Rimbink Pato, Minister For Foreign Affairs and Immigration, has announced a ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville.
Minister Pato issued the notice following the announcement by Australia of its plan to establish an Open Mission in Bougainville.
The Minister said, “I have instructed the Chief Migration Officer to impose the ban with immediate effect and to notify all PNG Overseas Missions and Posts and domestic carriers of the ban.”
He said Australians residing in Bougainville on work and permanent resident visas will not be affected by the ban. The ban will apply to all Australian passport holders who intend to visit Bougainville on tourist, business and other short-term entry visa’s.
All Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials wishing to visit Bougainville must seek clearance from the Department of Foreign Affairs before travelling to Bougainville. A clearance note will be issued to the Carrier to uplift the named officail(s).
The ban will also be imposed on any foreigner who applies for a visa at an PNG Overseas Missions and Post to visit Bougainville.
PNG Migration, Customs and Police Officers on duty at PNG Ports and Entry and Provincial Airports will monitor the ban and report any non-compliance to the Chief Migration Officer.
Source: Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration 15 May 2015 [Media Release]
The Challenge: Prior to the conflict, Bougainville women played vital roles in community-level decision-making and were key agents of development. Overall, women held important positions in the family and community. Since the conflict this role has been weakened, resulting in women being marginalised from community decision-making processes. Further, during the conflict, women suffered violence as victims of torture, rape, and forced labour. The weakened capacity of women as agents of development within their communities and the low capacity of government departments working at the local level are widely viewed as significant challenges to development efforts
Located at the eastern-most point of the New Guinea islands, Bougainville comprises two large and many smaller islands. It has a population of approximately 200,000 and over a dozen different languages. A province of Papua New Guinea since 1975, Bougainville is now an autonomous region within the country — the result of a nine-year revolt that left tens of thousands killed, a divided and traumatised population, degraded infrastructure, and a shattered economy brought on by the collapse of its main industry, mining.
The Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville project will benefit women and women’s organisations across the autonomous region as well as communities where projects are implemented and the individuals and agencies who are trained under the project.
The project consists of three components:
Building Capacity for Inclusive Community Development; training women’s organisations and civil society organisations to support the involvement of women in community development. Training is provided for staff in the government, district and sub-district levels.
Small Grants for Inclusive Community Development; women’s groups are invited to apply the concepts and skills they have learned from training directly to the design and implementation of community-based projects through the availability of small grants.
Project Management and Knowledge Sharing.
Through component 1, training has been delivered to 450 participants, exceeding the goal of 400 in the implementation plan. Over two thirds of the participants have been women, exceeding the target of about 40%. There were 51 participants from the Public Service which exceeds the goal of 46 as well as 190 participants from CSOs which exceeded the goal of 152.
Through component 2, small grants have been awarded to 41 women’s groups, including at least one project in each of Bougainville’s 13 districts. People benefitting from completed grant projects are estimated at over 48,000, nearly 25% of the population.
An Independent Monitoring Group concluded that public goods from the project are reaching communities with overall sound management of funds and that women’s roles are being strengthened through their direct management, ownership and leadership in the whole process.
The World Bank (State and Peace-building Fund) has contributed US$2.5 million for this project
With the project currently set to close in March 2015, plans are underway to secure additional financing to extend the project to March 2018. Additional financing would support the provision of two more rounds of small grants to women’s groups, one per round for each of the 41 Community Governments. Training would continue to build the capacity of women’s groups while also engaging District officials and Community Government leaders more actively in development planning monitoring and implementation support.
Promotion/Advertising : Donate here to support www.bookgainville.com educating young girls throughout Bougainville
A site survey team from the United States Pacific Fleet will be arriving in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville this week.
According to a statement from the US embassy in Port Moresby, the team hopes to survey potential areas for U.S assistance in Arawa, Central Bougainville under a programme called the Pacific Partnership.
Pacific Partnership was founded to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster resilience to the pacific nations following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Its potential activities range from medical, dental, veterinarian care to construction projects and crisis response training. Papua New Guinea benefited most recently in Wewak and Vanimo in 2013 and this year’s engagement is planned for Bougainville and Rabaul.
The programme as revealed by the statement is a great opportunity to expand people to people ties with the United States and deliver benefits for the people of Bougainville.
The Australian-led international mission is clearing potentially deadly munitions from the villages and food gardens around Torokina, on the west coast of Bougainville.
The Australian Army said the sheer amount of rusty old munitions surprised even seasoned explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts.
“They are mostly two-inch-high explosive mortars and hand grenades, in varying conditions, left in place after the war,” EOD operator Warrant Officer Class Two David Austin said.
An Allied air base was built at Torokina by the US in 1943 and was the launching place for Australian ground attacks against the Japanese in 1944-1945.
More than 500 Australians died and 1,500 were injured in the Bougainville campaign.
Seventy years later, the Australian army has returned to clean up the deadly remnants of war.
More than 500 Australian military personnel are involved in Operation Render Safe 2014, with support from HMAS Choules, an MRH90 helicopter, landing craft and amphibious vehicles.
With little infrastructure at Torokina, soldiers have landed vehicles on the beach and trekked into the jungle to look for unexploded ordinance.
Despite five months of awareness-building activities, there were criticisms of the munitions clearance by some former combatants in the more recent conflict on Bougainville.
Australia’s role on Bougainville is still a sensitive issue due to the civil war in the 1990s, sparked by disputes over the Panguna mine, operated by Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Limited.
“Former combatants have said that this operation is a breach of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, but I had explained to them that the operation… enhances the peace that the people of Torokina want,” said Patrick Nisira, vice-president of the autonomous government of Bougainville.
Local police help soldiers locate storage pits
Australian army personnel said the reception on the ground had been friendly.
“The people of Bougainville have been most welcoming and we have been working very closely with them to identify explosive remnants of war which pose a threat to local communities,” operation commander Captain Jay Bannister said.
Members of the Bougainville Police Service and locals have helped soldiers locate the munitions storage pits, with assistance from explosives experts from the US, UK, Canada, News Zealand and Solomon Islands.
“As well as helping the community, this is a great training opportunity for the younger EOD guys,” Mr Austin said.
“For the past 10 years we have been focused on the Middle East region but this gets us back to the grass roots fundamentals of our job.”
The mortars and hand grenades were stacked in pits and destroyed by a controlled blast.
Operation Render Safe 2014 will end on 8 November.
Previous Operation Render Safe missions have removed unexploded ordnance from Solomon Islands and Rabaul in Papua New Guinea.
Members of the Board and Academic Advisory Board 24 October 2014
Dear Board Member,
I refer to my letter of 20th September 2014 expressing concerns about Jubilee Australia’s report, ‘Voices of Bougainville’. Almost five weeks have elapsed, and I’m yet to receive even an acknowledgment of my letter, let alone a considered response.
On the other hand, there have been several public statements made about the report. Some were made by Jubilee CEO, Ms. Brynnie Goodwill, both in advance of, and since, my letter. Others were made only after my letter, by Jubilee Board Chair, Luke Fletcher, and by Kristian Lasslett (an academic who acknowledges overseeing preparation of the report). In this letter I raise grave concerns about misleading statements made in those statements, and raise issues about aspects of the report additional to those raised in my earlier letter.
I have general concerns about the remarkably condescending nature of the position taken by the Chair of the Jubilee Board, Luke Fletcher, in his comments reported on Radio Australia on 2nd October.
First he claimed that ‘some of the comments on the report may reflect people who perhaps didn’t read it carefully enough, in terms of some of the criticism that have been made’. In the context this appears to refer to my assertion that the report claimed to represent views of ‘mine-affected communities’, and not merely the few people interviewed. I can assure Mr. Fletcher that I have read the report with great care. As he challenges my assertions in regard to what the report claims, I have little choice but to set out clearly for him (and for Mr. Lasslett, who made much the same comment), in the next part of this letter, exactly what the report says as to it representing the views of the mine-affected communities.
Second, Mr. Fletcher said that Jubilee will carefully consider the criticisms of the report. But by also saying that it’s ‘very unlikely’ that the report will be ‘withdrawn’, he made it quite clear that Jubilee had essentially pre-judged the issues involved. To me, it’s like a court announcing publicly before a criminal trial that it will consider the evidence seriously, but it’s ‘very unlikely’ the defendant could be innocent.
Jubilee’s Claim that Report Represent only the Views of those Interviewed
In my letter of 20th September, a key concern was that the report claimed that interviews with 65 people (and a ‘focus group’ of 17 others) represented the views of the 10,000 or more people of the former Panguna mine lease areas. I vigorously disputed that claim.
It’s true that at some points the report does state that it records views expressed by interviewees (mainly in sections dealing with ‘research findings’ derived from interviews).
But in fact the report makes far grander claims. Significantly, such claims appear mainly in sections discussing research goals (under the heading ‘Addressing Gaps in Knowledge’) and conclusions. Frequent and explicit statements are made that the report represents views of the people of the ‘mine-affected areas’, or ‘mine-affected communities’, or ‘stakeholders … affected by the Panguna mine’.
Given the limited understanding that those involved in overseeing preparation of the report evidently have about many aspects of contemporary Bougainville, it may assist the Board if I explain what the term ‘mine-affected areas’ means in Bougainville. It covers a swathe of land areas once covered by mining tenements held by BCL (though recently done away with by the ABG Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act), or land leases associated with the Panguna mine. These include:
The three main former ‘leases for mining purposes’, namely:
o the Loloho lease, used for port facilities, power station and a recreation area;
o the Port-Mine-Access Road lease; and
o the Tailings lease, and
the former Special Mining Lease; and
the Siokate Lease, involving Arawa Village land used for part of Arawa Town.
The term also includes large areas adjacent to those former leases that were also affected by mine. These include an extended area south and north of the main leases on the western side of the mountains, where landowners received compensation from BCL for loss of fish in creeks and rivers that feed into the Kawerong and Jaba rivers.
The people of all of these areas are represented by the nine landowner associations mentioned in the Jubilee Report (p.6). It is estimated that well over 10,000 people live in the areas covered by the former BCL tenements and the Siokate lease, and several thousand more live in the area where many once received fish compensation, and now covered by the Bolave Fish Owners Association (one of the nine landowner associations).
Under the heading ‘Addressing Gaps in Knowledge’, the report talks of ‘this study’s systematic attempt to record the views of those living in the mine affected areas’ (emphasis added). It goes on to say that ‘this study was undertaken in order to empirically gauge the feelings of the mine-affected communities towards current plans to reopen the mine’ (emphasis added). The report states that important questions associated with that major goal include examining: ‘To what extent have communities been adequately engaged with, and consulted’ and whether ‘they’ (i.e. ‘communities’) ‘want the mine to reopen’ and so on (p.17). Very clearly, the report aims to draw conclusions from the research as to what ‘mine-affected communities’ (not just those interviewed) believe about the future of mining.
Similarly, in the ‘Appendix: Research Methodology’, under the heading ‘Aims and Objectives’, the report discusses research aims as recording ‘perceptions’, ‘experiences’, and ‘understandings’ of the ‘community’ and of ‘mine-affected communities’ (p.48).
At page 46, under the heading ‘Conclusion’, the report states that it is presenting ‘a number of preliminary observations about the views of the mine-affected communities’ (emphasis added):
‘First, and most importantly, the stakeholders who have been most affected by the Panguna mine and subsequent conflict, are at present staunchly opposed to any discussion of the mine’s reopening’ (emphasis added);
In relation to the second observation, that ‘people we spoke to were deeply critical of the mine consultation process’, the report draws a conclusion that ‘any attempt to reopen the mine in the present environment would almost certainly be received by most in the landowning community as illegitimate’ (emphasis added);
The third observation is that ‘the people of Panguna have developed a sophisticated understanding of the actors involved in the conflict’, an observation which while expressed to be based on the views of ‘the people who have been consulted in this study’ is clearly stated to be a conclusion applying far beyond just those people (emphasis added);
The fourth observation concerns the view of ‘those who participated in this study’ on the need to consider alternatives to industrial scale mining. But the report goes on to say: ‘These are the deeply held views of large sections of the mine-affected communities, and cannot be simply dismissed as an outside agenda, or as materially infeasible’. The report then takes a stronger stance on the extent to which such views are held, stating that ‘the mine-affected communities would like to see a modality of development take place that they control … (emphasis added).
In a sub-section of the Conclusion headed ‘Connecting the Past and the Future’, after several paragraphs that do refer to the views of the people spoken to, the report says: ‘The people of Panguna clearly say that, unlike in the past, they would like a say in how they control natural resources of the land in which they live’, which ‘would appear to preclude the sort of industrial scale operations that the ABG appears to have in mind… (emphasis added) (p.46).
There seems little doubt as to what Jubilee believed, at least initially, as to the views of those interviewed in fact representing the views of many others. Jubilee chief executive, Ms. Brynnie Goodwill, is reported as having said in a discussion of the report and its findings on Radio New Zealand on 17 September, before any public criticism had been made of the report:
‘Currently there is near unanimity among the Pangunans that they do not want mining in their region’ (‘Pangunan’ is not a term used in Bougainville);
’I think that what has been loudly said by the Panguna communities is that other opportunities need to be explored …;
‘So I think what the Pangunan communities are saying is that many more issues need to be addressed first and foremost…,
Not only does the report reach conclusions about what ‘mine-affected communities’ want, but it records conclusions about what the relevant views of those communities ‘preclude’, in terms of ABG policy!
I was undoubtedly the most outspoken critic of the report prior to 2nd October, when Mr. Fletcher made comments on Radio Australia on 2nd October concerning criticisms made of the report. As noted already, responses from both Fletcher and Lasslett attacked assertions that the report claims to represent mine-affected communities. In the context, I must assume that Fletcher’s remarks about critics not having read the report ‘carefully enough’ were at least in part directed at me.
In circumstances where the aims and concluding sections of the report are so clearly expressed as broadly representative, I am compelled to seek an explanation for his response, which is not only condescending, but also false. Of course, I do not suggest Mr. Fletcher or Mr. Lasslett have been deliberately dishonest in their responses on this issue. Is it they, perhaps, that have not read their report carefully enough? If not, what other explanation could there be?
Representation of Voices not Heard
The report makes much of the claim that it ‘endeavours to relay voices from mine-affected communities in Bougainville, voices that have been distant from recent public discussions surrounding the mine’ (p.5). Ms. Goodwill is quoted as saying the report was intended to ‘support the airing of voices of mine-affected communities …and to ensure those voices could become part of a broader discussion and debate.’ (Helen Davidson, Guardian Australia, 1st October 2014).
Not only does Jubilee imply that it is breaking remarkable new ground by revealing opposition to mining, but there is also a strong implication that such voices have been excluded from debates on the subject. There is absolutely no basis for such views.
It is absolutely no surprise that there Bougainvilleans, especially in the mine-affected areas, that oppose resumption of mining at Panguna. Their views are well-known, well-understood, well-respected, and accepted. Those who support resumption of mining are not trying to suppress such views, for invariably they too have deep concerns about, and make strong criticisms of, mining, especially (though not only) in relation to the way it was conducted at Panguna from the late 1960s.
There is no exclusion, however, of anti-mining views from debate on the future of mining in Bougainville. If you or your researchers had engaged with the ABG or the executives of the landowner associations, you could have heard much more about the role of such voices in the ongoing debates. At the various public forums on the future of mining, vigorous debate has always included voices strongly opposed to mining. Such voices have been welcomed, and listened to with care.
For example, at the two day Women’s Forum on the future of mining, held in Buka in March this year, over 200 women attended. They were selected not by the ABG, but rather by a wide range of women’s organisations. After a day of general discussion, involving a multiplicity of voices, some strongly opposed to mining, they broke into their district groupings to discuss their views. In the report-back session at the end of the second day, of the 13 district groups all but one reported support for resumption of mining at Panguna, subject to strict conditions. Panguna district was amongst those in support. The exception (where mining was opposed) was Kunua District, on the north-west coast. No pressure was applied to any individual or group to support or to oppose resumption of mining.
Again, it’s not surprising that there are some Bougainvilleans who hold negative views of the consultation processes conducted by the ABG and landowner associations. Part of the problem concerns access difficulties arising from such things as scattered settlement patterns, limited transport, limits on access to some mine-affected communities resulting from the armed Me’ekamui roadblock at the Morgan Junction, and the limited financial resources available under the ABG budget. But to suggest that those few views about the consultation processes are representative of ‘most in the landowning community’ (Report, p.47) is deeply misleading.
The ABG is a government committed to consultation and to listening. We are not squashing any voice. We welcome the contributions of those who oppose mining. The strong opposite implication in your report is unjustified and unfair.
Fear and Trepidation on the Part of Interviewees
Mr. Fletcher is reported as saying that Jubilee’s decision not to talk to the ABG or Landowner associations ‘was deliberate’. As there was no communication of any kind with us at any point from initial planning through to public release of the report, he clearly believes that to communicate with us in any way at all and at any stage may have made it difficult for landowners ‘to feel comfortable’. It seems that the only option for Jubilee was total secrecy! Accordingly, Fletcher says, it was ‘a deliberate strategy to try and come in as independent and not be perceived and to be part any particular agenda’. This approach, he says, was demonstrated to be needed because some people ‘wouldn’t have spoken to us if we were allied with these groups’ (Radio Australia interview, 2 October 2014).
The clear implication here goes beyond suggesting that opponents of mining are excluded from debate. The suggestion is that they must also live in in fear of the ABG or the landowner associations should they express views contrary to mining. That is simply not the case. In all the extensive public consultation about mining conducted by the ABG and landowner associations, all voices are encouraged and supported to speak out. Read the daily newspapers, listen to the two main radio services, look at social media (such as the Facebook Bougainville Forum), and you will find many contributions to the debate on the future of mining coming from opponents to mining. These contributors freely provide their names, clearly not feeling any fear of retribution for their actions. There is absolutely no sense of this reality portrayed in the report, with its suggestions of the need for secrecy.
Given the limited contact that some people in parts of the Panguna area have with the outside world, it’s no surprise that some might express concern about researchers not being independent. But being in communication with the ABG is not the same as being allied to it. Surely independence can be demonstrated by means other than having no communication of any kind, or at any time, with the ABG or the landowner associations? Many other researchers work in Bougainville, and remain independent, whilst at the same time maintaining communication with us. At the very least, Jubilee could have been in contact with the ABG after the interviews had been done. 6
The ABG and the landowner associations are significant stakeholders, and as such at the very least a draft of the report could have been provided to us. We may even have assisted you with information that reduced the factual errors and significant mis-representations that litter the report.
Frankly, the most likely explanation of your failure to have any contact with the ABG and the landowners associations seems to be completely unfounded assumptions made by those involved in overseeing development of the report about voices opposed to mining being excluded or suppressed by the ABG.
In addition to the critique of the methodology used in the research that I made in my earlier letter, I note that providing key stakeholders an opportunity to comment on a draft report before it is released is usually part of appropriate and robust research methodology. Jubilee’s failure to follow this quite standard approach is yet another grave weakness in methodology.
I emphasise again my deep concern that the actual interview questions asked of the interviewees have not been provided as part of the report. Dr. Mitchell quite rightly said: ‘I’m sure I could go back to Nagovisi …and create a series of questions to get pretty much any response I wanted to. Anybody could …It’s not difficult; it has to do with the nature of the questions and the way that they’re asked, as well as of whom they are asked. It’s basic research design, and research reports that do not divulge the questions cannot be taken seriously’.
In that connection, I draw your attention to issues about the broad ‘research questions’ which were the focus of the research (see p.17 and p.50). Were the interview questions asked in the same order as those broader research questions (listed on p.50)? If so, that involved taking interviewees through discussion of first, their concerns about and/or experience of the mine and the conflict, and only then asking their views on re-opening of the mine. As I presume you are aware, the ordering of the subjects discussed could alone have a significant impact on answers about re-opening the mine. (As Dr. Mitchell says of interview questions, ‘the way that they’re asked is critically important’.) Anyone conducting even a basis public opinion survey is well aware of the need to avoid such problems.
The report states that there was ‘a list of questions and main topics for the interviewers to draw on and use as guides to orient the interviews’ (p.49).
If this report is to have any credibility, it is essential not only that the list of questions asked, but also the order in which they were asked, be revealed.
Who Did the Research?
Dr. Mitchell also asked: ’Who did the data analysis? Were any of the fieldworkers social scientists?’. When Lasslett defended what had been done, Mitchell commented further: ‘I didn’t see the names and credentials of the researchers. I think that is important. Can you tell me why that is? Field research isn’t something just anybody can do, or, putting it another way, even a first rate researcher’s skill set might not be appropriate to a particular research setting. I’d like to know whether the two researchers were social scientists, whether they had advanced training ..’. I concur with Dr. Mitchell.
Similarly, in answering criticism of the Report, Mr. Fletcher states that even though Jubilee will look at comments made, it ‘is very unlikely’ that the Report will be withdrawn. He advances what he calls a ‘particular reason’ for that view: ‘…that the people who were involved in this report are all very highly qualified academics and all the questions that are being raised about the report are questions we had with ourselves and very deeply before we released it’. Lasslett ‘echoes’ Fletcher in his response to Don Mitchell.
These points do not advance Jubilee’s cause. The claim that ‘highly qualified academics’ were involved means little when their names are not provided. Moreover, as Mitchell notes, even the best researchers may not be well qualified for particular tasks. Please advise us who they were.
Finally, the argument advanced by both Fletcher and Lasslett that those involved in the research asked themselves questions similar to the criticisms now being made in no way answers the criticisms. If those questions were in fact asked by Jubilee, then it seems clear that its answers were, at best, somewhat flawed.
In my earlier letter I commented upon Jubilee having collaborated in this research with organisations ‘vehemently opposed to large-scale mining and to the ABG’s mining policy’ (namely Bismarck Ramu Group – BRG – and International State Crime Initiative – ISCI). Mr. Fletcher responds by saying that Jubilee has ‘found them to be thoroughly professional’ (PNG Post Courier, 8/10/2014).
Perhaps Mr. Fletcher has not had the opportunity to examine the remarkable range of utterly unsubstantiated, deeply unfair and unbalanced, and often quite inflammatory and divisive attacks on the ABG, on me, and on advisers to the ABG, made on the BRG Blog, PNG Mine Watch. These attacks are part of a concerted campaign mounted against the ABG since about February 2013, in relation to its efforts to develop an appropriate mining policy for Bougainville. Significantly, most attacks on the Blog are anonymous.
Perhaps Mr. Fletcher is also unaware of the wide range of contributions by Lasslett on various forms of social media, again since early 2013. Lasslett is apparently well-intentioned, He is articulate, writes well, and is able to debate issues well. He often puts well-reasoned positions, and can make positive contributions to debates. But he is cocooned in a particular view of Bougainville’s history, one he shares with a small group of others, and which shapes all his views on Bougainville.
He is focused on what he sees as not only the single worst set of wrongs that has occurred in Bougainville – namely actions of Rio Tinto/BCL in the 1988-1990 period – but also the imperative to hold Rio Tinto/BCL to account for such wrongs. In his view, Rio Tinto/BCL can have no place in contemporary Bougainville without first being held to account. Should we Bougainvilleans (or the government Bougainvilleans elected to represent them) foolishly decide otherwise, he would seek to save us from our misguided course.
Yet his is at best a highly contested view not only of our complex history (despite his claims to the contrary), but also of the way the difficult and complex problems and issues we face should be dealt with. But it is clearly very much his particular analysis that informs the ‘historical’ account in the Jubilee report, at pp.7 to 16.
While his ability to understand contemporary Bougainville is severely restricted by the position he takes on Rio Tinto/BCL, Lasslett often presents his position reasonably. There are, however, a few instances where he too makes unsubstantiated and false allegations. One example involves those made in an April 2013 article rejected by Crikey, after the editor was advised that a number of false allegations against ABG advisers made in the article were defamatory. Much the same allegations had been made to SBS television a few days earlier, but the story was not taken up when the lack of factual basis was explained to SBS. A version of the article rejected by Crikey, with a few of the most baseless allegations modified, was published a few days later by New Matilda (though it still made baseless allegations against ABG advisers (see https://newmatilda.com/2013/04/23/ausaid-fuels-bougainville-mining-tensions). Unlike Crikey, the New Matilda editor at the time failed to provide any pre-publication opportunity to refute the allegations made. It’s interesting that remarkably similar allegations are amongst those regularly made in the anonymous attacks on the ABG in the PNG Mine Watch and PNG Exposed Blogs.
Perhaps the most serious issue here is not so much the ongoing grossly unfair campaign against the ABG, but more that those involved (Lasslett, BRG, the moderators of PNG Mine Watch Blog, the anonymous author(s) of the attacks on the Blog, etc.) have never put any of their allegations to me, the ABG or the advisers that they are attacking. They never check the facts, which seem to be phenomena irrelevant to their purpose.
Let me be clear: there has been absolutely no contact with me, the ABG, nor the relevant ABG advisers by not only Lasslett, but also the anonymous attackers on the BRG website, and those administering the BRG Blog. Is this really the track record of ‘professional organisations’?
A Skewed Historical Account
The historical account advanced in the report, pp.8-16, is highly selective and unbalanced, and in parts quite incorrect, often reflecting the BRG and Lasslett view of Bougainville. Amongst many problems in that account, I mention just a few.
The claim is made that the New Panguna Landowner Association executive elected in 1987 ‘opposed the mine’ (p.9), and that the BRA demanded ‘the mine’s permanent closure’ (p.10), and that any view to the contrary – such as those advanced by me in a 2010 speech ‘contradict the archival material on Ona’s position with respect to the mine’ (p.14). As a person who attended the 1987 meeting where the new executive was elected, who remained in communication with the new executive for a considerable period thereafter, and who personally discussed with Francis Ona his views about the future of the mine as late as June 1997, I assure you from my personal knowledge that the report’s assertions on this issue are quite wrong. If Lasslett had ever troubled to interview me, I could have provided him with personal, as opposed to archival, evidence about Ona’s views, and advised him of the names of key ‘founders’ of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, and others, whom I am confident would substantiate my views in this regard.
The claims on pages 10 to 11 concerning BCL’s roles in the early period of the conflict are a muted version of claims Lasslett advances elsewhere. I can state from my personal knowledge as a Cabinet minister at the time, that in many respects his view of what happened is quite unbalanced. To give just one example, the report talks of BCL’s request for police mobile squad units being made on 26 November (p.9), failing to mention that the North Solons Provincial Government also made that request, and that the National Government strongly supported the request, and had its own strong reasons for doing so. Neither government was in any way bowing to pressure from BCL.
There are many other factual errors in the relevant pages, as well as in other parts of the report. Some of the major ones are mentioned elsewhere in this letter. But there are many more.
Using the Historical Account to Substantiate Baseless ‘Research Findings’
Perhaps the greater concern about the skewed historical account is what is perhaps best described as a ‘sly’ approach to using it to provide some substance to otherwise baseless allegations attributed to interviewees in the latter part of the report.
For example, it’s reported that the ‘majority of interviewees (49 out of 53) expressed dissatisfaction with what they saw as the illegitimate role of Australia (though AusAID) in the peacebuilding and consultation processes … There was strong disapproval of the perceived interference of the Austrian Government or AusAID in both the past and present of Bougainville’ (p.37). No indication is provided in the report’s discussion of what interviewees said constituted the ‘illegitimate role’ or the ‘perceived interference’. In the absence of such material, the reader would expect to look to the earlier historical account. And there it is, in the discussion of ‘The Consultation Process’ (about the future of mining): ‘The Australian government has assisted UPMALA and the ABG through the provision of advisors, paid for out of Australia’s foreign aid budget, for the development of a new mining bill, and in the process of community consultations surrounding the mine’ (p.16).
Of course, this fits so neatly with the endless allegations about the role of Australia and of Australian advisers in Bougainville advanced by Lasslett and the anonymous contributors to the Mine Watch Blog that it seems most unlikely that there is no connection here. To my mind, this reflects bias.
Yet the notion that provision of advisers, in accordance with ABG requests, is in fact ‘illegitimate’ or constitutes ‘interference’, must be challenged. There is a deep paternalism – even racism – involved. It is clear that those who constantly advance such views assume that Australian funded advisers necessarily act only in the interests of Australia, and are somehow (in a manner never defined) readily able to bend the ABG to their wills. That advisers could be provided without being controlled by or answerable to Australia, or that they could be professional and independent, and might act only in accordance with ABG direction, is clearly inconceivable to Lasslett and the BRG. Lasslett, also exhibits a ‘holier than thou’ attitude in his criticisms of advisers, regularly reporting how much he is opposed to those in the pay of foreign, working as consultants, all of whom are tainted in his purist view of the world. It is his particular, somewhat warped, and certainly biased, view of Bougainville that has clearly influenced the content of the Jubilee report.
Inaccuracies Advanced as ‘Research Findings’, Without Qualification
Many positions on issues claimed in the report as advanced by interviewees are grossly inaccurate. The report advances them without qualification, implying that they are in fact accurate. The result is presentation of a seriously flawed picture. Moreover, the material derived from interviews is presented under the general heading of ‘Research Findings’, a term that seems intended to convey substance in what is discussed.
In the interests of shortening this letter, I’ll provide examples from just the first three pages of the 25 pages of ‘Research Findings’ (pp.20-45). However, similar problems exist with many of the following pages:
Apparently summarising views expressed in interviews, the report claims that (at the time the Panguna mine was being established) ‘the introduction of ‘land titles’ and individual male ‘land title owners’ who later formed the old landowners association (PLA), was denounced by some interviewees’ (p.20). That is a profoundly inaccurate picture of what in fact occurred. From 1969 to 1974, the Land Titles Commission (LTC) held public hearings in relation to each piece of customary land within mine related tenements or leases. This exercise did not involve ‘introduction of land titles’. Rather, the LTC files for the period show clearly that, on the basis of the evidence presented at each public hearing, the LTC determined: the boundaries of the piece of land in question; which clan lineage, descended from a named ancestor, owned that land; and the member of the lineage who should be recognised as the ‘customary head’ of the lineage (for the purposes of receiving and distributing rents, compensation and royalties, payable in respect of the land). ‘Customary heads’ were not all males – many were females. As males are members, together with their mothers, aunts and sisters (and sister’s children), of matrilineal clan lineages, it was often in order for a male to be recorded as ‘customary head’. At some point, and for reasons that are not yet clear, the term ‘title holder’ became used instead of ‘customary head’. While use of the former term may have contributed to some confusion about ‘titles’, it introduction of land titles was not involved.
An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘Another big issue was to do with the title holders …our leaders gave the land to their children while it should have been given to the women’ (p.20). This too is incorrect. LTC files show that when a ‘customary head’ died (something that occurred as early as 1970 in relation to a few pieces of land previously dealt with in early LTC hearings), fresh LTC hearings were held, and a new ‘customary head’ was appointed. In a few instances, a child of a deceased ‘customary head’ (and so not a member of the deceased person’s clan) was designated as the new ‘customary head’. But this occurred only where the LTC had received satisfactory evidence that the appropriate customary arrangements had been made between the clan lineages concerned, before the death of the ‘customary head’ – for example, kirinula in the case of Nasioi landowning clan lineages.
An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘There was this problem with BCL using other people to sign on behalf of the true landowners’ (p.20). In fact, BCL played no role in the processes for determining boundaries, ownership and ‘customary heads’ of land. That was all handled by the colonial administration (to 1975), mainly through the LTC and the kiaps. BCL was required, by law, to make payments to those identified by the LTC as ‘customary heads’. It is true that there were disputes about whether a few of the ‘customary heads’ were really entitled to be designated as such, but such problems were not the fault of BCL.
Experience of the period of mine operation was ‘a negative one’, with only one respondent suggesting any positives (p.21). Many in the mine-affected communities are clear that while there were many major negatives for many there were also at least as few important positives, many mentioning BCL’s training.
An interviewee is recorded as saying: ‘Only those who had landowner titles were getting benefits’ (p.22). That is completely incorrect. ‘Customary heads’ recognised by the LTC were expected to distribute rents, compensation and royalties to members of the lineage. In the absence of not only genealogies (or social mapping), but also clear customary principles for distribution of money from such sources, problems did occur in some cases. But in many cases, ‘customary heads’ were regarded by clan lineage members as doing a good job.
Clearly, no attempt was made by those overseeing preparation of the report to sift inaccurate opinions from ones based on fact.
A partial explanation for the presence of such inaccuracy may be provided in footnote 104 (p.20). It states that interviewees ‘were specifically asked to talk about their ancestors’ general living conditions during the mine’, and that those interviewees not born at the time in question ‘answered these questions based on personal knowledge of what they had heard from other community and family members’. Because views of such younger interviewees ‘cohered with what other, older participants …recalled’, the report records that the analysis does not separate answers of youth from those of adults and elders.
This explanation suggests, however, little interest in accuracy. Interviewees have been ‘specifically asked’ to talk of things of which they have no personal knowledge. The fact that those views ‘cohere’ with views of older people does not improve accuracy.
The real concern is that this lack of accuracy is not acknowledged in any way in the report. Perhaps those involved might seek to justify such inaccuracy on the basis that the report merely records views. But when those views are advanced as representing the views of the ‘mine-affected community’, then advancing them without qualification carries significant implications.
The reasons for failure to qualify inaccuracies need to be considered. For example, reasons could include poor knowledge of the subject matter by those overseeing production of the report, or perhaps bias on their part or that of the researchers (a not unreasonable conclusion given the significant evidence of bias already discussed). Perhaps those involved might be able to suggest some other explanation.
It troubles me that, beyond a very narrow spectrum of issues, filtered through a particular view of what happened in 1988-90, Jubilee and its collaborators appear to have such little understanding of, or interest in, the complexity and difficulty of the current situation we face in post-conflict Bougainville. Yes, the concerns and fears of the interviewees presented in the report are present amongst Bougainvilleans, and yes, there are a few for whom such views are dominant. But most of us hold far more complex and nuanced views that we bring to bear in trying to weigh the still rather limited options that face us as we try to find a sustainable road to development, to highest autonomy, and possibly to independence.
In the fragile situation we are dealing with, advancing the views recorded in this report as truly representing the views of Bougainville’s ‘mine-affected communities’ – as this report does – is misleading, divisive and destructive.
I can only repeat what I said in concluding my earlier letter: The Jubilee Report is deeply flawed. Jubilee Australia’s Board bears responsibility for allowing such a misleading and irresponsible document to be released, and for limiting and redressing the damage it can cause.
In addition, however, I call on Jubilee to withdraw this defective document.
Jubilee, which claims to be a “scientific research body”, prepared the report jointly with two highly partisan organisations, the International State Crime Initiative and the Bismarck Ramu Group.
Kristian Lasslett, an Ulster-based Australian academic who is a constant purveyor of attacks on the Bougainville leadership, generally with little or no evidence, was heavily involved in the preparation and writing of the report.
In response to criticism of the report in the social media, Lasslett has defended himself and Jubilee notably in posts on the PNG Mine Watch blog (run by the Bismarck Ramu Group) and on Facebook’s Bougainville Forum.
Australians, Vicki Johns and Dantares Midway Jones (aka Andrew Jones) and Australian-based Bougainvillean, Clive Porabou, have all joined Lasslett in defending the report on the Bougainville Forum.
Jubilee and these others domiciled abroad will have us believe that they know more about Bougainville than anyone living on Bougainville and that they are privy to the personal views of the majority of Bougainvilleans today, including mine site landowners.
The spread of these dubious “research findings” in Australia can be likened to a new malady that is about to hit Canberra, the cure for which only the bearers of the ill tidings possess and can administer.
Jubilee is at the forefront and is in this for exposure and publicity, not for the benefit of Bougainville.
Every time these desktop researchers return to their own countries after a very brief foray into their own mystical Bougainville, they carry a hastily packaged fantasy that reveals the ‘undeniable truth’ about what the majority of Bougainvilleans think about Panguna.
Jubilee is in Australia. They believe that a brief visit by anti-mining Bougainville researchers to Panguna, armed with questions to which they already ‘know’ the answers, provides better credentials than they had as remote-controlled observers of Bougainville from afar.
After ticking off their questionnaires, the organisation can make a jubilant exit, highly satisfied that their “research” confirms what they always believed.
With a prejudice and orientation against anything and everybody engaged in, or supportive of, what they see as the sordid business of mining, organisations like this will always be predisposed to searching and commenting to satisfy and confirm their very own views, which they can then confidently sell to Canberra.
Kristian Lasslett works and schemes from Ulster in Northern Ireland (UK). On matters concerning Bougainville he is the self-made expert – chopping, pasting and moulding Bougainville like plasticine to be forced into his desired shape and form.
Like the operatives at Jubilee, he drives a metal car, flies in metal planes and eats, I assume, mainly with metal cutlery. He and the Jubilee operatives do not suffer from metal fatigue, despite their disdain for industries that extract useful minerals.
Kristian will swear by his comments and views, defend them and feed them to anyone who likes to lap up tales of deceit and conspiracy against Bougainville by mining giants and governments.
At best he is a socialist, born to save the world’s downtrodden. At worst he is a Trotskyite, peddling and romanticising his thoughts around Melanesia.
He is a smooth operator, armed with mind-boggling academic qualifications, but why should PNG and Bougainville take notice of him?
He does not add value to our attempts to resolve our issues on Bougainville island, or in PNG for that matter. His activities simply feed his own ambitions.
He tells us that he knows Bougainville from the 1960s, though his appearance indicates he was barely an adolescent at the time of the Bougainville crisis.
He arrived after the crisis, well after the peace process took hold, only to collect the crumbs when the smorgasbord was over. This is obvious in his comments about wanting to return to Bougainville’s past. Bougainvilleans be warned: this fellow cannot be trusted.
There’s little I can say about Vikki John. I believe she’s relatively harmless because I understand she rarely expresses her own views, assuming she has some. Apparently, her function is to cut, paste and disseminate any anti-mining material she comes across, in order to alert poor, ignorant Bougainvilleans to the dangers of doing further business with notoriously nasty mining companies.
I don’t know who DAntares Midway Jones (aka Andrew Jones) is, but I gather he has been searching for his ancestry/roots, as his interchanging name suggests.
He has suddenly splashed himself onto the Bougainville scene with grandiose ideas for the salvation of the island and its population. He believes he has a profound proposal to rid Bougainville of its muddled past.
He proposes a Peoples Tribunal with draft terms of reference comprising Bougainvilleans who will preside as judge, jury, prosecutor and terminator. He even has a Tribunal Facebook page.
He claims he has aboriginal ancestry. He dons a Fidel Castro type cap, is clad in khaki clothes with an Australian Aboriginal flag badge sewn on the breast and he sports a Fidel Castro beard. He is calm, cool and does not flinch at his critics.
I don’t know where he popped up from. He says he made a single visit to Bougainville, a lone trip that has convinced him that he knows Bougainville well enough to insert a Tribunal there to disable the culprits responsible for the island’s demise.
He has some strange ideas about what might be best for Bougainville. He impresses me as someone who has probably been wandering around admiring rock drawings in arid caves and sacred aboriginal sites and suddenly thinks he is sufficiently indigenous to transplant himself into another traditional society like Bougainville.
Clive Porabou is the next best thing to cheese, biscuits and shiraz. Just as these tasty and intoxicating items make party conversation flow freely, Clive’s presence and discussion with the likes of the people I have mentioned above make their adrenalin flow from both excitement and anger.
Clive lives abroad and, for those who have no personal experience on Bougainville, he is the Bougainville expatriate expert who satisfies the appetite of a certain mould of Australian academic, environmentalist, social psycho and welfare benefactor.
Always with an acoustic guitar in hand, he longs for the day when Bougainville might be governed by Me’ekamui, financed by Noah Musingku’s new Bougainville currency.
Hearing from Clive is enough to convince most non-Bougainvilleans that they have a duty to rescue Bougainville from bondage, and the government outfit to accomplish this is the version of Me’ekamui that Clive peddles abroad.
In truth, the Me’ekamui in central Bougainville have been consulting and beginning to work and cooperate with the Autonomous Bougainville Gobvernment (ABG), which was always bound to happen.
I can’t be too critical of Clive, because in his heart of hearts he will always remain a true Bougainvillean, but suspicious of his expat friends. It suits him fine if they are gullible enough to believe him, because as long as this unfortunate business lasts, he can continue to enjoy peace and a relatively convivial lifestyle offshore.
Take heart, the reason why most Bougainvilleans won’t whinge about, or flinch at, research that is carried out overnight from abroad is because it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.
If you were to enter the same Bougainville communities in the same locations and conduct your own research to extract a ‘yes to mining’ response, you would get it. It really depends on how the comments and questions are framed. The Jubilee research is simply a means to an end.
Jubilee, Kristian, Andrew Jones and all of these parties will always support such research and support each other. They are birds of a feather, flocking, scheming and screeching together. As some Bougainvilleans have commented in the Bougainville Facebook forum, this is all “bullshit”.
The ABG must make the Australian government aware that Jubilee is going to the Australian Parliament entirely of its own accord, without the knowledge, authority or respect of the ABG and most Bougainvilleans.
If we are not careful and if the ABG turns a blind eye, the confusion, disunity and anger these people can generate could pit Bougainvillean against Bougainvillean, community against community, clans and families against each other, and even the people against their leaders and government.
These are people coming into a society they really don’t know much about or understand. They are attempting to ride roughshod over the programs and projects the ABG and landowners have been involved in towards resolving every issue in Panguna.
There has been steady progress towards addressing many outstanding Panguna grievances that affect everyone, not just the sampling of villages Jubilee has selectively interviewed.
There are senior ministers in the Abbott government, like foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, who always have an ear and heart for Bougainville. There is no reason why the president and senior bureaucrats who have the carriage of different aspects and areas of discussion over Panguna, e.g. Steve Burain, Raymond Masono and advisers like Dr Naihuwo Ahai, cannot approach Canberra and confront the Jubilee research.
This is how absurd it is: Jubilee operatives come to Bougainville, do their fact finding visit up the road, fold up all the work and turn up in Canberra unbeknownst to ABG and most of Bougainville.
They do not even have the courtesy to call on the authorities on Bougainville to explain or share what they have done. If this is not conspiracy against ABG, for reasons only known to themselves, then I don’t know what it is.
There is a real risk that foreign elements that have no responsibility or obligations on Bougainville and that are not accountable to anyone can derail fifteen years of peace process and reconciliation achieved without meddling from uninvited offbeat academics, latter day NGOs, busybodies and socialites that have nothing better to do in their own countries.
If they have nothing to contribute to their own governments and people, it is hard to accept the claim that their reconnaissance on Bougainville will enhance our future.
Jubilee Australia has released its report ‘Voices of Bougainville: Nikana Kangsi, Nikana Dong Damana (Our Land, Our Future)’ at a series gathering of academics, representatives of non-government organisations and community members throughout Australia including Canberra which Bougainville News attended
The report reflects the voices of people living in the vicinity of the Panguna Mine, regarding the proposed re-opening of the mine by Rio Tinto subsidiary Bougainville Copper Ltd. Closed in 1989 by local communities devastated by the damage it had caused their environment and social structures, the mine’s closure was followed by a brutal ten-year civil war during which more than 10,000 people were estimated to have died.
‘The people from the villages in the Panguna Region are those who have been most affected by the mine, and who will be most affected in the future should it reopen. It is vital that their insights be more deeply understood and considered by all of the parties involved,’ commented Brynnie Goodwill, CEO of Jubilee Australia.
Sixty-five people individually and one group of seventeen people, from villages in the vicinity of the mine, were interviewed regarding their feelings about the mine, the war that followed its closure, its potential re-opening and issues that still need addressing.
‘Huge number of abuses are still buried inside people’s hearts,’ said one villager from the Panguna region. (Report, p39).
People interviewed were also asked about how they saw development of their communities for the future. Concerns were raised that pressure to re-open the mine from the Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments, with the Autonomous Bougainville Government, have been linked to the long-sought after independence of Bougainville.
An almost unanimous view from those interviewed was that they did not want the re-opening of the mine to be linked to independence of Bougainville, but rather independence to occur first, and for Bougainvilleans to then determine their options for going forward. The report documents significant concerns about land being held for future generations, and an interest in exploring alternatives to large-scale mining to support an independent Bougainville.
‘While the report focuses on perspectives held by villagers in Panguna and the surrounding communities, these same views are shared by many Bougainvilleans across the island,’ said a member from the north of Bougainville attending the event.
A survey of Bougainville villagers has revealed strong opposition to the proposed reopening of the mine which was at the centre of the island’s decade-long civil war.
Media reports had suggested there was support for the Panguna copper and gold mine as a source of national revenue, with a referendum looming on the island’s independence from Papua New Guinea. The mine has been closed since 1989.
The Jubilee Australia research foundation conducted the survey in 10 villages or hamlets around the Panguna mine at the end of 2013, and found “near universal” opposition to the reopening, as well as unhappiness and mistrust of the consultation process.
The mine – majority owned by Rio Tinto’s Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) – has been central to Bougainville’s economy since the 1970s, but dissatisfaction with the way it was run and its environmental and social effects escalated into a civil war between 1988 and 1998.
It’s estimated as many as 15,000 people died by the time of the 2001 peace agreement, which included a deferred referendum for full independence, scheduled to occur between 2015 and 2020.
The Jubilee report, Voices of Bougainville, found continued resentment and mistrust of the PNG defence forces, Australia and BCL because of their roles in the conflict, and that this has led to mistrust of discussions around reopening the mine.
The report found a “sizable majority” of respondents felt that lasting peace had not been restored, despite an end to the violence. Smaller groups felt the peace process was an initiative to serve the needs of Australia or Papua New Guinea.
Respondents were also “deeply critical” of recent consultations about the mine, which they said had not fully included affected communities and certain demographics such as young people, women and elders.
“Others felt that there had been misleading statements in the media about the enthusiasm of Panguna residents for the mine reopening, and about what the reopening would mean,” the report said.
“We’ve been getting such a strong message from the media, but hearing things on the ground was quite different,” Jubilee’s chairman, Luke Fletcher, told Guardian Australia.
Fletcher conceded there was always the chance of self-censorship among respondents, and that the surveyed villages still had some connection to the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, but said the research was strong.
“I think we felt that the results are so clear that even if there has been a bit of self-censorship the picture we’ve got is certainly enough to question the main narrative.”
Fletcher suggested particular groups were pushing for an early referendum and this was likely to be linked to discussions around reopening the mine.
“Our feeling is that this urgency is one of the reasons why there is some pressure being placed on landowners to make a decision quickly,” Fletcher said. “Once Bougainville gets its independence, Bougainvillians might have more of a say in their future,” he said.
“It seems plausible to see the push to get an agreement in before the referendum as a push for certainty, both for people in Bougainville as well as outside interest groups, for example BCL.”
The Greens leader, Christine Milne, Labor MP Melissa Parke and independent MP Cathy McGowan will launch the Voices of Bougainville report in parliament next month.
Milne said it was “increasingly apparent” that Australian mining companies were not consulting local communities, that they were “making deals” with governments and that as a result local people had suffered.
“The civil war in Bougainville should really remain very front and centre in people’s minds, because there is no doubt that the mine was front and centre to that whole war erupting,” she told Guardian Australia.
“It’s pretty apparent the local community don’t want it, they see the environmental impacts and the social impacts, they don’t trust that they would ever see any benefit from the mine, because they haven’t in the past.”
In August, Rio Tinto announced it would be reviewing its options in BCL after the Bougainville parliament passed a bill stripping the company of seven exploration licenses and its special mining lease for Panguna.
BCL chairman Peter Taylor told the ABC the legislation was confusing and described it as a setback.
“It may be that Rio Tinto decides to pursue its investment, it may not, but I can’t speculate.”
Bougainville president John Momis said the legislation gave BCL the first right of refusal on the mining licence, but no more.
“If we didn’t [cancel the licences], the landowners and the ex-combatants wouldn’t have allowed BCL to come back,” Momis told ABC.
Founders of the book-gain-ville project Colin Cowell and former ABG President James Tanis were at the Pacific Adventist University (PAU) PNG Symposium to give a presentation on the Bougainville education revolution using Kindle e-readers known as ‘Bookgainville’, an initiative to improve literacy throughout Bougainville.
Bookgainville is the brainchild of Colin Cowell, from Canberra in Australia who once lived in Bougainville almost forty (40) years ago.
Cowell spent twenty-four (24) years working with and training Aboriginal communities across Australia.
He found his calling to help the people of the former crisis-torn island of Bougainville on a trip to deliver e-readers to students in a remote Panguna village.
Cowell started the Bookgainville project in Australia, with the guidance and support of the Indigenous Reading Project.
The project was launched at the Narinai Elementary school in Panguna district, the home of former ABG President James Tanis. It was then that the first 20 kindles were given, with feasting and celebration to signify the importance of the occasion.
The Bookgainville project is gaining momentum, with support technology and trained staff at the Arawa Women’s Training Centre. Cowell affirmed that sustainability is the key to the Bookgainville project.
A leadership group on ground, led by Mr James Tanis, is comprised of teachers and IT volunteers. The Kindles can contain up to 1400 books inside and cost $99 (Australian dollars).
The use of Kindles in third world countries has proven to be an outright success, using digital platforms and mobile connectivity to make books available to children and families who need them the most.
And with mobile use being prevalent in developing countries, such as PNG, World reader has also created a mobile app for android and featured phone devises. For the first time, folks have access to a library of books using a devise they own: their mobile phones.
In developing countries throughout the world, it has been seen that after 5 months in the e-reader Kindle program, children show significant improvements in fluency and comprehension.
The Bookgainville initiative has developed 11 libraries already in schools that never had libraries or books before, with each requiring 5 e-reader kindles with each kindle able to hold up to 1400 books.
The Bookgainville project received positive feedback at the PNG symposium and both Mr Cowell and Mr Tanis were greatly pleased by the outcome.
Donations to support the project to purchase Kindles for schools in Bougainville can be made by contacting Collin Cowell on or +61401331251 or you can visit www.bookgainville.com for more information.
“Bougainville now leads the way in PNG developing and using digital education technology”
Cowell’s original visit with 20 kindles was to the Narinai Elementary School in the Panguna District, the home of former Bougainville president Mr. James Tanis. Here the Book-Gain-Ville project was launched and welcomed to the community with dancing, singing, speeches and slaughtering of two pigs to mark the importance of the occasion.
“Travelling around I saw broader need across the whole island, so we have added ten more sites for trial of the Book-Gain-Ville initiative,” Mr Cowell said.
“By the end of June 2014 we hope to have over fifty kindles in ten pilot schools and over the next few years I would like to see over one thousand kindles in Bougainville schools with the support of all the local level governments.”
Cowell, who hails from Canberra, Australia, has 24 years of experience working with and training Aboriginal communities across Australia and stated that the key to the Book-Gain-Ville project is sustainability.
“We now have in place at the Arawa Women’s Training Centre the support technology and trained staff to take this project forward in years to come,” Cowell said.
“Guiding this project on the ground is a leadership group lead by James Tanis and group of teachers and IT volunteers.”
“The Kindles with up to 1400 books inside cost $99.00 and a lot of communities including the pilot sites have already begun fundraising to buy extra kindle on top of our donations.”
Update 11 July 2014
We are packing another 40 Kindles in Canberra to send to Bougainville on Monday 14 July
Colin Cowell is no stranger to Bougainville having lived there some 40 years ago and return he spent the whole month of May travelling the length and breadth of the island.
He met his old friends like Linus kunokong from Buin and visited cultural shows in Siwai, South Bougainville; visited tourism development sites across the island and even participated in the Bougainville Remembrance Day, May 17, in Arawa.
He will be returning soon to Bougainville with more kindles In September after shipping in July (see above)
The IUCN’s Luisa Tagicakibau says there are countless habitats that need protecting and is calling for groups to submit proposals.
“These islands are highly biodiverse and hold exceptional cultural and linguistic diversity,” she told Pacific Beat.
“There are so many threats to these biodiversities, which are human induced and include increasing population, lack of awareness, unsustainable economic development.”
The IUCN is targeting 20 key biodiversity areas covering 1.5 million hectares.
“There are so many cultural and linguistic diversities at play in this region and because only a few people are speaking certain languages, they’re fast disappearing,” Ms Tagicakibau said.
“And that’s often leading to an increasing erosion of traditional knowledge and practices. These people are the real stewards of biodiversity.”
The money is being provided by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, which is a collaboration of seven different bodies including the European Union, the Japanese and French governments and the World Bank.
The IUCN says groups have until August 26 to submit proposals for funding.