BUTCHERED like an animal—one of his hands chopped off—in Lae city was my brother, Louis Taneavi, last Monday.
He had recently left our home valley of Tumpusiong in the Panguna District in pursuit of an education so he could go back home and contribute to our troubled island, Bougainville.
Late on Monday afternoon I was in a lecture when the phone rang. I did not answer since the phone was in my school bag.
When I walked home and was a missed call reminder and a text message from the Panguna Upper Tailings Office in Arawa. I felt fear reading the text, ‘Brother, please call back quickly.’
After running around for phone credits, I called home at 7 pm. My cousin, Camillus Kabui, asked me in a heavy and weary voice: ‘Brother, does Louis calls you?’
‘Not really,’ I answered, ‘but last weekend, yes, he gave me a call.’
‘Yes…me, too,’ said Kabui, ‘he does not call me much.’
And Kabui began sobbing, ‘Yes, brother, our brother is now in the morgue.
‘He has being butchered this morning in Lae. His girl friend just confirmed.’
I realised I had tears trickling down my chin and I was crying for my brother as I exchanged words with Kabui and then others who were helping him tell the story.
My relatives in Arawa discovered the news when a girlfriend of Louis Taneavi called him in Lae and a fellow Bougainvillean answered and told her Louis was dead.
She could not believe what she heard and called Camillus Kabui and the officers of the Upper Tailings Office. They investigated and confirmed that our brother was in the Lae hospital morgue.
He was not part of a warring group himself but was residing with someone from the Morobean-Sepik conflict and fell as an innocent victim of that.
Louis was born in Panguna in 1976, four years after another Panguna man, the late Dr Luke Rovin, who was butchered in Goroka in the Eastern Highlands alongside his mate Peter Moini from Buin, a tragedy which led to massive pro-independence and anti-mining protests on Bougainville.
In the early 1990s, Louis served in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army but, hearing that schools were open in PNG army controlled areas in Buin where he had relatives, he smuggled his way through the mountains of Nagovis and Siwai and into the Buin area.
He completed his primary schooling and, upon hearing of my fatherless family in Arawa where schools had opened, he joined us there in early 1996. I was with him at Arawa High School in 1997 when he was doing Grade 8.
In 1999 he attended Buin High School, went to Tsiroge to join the Marist Brotherhood but, with the alluvial gold mining in Panguna becoming lucrative, he left and came home.
Here he established himself as a baker and provided scones and cake for the gold panners. He also married and in 2009 established himself as a gold buyer and started a retail outlet. He had two of the biggest and best managed cocoa blocks in the Tumpusiong valley.
In addition to all these ventures, in 2012 he bought a Nissan Urban bus and started a PMV operation that served the Panguna-Arawa road.
Then last year he left his Panguna wife and his three children and married in Buin where he fathered a child.
With the talk of re-opening the Panguna mine, he wanted to attain a certificate to operate plant like cranes, bulldozers, loaders and excavators. His big interest was the excavator.
In January this year, the Upper Tailings Office in Arawa helped him secure enrolment in a private multi-skills training school in Lae to learn to operate this heavy equipment. And in a few weeks he was operating his dream machine, the excavator.
Once, when he was once operating the equipment at Lae Stadium, he gave me a call and laughed: ‘Brother, you once were showing off to me at home while running that D6 bulldozer, now I am over you in a larger plant.’
Now I have lost a brother who I grew up with through the Bougainville crisis and afterwards.
We have crossed the Solomon Sea to PNG to be educated and go back and help rebuild our Bougainville. Now my brother is going back in a coffin.