LEONARD FONG ROKA
IN 1989, WHEN THE POLICE (the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary) was getting nowhere in solving the Bougainville crisis, except in visiting brutality on Bougainvilleans, their 'little army' - the PNG Defence Force – was called in.
To the disgrace of the State, they continuously harassed the ordinary people, but what the PNG government had invested enormous resources on was of no use against the native militants.
Then on 11 April 1989, the Post Courier newspaper carried an article entitled Soldiers to step up action.
The author, Sema Rea, wrote that Defence Minister Arnold Marsipal had announced that his Chief of Operations on Bougainville, Colonel Leo Nuia, had issued the order 'shoot to kill' four days after two of his soldiers had been killed.
Under this order, our homes were burned or looted, our women raped, civilians tortured or killed, domesticated animals killed, and gardens destroyed by the infiltrating security forces, even though it was denied by some.
In the video documentary, Sandline Crisis, PNGDF helicopter pilot Charlie Andrews [pictured above] says:
Militarily we cannot stop the war. I mean, it is against our brothers and sisters out there. So most of the soldiers, the service men, God blessed them with big hearts, they are not out there to destroy and kill others unnecessarily.
In late 1989, a cocoa farmer from Kupe was in his plot at Bakabori when a PNGDF patrol came by. He was shot, had his feet attached to a tether and, still alive, was dragged downhill to the Bovo River with some captives. There he was buried alive and he died.
My brother and I were soon to walk into these killers but an escaping family rescued us.
Weeks later, the PNGDF troops stormed the mountainous villages of Kupe, where I grew up as my second home.
The operation captured Louis Kepetu, who was taken by air to Panguna where he was tortured for months.
Back in my hamlet, Kavarongnau, in the Tumpusiong Valley of the Panguna District, the PNGDF arrived one day in 1989.
As the truck patrol was driving in, my extended family members escaped having gone through nightmares with the police.
My hamlet in those days was the only well-off homestead. It had family business operations and took its electrical supply from Bougainville Copper Limited.
As the Army entered, their first action was to help themselves to store goods and cash.
And then they torched our nine houses. My family stood just above a hillock and wept.
Later, the PNGDF shot dead a mentally retarded relative, Arenama, who was an elder brother of an old BCL friend and current member of the United Panguna Landowners Association, Michael Pariu, as they further tracked uphill seeking our escape routes.
Then we read newspaper headlines, such as in the Niugini Nius of 3 October 1989 ('Troops up in arms over politicians), and 16 October 1989 (Civilian shot death in Bougainville raid), and 27 October 1989 (Shooting puts peace in doubt) and 23 February 1989 (Soldiers in Panguna go looting).
And there is Charlie Andrews, telling Bougainvilleans that his army is good.
In 1991, according to Karl Claston's 1998 book, Bougainville 1988-98, the PNGDF massacred Bougainvilleans. The bodies were dumped at sea from Australian-donated gunships. Who flew the choppers? I wonder where he was to tell a lie to my people.
In 1993, another well-known mental retard of Arawa was shot dead. Such people ought to be protected.
Earlier, a BRA man from Topinang village in the Arawa area was shot in an ambush near the Bairima junction outside Arawa.
His body was tethered to the end of the rope from an armoured vehicle. This was driven to the Tunuru Box-cut with the body burning with the friction against the tar.
Throughout the crisis, the PNGDF had no clearly defined target to attack.
So mortars landed on innocent Bougainvilleans as in Buin where nine children were killed at Malabita in the late 1990s.
And also in Arawa in October 1992, a pregnant mother from Pavaire village went down to a shell fired from the Tunuru Catholic mission.
With these incidents, what did that PNGDF helicopter pilot mean when said, 'God blessed them with big hearts. They are not there to destroy or kill...?'
Who exactly are his 'brothers and sisters' in Bougainville? What clan does he belong to? What is the traditional name of a piece of land he owns?
This was a slap in the face from a military man whom we saw doing bad to us on our own land.
The PNGDF actions on Bougainville might have been appropriate if we Bougainvilleans were having a slum camp in PNG and harming New Guineans in their land.
Adopting foreign concepts like 'brother in the name of Christ' does nothing good for us Bougainvilleans who have long being treated by aliens as cheap commodities since the colonial era.
There must be retributive justice to a heart that has been broken and shattered.
In Bougainville, during the crisis, especially around 1996 when 'Operation High Speed' was on, the popular remark was tha, the PNGDF was 'Michael Somare's personal bodyguards deployed on a mission beyond their comprehension and capability'.
That’s why they were reckless on Bougainville.