KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN | Supported by the Phil Fitzpatrick Writing Fellowship
THIS MONTH I WAS ABOUT to make my maiden trip to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. I entered the airport boarding lounge and found a seat beside some young men from Divine Word University who were on their way back home for holidays.
In the midst of the students was Bougainville’s most creative writer, Leonard Fong Roka. He greeted me and asked where I was going. ‘Bougainville, with you,’ I said.
He was surprised upon hearing this. ‘What are you doing there?’ he asked. I said ‘I am going with UNFPA for a HIV prevention and sexuality education program for out-of-school youths.
The boarding call disturbed the rest of our conversation and we joined the queue.
At Buka Passage, Leonard hopped on a dingy and was off to his village. I wanted to meet him and chat with him at the Kuri Guest House and quench our thirst with a few stubbies but that was unlikely.
He said land and sea transport fares were sky high so he couldn’t come back and forth. He went his way and I told him we might meet again at the 2013 Crocodile Prize literature awards.
I settled into the Malabolo Guest House run by one of Bougainville’s renowned leaders, Martin Miriori. The rest of the team slept at the Kuri Guest House.
Malabolo Guest House is just above Hutjena Secondary School on Small Buka. At Malabolo one has a good view of the entrance to the Buka Passage to the east. The sunrise from Malabolo is a breathtaking experience.
The waves crashing on the coral reefs and limestone walls to the north-east were awesome as well.
Martin Miriori from Kavarongnau in South Bougainville has settled amicably at Malabolo and consistently provides guests with absolute comfort and tranquillity while away from home.
He was formerly secretary of the Bougainville Interim Government, based in the Solomon Islands and later in the Netherlands, during the crisis. He was also once the secretary and international representative of the Bougainville People’s Congress.
Brothers Martin and Kabui have been actively involved in Panguna landowners’ issues against the mining giant Rio Tinto since 1982. That is the reason I decided to sleep at his guest house, so I could have the opportunity to chat with him.
During the crisis, PNG politicians called for the Miriori brothers to be hanged or shot.
Martin told me about his dreams for Bougainville and about the late Joseph Kabui, who he said succumbed to lifestyle diseases.
Martin, as wise as he is, did not tell me directly that Bougainville will one day be independent from PNG but I could decipher from our conversation that one day they will not be part of PNG.