LEONARD FONG ROKA
AFTER THE KANGSINARI COUP of 1997, Francis Ona and Joseph Kabui led their groups in separate ways. The Kieta people looked at each leader. Many waited for one of them to create something tangible.
Both Panguna leaders wanted independence for Bougainville but their means to get there conflicted. Kabui and his team wanted ‘peace by peaceful means’ and Ona wanted a war to the end.
The leaders’ common purpose was to liberate Bougainville and Bougainvilleans from (as I have stated previously in Manifesto 7) the “exploitation, indoctrination and genocide by, firstly, the colonial powers and later with much more intensity by the PNG government and people.”
So what were these problems and how were they destroying Bougainville and its people?
Bougainville was discovered by the French explorer, Louis De Bougainville and his team of sailors, on 4 July 1768. There was a wait of 24 years to 1792 before the island began to be scavenged for opportunities of trade and Christianisation.
Christianisation and commerce were the pillars of colonisation that ruined the peaceful evolution of Bougainville and its black Solomon Islands people. Under Christianisation and trade we are talking about education, religion, money, agriculture and manufacturing forced on the Stone Age people who knew nothing about the modernisation happening in Europe.
Thus Europeans, to keep up the pace of economic, political and social change, held Bougainvilleans by the throat and drove them into the reckless current of 19th century Euro-centrism.
Such a procedure resulted in exploitation, indoctrination and eventually the genocide of the identity and dignity of the Solomon Island people of Bougainville.
Exploitation was the first act of cruelty by colonialism against Bougainville. And 1792 was the year it all started. I define ‘exploitation’ as ‘using Bougainville’s resources for one’s own benefit without the Bougainville peoples’ consent or without giving back to Bougainvilleans’.
Bougainville, the largest and the richest island of the Solomon archipelago, was subjected to the worst exploitation in the mid-Pacific. Firstly came the 1800s planters who secured hectare after hectare of coconut and cocoa plantations.
One such case was the land in Arawa. According to Donald Denoon’s 2000 book, Getting under the Skin, Arawa began as a plantation in the German era. It was expropriated in 1927 for $19,800 and after World War II it changed hands for $46,000.
During the reign of CRA, the owner F R McKillop sold it to CRA for $1.5 million. Traditional owners were not there and Europeans made money out of their rights.
With the trend set, Australia saw Bougainville as a good financial source to fund the independence of it buffer state, PNG. So it went ahead to destroy the lives of Bougainvilleans to establish the Panguna mine at the cost of the destruction of the Bougainville people.
The Panguna mine continued the colonial will of exploiting Bougainville to the betterment of PNG.
Panguna mine, from its founding and over its 17 years of operation, according to the BCL Annual Report 2012, reached production valued at K5.2 billion by 1989; and Bougainvilleans got nothing.
Bougainvilleans saw no sealed roads, no bridges across the rivers or the Buka Passage, no rural electrification or road connection to all their villages. But all they took was environmental destruction and looting of their rights.
Next I look at ‘indoctrination’, the second problem for Bougainville.
I define ‘indoctrination’ as the colonisers and PNG’s desire to ‘make Bougainvilleans forget about themselves and destroy themselves’.
The first lot of colonisers enforced Christian and secular education on the people to see right and wrong from a Eurocentric perspective.
Bougainvilleans were to be nurtured to look at land and life from the Western world view; to let go their own world views; to accept the destruction of their land and lives as positive development; to accept the PNG state and people as a brother in the name of Christ under one law, that is the PNG constitution since 1975.
Writing in the book, Bougainville before the conflict (2005), Jonathan Friedlaender wrote, “One of the great puzzles of Bougainville is why its people are so distinctive in appearance from most other people in the region, particularly why they are so black.” This is the dignity and pride of the northern Solomons!
The PNG government and people coming into the scene in 1975 did not want Bougainvilleans to know themselves. They designed their constitution to kill Bougainville identity and their dignity as Solomons people; they designed an education system that makes Bougainville people not accept themselves as unique in the Pacific; they told Bougainvilleans that they are not Solomons people and, in doing so, Bougainvilleans were to keep selling themselves and their land to the PNG people.
All this was the pathway to genocide.
For Bougainville, ‘genocide’ meant to ‘to wipe out Bougainville identity and dignity; redskinize Bougainvilleans’.
With the crisis of the 1990s, Bougainville sought to defeat all these evil systems but a sad chapter dawned with the peace process in 1997 when Bougainville leaders gave in to Australia, Rio Tinto and PNG.
In 1988 Rio Tinto worked hard to save the Panguna mine. I believe it provided support to the PNG army operations to suppress the militancy. As the army slowly failed, Australia state stepped in with increased military aid but was left with disappointment.
Rio Tinto, Australia and PNG kept up their effort to defeat the Bougainville freedom movement as Pacific nations Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Zealand struggled for peace on Bougainville.
Australia jumped in to hijack the peace effort and make itself innocent in the eyes of the Bougainville people.
Thus the Bougainville Peace Agreement of 2001 and the Bougainville autonomy arrangement ended in favour of the external forces.
In the peace agreement, the culprits pushed for a weapon-free Bougainville. But in history they never listened to the cries of the Bougainville peoples until the gun was involved. That was when they decided to listen and respect Bougainville rights.
Despite the many provisions of the peace agreement, autonomy and constitution and so on, the culprits have still not addressed issues that harm Bougainville. They did not create a new education system; they did not create a vagrancy act; they did not create a tertiary institution; they did not support Bougainville to establish its own export and import companies.
If all these development were established in 2005 with the reign of the first Autonomous Bougainville Government, Bougainville could believe it was in safe waters. But sadly not.