BY SIMON GARANA
SITTING DOWN IN MY HOUSE in the village I decided to write this brief history of my disability, inflicted during the Bougainville Crisis. Before the injury I was a normal healthy and physically-fit person; a top Soccer and Aussie Rules player in my younger days.
The Bougainville Crisis started in mid-1988 and was fuelled by a frustrated landowner and civil engineer, the late Francis Ona, with a mob of young relatives.
Within months Ona formed the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) to lay siege to giant company, Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia (CRA) about environmental damage and landowner benefits.
By 1989 the crisis was at its peak and the PNG Defence Force and mobile squad police were sent to Bougainville. By 1990 the government imposed a total blockade on all services in Bougainville. The blockade caused severe sufferings to the people.
At that time I was teaching at Tonu High School in the Siwai District. In October 1990 we travelled to Kieta to board MV Sankamap to go to Rabaul to do our banking and shopping, as our families were really suffering from the blockade.
Unfortunately, the BRA chased us with guns at the Kieta wharf so we had to return to Siwai. It was really frightening.
A car dropped me and four other people at Panguna so we had to walk all the way back to Siwai, about 100 kilometres away. There were no vehicles as there was no fuel or petrol due to the blockade. The situation was very tense as anyone could be easily killed by the BRA or the PNGDF.
After walking about 30 km, somewhere in the Nagovis area my legs went dead resulting in my knees becoming totally numb. On arrival in Siwai, I was in bed for weeks as I could not walk. There were no health services available and it was very difficult. I just had to cope with the pain by resting and drinking lots of water.
After the pain eased, I continued teaching in Bougainville high schools until 1994. In 1995 I took up teaching at the Divine Word University in Madang. While in Madang two cups of green liquid was sucked out from my knees at the Madang Medical Centre.
After two years in Madang I returned to Bougainville to take up a senior position with the Bougainville Administration. Here, for the next ten years, I sat in a comfortable chair with the air conditioner providing cool fresh air.
In mid 2007 I had to stand down from the job as my health was getting worse. I was admitted to Nonga General Hospital in East New Britain as the Buka General Hospital lacked proper doctors and medical drugs.
I was diagnosed with severe gout coupled with rheumatic arthritis. Since then I have been travelling to other major hospitals seeking better medical treatment but without much luck.