LEONARD FONG ROKA
IN THE MIDST OF HUNDREDS of Papua New Guineans, Bernard Lomiki was one of a tiniest fraction of Bougainvilleans to graduate from Divine Word University’s main campus on 3 March under Madang's merciful sun.
The Siwai man from Hiruhiru village flew back home, to Bougainville with jubilant heart and a Diploma in Health Services Management that he attained through the Faculty of Flexible Learning. A
As a father, he had something positive to bring home to his five children and a supportive wife.
Born in 1964, Bernard Lomiki did not go through the formal education system of the classrooms. He made his way through the expensive College of Distance Education, passing in 1986 with a mere letter of attainment and not a certificate.
The Bougainville war for independence engulfed this South Bougainvillean in an air of nothingness. But the later stability created by the New Zealand peace effort brought him hope of employment in the unpredictable post-conflict Bougainvillean environment.
From 1994-2009, Bernard was employed by the Monoitu Health Center in Siwai where he served his people as a Community Health Worker., a job he enjoyed and dedicated himself to.
At the end of 2009, he secured a position at Buka General Hospital where he was serving in the Pharmaceutical Department distributing medicine and it is here that his life changing moment caught him.
He enrolled at DWU under the sponsorship of the Bougainville Traditional Herbal Association.
For Lomiki, his graduation day was one of the greatest moments in his 49-year life. “As my name was read,” he chuckled at me, “I was carried away.
“I was proud looking back at my past misfortunes in academia. I had reached something after years and months of struggle that sometimes did not go well with my family.”
In 2012 he had quit his job to lighten the workload and concentrate on his studies.
“You know,” he laughed, “an email from the lecturers shocked me when they asked me for my assignments. I knew I had done nothing, so my ego set me working on a strategy, which was that I should quit my job and sacrifice for a diploma from a recognised higher learning institution.”
He has a motive to go back to Bougainville and contribute to its development. He longs to see a healthy Bougainville people with high living standards. A Bougainville with healthy people and communities is his aim.
“Our people have long struggled for self determination and we have paid for that with our blood and tears,” he said. “Now is the time that we all work together and invest in education for our island’s future.
“We have proven to the world that a big country like Papua New Guinea cannot hold back our years if we set up a good political system and a sound economic engine and say: ‘Let’s go Bougainville!’ the Papua New Guineans will be shocked because they know if they sent their military there, we will kick them out.”
“If our people are committed to change through education and our government, the ABG, supportive by bringing tertiary institution right to Bougainville, in terms of development this Papua New Guineans can fall back.
“The PNGeans are celebrating the LNG and so on, but all are exploitative industries that at the end of the day, the investor walks away dancing with the resources owner fight each other because little they should has being sucked by corruption.”
With his first born son working after graduating from Madang Technical College in 2010, Bernard Lomiki has applied to come back to Divine Word University to pursue a degree in Rural Health next year.
“Bougainville is looking forward to deciding its political future in the referendum between 2015 and 2020,” he told me, “and I am looking forward to contribute something to the making of a new Bougainville instead of being a free rider.”