation became an ever more difficult source of contention between the governments.

In 2010 and 2011, the ABG began doing what it should have done from 2005 – that is, it made its own calculations of the RDG amounts that should have been paid annually. These indicated that the annual amount payable was over K60 million (over four times more than the K15 million actually paid annually). Further the unacknowledged and unpaid arrears amounted to over K200 million.

Since 2011 there have been increasingly acrimonious exchanges over the issues here. They remain unresolved. It is true that the National Government has made other funds available, notably a Special Intervention Fund of K500 million for major infrastructure to be made available at K100 million per year from 2011. So far only K300 million has been paid. It is most unlikely to be paid in 2016 due to the current fiscal crisis facing PNG. While payments received have been a welcome additional source of project funding, it is not the grant funding available to the ABG intended by the BPA.

Without the RDG paid at the constitutionally guaranteed levels, the ABG does not have available to it the necessary financial resources that the goals of the BPA indicated were necessary. In particular, because it was always understood that Recurrent Grant expenditure would be virtually tied to meeting costs of existing services, the RDG would be the main source of ABG discretionary funds.

In the absence of the correct levels of RDG, we in the ABG could be excused for feeling that our role has been reduced to little more than oversight of basic service delivery! So much for the goal of achieving self-determination through autonomy!

  1. Accountability

Another tragedy of the Bougainville conflict was the severe undermining of the high standards of financial management and accountability that the previous North Solomons Provincial Government had developed. There is no doubt that financial management and accountability standards reduced dramatically during the 1990s. Corrupt practices crept in that are now difficult to eradicate. But their eradication is a major focus of the major reforms involved in the Bougainville Public Service. Corrupt officers will be replaced. Accountability mechanisms are being strengthened. Our new internal audit office established in 2015 is already having an impact.

  1. Deciding the Future of Panguna, or Further Large-scale Mining

A major set of issues challenging all three ABG Presidents and their governments (the Kabui government elected in mid-2005, the Tanis government elected in December 2008, and the Momis governments elected in 2010 and 2015) has involved the future of large-scale mining. There are two distinct issues here. One is whether the Panguna mine should re-open. The second is whether any other large-scale mines should be permitted.

Some Bougainvilleans completely oppose either form of large-scale mining. But my strong impression from my wide travels and consultations all over Bougainville is that a solid majority is open to both possibilities. However, all insist that any new mining that occurs must be under a totally different set of conditions than those under which the colonial regime imposed the Panguna mine’s operations on Bougainville.

Further, most such Bougainvilleans are open to resumption of Panguna by BCL. That company clearly accepts responsibility for much of what went wrong in the 1980s. There is concern that a new mine operator may reject any responsibility for mine legacy issues.

The ABG has responded to demands that mining only occur under new and fair conditions accepted by landowners. Its law provides that owners of customary land also own all minerals on, in or under their land. Such rights are accompanied by landowner veto rights over either or both intensive mineral exploration on their land, and/or the grant of licences for mining development.

As a result, neither Panguna nor any other mine will open in the future without landowner agreement. That will be determined by democratic associations. In the Panguna case, since 2011, the landowner communities in the areas of the former leases associated with the mine (and some adjoining areas) have established nine associations. The executives were elected through general meetings attended by a total of about 2,500 landowners.

No decision about the future of Panguna has yet been made by those associations. Indeed, the ABG has nor requested them to make any such decision. But solely at the initiative of a broadly representative meeting of over 50 senior landowner community leaders in July 2012, the ABG has worked with the associations towards holding a preliminary reconciliation (Bel Kol) with BCL. The aim in 2012 was to enable BCL to establish a presence in Bougainville needed to prepare for possible discussions about negotiations.

But there has been an hiatus since August 2014. ABG mining law stripped BCL of most of its tenements. It was left only with an exploration licence over its former Special Mining Lease. The mining giant, Rio Tinto, 53.6 majority shareholder in BCL, then decided to review its ‘investment’ in BCL. That resulted in most of the tentative steps towards possible negotiations being put on hold. Rio Tinto recently advised the ABG that its review may not be completed till late 2016.

In the meantime, additional complexity has resulted from a series of National Government initiatives since 2014 to purchase the Rio Tinto 53.6 per cent equity in BCL. Together with its existing 19.3 per cent equity, that would make PNG 72.9 per cent majority shareholder in BCL. The ABG is unclear why the National Government has demonstrated such determination in relation to the purchase of the equity – though that has not prevented some speculation on the possible issues involved!

The President has consistently informed the Prime Minister, in the strongest terms, that these proposals are not acceptable to Bougainville. And that indeed, if implemented, the proposals would risk conflict.

He has advised both the Prime Minister and Rio Tinto that if, as seems increasingly likely, Rio decides to end its involvement in BCL, then the Rio equity should be transferred to the ABG and former Panguna leases landowners, without payment. Further, Rio Tinto must take full responsibility for an environmental clean up and mine closure program that deals properly with the major mine legacy issues.

In relation to whether other large-scale mines should be permitted in Bougainville, the Bougainville Mining Act provides several important protections. They protect not only landowners likely to be impacted by any particular project, but also the wider Bougainville community.

One protection is the adoption under the Act of the reservation of almost all of Bougainville (other than the BCL leases) from mining exploration and development, under the terms of a 1971 mining moratorium imposed by the colonial administration. That moratorium can only be lifted, wholly or in part, by the ABG Cabinet, but only after debate on the proposed decision in the ABG legislature. With the Bougainville Mining Department getting ready to manage mining tenement applications, the ABG Cabinet decided in March 2016 that in advance of even considering a decision on the future of the moratorium, there should be wide public debate on the issues involved.

But with the ABG in fiscal crisis (because of PNG’s own fiscal crisis) we do not have the funds necessary for an extensive public awareness and consultation program. So as a substitute, we decided to initiate public debate through a two stage debate in the ABG legislature. The first stage was a debate in early April. When it was adjourned, all members were asked to consult their constituents on the issues involved, with a view to a debate with expanded scope at the next meeting of the House. Only after that will the Cabinet consider a possible decision on the future of the moratorium.

The President has publicly spelt out his view. He argues that the moratorium should be only partially lifted. That would provide ongoing protection to Bougainvilleans. It would also enable us to assess how well our new tenement administration system operates.

The other major protections under the Bougainville Mining Act are first, the veto powers of landowners of any exploration or mining licence application, and second the prohibition on the operation, at any time, of more than two very large mines. But a concern expressed by the President about possible full lifting of the moratorium is that there would be no limit on the number of smaller open cut or underground mines (save to the extent that landowners veto such developments).

So I’m sure you can see the extent of the leadership challenges facing the ABG in relation to decisions on the future of Panguna and other large-scale mines.

  1. Gender Equality

While most Bougainvillean language and culture groups adhere strongly to matrilineal descent principles, this does not equate to anything like matriarchy. Males in the matrilineal societies are full members of the same clan-based landowning groups that their mothers, sisters, and maternal aunts and nieces belong to. More important, it is males that generally take on public roles of speaking for their lineage in decision-making about land – and about many other important matters at the ‘village-level’. Consequently, many Bougainvilleans tend to see little basis for roles for women in public life outside the village.

The Bougainville Constitution seeks equality for all, and fair representation of women on all constitutional and other bodies. It also seeks recognition and encouragement of women’s roles in both ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ Bougainville society. It specifically seeks development of those roles ‘to take account of changing circumstances’.

It is difficult, however, to achieve rapid change to deeply ingrained cultural norms. For that reason alone, progress towards our constitutional goal of much greater gender equality has so far been slow. The first step – three reserved seats for women in the ABG House of Representatives, out of a total of 40 seats – was a welcome signal of change. But it was far from a clarion call for real equality.

A strong move has recently been made, however, in that direction. This involves an ABG Cabinet decisions on developing a new draft Community Government Act. It should be ready for debate in the House in June. It involves a new local-level government system, to replace the Council of Elders (or COE) system set up under 1996 Bougainville legislation.

Instead of the COEs, which were made up mainly of unelected traditional leaders, ,– and traditional leaders will continue their roles in village-level governments.

Each community government will have a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 12 wards, and each ward will elect two members – one female and one male. Each community government will have a Chair and a Deputy Chair. If the Chair is a female, the Deputy must be a male, and vice versa. Following the second Community Government general elections, the ‘gender of the member chosen as Chair … must not be the same as the gender of the person who was Chair immediately before the … election’.

In this way, the Bougainville Community Government Bill, when enacted as law, will ensure not only that there are equal numbers of men and women elected to community governments, but also that over time, women will have equal opportunity to hold the senior ‘executive’ positions in community governments.

  1. That Referendum on Bougainville’s Future Political Status

Little more needs to be said here about the referendum, other than to emphasise that the ABG has heavy constitutional and political responsibilities in relation to the referendum preparations. It is now increasingly likely to be held in 2019. Following the conduct of the referendum, the ABG will need to shoulder even more significant responsibilities, in terms of negotiating with PNG on implementation of the outcome and managing the ensuing situation.

  1. Deeply Misleading Public Commentary

An unexpected challenge for the ABG has been the sometimes amazing extent of deeply misleading public commentary on Bougainville, the ABG, its mining policy, and related matters. This commentary began mainly in 2012 as the ABG moved to develop its own mining laws.

The main attacks have come from two sources. One involves small groups in Bougainville. The other is a closely linked external network. Their main ‘message’ is that – in some way never explained, and with no credible evidence ever provided – the ABG is under the control of, or part of a conspiracy with, Rio Tinto, BCL, Australia and PNG. This conspiracy (or so they say) is intended to force the re-opening of the Panguna mine against the united opposition of the people of Bougainville.

The small group inside Bougainville involves a few foreign ‘adventurers’ seeking control of mining resources. They do so by fostering links with Bougainville factions. The ‘adventurers’ and their local supporters, fear that ABG mining policy and legislation will limit their opportunities.

The external network centres on UK-based Australian academic activist, Kristian Lasslett. His network comprises his close associates, including: the NGO, Jubilee Australia; the two blogs run by the PNG-based Bismarck Ramu Group – PNG Mine Watch and PNG Exposed; the Bougainville Freedom Movement; a group of criminologists supposedly studying ‘state crime’, calling itself the ‘State Crime Initiative’; and an Australian activist journalist, Anthony Loewenstein.

All network elements have their own ideological positions that they project onto Bougainville. They do so with virtually no understanding of, or interest in, what is really happening in Bougainville. They do not need much in the way of evidence, mainly because they have no interest in understanding our complex reality. Rather, they pick and choose a bit of information here, an opinion expressed there, and twist what little they have to fit their own pre-conceived theoretical or ideological position.

The misinformation that they put out has very little impact in Bougainville. But the internal and external contributors are mutually reinforcing. The external network undoubtedly provides encouragement to the foreign adventurers and their associates in Bougainville.

The misleading commentary does also perhaps influence perceptions of Bougainville by uninformed observers outside Bougainville. So while not a major leadership challenge, it is certainly one that we would prefer to do without.

  1. Information, Awareness and Public Consultation

The final leadership challenge I will mention involves the grave difficulties we face in providing accurate information to the people of Bougainville.

Perhaps 90 per cent of Bougainvilleans live in mainly small, scattered hamlets in rural areas. Many are in remote areas, completely inaccessible by road or air. In our post-conflict situation, as we seek to implement the complex BPA and constitutional arrangements, it is very challenging indeed to get accurate and balanced information to our people.

The misleading commentary – especially what we might call the Lasslett network – regularly attacks us for inadequate consultation on mining policy and laws. Yet we have allocated far more effort and resources to consultation on these issues than has ever been done in PNG – with the one, and truly remarkable, exception of the consultation by the pre-Independence consultation by the PNG Constitutional Planning Committee. That was under the leadership of current ABG President, John Momis, a truly committed advocate and practitioner of public consultation.

What our uninformed critics fail to acknowledge is the grave challenges involved in carrying out effective consultation in Bougainville’s situation. Radio coverage extends to about 30 per cent of Bougainville. Newspapers have limited reach. The cost of carrying out broad-based face-to-face consultation is astronomical.

We are, however, working hard to improve our capacities in this regard. We are doing that with a particular eye to what we know will be the need for extensive public consultation on many aspects of referendum preparations and post-referendum decision-making. We have commissioned research on the ‘communication landscape’ in Bougainville. It involves a Bougainville Audience Study. That has included a survey of over 800 people in all our 13 districts. It is providing data on how people gain access to information, what sources they regard as most reliable, their knowledge of key issues or concepts such as autonomy, independence, referendum. We expect the final report in May.

With the help of the information and analysis provided by the report, we will analyse the possibilities. We will seek PNG Government and donor support to assist us in improving our consultation capabilities in advance of the referendum preparations.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen:

While undoubtedly the ABG faces many complex and difficult leadership challenges, we are facing them honestly. We constantly explore our best options for dealing with them. Although our resources are extremely limited, we work hard to change that situation, and to face our challenges head on.

I can say little more than that.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you a little of our experience so far in meeting those leadership challenges that my topic today asked me to address

Bougainville Education Futures: Kindle ereaders open up world of possibilities for kids on Bougainville

James

An Australian scheme to get more children on Bougainville PNG  reading, using kindles, is hoping to expand its aid project.

Colin Cowell is an Australian with links to Bougainville PNG going back to 1970 where he worked in many training and management roles

Over his life he’s been involved in a number of aid projects, both in Papua New Guinea and Australia, and one current project he wants to ramp up is Bookgainville.

Picture above; Colin and  James Tanis launching Bookgainville May 2014:  School founder and Ex-President of Bougainville James stated that after two weeks of the school using Kindles ” The donation of 5 kindles to our school will change the lives of our students and teachers forever

SEE James Tanis interview on You TUBE

Full Name of School: Nariana Elementary School: Metonasi Class B Region: Nagovisi, Via Panguna ,Central Bougainville No of Students: 50

Under this scheme donates kindles to schools on Bougainville.

Mr Cowell told Don Wiseman RADIO NZ Bookgainville came about when he was approached by the former president of Bougainville, James Tanis, who was studying at the ANU in Canberra, to help get books to children in the region.

COLIN COWELL: And I said ‘Oh James the shipping rates to Bougainville are huge’. I have a background in technology. I said there has to be an easier way, and that is when I came across kindles. Each of the small kindles – they can hold up to 1400 books, for an Australian value of $99. So it is very very good value.

DON WISEMAN: You started raising money to provide these kindles and you were providing just a number for schools and kids were handing them around?

CC: Yes I have made a number of trips – I am semi-retired so I made a number of trips to PNG. And we set up a base in Arawa and we have a large database there. We use the idea that was developed here in Australia by the indigenous communities to encourage reading and literacy. They are very effective. Because young people they really like reading off an i-pad and it really encourages them to read. On my first trip up there I tried the kindles and we had kids reading 24 hours a day, just to get that knowledge and so forth, because they have very limited access to books. And so it has been very successful in improving their literacy.

DW: There are many schools on Bougainville aren’t there. Just how many?

CC: About 350. The population of Bougainville is about 300,000 and obviously they are very small schools. On my first trip up there we actually established some schools. They can build a school for about a $1000 New Zealand dollars. So we actually built a few schools as well. They had nowhere to actually learn, so we have facilitated the schools and teachers and so forth.

DW: So how many of these kindles have you provided so far?

CC: We have put out about five kindles per school and there are about 11 schools we have completed so far, in the early stages. We have got some educationalists assisting us in assessing literacy levels and so forth and that will probably occur over the next couple of months and then we can take it to the next level.

When you consider that if you bought the Harry Potter book it might cost you $NZ30, if you get a thousand books, that is $30,000 worth of books on one kindle – you know what I mean. So there are a lot of repositories around the world where we can get free books. So it is very cheap to get the books into the schools.

DW: Do you load the books on before they go up?

CC: We do. We have a database, and it is open access, books that we use. We have a database in Arawa, like a library system and people can top up from that particular library system.

DW: As you say, you are planning this – how big do you think you can go?

CC: I think we could do 100 schools. We are looking at new technologies at the moment. In Africa there is a world-wide organisation, called World Reader, that is actually recycling old phones, and putting the technology on old phones and then loading up the books onto old phones. So there is a lot of modern technology we are looking at at the moment.

World Reader is concentrating on Africa but we are negotiating with them to say that ‘Papua New Guinea we really need some educational levels raised’, so there are all sort of opportunities.

We have done this out of the kindness of our hearts. I have had friends in Australia, teachers, friends throughout Australia who have donated these kindles.

Another thing, we have got to do the feasibility study now to evaluate the project, and I think when people see the results of the evaluation, the cost efficiencies of developing the system, I think we will get some good international aid support.

Pok-Pok1

September 2014

Ms Lillian Ahai, Former Principal of Sogeri National High School, a core member of E Reader Leadership group presents kindles to Uruna Primary, Pokpok Island on behalf of Bookgainville, witnessed by James Tanis the Founder.

Project contact

Colin Cowell (Project manager) Email: colincowellredcent@hotmail.com 

Tel Australia 0401 331 251

International: +61401 331 251

Follow us on TWITTER @bookgainville