IN Melanesia we share commonalities of culture and values despite our fragmented societies.
A significant commonality is our collective way of living. This is an essence of Melanesian identity which has survived much imposed change: the Melanesian philosophy of “I am the keeper of my brother”.
A true Melanesian cannot see his brother or neighbour carry a burden on his own. Always there is a helping hand.
Colonisation brought us Melanesians into the global community. The challenge now is to survive this transition. We ought to ask ourselves: What can we do to survive? How can we reach that distant shore? How can we not just survive but thrive?
Of course, a successful transit can be assured only if the captain of the ship has the knowledge, understanding and experience. We must not submit to inexperience.
Our own inherited techniques of cultural survival will also help defend our lands, languages and cultures as they deal with external issues.
We understand, too, that culture must be updated to meet the needs of changing times.
European societies went through their tribal wars, religious wars, feudal wars and marched onwards to World War I and World War II.
For many centuries, they went through intense conflict. Today there’s the European Union.
Is there the possibility of a Melanesian Union? I believe so. We Melanesians must continue to discuss the issue. There will need to be treaties and alliances and unions.
We’ve seen what disunity can bring in West Papua and Bougainville and we don’t ant more of that. We need to develop those positive Melanesian elements to protect and safeguard our survival.
But this can never be if we cannot solve our own conflicts and sustain our common sentiment.
Melanesian society is a soul with the same name and different faces. Bougainville and West are different societies within a related Melanesian culture.
We must respect them and give them the power and stand firm in supporting them to pursue their destiny.
We will do this in the knowledge that, as Melanesians, we support will each other in achieving anything. Melanesians survive through collective action and unity.
West Papua freedom and Bougainville self-determination are two big tests for Melanesian unity in the modern era.