LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship
I chose Oune because it is here that the Bougainville struggle for independence in the 1960s began; the precedent was set here.
People claim that the Panguna people are responsible for the conflict on Bougainville. But the Panguna man does not hesitate to state that it is the Oune people to the west of Panguna who began the conflict long time ago.
They started it through a little organisation called the Oune Mumungsina, that later had the Napidakoe Navitu as its umbrella body.
In my talk, I ran through this history of Oune. The crowd was silent because, despite the fact that they were historically responsible for leading the anti-CRA and later anti-PNG demonstrations in Panguna and Arawa, the current generation had no idea what their elders had done before they went into their graves.
It was a long speech, but the people were captivated and a few were in tears; for many did not know what their elders had done before them.
This is one general characteristic of people in my Kieta society; we run our politics with our mind and, not with our hearts.
We start up a thing and then let it fade without investing more into it. This can be seen in the many confrontations with CRA and BCL where bribe money from a BCL official easily coerced the protestors into accepting an unfair decision. Then, once the bribe money is gone, we look for more trouble and the cycle goes on.
Along the way, once a new problem confronts us, we instigate a new counter measure that shakes the whole of Bougainville. Such is well evidenced in Bougainville history of political struggles.
I offered a short discourse emphasising my Kieta peoples’ responsibility in diverting our island into a chaos of blood and tears that is still quaking beneath our soles.
As Kieta people, with the first ceasefire and withdrawal of the PNG government in 1990, we had the greatest opportunity to built a political administration that should have had paved the road to independence swiftly without pain.
But instead, with our irresponsibility, pride and lack of vision and planning, we dumped Bougainville into a civil war which inflicted immeasurable suffering on our innocent people.
This mistake must not be repeated by the Oune people, as it is now practiced by two of our former BRA men in Kieta who strayed from their fight for the good of Bougainville and now compete against each other to be at the top with money.
But our people are keeping their eyes on them. Last August former combatants warned Ishmael Toroama about his octopus culture by torching Panguna Metal’s plant and equipment in Panguna, Pakia and Loloho that his men provide security for.
His rival, Chris Uma, kept silent, for he too contradicts the positive things he suggests to the media by running after public money and other practices our people are fed up with.
People are slowly turning against these two developing warlords. What the people of Oune should look towards is investing in education. Children should be in the classrooms, for this century is the century of the educated brains.
The era when our people came out of the caves of Oune to play politics on the international stage is over with the reign of globalisation.
If our ancestors were crying to see Bougainville free in the 1960s through their organisation Oune Mumungsina, we have to follow their footsteps by correcting areas where they failed.
In Oune, every child has access to cash from the gold generated money we get daily, and to me that is not a positive step to building a good Bougainville.
Every afternoon, our kids walk home from school and end up down at the Kavarong panning for gold instead of studying. That must end if we are responsible parents of Oune and Bougainville.
Know that students we are sending outside Bougainville to be educated are running around wearing PNG shoes! Educating Oune the Bougainville way is educating Bougainville the right way!
I walked away from my speech amongst dozens of handshakes.