BOUGAINVILLE needs protectionism for its politics, economy and cultures for the island and its people to gain the maximum benefit from their resources.
“My fighting on Bougainville [is] based on these factors: (1) that is, we are fighting for man and his culture, and (2) land and environment; and (3) independence,” stated the late Francis Ona, rebel leader during the Bougainville Crisis of 1988-2005 (Coconut Revolution, 1999, documentary film by Darren Bender & Mike Chamberlain).
Francis Ona believed that Bougainville and its people were staggering to their fate under PNG and BCL’s three burdens: great exploitation of the Panguna mine; forceful indoctrination through the PNG education system; and a foreseeable fate through genocide, where Bougainville identity and dignity would be nothing.
Ona had in mind that the only way to save the Bougainville people was through independence, where Bougainvilleans would at least have a say in the development of their island that was geographically, ethnically and culturally not related to Papua New Guinea.
Bougainville is the largest and most resource rich island in the Solomon archipelago but that resource had been stolen to develop PNG, profit shareholders of BCL and Rio Tinto, and benefit the many non-Bougainvillean business tycoons who had rushed to the island during the colonial era running coconut and cocoa plantation industries. Others benefited by getting contracts with BCL.
This massive exploitation of Bougainville wealth happened as the indigenous people sang the PNG national anthem and preached PNG perspectives of democracy that had no relevance in Bougainville and the rest of the Solomon archipelago.
It led to the civil war of 1988-97; its aftermath still felt in post-conflict Bougainville.
The Bougainville Constitution prepared itself to accommodate such resource matters in Section 44 (Land) and Section 47 (Fisheries). Here all of Bougainville’s resources are catered for to creating the best investment policies for mining, agriculture, fishing and so on making a positive economic leap practical.
The base of Bougainville’s economic drive should start from Section 22 (General Social and Economic Objectives) of the Constitution. With this in focus, Bougainville must be aware of Section 27 (Environment and Conservation), that is sustainability of development which is paramount in a small island state in the midst of the Pacific.
With these fundamental requirements activated, Bougainville must connect the above provisions to Section 23 (Land and Natural Resources), since the right path to built a nation from scratch involves using the resources it has available; not from exploitative foreign direct investment built upon a shattered domestic foundation.
In order to facilitate Section 24 (Development), private initiative and self-reliance must be encouraged. The right decision-makers in parliament are a vital resource to uphold Bougainville’s constitutional ambitions.
However, Bougainville had a leadership that fears the economic status quo; it fears being associated with a cash-strapped Bougainville and wants an economic miracle.
The first president, the late Joseph Kabui, attempted to sell 70% of Bougainville’s wealth to Canada-based businessman Lindsay Semple for K20 million. The next president, James Tanis, stood undecided in the centre of the economic continuum. The current incumbent, Dr John Momis, looks at China and BCL. But the people’s ‘tide of stubbornness’ has being sweeping his government everywhere.
In an island economy like Bougainville where the citizenry is not all literate, the focus for take-off should be the agricultural sector.
WW Rostow’s 1960 work, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto, outlined the basic steps to building a nation’s economy to maturity from zero.
Rostow’s steps are: (1) traditional society, (2) preconditions for take-off, (3) take-off, (4) drive to maturity, and (5) age of high mass-consumption. Bypassing the steps fails a state unless the political masters are creative. Bougainville is problematic looking at Rostow’s guidance.
Rostow’s order of progress is centred on agriculture; and Bougainville has agriculture and fisheries that need restoration in accordance with the growing intellectual and technological capacity of the citizens. We also need to introduce new technologies related to downstream processing to move to Stage 2. There is no snailing down of progress now Bougainville is in the age of foreign donor funding.
But in utilising resources, Bougainville’s government and people must focus on the United Nation’s Agenda 21 that, according to Richard J Estes Towards Sustainable Development: From Theory to Praxis, seeks:
…the husbanding of the planet’s wasting resources. Along with the roster of problems familiar to environmentalists—the ozone layer, global warming, deforestation, desertification, soil erosion, biodiversity—Agenda 21 addresses action to be taken against poverty, infant mortality, malnutrition, epidemic disease, illiteracy and other affiliations that waste that other resource of the planet: its human population.
Bougainville is a tiny island and running along with Agenda 21 is a way to success for the government and its people.
Since its discovery in 1767 (sighted by British sailors) and 1768 (landed on by French sailors), Bougainville’s natural resources have being exploited by non-Bougainvilleans. In the drive for change, it is Bougainvilleans who must use these resources for their betterment.
The primary task for a responsible government is to create and implement economic and social laws that build for Bougainvilleans an environment conducive for business and economic advancement that reflects Section 24 of the Constitution.
Then plans can be framed for each region (North, Central and South) about which goods and services each will specialise in, depending on climate and topography, especially with agriculture, downstream processing and light manufacturing.
Harnessing agriculture, fisheries and tourism is what Bougainville should be investing in during this period of low fiscal and monetary power. And the focus must be on both wealth and social cohesion so as to avoid failures such as Nauru, where wealth was supreme over social cohesion.
Bougainville must ‘think big but start small’.
Here are a few ideas on income earning resources from Tim Ashton, an Australian who has had a long association with Bougainville.
Cocoa: Take over the marketing of your own beans as they have done in Vanuatu
Fresh coconuts to Australia: Currently they are imported from Thailand
Develop industry around laminated bamboo products
Fresh reef fish for the Australian market
Fresh frozen Yellowfin Tuna bring $5000+ in Tokyo properly killed and prepared
To do this you need ice machines so your fishermen can chill the catch and transfer it to strategically located freezers
Japan: Buin is where their wartime hero, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto died. Build a shrine
Torokina War relics
The Japanese are the most prolific birdwatchers in the world. Guided tours
Adventure tourism (Bagana; Green island; Feid island, the most beautiful in the Pacific)
Build guest houses like the Arawa women’s centre. Feed them fresh reef fish. Be respectful and above all, do not be greedy and the money will flow
Bougainvilleans should look into growing banana, taro, fruit and other staple garden stuff and secure markets for this produce. We should look into fresh river farming for prawns and eels and other stock. We should look into animal husbandry for animals like chickens, ducks and pigs which require less land area for domestication.
Rice sucks much of the income out of Pacific countries. It can grow on the plains of south Bougainville alongside sugar cane. The Wakunai-Torokina area produces some of the best vegetables - peanuts, cabbage and potatoes - and needs investment. Coffee grows well across Bougainville.
With all this, we now need local Bougainvillean companies to take control of the export function. For a start, a state enterprise or joint ventures with ABG backing is vital together with the removal of foreign companies like Singapore’s Agmark Industries and Asian businesses that the myopic ABG loves so much.
The Bougainville directive is: if cocoa grows in Bougainville, then Bougainville must produce chocolate powder; if coffee grows on Bougainville, then Bougainville must produce coffee powder; if a coconut palm sways on Bougainville, then Bougainville must produce oil cosmetics; if the sea girds Bougainville, then Bougainville must produce fish products; and if the Bougainville child is born on land, then that child owns the land and everything that grows on it belongs to him but he must care for it and trade it.