“I am still confused why we let PNG want to direct us when we are already an autonomous region,” Chief Dickson Torouwa of Bapong Village, Panguna, told me.
“As I saw it from this O’Neill tour, our leaders need to think harder and take extra care, for there was psychological warfare to undermine our independence vote in 2015.”
In January this year, prime minister Peter O’Neill came on a so-called ‘goodwill’ visit to Bougainville. Did the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) calculate what impact this visit had on a population thinking about an independence referendum scheduled to be held between 2015 and 2020?
“From our sacred traditional cultures to our people’s bloodstained politics,” Chief Torouwa stated, “O’Neill spat on it all under our noses.”
To Chief Torouwa, only the blind people of Bougainville praised the tour since they were not able see the desire of PNG to try to undermine our right to self-determination.
Some Bougainvilleans say the visit was to give more practical effect to the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement but, for Torouwa, the crux of the matter was the referendum – a word that Peter O’Neill did not utter once during the entire tour.
PNG was dead silent on the issue of the referendum on independence.
The Bougainville people noted that only Bougainville President Dr John Momis talked about Bougainville’s position, but the PNG side said nothing about its position.
“I was not surprised by all this silence by the erereng (redskins),” Chief Torouwa said. “They do not want us to be free from their parasitic rule of our island.
“They want our resources because their own mines are not helping their country as Panguna mine and our copra and cocoa plantations did.
“I feel sad that the ABG cannot see that this tour was a war to keep our people away from voting for our freedom after 2015.”
The Panguna community leader said the Buin people were foolish to bestow upon Mr O’Neill their sacred tradition of honouring a chief.
To Chief Torouwa, Bougainvilleans have suffered under PNG rule since 1975 and honouring PNG leaders when they come here is denying the pain.
“Worst, Peter O’Neill came announcing impact projects and distributing money like rain.
“Such a practice made our ABG look useless to our own people but the ABG did not see this and followed this PNG leader.
“His own former friend, PNG Opposition leader Belden Namah, labels him as the worst prime minister anywhere.”
To Torouwa, if PNG respects the ABG and the people of Bougainville, all announcements of impact projects and such things as official openings of services like Aropa Airport and Arawa Post Office should be left to the ABG.
But if PNG keeps sending its leaders to come and open everything, it makes the ABG look worthless.
The right way help Bougainville is to get the people to respect their government.