“23% of men who raped in Bougainville were 14 years or younger when they first committed this crime… More than 65% of men in Bougainville reported experiencing emotional abuse or neglect as children” - Extract from UNDP media release of 10 September 2013, UN Multi-Country Study on Men and Violence in Asia and the Pacific
THE UNITED NATIONS REPORT on Gender Violence has not yet been formally presented to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).
However, if what has been reported widely in the media is any indication of what is contained in the final draft report, then, as President of the ABG, I am forced to condemn the report as being a piece of flawed, imperfect research and without basis or foundation.
The report cannot in any way be an accurate empirical study of certain social conditions in Bougainville and has served to engender stereotypical reporting that does not enhance the social indices of Bougainville.
I am not prepared to go into a point by point rebuttal of the findings which has not yet been formally released to the government, but on the basis of what has surfaced, the UN sponsoring body should immediately withdraw the report and apologise to the people of Bougainville and by extension to the people of Papua New Guinea.
When the provisional ABG Research Ethics Committee met last year with the representatives of the National Statistical Office and the UN, it expressed its concern about the methodology and the protocol that was to be used in the study.
It also expressly made as one of the conditions of the survey that the study would be first presented to the ABG and the National Statistical Office (the national government sponsoring agency) before any publication of the findings were made.
It is a serious disappointment that the report has been given to the media before any of these protocols were observed. The premature release of the report has done irreparable harm to communities across Bougainville.
Again, without getting into specifics, none of the findings represent conditions on the ground in Bougainville, a largely matrilineal society, where women are respected, free to walk and live their normal lives unmolested as purported in the study.
The findings, therefore, are not that of the natural disposition of the people of Bougainville and are out of character.
Admittedly, because of the fallout from the Bougainville Crisis some forms of deviancy such as alcoholism, drug use, and an unacceptable level of teenage pregnancies has exhibited itself into parts of the society.
We are addressing these issues, through various ABG policies and programmes, donor funding to NGOs and churches and ironically, through the proposed UN Peace Building Fund
As President, I am concerned about the activities of certain groups, which I would term “stretcher bearers”, who are pushing an agenda on this most sensitive issue of gender violence that is self-serving.
As a government we are not just dealing with the victims but we are addressing the root causes through public policy. We recognize that there is a sense of alienation among a segment of our population which will have to be addressed.
Our major towns and population centres, Buka, Arawa, Siwai and Buin and the villages across Bougainville are strangers to the type of findings in the survey. The report presents a tale of two cities: one conceived in the minds of the researchers and the other being actual conditions on the ground.
Bougainville is a small community and if the situation described in the report is anyway true, then the question must be asked: why is it that these conditions did not come to the attention of our leaders?
As one such leader, I can assert that there is strong public opinion against the findings. Any rational observer would readily agree that the findings in the UN study are nowhere approaching the levels purported in the report.
I have discussed this matter with the UN representative in Buka and he has made representation to the UN country representative in Port Moresby.
I have received a response from the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative to which I shall be replying officially. We do not want such a report to be in circulation that might provide the basis for other researchers to use this type of misinformation as the basis for future work on Bougainville, flawed as it is.
Hon Chief John Momis GCL MHR is President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government