Official Joint Media Statement of the Joint Supervisory Body Meeting in Arawa, Bougainville on Friday 05 February 2021, by Co-Chairs Hon. James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR, President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape and President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Hon. Ishmael Toroama, on February 5 met at the Joint Supervisory Body meeting.
In the meeting the two leaders reaffirmed their joint commitment to the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister James Marape acknowledged that both governments had taken a long break from progressing discussions since the last JSB meeting in March 2020 due to the global pandemic.
However, he thanked the Autonomous Bougainville Government for the patience showed and acknowledged all technical officials for maintaining consistent dialogue on both sides.
Prime Minister Marape said that the national government recognizes the referendum choice of the people of Bougainville, and that the two governments must continue to use the Bougainville Peace Agreement as its main guide while on this peace process.
He announced his government’s commitment to have the joint consultations commence in the first quarter of this year, and reaffirmed his commitment to pursue the path as outlined in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, which should eventually see National Parliament dealing with the Referendum result.
President Ishmael Toroama in his remarks acknowledged the Prime Minister and his delegation, and described the National Government’s commitment to Bougainville as very strong.
He said that there is great anticipation from the people of Bougainville on the 97.7% vote and much needs to be done to actualize this on both sides. The two leaders discussed on a total of nine agenda items.
Key of which was the Post Referendum Consultation Framework where the two leaders agreed to have the first joint consultation meeting on the referendum result on the 4th-5th March 2021 in Kokopo, East New Britain Province.
The Leaders also resolved through the JSB to formally accept the recent Joint Communique as the roadmap to consultations on the outcome of the Bougainville Referendum. On the Economic and Investment Summit, the leaders acknowledged the preparatory work done so far, and accepted the recommendation to have the Summit held from 5th to 6th May 2021 in Arawa, Central Bougainville.
On Fisheries matters, the JSB resolved to prioritize creation of investment in the fisheries sector to generate revenue for Bougainville, and also to further explore the development of a Tuna Cannery in Bougainville.
The meeting also considered other key issues such as the SME funding, establishment of Foreign Development Offices in Bougainville, taxation and revenue matters and other outstanding financial issues including National Governments commitment to retire fully the K621million outstanding RDG and the K100million a year Special Infrastructure Funds.
The leaders agreed that the next meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body will take place in June 2021, and a third JSB meeting to be held in December 2021.
In appreciation of the continued peace between our Governments and our people as enabled by the Bougainville Peace Agreement, we, in our humility, praise and acknowledge that our Lord is above all and that this Resolution is commended to God for his wisdom and guide on us his servants.
We acknowledge that this is the first JSB co-chaired by the Honourable President of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama and on that note, we recognise that this is a new era of dialogue through peace by peaceful means.
We fully pledge support to each other to continue to maintain and strengthen our relationships at all levels of leadership.
Having met today at the Sharp Memorial Centre in Arawa, we note the recommendations of the Joint Technical Team meeting of February 5, 2021 and endorse the following resolutions;
Agenda 1: Joint Communique on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum
The JSB notes the intentions of the Joint Communique to be the road map to the Inter-Government joint consultations and that the Joint Communique aims to create a mutual understanding and agreement on implementation of the Referendum outcome and defining next
The JSB notes that the Joint Com1nunique on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum was signed on January 11, 2021 at the Sir Manasupe Haus, Port Moresby by the Honourable Prime Minister James Marape, MP and the Honourable President Ishmael Toroama, MHR and witnessed by GoPNG and ABG Attorney Generals Hon. Pila Niningi and Hon. Ezekiel
The JSB accepts and endorses the Joint Communique as the road map to consultations on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum.
Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation of the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Process of Transfer of Functions and Powers:
In the context of the 97.7% vote for Independence by the people of Bougainville in the 2019 Bougainville Referendum;
The JSB notes the explanation of the ABG on the intent of the ‘Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation on the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Transfer of Functions and Powers to fast track the process under Section 290 of the National
The JSB notes that the ABG has provided to the GoPNG State Solicitors the document on the Sharp Agreement and notes that the GoPNG State Solicitors have yet to provide legal feedback on the document hence the JSB recommends that a timeframe of two weeks is accorded to provide legal clearance on behalf of the National
The JSB accepts the Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation of the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Process of Transfer of Functions and Powers and directs that the legal clearance on behalf of the National Government is completed within the timeframe and that the ‘Sharp Agreement’ is signed no earlier than 19th February and no later than 26th February 2021, before the commencement of the Inter-Government Joint Consultations in 4th and 5thMarch,
Agenda 2: Bougainville Economic and Investment Summit
The JSB acknowledges the JTT recommendations and endorses that Bougainville Economic and Investment Summit be held from 5th to 6th May, 2021 in Arawa, Central
The JSB cautions that the venue be considered carefully as the JSB expects that the venue must be sufficient to cater for the large number of stakeholders to the Bougainville Economic and Investment
Agenda 3: BCL Shares
The JSB acknowledges the work in progress on the transfer of BCL shares to ABG’s Bougainville Minerals Limited,
The JSB endorses the work in progress brief on the transfer of BCL
The JSB emphasises that lead agencies responsible for this agenda timeframe the transfer of shares and report to the JSB the progress of this
Genuine in our intentions for sustained peace between us, we endorse that our official statements delivered at the opening and closing of this meeting and all records of discussions and notes in this meeting is an integral part of this meeting.
We conclude by reaffirming that ‘man can make decisions but God has the last say, with this affirmation, we leave all resolutions reached here today in the care of our God.
“ In furthering the Bougainville Peace process in the Post Referendum period and having met 11 January 2020, we officially reaffirm and assure the people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville that the Governments of PNG and Bougainville is committed to the process of the joint consultations on the outcome of the referendum.”
The signing of the Joint Communique today signals our intention to immediately commence the joint consultations as is required by the National Constitution under Section 342 (1) and the Bougainville Peace Agreement under Clause 311 (b) for the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to consult over the outcome or result of the Bougainville referendum.
This Joint Communique affirms that as required by the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the referendum outcome will be subject to ratification (final decision making) of the National Parliament while Section 342 (2) of the National Constitution has made the decision of the National Parliament relating to the referendum result subject to the consultation under Section 342 (1).
The Joint Communique builds on the tremendous achievements of both Governments and establishes the following facts and principles of the Bougainville Peace process;
That the Bougainville Peace Agreement provides for a political right to Bougainvilleans to a referendum, among Bougainvilleans, on the future political status of Bougainville; and
That the National Government had guaranteed that political right through Section 338 (1) of the National Constitution; and
That the constitutional guarantee for the referendum under Section 338 (1) of the National Constitution depended on the fulfillment by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) of conditions relating to weapons disposal and good governance, of which the ABG satisfactorily met; and
That the choice for separate independence was guaranteed under Section 339 (c) of the National Constitution as one of a number of possible choices available to Bougainvilleans in the referendum; and
That the both Governments had agreed to the definition of independence before the conduct of the referendum to mean an independent nation with sovereign powers and laws, recognized under international law and by other international states to be an independent state, separate from the state of Papua New Guinea, with a defined territory, inclusive of maritime boundaries and associated exclusive economic zones; and a government chosen by its people; and capacity to enter into and manage international relations and United Nations membership; and
That the referendum question and the following two choices presented to Bougainvilleans in the referendum were intended to facilitate a clear result: Option 1 – Greater Autonomy, and Option 2 – Independence; and
That the referendum was conducted by an impartial Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC), headed by Mr. Bertie Ahern of Ireland, which comprised of a fair number of representatives from the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government; and
That the referendum that was held between November and December 2019 and witnessed by international observers was free and fair, and according to observer groups “credible, transparent and inclusive”; and
That a total number of 181,067 Bougainvilleans voted in the referendum, and out of that 97.7 % of them chose independence; and
That the report of the Bougainville Referendum Commission was tabled in both the National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives, and was unanimously endorsed by both parliaments.
In adopting fully these established facts and principles; We hereby agree that the upcoming joint consultations will be moderated by an appointed Moderator and will be, but not limited to, addressing the key issues on the future political status of Bougainville, the method of endorsement by the National Parliament and the Documentation of record of the joint consultation.
Finally, in memory of the late Sir Mekere Morauta, for his contributions to the Bougainville Peace process as a former Prime Minister of our Nation and for his role as a signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001, this Joint Communique embodies both our Government’s sincerity to continued peace by peaceful means.
” The use of mobile technologies in the 2019 Bougainville referendum presents both opportunities and challenges for the future of democracy in the Pacific, Amanda H A Watson, Jeremy Miller and Adriana Schmidt write.
In the pre-referendum period, there was a strong emphasis on the need for widespread voter education to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the vote itself, and to maintain unity and peace. A number of initiatives were undertaken by the Bougainville government and other partners to overcome people’s lack of access to traditional mass media (radio, television and newspapers).”
This article is based upon a paper published by the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA) as part of its ‘Discussion paper’ series. The original paper can be foundhere.
The research will also be presented ina webinaron 27 October 2020.
This article focuses on one initiative, a telephone information hotline that operated for eight weeks just before polling. It allowed people to ring a free-call number and hear pre-recorded messages about peacebuilding and the three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Callers were able to press 1 to hear information on peacebuilding, 2 for autonomy, 3 for the referendum and 4 for weapons disposal.
Each message was less than two minutes and recordings were updated weekly. This provided about an hour’s worth of audio information in total. The service was promoted through traditional media channels, but principally through an introductory, automated ‘robocall’ from the President of Bougainville. This was followed by subsequent weekly text messages announcing the availability of new recordings.
The service was the first of its kind in PNG and was envisaged as a short pilot to identify the usefulness of the technology for public information dissemination in Bougainville. It was implemented by the Autonomous Bougainville Government with the support of the PNG, Australian and New Zealand governments, and operated by Digicel.
Research into the efficacy of the service was undertaken during its final two weeks, just prior to polling. Eight group interviews were conducted with local community leaders, women and youths in a mix of rural and urban settings across Bougainville.
Of the 42 people who participated in the group interviews, 37 owned mobile telephones at the time of the research. Many of the handsets were basic mobile telephones – suitable for text messaging and calls only – rather than smartphones. Many handsets had flat batteries on the day of the group interview – this indicates a technological challenge of daily life in Bougainville, which has consequences for mobile telephone initiatives.
While 79,285 calls were made to the hotline over the eight-week pilot, overall, the knowledge of the telephone hotline amongst research participants was generally low. The automated ‘robocall’ from the President announcing the service was not in fact received by most participants, and many did not consistently receive the weekly text message reminders. This indicated that the strategy fell short of its promise, which reduced uptake of the service.
As intended, some users gathered in groups to listen to the recordings. Also, the hotline had been used in places where people had no access to radio and very limited access to other forms of media. Participants generally thought the hotline should be continued in the post-referendum period but suggested increasing awareness of the service itself.
There was much discussion about the need to improve mobile network coverage, which participants said was weak and inconsistent, with no coverage in some villages. There were also requests for improvements to other communication mediums, particularly radio broadcasting. Despite these challenges, it was perceived that referendum awareness had been thorough. Most participants felt they and their fellow community members had sufficient knowledge about the referendum and were ready to vote.
The research found no striking differences in the awareness or use of the service by age or gender. Differences were noticeable, however, between the three regions of Bougainville regarding access to mobile network coverage, as well as access to other information and communication mediums. For example, in South Bougainville, participants reported substantial challenges with the quality and reach of mobile network signals and said that they had almost no access to radio stations, newspapers or television.
As Hogeveen argues, there is a trend in the Pacific region towards ‘digital aid’ in which international donors utilise information and communication technologies. The Bougainville hotline is one such example. Chand contends that, given limited access to radio, textbooks and other information sources, the utilisation of digital technologies could allow delivery of basic services in Bougainville. For example, as part of their emergency response to COVID-19, both the PNG and Bougainville governments are operating free-call telephone information hotlines for their citizens.
The design of the referendum hotline was in line with published guidelines for the strategic use of mobile telephones in PNG. For instance, that technology should be simple to use for people with low literacy, numeracy and technical skills. This hotline was relatively simple to use, providing a free-call number, with four options of audio messages to listen to.
Even so, some research participants did not understand how to select the four options or that the messages changed each week. Careful consideration of ‘mobile telephone literacy’ is needed in the design and promotion of future innovative services.
Research participants commented that the free-call design was beneficial for them. Lack of mobile telephone credit is a huge barrier for people throughout PNG, due to both affordability and logistical challenges of locating a place or method to buy credit.
So, what are the implications for the delivery of public information in Bougainville and elsewhere in the Pacific?
Effective government-to-people communications are vital for an informed and engaged citizenry and are essential for the effective operation of democracy. For Bougainville, it could be argued that the post-referendum negotiation process now taking place between the Bougainville and national governments requires an even more intensive communications and community engagement effort. If there are broader lessons to be learnt, it is that an engaged and informed population, reached through a range of mediums, can make a positive contribution to the process.
If there are to be future iterations of a telephone hotline in Bougainville or elsewhere, it must be but one tool in an multi-channel effort. The technology must be pre-tested and well promoted. Research participants also suggested leveraging the hotline for use in community-based, face-to-face activities.
Some asked if the audio files could be made available through other means, such as flash drives. Sharing of digital content by Bluetooth or local Wi-Fi hotspots does present another opportunity for those with suitable devices.
Mobile telephones, particularly when paired with other mediums, can play a role in delivering civic education and increasing community engagement throughout the Pacific. However, the design of future mobile telephone-led interventions may benefit from being realistic about the effective reach of current mobile telephone service and infrastructure.
This bigger issue of large information ‘blackspots’ in Bougainville, due to poor access to mobile telephony, radio or other information channels, will continue to challenge government and development communicators alike. Mobile telephone users in Bougainville struggle with accessing continuous, reliable mobile network coverage and keeping their handset batteries charged – and they want radio coverage restored to pre-conflict standards. Both in Bougainville and elsewhere in PNG, there is a large gap between ideal and actual service delivery.
This article is based upon a paper published by the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA) as part of its ‘Discussion paper’ series. The original paper can be found here. The research will also be presented in a webinar on 27 October 2020.
Last year, the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville voted overwhelmingly to break away from Papua New Guinea in a non-binding referendum.
In the pre-referendum period, there was a strong focus on informing voters about the two referendum options (independence or greater autonomy) to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the result and help maintain peace in a post-conflict setting.
This seminar will include brief presentations by the producers of a telephone information hotline that operated for eight weeks just before polling. The hotline was a national first in the application of a mobile telephone-based platform to deliver public information en masse.
It allowed Bougainvilleans to ring a free-call number and hear pre-recorded messages about the referendum and the two other pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement – autonomy and weapons disposal.
The hotline was one element of a multi-media package of government information initiatives supported by Australia and New Zealand.
There will also be a presentation by the audience researcher who analysed the impact of the service.
The qualitative research findings, which were recently published as a part of the Discussion Paper Series of the Department of Pacific Affairs, assess the effectiveness of the telephone hotline in delivering government information directly to citizens. Recommendations will be made about whether such a service should continue.
NOTE: For our audience in Port Moresby and Bougainville, the event will be at 3PM and 4PM respectively (local times).
Gordon Peake Gordon Peake is a 2020-2021 Visitor with the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University. He worked as an adviser to the Bougainville government 2016-2020.
Amanda H.A. Watson Amanda H.A. Watson is a Research Fellow with the Department of Pacific Affairs at Australian National University.
Jeremy Miller Jeremy Miller is a strategic media and communications adviser with over 15 years of experience in Melanesia. He has worked with the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Directorate of Media and Communication since 2014. In 2019 he was seconded to the Bougainville Referendum Commission to lead the media and voter communications campaign. Mr Miller’s position is supported by the Bougainville Partnership, a development partnership between the governments of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.
Adriana Schmidt Adriana Schmidt is the Director of the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Directorate of Media and Communication, the agency responsible for whole of government communications. The Directorate is under the Department of President and the Bougainville Executive Council.
” The Australian governor general John Kerr warned the Queen that a plan for Bougainville independence was not lawful, was opposed by Australia and Rio Tinto copper interests, and would increase regional instability and force Australia to hand more financial support to Papua New Guinea. ”
Picture above : Almost 100% of Bougainville voters backed independence in last year’s referendum but palace letters show Australia’s governor general John Kerr told the Queen that such a move ‘cannot be done legally
The so-called palace letters, a trove of previously secret royal correspondence, shows the Queen’s private secretary Martin Charteris responded by comparing Bougainville to Scotland and its hopes that oil reserves could fund independence.
The documents released by Australia’s national archives shed new light on the royal attitude to the secessionist movement in Bougainville.
Momentum for Bougainville to secede from Papua New Guinea grew as PNG itself declared independence from Australia in 1975, while retaining the Queen as its monarch.
The region is home to the vast Panguna mine, then the world’s biggest open-cut copper mine, owned by Bougainville Copper Limited, which then had Conzinc Rio Tinto as major shareholder.
On 19 August 1975, Kerr briefed Charteris on his “thinking” on the growing secessionist movement in Bougainville and a plan to secede unilaterally from PNG in September, the same month PNG secured its independence from Australia.
“This cannot be done legally,” Kerr wrote.
He said Rio Tinto was in favour of a “united Papua New Guinea”, though he said that may change if it deemed its long-term interests lay elsewhere.
Australia also had good reasons for opposing the secession, he said.
“There are good reasons from Australia’s point of view why a united Papua New Guinea would be desirable though achievement of this is probably not essential to Australia’s national interest,” he wrote.
“If Bougainville successfully secedes, Papua New Guinea would be weaker economically, and hence likely to be more pressing, so far as Australia is concerned, for economic support.”
“Bougainville secession would also increase the possibility of instability in Papua New Guinea in other areas.”
Kerr also lamented Australian aid cuts to PNG at the same time, saying they were “most unfortunate … on the very eve of independence”.
“This land must become holy again, Me’ekamui. We prayed to God and he gave us strength. This directed us to engage in clean battle. We were fighting for our rights, to get rid of all these bad companies and their effects. All BRA and all Bougainvilleans practiced this holiness… Our spirits had to be holy, so God would get rid of Satan [the mining companies} …And God helped us…”
Francis Ona, BRA Member
Interviewed by Anna-Karina Hermken, Author of “Marian Movements and Secessionist Warfare in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea” (November 22nd, 2005).
By: Yamin Kogoya from West Papua living in Australia
A staggering 98% of Bougainvilleans voted for independence from Papua New Guinea in the recent referendum held between 23rd of November to 7th of December.
Despite the overwhelming desire for autonomy, Bougainvilleans require political support and good faith from the PNG national government in Port Moresby before a new sovereign state can be established.
Recognizing these challenges, the Catholic Bishop Conference (CBC) of PNG and Solomon Islands General Secretary, Fr. Giorgio Licini, asked the PNG government to “listen carefully to the cries of the Bougainville people for independence.”
Former Bougainville Interim Government Leader, Martin Miriori, warned that the reluctance of the PNG national government to acknowledge the wishes of the Bougainvillean people for independence is dangerous. 
Bougainvilleans are still traumatized from the civil war that erupted in the late 1980’s, which resulted in the closure of the giant, Australian-owned Panguna mine. The mining investors are untouched by the generational pain that mining and civil war have caused in Bougainville.
Panguna copper mine, now closed, serves not only as a stark reminder of war, but the breakdown of social structure, cultural values, and the destruction of Bougainville’s ecosystem.
The giant void in the middle of the island, left behind by the Panguna copper mine, represents the tragic loss of 20,000 innocent lives – Bougainvillean mothers, fathers and children killed during the civil unrest. The scars of war and the immense loss of life will forever be carved into the hearts of families, clans and tribes. 
Tragically, crises such as those in Bougainville are typically reported on as “primitive tribes fighting”. The conflicts in Melanesian mining villages are far more complex: these are wars against industrial machines that uproot cultures and tear apart ecosystems; fighting for the survival of languages, values and land as the threat of extinction rears its head.
The Fight for Cultural Survival
Bougainville is one of the many Indigenous communities around the world fighting to protect and preserve their ancestral knowledge, language and culture. The enemy of the people are the industrial nations with the support of local governments who don’t understand the complex networks of indigenous social structures, value systems and their deep connection to their ancestral land.
Bougainvilleans have long been the target of violence – they have endured decades of exploitation and abuse from Germany and Britain in their colonization pursuits. In an attempt to control protesting against the mine operations, the PNG government used foreign-supplied mercenaries to massacre thousands of Bougainvilleans, with the support of the Australian government.
It is a matter of urgency for Bougainville and other Melanesian communities to ensure thousands of years of cultural knowledge is preserved for future generations.
The Impact of Mining and Politics in Bougainville
The civil war may be long buried by the media, but political leaders in Port Moresby, Canberra, Beijing and Washington are keeping a keen eye on Bougainville as they plan their next moves. Their claims of developing the Pacific Islands are a mere smokescreen for their true ambitions of a regional and global hegemony, as they strategies how to carve up the Pacific region pie.
We cannot forget that the leaders of the Bougainvillean Revolutionary Army (BRA) believed that they were waging a war against what they believed to be between purity and corruption.
Francis Ona, leader of BRA, told his followers that in order to purify Bougainville they must be the first ones to be purified. This meant eliminating “alien viruses” that come from the arrival of foreign nations such as France, Germany, Britain and Australia, as well as the mining companies and the PNG government. 
Damien Dameng – prominent leader of the Meekamui movement in the 1950’s, from the Iran-Pangka Valley in Panguna District – recognized the impact of these “alien invasions” and contamination of life on the islands. His movement believed that colonial administration, mining and churches were thieves full of trickeries, and that Bougainville must be restored. 
Critics will claim that the war was about demands for the mining royalties, but it was in fact predominately about eliminating deadly poisons that resulted from mining on the islands.
John Momis, a prominent Bougainvillean statesman, referred to the Panguna mine as a “cancer cell” in his letter to the company’s managing director. 
Bougainvilleans want to defend the earth while mining companies like Panguna mine are indifferent to the suffering of people and destruction their land, all in the name of progress and development. Those with their hands in the Panguna mine pocket are eagerly awaiting the future of mining on the Pacific Islands.
PNG government’s attempt at national unity involved inviting mercenaries to kill the Bougainville people. National unity for who? The myth of national unity serves only the interests of elites in Port Moresby parliament house and Canberra – those who could not care less about the Melanesian communities whose lives, language, cultures and land have been under severe attack by the project of modernity.
The slaughtering of Papuans every day by Indonesians on the other side of this imaginary colonial border (PNG and West Papua) is being undertaken in the name of “national unity and integrity.” There is no unity or integrity in killing your fellow beings.
Melanesia at stands at a crossroads, Which Way?
As co-founding father of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and Vanuatu’s first Prime Minister, Fr. Walter Lini once said, “Vanuatu will not be fully free until all Melanesians are free.”
Just because PNG and Fiji have their own parliament house, currency and armed law enforcement does not mean that they are more free or safer than those Papuans who are murdered every day in the hands of Indonesian control of West Papua. We are all facing the same existential threats under the current global world order.
The regional body such as the MSG and the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) could be very powerful institutions that allow the leaders of the Pacific nations to unite and say NO to cheque book diplomacy coming from large foreign powers. The greed of the elite is causing great pain in the Pacific Islands in the name of development and those local elites (masters of modernity) whose day to day preoccupation is perhaps about what’s tonight dinner menu at a Chinese restaurant tonight.
Solutions to ensure as to whether Melanesia will survive or not require a collective effort. The MSG founding fathers such as PNG former prime minister Paias Wingti, Solomon Islands former prime minister Ezekiel Alebua, and Vanuatu’s first prime minister Walter Lini had visions backed by strong political desire to strive for the entire decolonization and freedom of the Melanesian people and territories under the colonial rule in the South Pacific. Are the current Melanesian leaders still holding onto this important vision?
The Pacific Region is fast becoming important for competing superpowers for geopolitical and economic strategy. Invisible capitalists, whose whole philosophy is based on Scottish Capitalist Adam Smith’s book “The Wealth of Nations”, are cashing their cheques amidst the slaughter of innocent Melanesian, Polynesian, Micronesian, Indigenous Australian and other ancient people across the world. This is a war between industrial civilization versus the natural world.
The Road to Freedom for Bougainville
A collective solution cannot emerge from divided and fragmented nations wrapped in conflict. The PNG government must decide if it will continue to stand with the global capitalists or with the Bougainvilleans, West Papuans and many other resilient, grassroot communities across Oceania that say NO to colonialism, nuclear testing, climate change, corruptions that lead to mismanagement, and the gambling of their resources, history and future.
It is time for the leaders of the independent nations across Melanesia to look at their decisions, and ask whether they have been manipulated into giving up their equal share of the pie; fooled into believing that they are free and equal, when in fact, they are merely begging at the table for scraps.
Bougainville is a 21st century tragedy with the potential to be extinguished under the Western capitalist system or live as a spiritual-based, nature centric civilization. It seems that any significant decision about the fate of a single nation is no longer sustainable in the long run.
If humans are to survive as a species, we cannot continue our destructive, terror-reigning path. Ecosystems are being depleted, cultures annihilated, and the money is going into the greedy hands of international pirates and global capitalists.
The root of the problem is our worldview: this civilization is based on individual, materialistic desires and selfish actions. Our fragmented worldview has created a separation theology and our separated theology has divided our sociology. This worldview has destroyed millions of lives on this planet.
Such major change will require a fundamental shift in our consciousness to realize that the value and integrity of life in the indigenous cultures of Bougainville or Palestine is just as important as those in London or Beijing.
PNG playwright and poet, Nora Vagi Brash, in her five plays, “Which Way, Big man?”, reflect dramatic changes taking place in PNG and difficult decisions that Papuans must make about their history, lives and future as they struggle to juggle between the two worlds – the world of their ancestors colonised and the new modern world of coloniser. 
It is time to listen to the words of many great people who want to see these island nations thrive under autonomy and renewed freedom.
“Will we see ourselves in the long shadows of the dwindling light and the advanced darkness of the evening dusk, or will we see ourselves in the long and radiant rays of the rising sun? We can choose, if we will” The Melanesian Way (Bernard Narakobi). 
“It is time to purify and heal Bougainville” – Francis Ora
“It is time to not let the bird of paradise die in vain” – Airlie Ingram, Sorong Samarai. 
To me, the term Melanesia invokes the idea of an alien tree within Oceania that has not yet produced its own fruit. Visitors to the tree have attempted to graft buds from other plants in order to stimulate production, but with little success. Nevertheless, the tree is large and full of potential, and outside visitors are intrigued by its uniqueness. Even if the tree is not producing fruit on its own, visitors still want a souvenir of its exotic potential. They’ve taken the bark, the leaves and the branches, until the tree no longer resembles its former greatness. It is becoming a generic, wilted plant in a thriving forest.
The Bougainville and Melanesian are at a crossroads now, Prime Minister James Marape and your government in Moresby… Which Way, Big Man?
[i] Hermkens, A.-K. (2015). Marian Movements and Secessionist Warfare in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, 18(4), pp.35–54.
The Bougainville Referendum Commission today acknowledged the tireless effort of nearly 1,500 polling officials as regular polling for Bougainvilleans comes to an end across a record 829 locations in three countries.
Regular polling finished yesterday (Tuesday) at 6pm, with only the submission of postal votes to continue to Saturday 7 December, 6 pm.
They voted in highland villages and on remote atolls. Even 15 youth who live in the jungle and wear bright Upe hats as they undergo traditional training to become men had the chance to vote. ( See full story Part 2 )
All across the Pacific region of Bougainville, people have voted in a historic referendum to decide if they want to become the world’s newest nation by gaining independence from Papua New Guinea.
“Today is a momentous occasion for the people of Bougainville , we have waited years to finally exercise our right to determine our own political future.” Vice President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Hon. Raymond Masono upon casting his vote during the polling at Bel Isi Park in Buka. Hon. Masono acknowledged the work of the BRC and thanked the ABG, GOPNG and donor partners for their support from the very first day up until now.
Regular voting ended on Tuesday while any remaining postal votes will be accepted through Saturday. The results will be announced in mid-December.
The referendum is nonbinding, and a vote for independence would then need to be negotiated by leaders from both Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. The final say would then go to lawmakers in the Papua New Guinea Parliament
Chief Referendum Officer Mauricio Claudio said there had been long queues and high enthusiasm at many of the 828 polling places.
“During polling we’ve witnessed a festive and joyous mood,” he said. “There have been dancing troupes and whole communities getting together.”
Claudio said that giving Upes a chance to vote at male-only polling stations was one of many referendum firsts. He said election officers hiked for two hours into the jungle to collect the votes.
The young Upe men can remain isolated from their communities for several years as they learn about culture, medicine, hunting and other skills. During this time, they wear the tall, woven Upe hats that hide their hair and are forbidden to be seen by women.
Election officers also traveled by overnight boat to get to some of the five offshore atolls and visited a police lockup to collect votes from prisoners.
Claudio said there was only one disruption, in the Konnou area, where a long-simmering dispute led police to advise referendum officers to close one polling station. The affected voters got a chance to cast their ballots elsewhere.
Complicating the voting process were the limited communications throughout the region and the traditional way many people live, including not owning any photo identification. Added to that, the Bougainville Referendum Commission only secured its funding in March.
But more than 40 U.N. staffers and over 100 international observers helped oversee a process that Claudio said had gone remarkably well.
The referendum is a key part of a 2001 peace agreement that ended a brutal civil war in which at least 15,000 people died in the cluster of islands to the east of the Papua New Guinea mainland.
The violence in Bougainville began in the late 1980s, triggered by conflict over an enormous opencast copper mine at Panguna. The mine was a huge export earner for Papua New Guinea, but many in Bougainville felt they got no benefit and resented the pollution and disruption to their traditional way of living.
The mine has remained shut since the conflict. Some believe it could provide a future revenue source for Bougainville should it become independent.
Experts believe people the 250,000 to 300,000 people of Bougainville will vote overwhelming in favor of independence ahead of the other option, which is greater autonomy.
But the process of becoming a separate nation could take years to achieve.
Part 2 Report and pictures from Ben Bohane
They appeared in a fringe of forest at the edge of Teuapaii village; hesitant, ghostly, looking awed and slightly bewildered at the scene in front of them after their years of seclusion in the bush.
People were chanting and danced in circles beneath a Bougainville flag nearby to welcome the handful of election monitors, and Upe initiates, as the village prepared to vote.
Blown conch shells and bamboo wind pipes reverberated in the air.
Boys as young as 10 and young men of voting age, all wearing the woven Upe hats of initiation that adorn the centre of Bougainville’s flag, made a fleeting appearance to cast their ballot.
In the many years I’ve covered Bougainville it was my first time to see them, and after those of age had voted they drifted silently back into the bush to complete their schooling in tribal law, medicine, building, fighting and love magic, amongst other life skills.
The Upe tradition used to be common across northern and central Bougainville, as well as Buka, but missionary influence stopped much of it over the past 100 years.
Yet in remains in pockets among the Wakunai peoples and some isolated villages we visited inland from the west coast.
They were proud to be continuing this tabu kastom that turns boys into men, and whose hats covering their uncut hair twisted in long dredlocks remains today the symbol of Bougainville.
” The United States and its Pacific allies have plugged a funding gap that endangered next month’s independence referendum in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) region of Bougainville, a strategic move that also sidelined China, two sources told Reuters.
Western nations are looking to rein in China’s influence in the increasingly contested Pacific, where it has recently drawn away two of Taiwan’s allies, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, triggering a strong rebuke from the United States.
The vote in PNG’s autonomous region of Bougainville, formerly the site of a bloody civil conflict, will run from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7, and could trigger separation negotiations to create a new nation in the strategic waters of the Pacific.”
Why is China on the move in the South Pacific? This Sunday, a special #60Mins investigation revealing the communist superpower’s soft invasion of Australia’s island neighbours. pic.twitter.com/mlOchQpiJ1
Main agenda was a link with China in the Pacific and Bougainville
Picture below Steven Tamiung with the 60 Minutes Crew
Part 1 U.S. edges China out of race to fund Bougainville independence vote
Sources with direct knowledge of the arrangements in Bougainville told Reuters that China was not blocked from helping fund the referendum, but neither was it invited to contribute when the shortfall emerged.
“It’s just that the invitation never arrived, or, rather, was never sent,” one source said.
The second source said the West wanted to limit China’s engagement with what could soon be the world’s newest nation, strategically located in waters separating Asia and the Americas.
China’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on whether it was involved in discussions to assist in the referendum.
“China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, and respects the independent choices of people in all countries,” it said in a statement.
The funding shortfall emerged early this year amid preparations, overseen by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, to register the votes of 300,000 people, most of them spread over the main island of Bougainville, nearby Buka and other outlying islands.
The United States, along with Australia, New Zealand and Japan, helped plug the funding gap of 7.1 million kina ($2 million), according to a breakdown of funding arrangements provided to Reuters by the Bougainville Referendum Commission.
According to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, a referendum which includes the option of independence must be held at the latest by June 2020. The vote was originally scheduled for 15 June 2019, before being delayed to 17 October due to a row over funding. The referendum was delayed again to 23 November at the request of the Bougainville Referendum Commission to ensure the credibility of the referendum roll so more people can vote, most of the promised funding not having been sent by the national government. Both governments said this delay would be the last.Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Karl Claxton said there is a wide expectation Bougainville will vote to become independent. In October 2018, former Taoiseach of IrelandBertie Ahern was appointed to chair the Bougainville Referendum Commission, which is responsible for preparing the referendum.
In November the BRC completed the official ‘certified voter list’ to be used in polling for the Bougainville Referendum. The number of voters is 206,731.
” As we celebrate Independence Day for 2019, I want to reflect on the upcoming referendum and the future political path of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
As a Bougainvillean and a Papua New Guinean, I am less concerned about Greater Autonomy, Independence (or the ‘Third Choice’ whatever it might be). The simple fact is that two options are already guaranteed, and it is now for the people to make their choice.
My real concern is more about our insouciance and disregard for good governance that we must sternly guard against, whatever the political outcome of referendum will be. For, good governance is one of the major considerations that must be ticked off or crossed when it comes to ratification of the vote.
Here I say, take heed the soothsayers say, or forever hold your breath.”
Hon. Simon Pentanu MHR GCL : Speaker Bougainville House of Representatives
Picture Above : Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE and ABG President, DR. JOHN MOMIS signed the joint resolution September 12 at the Presidential villa Buka in front of journalists and the Ministers and members from both the ABG and the National Government. See Part 2 for full details or Download Document Here
Whatever the choice is, and we know that Independence is the greater expectation of most Bougainvilleans, we have to make it work. This is the essence of my message today. Let us not tire of talking about good governance, honest and transparent leadership, common sense, and not being above or beyond reproach. Let us not forget the foundation stones and the building blocks of good government, regardless of what form that Government takes.
Adherence to good governance must be the message delivered in unison by the people to their representatives in the House of Representatives and to Leaders in Government. All Leaders, whether at the national, provincial or community government level, must be held to account.
Without regard for good governance the writing is on the wall. We know this from the countless examples of developing countries that have been turned into pariah states by their own Leaders in power.
Let us avoid the pitfalls of bad governance by making a conscious and conscientious choice for good governance without making compromises, taking short cuts or looking for quick fixes at the leadership level.
Nothing is more certain than the dire consequences that befall a people whose leaders turn a blind eye, a deaf ear and who play mute to the evils of corruption.
Conversely, nothing is more certain than the successes and gross national happiness and contentment that follows when elected leaders live up to the oaths and loyalties they swear by and the responsibilities they promise to live up to in office, leading the people from the front.
We can grab and take the opportunities to heart or we can squat and squander them. It is my sincere hope this Independence Day, that our leaders take the former rather than the latter path.
Hon. Simon Pentanu MHR GCL
Bougainville House of Representatives
Part 2 Editors note
Congratulations to Simon Pentanu, who has been named on the 2019 Independence Day Anniversary Honours List. Simon Pentanu
Mr. Pentanu will be awarded the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GCL) Conerred with the title of “Chief” for distinguished public service in the senior roles of Clerk of the National Parliament, Chief Ombudsman, and currently as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE and ABG President, DR. JOHN MOMIS signed the joint resolution in the afternoon at the Presidential villa in front of journalists and the Ministers and members from both the ABG and the National Government.
The first Agenda was concerning the request by the BRC to extend the Referendum date by six weeks from October 12th Polling to November 23rd Polling.
The BRC had sought for additional time for the referendum roll to be updated so that the outcome is credible and has integrity.
Agenda two was on weapons disposal, after the joint Weapons disposal secretariat briefed the JSB on the progress of the Me’ekamui Weapons disposal program, the JSB resolved and noted that the weapons disposal work must continue, and also touched on the National Reconciliation ceremony that must be held between the National Government and the ABG and also between the veterans.
Agenda three was on the Post Referendum Transition of which many discussions have been made and also looking at the legal issues going forward.
The JSB noted the progress made so far and resolved for the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Task Force on Post Referendum.
Approved for the Post Referendum Task Force to identify facilitators/moderators to assist in the Post referendum negotiation period.
And there must be one national moderator and one external moderator.
The fourth Agenda looked at the Restoration and Development Grants in which both governments have been at loggerheads over the calculations for the RDG.
The JSB resolved to accept the calculations made by an independent expert engaged by the UNDP and that officers work on these calculations and settle those outstanding through the RDG and SIF programs.
The JSB also resolved to approve a new arrangement for the National Government to provide 100 Million annually to the ABG for the next ten years starting next year.
The BPA declares that in the Constitution of the Papua New Guinea National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB) is guaranteed a referendum on Bougainville’s political future to be held amongst Bougainvilleans 10-15 years after the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
ABG was established in 2005 and therefore, according to the Constitution, a referendum can be held between the years 2015 and 2020. Both governments will agree upon the official date of the referendum.
4.With a projected vote on independence from Papua New Guinea just three months away, suddenly Bougainville is the centre of a lot of activity.
A crowd of people in Bougainville watching the handover of the agreed definitions for the two questions for the Independence Referendum. The first Greater Autonomy for Bougainville and the other full Independence from Papua New Guinea. Photo: Autonomous Bougainville Government
The vote, which is scheduled to start on 12 October, has already been moved once from 15 June.
Now there is a call for it to be delayed further, with the Bougainville Referendum Commission, which is in charge of preparing the region for the vote, saying more time is needed to ensure the integrity of the electoral roll.
A six-week extension was mentioned.
But the newly appointed PNG Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said the BRC needed to make a formal request if it wanted to delay the referendum.
“If the BRC thinks they need a little more time because of the credibility issue on the referendum roll then the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) will be the body that will make the final decision. It is not the national government or the ABG, it is a JSB decision.
“If they say no then that’s it. If they agree then we will inform our people and the basis will be the credibility of the common roll,” he said.
That JSB meeting is set to be held in south Bougainville, in Buin.
The PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, then confirmed the National Executive Council, the cabinet, will hold its meeting there at the same time.
Sir Puka, who has significantly lifted the tempo on Bougainville since coming into the role just weeks ago, said it is vital for all of PNG’s leaders to show their commitment to the referendum process.
Two upcoming reconciliations are to be held on Bougainville at the same time before the referendum.
Sir Puka said a national reconciliation and another involving former combatants were postponed last month because of the PNG government’s change of leadership.
“Our commitment is to never again bring the military ever again onto the island – that’s our commitment.”
Sir Puka said these events will include commitments to dispose of weapons.
He said he came back from a visit to Bougainville two weeks ago with an “enormous level of comfort” that the former militant groups had given their commitment to the peace process.
Sir Puka said there are now teams on the ground preparing for the events at a date that is yet to be announced but expected to be the end of the month.
He said he embraced the reconciliations because of their importance to Melanesian culture and the commitment that the final outcome will be jointly negotiated.
“So as part of that is to guarantee the security of the process and also reconcile and rebuild the relationship amongst all of us – our soldiers on this side and ex-combatants on the other side because that will then remove this cloud of suspicion.”
Meanwhile, at discussions this week a British political scientist with experience in referenda said if Bougainville chooses independence from PNG it’s likely to be some years before it is implemented.
Coventry University’s Matt Qvortrup was in Port Moresby to speak to lawmakers about possible scenarios after the referendum.
He said if there is a clear vote for independence it’s still important that there is what he calls a ‘a just and fair divorce settlement’ – not just one party walking away.
Professor Qvortrup said he’d seen other referenda results implemented in a matter of months, for instance in Czechoslovakia and Ukraine, which said were examples of countries that broke up quickly.
“The more successful ones have taken a little bit longer, so I think the process of independence will probably take, my estimate compared to other cases would probably be up to five years, or even more,” he said.
Also, this week a survey of more than 1,000 Bougainvilleans found people still need to know more about the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the referendum.
One of the key findings of the second Bougainville Audience Study is the need for continuous awareness in the lead up to the referendum and beyond.
The ABG’s communications director, Adriana Schmidt, said the report provided a clear picture of the information needs of Bougainvilleans going into the vote.
She said people want to know more about what the two options – greater autonomy and independence – mean in practical terms, and to understand what happens after the vote.
5 : THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year.
Whether it can survive as a stand-alone nation is a key question for its 250,000 inhabitants, and for other separatist movements in the Pacific.
The future course of the island could ripple across the region, as the question of Bougainville’s independence will touch on a complicated mixture of business concerns, environmental worries and geopolitical interests stretching from Australia and New Zealand to China, Japan and the United States.
It’s an outsized international role for Bougainville, which lies 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the Papua New Guinea mainland. The roots of the referendum stem from a bitter inter-clan and separatist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997, fighting that claimed between 10,000 and 20,000 lives through a combination of violence, disease, poverty and dislocation.
A truce brokered and maintained by regional neighbors that included Australia, New Zealand and Fiji helped restore order, and a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in 2001. The island has had its own autonomous government since 2005.
Bougainville’s people are expected to vote decisively for independence in the Oct. 17 referendum, according to Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based policy think tank. The vote is not binding and any move toward independence will require agreement from the central government of Papua New Guinea, commonly referred to as PNG.
Most people hope the two sides can find a “Melanesian solution” that will deliver a workable form of autonomy for Bougainville, says Pryke, using the term that describes the region of the South Pacific that includes PNG, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and other island nations and territories.
James Marape, who took over as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister in late May, said on June 14 he would prefer Bougainville to remain part of a unified nation, but would listen to the people’s voice and then consult over future options.
Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Sydney, says the desire for independence in Bougainville remains strong, but from a regional perspective it will be best if the Bougainville people decided to stay in Papua New Guinea. “We don’t need another microstate emerging in the Pacific.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who visited Bougainville on June 19 with PNG’s new minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the referendum and will not pass judgment on the result. Australia is by far the biggest aid donor in the Pacific region, giving $6.5 billion between 2011 and 2017, according to research last year by the Lowy Institute. Most of Australia’s aid goes to Papua New Guinea.
Scars Remain From a Civil War
The Bougainville conflict, in which rival clans on the island fought among themselves and with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, evolved from multiple issues, including land rights, customary ownership, “outsider” interference and migration, mineral resource exploitation, and perceived inequities and environmental damage associated with the rich Panguna copper mine.
Under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement, a vote on independence within 20 years was promised.
A reconciliation ceremony will be held on July 2 between the central PNG government, the national defence force, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
Deep scars remain from the conflict, both physical and emotional. Much of the island’s public infrastructure remains in poor shape, educational opportunities are limited, and corruption is pervasive. Clan rivalry and suspicion persists, particularly in regard to land rights and resource development.
Since Panguna closed in May 1989, Bougainville’s people have led a life built around agriculture and fishing. The cocoa and copra industries ravaged by the war have been re-established, there is small-scale gold mining, and potential for hydroelectric power and a revived forestry industry. For now, a lack of accommodation inhibits tourism.
Copper Mine Underscores Doubts over Bougainville’s Economic Viability
Almost 40 years ago, Bougainville’s Panguna mine was the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s export income and the largest open-cut in the world. But the mine, operated by BCL, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (now Rio Tinto Ltd.), became a focal point for conflict over pollution, migrant workers, resource ownership and revenue sharing, and has been dormant since 1989.
Apart from any foreign aid it may receive, Bougainville’s future prosperity may well depend on whether it can restart the mine, which contains copper and gold worth an estimated $50 billion. But customary ownership claims – land used for generations by local communities without the need for legal title – remain unresolved and at least three mining groups are in contention, which means an early restart is unlikely. Jennings cautions against investing too much hope in Panguna, with remediation costs after 30 years of disuse likely to be high.
Likewise, Luke Fletcher, executive director of the Sydney-based Jubilee Australia Research Centre, which studies the social and environmental impacts of resources projects on Pacific communities, says reopening Panguna would be a long, expensive and difficult proposition. He says the challenge for any mine operator would be developing a project that is environmentally safe, yet still deliver an acceptable return to shareholders and to the government.
Bougainville’s leader, President John Momis, believes that large-scale mining offers the best chance for income generation and is keen both to revive Panguna and encourage other projects. That would require outside investment, which was a factor contributing to the outbreak of violence in the late 1980s. The local community perceived that it was not getting its fair share of Panguna’s wealth.
Rio Tinto gave up its share in BCL in 2016, and ownership now rests with the government of PNG and the Bougainville government, each with 36.4%. Independent shareholders own the remaining 27.2%.
At least two other groups are vying to operate Panguna. Sir Mel Togolo, the BCL chairman, told the company’s annual general meeting on May 2 that continued uncertainty about Panguna’s tenure remains a big challenge. “We will need to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to achieve our objective of bringing the Panguna mine back into production,” he said.
Regional, International Eyes on October Referendum
With doubts persisting about Bougainville’s economic viability if it cuts ties with the central government, the referendum outcome will be closely watched by other PNG provinces pushing for greater autonomy, such as East New Britain, New Ireland and Enga.
Across the region, some parts of neighboring Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are agitating for their own separate identities. In the nearby French overseas territory of New Caledonia, voters rejected independence from France by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in November 2018. European settlers were heavily in favor of staying part of France, while indigenous Kanak people overwhelmingly voted for independence.
At the international level, Australia will be keen to ensure that whatever the outcome of the Bougainville referendum, stability is maintained in Papua New Guinea, if only to counter China’s growing interest in offering aid and economic benefits as it builds a Pacific presence.
Along with Japan, New Zealand and the U.S., Australia has committed to a 10-year $1.7 billion electrification project in Papua New Guinea. Australia and the U.S. have agreed to help Papua New Guinea redevelop its Manus Island naval base, which sits 350 kilometers north of the mainland and commands key trade routes into the Pacific.
Jennings says Australia would be likely to give aid to an independent Bougainville to try to keep China at bay. “China is everywhere. Its destructive connections co-opt leaderships in a way that doesn’t work out well for people.”
From a strategic perspective, Jennings says it would be best if Melanesia looked to Australia as its main partner on matters of security.
While China gives most of its aid to PNG and Fiji, the region’s two biggest economies, Jubilee’s Fletcher says China giving aid to an independent Bougainville was “feasible.”
Geoff Hiscock is a Sydney-based journalist with a focus on international business
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