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LEONARD FONG ROKA

Francis DuaungLAST SATURDAY ON THE hot and shimmering streets of Arawa, a jubilant bunch of former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) fighters stood reading a PNG Post Courier article entitled, Asians warned to leave (9 October 2013, p 23).

Most joyous was Francis Duaung (pictured), the only fighter wounded in the January 1990 dawn raid on the former Kuviria Detention Centre 30 km north of Arawa, that saw the killing of six non-Bougainvillean warders.

Duaung was shot in the head in the action and recovered in a Honiara, Solomon Islands, hospital after an operation to remove shotgun pellets stuck in his skull.

He also lost his blood brother and three cousins to PNGDF bullets and says he is not satisfied with how Bougainville has being driven by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and Papua New Guinea.

In the newspaper story, the Bougainville Veterans Association, an umbrella body made up of ex-combatants from North, Central and South Bougainville who fought in the 10-year Bougainville civil war, called on Asians operating business singly or in partnership with locals to pack up and leave Bougainville.

“The foreigners, especially Chinese nationals, were involved in retail, wholesale, and fast food, which local businessmen were in,” the Post-Courier story said.

“The association said this posed a threat to the peace process because locals tended to take sides—some with foreigners while others opposed foreigners. This has brought instability to some parts of the region, especially in Central Bougainville.”

Veterans like Duaung have joined with local Bougainville businessmen who claim that, since taking office, the ABG had let Asian and other foreign businesses rob Bougainvilleans and give back nothing. They are comparing the situation to the old days of Bougainville Copper.

The Veterans Association is putting pressure on the ABG to make a decision to pass reserved business legislation at a meeting tomorrow.

It says that businesses the ABG must protect for Bougainvilleans include:

Retail trading, including trade stores, canteens and takeaway food bars or eateries

Supermarkets, liquor supply and import including brewery and distillation of liquor

Guest houses and hotels up to three star status

Wholesaling and merchandizing in any white goods, consumables and building hardware materials

Fuel supplies and fuel stations, including import of oil products

Alluvial mining and gold trading

Commodity exports of cocoa and copra primary and secondary products

Cocoa and coconut plantations and other cash crop development

Dealings in handicrafts and artifacts including the export of such items

Timber production and exports

PMV and freight transport including trucking and earth moving

Marine products extraction and exports

Fisheries and fish exports

Tourism and tour operators

Any manufacturing, including cottage industries with cash capital value of K100 million or less is also prohibited and exclusively reserved for Bougainvilleans

Partnerships and joint ventures in any of the above activities are prohibited

The fighters have called on the ABG not to issue trading license to Asians and other foreigners in any of these activities and also said all Asian and foreign businesses must shut down and move out of Bougainville.

According to Duaung, the main concern is that the ABG is not protective of Bougainville.

“The ABG knows we fought and died,” he told me, “but it is not interested in upholding the reason our 15,000 people died.

“We died for independence and that means we must be self-reliant and not be like PNG that these Asians now control.

“This drive aims to protect Bougainvilleans and teach ourselves how to do business and be self-reliant to build our country.”

To many people like Duaung, the ABG is selling out Bougainville because it fears threats from a few foolish people and does not recognise the strength of the majority of Bougainville people it has behind it.

There is a feeling that political creativity is lacking in the ABG.

Since Bougainville combatant leaders like Ishmael Toroama, Chris Uma and others have recently reconciled, veterans say the ABG is now safe.

And according to Panguna man, Francis Duaung, the veterans have more plans to save Bougainville.

“We have presented the demands to our government and, once done, we will remove the Asian and other foreigners from Bougainville.

“The next lot to pack and leave will be redskins [other Papua New Guineans] who shamelessly come here for jobs as if they had compensated us for the killings on our island and blockading us for ten years.”

Comments

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Tony Flynn

Whichever province I refer to, the message is the same. Some parts of the economy were reserved for PNG. The foreigners who abused those laws and made some of us traitors to the intentions of the founding fathers are still active. Are you to change one exploiter for another?

At least Europeans are not exploiting all economic niches. PNG should be able to succeed in many more areas after 38 years. The parts of our economy taken over by Asians are increasing almost daily.

There is no tradestore or other SME that cannot be operated by a Papua New Guinea entrepreneur from some part of PNG. Maybe your province does not have a suitable candidate and other provinces are not acceptable, the store or opportunity may have to remain vacant.

You may have noticed that some true Bougainvillians are demanding store rents that only well organized and connected foreigners can afford. When foreigners are forbidden certain enterprises the rents will come down; PNG operators can now participate.

Never forget we PNG businessmen are part of extended families and have expenses that Asians do not have. My niece died yesterday, we will entertain many people at the Haus Krai. From time to time I pay expenses, school fees etc for people who are not my direct responsibility.

I and many like me cannot compete directly against people with lower expenses and a thousand year history of economic success.

Please do not point to the self made PNG millionaires; there are geniuses in commerce as in other fields. Most of us grind along in low gear; we do our bit; we support the community.

We do not want to be left in the dusty slip stream of superior foreign enterprise.

Marlene Dee Potoura

Yes, we can chase the Asians out, but were they the ones who stole our land? Who dug the crater on the mountains of Panguna and polluted the Jaba river?

The future depends on the past, therefore peace is the way forward.

Marlene Dee Potoura

I speak about peace and prosperity in my homeland Bougainville.

All of us Bougainvilleans lost our loved ones. I am not against my people, if you got me wrong.

I do not want to be labelled as a 'previous correspondent'. My name is here, Marlene Potoura and I am from Oria in Buin.

So many good Bougainvilleans died during the crisis. Our way forward is peace among our people. Only Bougainvilleans will understand how one feels.

Outsiders will only say things, but will not feel what we feel.

'One cannot kill fire with fire'. Peace and unity among all Bougainvilleans is the way to move forward.

Tony Flynn

Not only Bougainville, Francis Duaung, your list should be on the front door of all government offices to be seen by foreigners; they are trying to displace our citizens from businesses that they can be competent in.

We can pilot massive airliners; we can also run stores, hotels and such businesses. So we cannot run them to international standards; this is PNG. It is our country, politicians are our servants; this does include governors.

We put them in and maybe we put some out. They have to give us a chance to start small or in a rough manner and develop over time.

I started in Fast Food in Goroka in the late 1960’s; initially it was a rat palace, I could count the nipples on the great rats climbing the flywire. No cockroaches, they were eaten by relatively cleaner rats.

Anything falling on the floor was fed to the dustbin. No health complaints from the public, ever.

My customers were public servants, office workers, students, town workers and village visitors. It was gradually upgraded until it became a hygienic place of business.

There was an NCD EMTV program some years ago on the Fast Food places of Moresby City, it seemed that Asian shops must have started well and then became filthy greasy spoons (haus kai).

The program was very informative about the slack Asian management; that is until their community must have pressured their friends in City Hall to remove this reality show from our TV screens.

One of our highly respected Asian businesses started in Boroko with a fly and cockroach ballroom; supposedly with a Singaporean chef; stucco walls and a concrete floor. No self-respecting Asian or European would ever sit and eat at tables which were fly heaven. It was a fast food when Fast Food was reserved to PNG citizens.

I reported this personally to a supine IPA with no effect.

Some soft hearted people such as the previous correspondent will say that your list is too tough. It is payback time; did Asians worry about being too tough when they imposed on an emerging country that was trying to safeguard the rights of its citizens? What they did shortly after Independence, we should fix it now; take back our heritage.

What am I saying? I am 76, it is your heritage. Why did we become Independent? We did it for our progress, not for pips squeezed out of China.

Asians had no respect for us then, so be careful of the present bearers of gifts; maybe they are the same wolves in another sheep’s clothing.

Marlene Dee Potoura

We will never move forward to greener pastures with our narrow mindedness.

Our fighters fought for our Island and we genuinely thank them for that. Now we need a good government to move us, we need real investors to make our resources flow and we need us AROBians to start up businesses that would benefit oneself, our communities and at the same time preserving our culture, land and people.

We sound more like racists when we label countries and people. Yes, things have happened in the past, but moving forward is important at this time.

We all must develop an 'afterwar' attitude and move with understanding.

If we all want to run the Island, then there is trouble brewing again. When can we humble ourselves, form better attitudes and work in unity?

God bless Bougainville and the lives lost there including my beloved father, dear uncles and all our loved ones. May their souls rest in peace.

Pain we all felt, but forgiveness must abound and peace will prevail. Bougainvilleans must come in oneness, with understanding and support. That is success. That is peace. That is unity.

Joey Jones

As a Bougainvillian, I would not want to see foreigners coming in and taking away jobs and opportunities on what we can do and achieve for ourselves.

However, we must not be blinded. There are real investors out there with a sincere heart to help and assist our goal. If we were to blindly chase all true entities away, where will we be heading to? What will we achieve?

We will only create a group of greedy local businessmen, and no further development on our nation. Is that what we fought for?

Every country prospered from investment. We need the right investors with the right heart.

We need to open our eyes to differenciate true investors, rather than just classifying "chinese/asians" etc.

Chinese were not the ones that stole our land. We know who were the ones.

Steven Kolova

Being a fairly well educated Bougainvillean, who has also suffered during the crisis, I think we are developing a 'dilemma' that we will gain Independence the way we want it without complying with international standards of good governance and sound law and order.

It's not and never like that. Our performance is subject to ratification as per the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

I'm imagining the worse case when the ABG will be declared 'failed' and we'll be subjected to be ruled under the metropolitan government.

Mrs Barbara Short

Thank you for this story, Leonard. It shows us the general mood amongst the surviving former BRA fighters on Bougainville today. It is amazing that any Chinese people have even bothered to risk their lives to set up business in Bougainville.

It is also amazing that people from various parts of PNG have ventured over to Bougainville to try to help the Bougainville people in various ways.

I hope the good people of Bougainvlle, who have already forgiven all sides in the Bougainville war, will be able to help people like Duaung and the other ex-combatants to do like-wise and move on.

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