LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship
WE BOUGAINVILLEANS STARTED the civil war that killed thousands and it is we who must now lead the younger generation to attain a better life in a Bougainville that is free from all forms of suppression and exploitation.
In 1988, the young men who initiated the anti-Bougainville Copper and anti-Papua New Guinea militancy in central Bougainville were mostly those who had hardly reached high school.
A good number of these men were involved in criminal activities thus when Panguna erupted, they were there.
One such youngster was Augustine Karuvi (pictured) of Koiano in the Kokoda constituency of Kieta.
Karuvi was a student who decided to walk out of the classroom to join the fight.
The young Augustine Karuvi left school in 1989 at age 17 to fight. At the time his area, which was referred to as Koromira, was a safe-haven for some of the pre-crisis rascals.
His fighting career was halted by the 1990 ceasefire between the PNG security forces and the militants.
In 1991 he returned to attend a school operated by the weakened North Solomons provincial administration, but it closed in early 1992.
Also in 1991 the reckless Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) arrogance caught up with his extended family, which included a cousin serving in the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. The BRA claimed the family was still communicating with him.
Hence Augustine was tortured along with some of his male family members.
In that same period, his next cousin, a defected police officer, Joseph Miarama Kasika, was killed by locals at Rotokas in Wakunai when he arrived on the scene where a band of BRA men had been stirring up trouble.
Augustine was a lost youngster for whom there was no hope. He was trapped.
Then in 1992, the Papua New Guinea Defence Force landed at his home on the Toimanapu plantation.
Augustine says the PNGDF captured this location as strategic position to try and quell the BRA boats that darted into the Solomon’s Choiseul province for humanitarian help in the midst of the Australia-backed total blockade of Bougainville.
After this event, and out of loyalty to the Bougainville cause, despite his previous treatment Augustine joined the BRA group of his home, Koiano.
His first action in the BRA was at the Toimanapu PNGDF camp. This camp hosted some local families who surrendered to get medical assistance. This operation saw an early dawn raid on the PNGDF and it resulted in the death of a popular BRA fighter, Eperi, from the Kongara area.
After many other operations, Augustine’s next major engagement was against the PNGDF’s operation to clear Bougainville of all rebel areas, code named as Operation High Speed, around 1996.
Augustine was at the former Aropa International airport defending his land from invaders in an engagement that took nearly a week until the PNGDF was driven back to Arawa where they caused the death of two Bougainvilleans—a BRA man and an innocent Kongara child who was fishing.