PAPAALA IS A STREAM in the village of Aitara just south of the Tonu station in the Siwai area of Bougainville.
To the people of Siwai, Papaala has great significance in their local mythology which was why Noah Musingku named his operation after this stream.
By scrolling through the blog, Papaala Chronicles, one can work out that the said Kingdom of Papaala is a pure fantasy of money, politics and religious fanaticism created for the people of Bougainville by insane Bougainvilleans.
Noah Musingku [left] lives the life of a recluse in Tonu protected by heavily armed guards who are trained by the single remaining Fijian. He lives on one meal a day in fasting and prayer to fulfill the covenant he says he has with God to liberate the people of Bougainville.
Despite his isolation, Musingku says he long talked of unity with the late Francis Ona and his Meekamui. Ona always denied that.
In ABC Foreign Correspondent’s interview with Francis Ona (the reporter was Shane McLeod), Ona claimed he “does not know whatever Noah Musingku is up to”.
Despite Musingku crowning Ona a ‘king’ and Ona having nurtured Musingku in his backyard at Guava village, Panguna, Ona still denied him to the world.
Musingku does not travel from Tonu but remains in his house working on computers connected to the internet. His rare public appearances occur on ceremonial days where he emerges wearing a gold crown. He gives a short speech and hides away.
Recently he is said to sponsor a mini-sports events in Tonu and provide a little philanthropy to some elementary schools. His ‘army’ is paid regularly. They regularly desert but, when rumours of money are in the air, they return. But many leave and never come back.
My informant states that Noah Musingku is always sealed off from the sun, protecting his health with umbrellas. Musingku, as the saviour of Bougainville, has to be protected from direct sunlight. Likewise with his siblings and extended family. Nobody knows why, but that is what they do.
In our world, man must labour to get something on the table.
In post conflict Bougainville the economy is still staggering due to political and economic complexities and people’s unsettled mindsets centered on the Melanesian culture of compensation.
It was in this context that Musingku took advantage of our people in their time of desperation.
With Papaala money, politics, and religion converge as a single realm of activity with Noah Musingku at the centre.
The religious with little formal education are the hardcore followers of Papaala. To the illiterate Musingku is a legend.
Out of nowhere, he has created his own calendar; the Papaala calendar. July, which is the galip-nut season in most of Siwai, is the New Year. Musingku throws a celebration of feasting for his followers.
To the Papaala, the days are not Sunday to Saturday but they are aligned with the Genesis creation myth. Sunday is ‘Light Day’ and Saturday is ‘Rest Day’. Months are not named as January and so on but are called after the many precious minerals referred to in the Bible.
In Arawa, some Pentecostal prayer groups and individuals make a monthly donation of K10 that goes to Papaala for the good of Bougainville. I am not sure where this money ends up in, but it is only in Tonu where Musingku is based.
In the ABC program I referred to, the late President Joseph Kabui tells Shane McLeod of Noah Musingku: “…he is a bit of an evangelist in there, and a salesman there, and a bit of a conman there—so, he is certainly a smooth operator”.
Illiterate Bougainvilleans have long being victims of the ‘smooth operator’.
In this scenario we can see how sophisticated Papaala must seem for less educated people in the economically difficult world of Bougainville.
I think it is justifiable to say that, in our Melanesian developing part of the world, religion can be a problem. People can be trapped by the identity of God and of Papaala. Investing in education is a goal for our children - but still many ignore it.
We should not be biased but should know that superstitious thinking has no place in the world. As Divine Word University lecturer Bernard Yegiora puts it, “Without inferential or dialectical thinking we would be void of new knowledge and devoid of progress of human society. Inferential or dialectical thinking flourished when the Greeks (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) broke away from superstitious [religious] thinking” - an act that brought change into our world.
Thus, fellow Bougainvilleans, reality and not superstition must explain our world. According to ABC reporter Shane McLeod, Noah Musingku’s UV-Stract scam has robbed 80% of Bougainvilleans of millions since coming into existence.
The UV-Stract is now a cyberspace activity. With Musingku as the director and his elder brother, Miscek Autahi as the chairman, social network sites, especially Facebook, are full of UV-Stract activity. The poor people fall prey to this fantasy. They are told there are great UV-Stract investments overseas and that the wealth is accumulating there somewhere.
In January 2010 a David K J Solomon in Port Moresby wrote to the Solomon Star News stating that Musingku was seen in Australia buying real estate properties in Kempsey, Sydney, the Gold Coast and Brisbane and donating them to local churches and NGOs.
Such articles make an impact on the ordinary people who never go to school.
Such writing and information gets Papaala followers on their heels and keeps Noah Musingku active and hard to deal with.
In Arawa once I explained my observation of the many fast money scams in Bougainville to a bunch of young boys, who recorded the UV-Stract model as:
Investor A drops K1 into the UV-Stract money pool. Investor B adds another K1. With K2 in the pool they wait for Investor C. When Investor C comes with K1, Investor A walks off with K2 that is a 100% dividend windfall while Investors B and C now wait for Investor D. If D comes with K10, then B or C both walk off laughing, whilst D waits for someone or other to create him a K20 bailout.
This wait is a wait for eternity!
You can read more about this on my blog here.
In these Papaala and UV-Stract stories I do not see any light of hope for the people of Bougainville. They fall victim and Bougainville suffers because of ignorance.