BOUGAINVILLE will not move along the path of advancement with the current notion of ‘dancing to the PNG and BCL tune’. The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) should step outside the box and streamline the politics in a way that meets with public approval.
Bougainville is not a fragile state. In the 2008 paper, A Promising Liaison: Kastom and State in Bougainville, Volker Boege argued:
‘Although, state institutions on Bougainville are still rather weak, it is misleading to see Bougainville as a fragile state. It is instead a hybrid political order in the process of state formation. This process is driven by actors and institutions not only from the realm of the state, but also from the customary sphere and civil society.’
The state-building process on Bougainville is a participatory one. All factions in the field of political conflict have one goal and that is an independent Bougainville in its rightful place in the northern Solomon Islands.
But the problem on the ground is that the current legitimate government, the ABG, is overpowered by a lack of financial strength to deliver to the people and it does not see that the Bougainville conflict is about the people’s stand against exploitation, indoctrination and genocide that the islanders faced since 1886-99 when Bougainville was removed from the British Solomon Islands and dumped into German New Guinea.
This problem is still going on and the critics see it thus. The ABG is having a hard time dealing with criticism and there must be a stop to it. The ABG is in a better position with the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Bougainville Constitution underpinning it.
Bougainville, under the Constitutional directives of Paragraph 57 (subjects not now known or identified) and Paragraph 58 (transfer or delegation of powers and functions) has the right to streamline its politics. It has to get all the people and factions behind it and to focus itself in all its endeavours.
Currently Bougainville is financially dependent upon PNG and its leadership is not willing to creatively and aggressively pursue economic growth from available resources especially in the agricultural sector.
Indoctrination of the leadership has nurtured Bougainville to host a massive exploitative industry that does not equally distribute wealth from the economic heart of the island.
Bougainville needs to see development from the perspective of the 1960’s The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto that outlines economic growth and development as an incremental step-by-step process.
Bougainville is engaging in state building in an era of globalisation and the leadership needs to create its own political culture. Bougainville already has a relevant and manageable system in the Bougainville Constitution where we have a marriage of republican and Westminster systems. But this is a system and not a culture.
A culture needs to be developed from the amalgamation of the system with the traditional egalitarian leadership modes throughout Bougainville. This is a challenge but the government system known on Bougainville has gone down well with the people and a culture of participatory politics has emerged.
The challenge now is to invest in economic power which will drive the developing political culture and system. Developing Bougainville’s agricultural sector is a way forward along with small-scale mining operations that Bougainvilleans are now employing.
These economic avenues should be owned by the Bougainville people and the Bougainville government and resist or remove all non-Bougainvillean businesses already on Bougainville or trying to enter.
By so doing, Bougainville will nurture and develop the business culture that is still foreign to the island. This engagement will be a source of self-reliance and independence that 15,000 people died for.
With a secure economic base and the subsequent benefits, Bougainville should march towards a situation where development frees the citizens from poverty by investing in social capital to support sustainable development and modernisation.
With these strategic approaches and development processes Bougainvilleans can be a free and independent and happy people.