An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
IN the 2009 film, The Reeds Festival, the late Bougainvillean actor and advocate of Bougainville cultures, William Takaku, stated, “The old leaves must fall to allow the young leaves to grow leaving their wisdom of the trunk to the young leaves to carry on the culture of the tree.”
Sadly, on the political level, the old leaves are still there creating chaos and instability for the young leaves of Bougainville.
The Bougainville crisis since 1988 and the peace process since 1997 created shifts in the power status of individuals across the island.
There are pre-crisis people that the crisis stripped of power and there are others the crisis catapulted to a high status they had never seen before.
Now normalcy is beginning to prevail in Bougainville, the latter seem engulfed by fear of losing power.
“They don’t know their future [and] that’s why they are hanging onto their guns,” said notable Bougainville woman leader, Ruby Miringka, in the 2009 Dom Rotherce film, Bougainville: Reopening old Wounds.
The conflict is evident in the Dr John Momis versus Sam Kauona schism that is hurting the psyche of a people who want harmony on their land and in their politics.
Observing the confrontation between these two political figures, it is obvious that, on the one hand, there is political dedication to serve Bougainville interests through the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and, on the other, the question of the power status of Sam Kauona who forged a long trail of international arrangements to exert authority on the ground.
Bougainville has been troubled as it transits slowly towards normalcy. It is a place where opportunists rush to make fortunes and where Momis vs Kauona is about who should have legitimate authority.
A few people recognised the extremity of this struggle from Kauona’s side during an ABG-Landowner Association Forum in Buka that ran on 5-6 December last year.
At the beginning, the facilitators told participants to stay outside for a few minutes while they sorted out agendas but Sam Kauona, who was not part of the forum, came from nowhere to storm the closed door and verbally attack the organisers (see photo).
This Kauona attitude towards the ABG had its roots well before the ABG was first established. It revolves around his relationship with Australian citizen and Canadian resident Lindsay Semple, Southern Highlander Philip Rali, and their company Invincible Resources.
The trio was able to get to the infant ABG, then under the presidency of the late Joseph Kabui, who had a notable unwillingness to hurt others.
But despite winning over Kabui they failed to win the parliament with their creation of the Bougainville Resources Development Corporation (BRDC) that effectively would have sold Bougainville to Lindsay Semple and Philip Rali.
The deal would have given 70% of Bougainville’s natural resources, and the wealth created from these resources, to the two foreigners.
During the in-fighting, a stressed Joseph Kabui died. But even though he’s gone, Semple and Rali are still around having spent something like K20 million which they want to get back somehow.
After the first failure, Semple and Rali came back under the skin of Canadian company, Morumbi Resources. Since 2011, as noted in Dr Momis’s press statement, Bougainville Mining Law to End Backdoor Deals (The National, 25 November 2013), they have been try to get control of resources in large parts of Bougainville. But many people have taken the money and then resisted them, and this hurts.
Semple and Rali have Kauona speaking against the ABG. To me, it is sad that foreigners seem to be running a respected Bougainvillean, Sam Kauona.
To remedy the hurt Invincible caused on Bougainville, the ABG created its Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Bill 2013 that shocked Morumbi Resources, which had dozen of memoranda of understanding with resource owners. These are now fighting for recognition by the ABG.
Semple, Rali and Kauona proceeded to create their own mining ‘law’, the People’s Mining Bill, that is bad for Bougainville because it gives all resource development power to landowners denying the rest of the Bougainville population, through the ABG, a share in these resources.
The trio wants ABG to throw away its current mining law for they hate the provision that the ABG is always a partner with the landowners in any resource project.
The trio especially targeted Section 203A of the Bougainville Mining Bill 2013 that just inherited the parts of the PNG Mining Act 1992 that upheld the cruel Bougainville Copper Agreement Act of 1967.
But ABG says this is ‘transitional’ and is needed for a peaceful and harmonious transition for Bougainville without scaring away possible investment.
But, as I see it, Semple and Rali could not stop pushing Sam Kauona and turning him into something of a a joke for Bougainville’s politically literate community.
In a recent attack, Kauona, brought in the subject of neo-colonialism with his major evidence the presence of lawyer, Anthony Regan, an ABG adviser. But Regan has only been criticised since Kauona befriended Semple and Rali. Kauona worked with Regan during the peace process since late 1990s.
Foreign money from Semple and Rali keeps Sam Kauona’s power status afloat around Bougainville.
He seems not to care about the 55 year Morumbi Resources plan for Bougainville mineral resources where only landowners have the right to exploitation and development and not the rest of Bougainvilleans who had suffered for this land.
And so Kauona keeps attacking the ABG but his debate is like a child joking.