BY SIMON GARANA
Therefore, whether through the matrilineal or patrilineal society one has to acquire and own land especially by inheritance. And this inheritance must continue for many years from generation to generation.
It is very important that the trend of ownership follow the same process. If the process is not followed it may lead to land disputes or bloodshed.
Land has a number of definitions, and the three that must be noted are the solid part of the earth surface, ground as used for farming, or a country or nation.
In Bougainville land is acquired through the matrilineal system except for Buin which is through the patrilineal system. Land is owned by a clan. Every clan must have a chief who oversees all matters relating to land. They have to make sure land is used wisely and that there is no land dispute, especially when the population is increasing.
Historically it is believed many people on Bougainville migrated from New Ireland some 28,000 years ago. Since then people have led normal lives with fishing and gardening.
Good leadership played its role in allowing people to respect land ownership by avoiding land disputes. It was a process emphasised throughout Bougainville to make sure the ownership was permanent with genuine understanding and respect from both sides.
Bougainville wants to overcome what has been experienced in PNG and other parts of the world especially Africa. It wants to control and manage land for its people.
With the establishment of its Autonomous Bougainville Government, multi-million foreign mining companies are not allowed to mine without its approval. The experience from the Panguna mine has taught Bougainville a lesson and it is very careful with its dealing with foreign companies.
For the villagers in Panguna can no longer go fishing or gardening because the land has been turned into a pit 700 feet deep under by a huge mining company.
Development in its definition means something that has been developed or development area where new industries are encouraged by government for employment and change. We have to make sure development benefits the very people who own the land. Bougainville needs development in order to progress.
Now that it has experienced the Panguna mine land dispute, negotiations have become key: negotiations to try to reach an agreement and to get over any difficulty.
Already there have been a number of negotiations in Bougainville where foreign companies are willing to establish palm oil, fishing and mining industries. Through the negotiation process, the Autonomous Bougainville Government is really making sure that the landowners are heavily involved.
In Buka no land has ever been sold to outsiders due to land shortage. Everyone continues to live on their land according to their clans. Nobody is allowed to plant cocoa or coconut or even making gardens on other people’s land.
Fishing only is common as nobody lives in the sea, but some fishing grounds may be prohibited.
In Buin experience, children follow the patrilineal process. They do not acquire land from the mother. If a Buin man marries a woman from elsewhere in Bougainville or from another province, his children still have every right to own land in Buin.
It is the father who has to make sure his children are provided land to settle now and in the future. The process still exists today and it is good to see it working well in the area.
Bougainville is still part of PNG and is the first province to achieve autonomous government status. It has three regions and 33 constituencies.
Haku Constituency, where I come from, is the most populated area due to girls getting married at an early age. As I mentioned earlier, control and management of land must be a priority and even the over populated Haku area is part of this process.
Having females in the family is most important. This is the foundation of the survival of land. Every family at least tries to have a girl in a family. It may not be useful to have males only as it would be a sign of failure to land ownership.
In fact males cannot marry in the same clan as females. But her children can return to the clan as they own the land but his children won’t.
Land is so important and valuable in Bougainville. Nobody here could survive without land and they know that. Before anything else a person must know he has land either through the matrilineal or patrilineal process.
Nobody here wants to follow what philosopher Karl Marx experienced in his home country, Germany, where the rich were getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Here, everyone wants to be equal.
Simon Garana (59) was born at Lemankoa on Buka in Bougainville. He is a former Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Information, Culture and Tourism with the Bouganiville Administration. Before that he was a primary school teacher, high school teacher and a lecturer at the Divine Word University in Madang. He holds a Bachelor of Education degree and a Diploma in Education Planning, both from UPNG. He is now retired