LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship
This is the 6,000th article to be published in PNG Attitude since it began in February 2006
After the 1990 ceasefire between the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army he remained near his uncle and, with the dawn of the Bougainville Peace Process in 1997, he served as Kabui’s personal bodyguard until the president’s death in June 2008.
To Perakai, Kabui’s death was the ‘punishment’ of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) because of Kabui’s approval of Canadian businessman Lindsay Semple, who’s firm Invincible Resources backed the Bougainville Resources Development Corporation (BRDC) without cabinet’s blessing.
The BRDC issue was recently addressed on the floor of the ABG parliament by President John Momis. But back in 2005-2008, the ABG House with its few big-mouth parliamentarians was not willing to deal with it systematically.
According to David Perakai, the late president had the desire to treat the BRDC-Invincible Resources affair independently and did not dip his hands into the K20 million of Lindsay Semple’s money.
The ABG, under Kabui, initially used some of this money to repatriate BRA/Bougainville Interim Government (BIG) overseas based activists Moses Havini, Mike Forster and Martin Miriori.
Some of this controversial money undeniably went into the pockets of BRDC/Invincible supporters; some went to the recently completed ABG housing project at Hutjena, Kubu and Sohano.
But Kabui’s parliamentarians protested against him by denying him access to clean funds for medical treatment overseas.
Just before the BRDC/Invincible Resources standoff, the late Joseph Kabui was admitted to the Pacific International Hospital in Port Moresby with a serious heart problem.
He was referred to the Catholic Church run Malhas Hospital in Townsville, Australia, for an operation to replace the main artery supplying blood to the heart.
Thus in June 2007 President Kabui, his wife and David Perakai were in Townsville where Kabui’s artery was removed and replaced with a plastic artery that required a review every six months at the cost of some K10,000. With other expenses like transport it would add up to K20,000.
Upon his return, the ABG row over BRDC/Invincible Resources erupted, dividing the government and arousing public condemnation of the president.
In light of his medical needs, and in an attempt to isolate the BRDC/Invincible Resources crisis, Kabui pushed for a proper budgetary allocation for his medical review. This was denied.
By this time another problem had surfaced in the ABG. The member for Central Bougainville Women, Magdalene Toro’ansi, was stripped from her portfolio for being a mole in the ABG.
Toro’ansi was known in the ABG for leaking confidential ABG agendas to Waigani before planned Waigani-ABG meetings. Thus all ABG meetings and negotiation strategies were unproductive. So the Bougainville Executive Council removed her to the backbench.
To cover up her disloyalty to Bougainville, Toro’ansi joined the anti-BRDC camp that included parliamentarians Robert Sawa Hamar, Thomas Lugabai and Francisca Semoso. This change added fuel to the anti-Kabui campaign.
The protestors claimed that President Joseph Kabui was misusing public funds in the pretext of medical trips.
With a settlement of the crisis nowhere in sight, the president’s health worsened as he faced the dilemma of missing the second medical review in June 2008. But with illness threatening he and David Perakai left for Manus where the Kabui chaired the Papua New Guinea governors’ meeting.
On Friday 6 June, the president and his team returned back to Bougainville without any rest when the protestors ordered a Bougainville Executive Council meeting to talk about the BRDC/Invincible Resources case by 1 o’clock that same day.
Just after midnight on the 7 June 2008, Joseph Kabui died at his residence in Hutjena.
For David Perakai and other parliamentarians and bureaucrats sympathetic to Kabui, there remain doubts as to why the President John Momis, after getting into office, cost the ABG some K80,000 for a medical review in Singapore with his whole family without any noise from parliamentarians!
This was a privilege that the late President Joseph Kabui had been denied.