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A Bougainville voice: let not outsiders pit us against ourselves

Simon PentanuSIMON PENTANU

AUSTRALIAN NGO Jubilee Australia published a report in September on views held by villagers near the mine on the re-opening of the Panguna mine in Bougainville.

Jubilee, which claims to be a “scientific research body”, prepared the report jointly with two highly partisan organisations, the International State Crime Initiative and the Bismarck Ramu Group.

Kristian Lasslett, an Ulster-based Australian academic who is a constant purveyor of attacks on the Bougainville leadership, generally with little or no evidence, was heavily involved in the preparation and writing of the report.

In response to criticism of the report in the social media, Lasslett has defended himself and Jubilee notably in posts on the PNG Mine Watch blog (run by the Bismarck Ramu Group) and on Facebook’s Bougainville Forum.

Australians, Vicki Johns and Dantares Midway Jones (aka Andrew Jones) and Australian-based Bougainvillean, Clive Porabou, have all joined Lasslett in defending the report on the Bougainville Forum.

Jubilee and these others domiciled abroad will have us believe that they know more about Bougainville than anyone living on Bougainville and that they are privy to the personal views of the majority of Bougainvilleans today, including mine site landowners. 

The spread of these dubious “research findings” in Australia can be likened to a new malady that is about to hit Canberra, the cure for which only the bearers of the ill tidings possess and can administer.

Jubilee is at the forefront and is in this for exposure and publicity, not for the benefit of Bougainville.

Every time these desktop researchers return to their own countries after a very brief foray into their own mystical Bougainville, they carry a hastily packaged fantasy that reveals the ‘undeniable truth’ about what the majority of Bougainvilleans think about Panguna.

Jubilee is in Australia. They believe that a brief visit by anti-mining Bougainville researchers to Panguna, armed with questions to which they already ‘know’ the answers, provides better credentials than they had as remote-controlled observers of Bougainville from afar.

After ticking off their questionnaires, the organisation can make a jubilant exit, highly satisfied that their “research” confirms what they always believed.

With a prejudice and orientation against anything and everybody engaged in, or supportive of, what they see as the sordid business of mining, organisations like this will always be predisposed to searching and commenting to satisfy and confirm their very own views, which they can then confidently sell to Canberra.

Kristian Lasslett works and schemes from Ulster in Northern Ireland (UK). On matters concerning Bougainville he is the self-made expert – chopping, pasting and moulding Bougainville like plasticine to be forced into his desired shape and form.

Like the operatives at Jubilee, he drives a metal car, flies in metal planes and eats, I assume, mainly with metal cutlery. He and the Jubilee operatives do not suffer from metal fatigue, despite their disdain for industries that extract useful minerals.

Kristian will swear by his comments and views, defend them and feed them to anyone who likes to lap up tales of deceit and conspiracy against Bougainville by mining giants and governments.

At best he is a socialist, born to save the world’s downtrodden. At worst he is a Trotskyite, peddling and romanticising his thoughts around Melanesia.

He is a smooth operator, armed with mind-boggling academic qualifications, but why should PNG and Bougainville take notice of him?

He does not add value to our attempts to resolve our issues on Bougainville island, or in PNG for that matter. His activities simply feed his own ambitions.

He tells us that he knows Bougainville from the 1960s, though his appearance indicates he was barely an adolescent at the time of the Bougainville crisis.

He arrived after the crisis, well after the peace process took hold, only to collect the crumbs when the smorgasbord was over. This is obvious in his comments about wanting to return to Bougainville's past. Bougainvilleans be warned: this fellow cannot be trusted.

There’s little I can say about Vikki John. I believe she’s relatively harmless because I understand she rarely expresses her own views, assuming she has some. Apparently, her function is to cut, paste and disseminate any anti-mining material she comes across, in order to alert poor, ignorant Bougainvilleans to the dangers of doing further business with notoriously nasty mining companies.

I don't know who DAntares Midway Jones (aka Andrew Jones) is, but I gather he has been searching for his ancestry/roots, as his interchanging name suggests.

He has suddenly splashed himself onto the Bougainville scene with grandiose ideas for the salvation of the island and its population. He believes he has a profound proposal to rid Bougainville of its muddled past.

He proposes a Peoples Tribunal with draft terms of reference comprising Bougainvilleans who will preside as judge, jury, prosecutor and terminator. He even has a Tribunal Facebook page.

He claims he has aboriginal ancestry. He dons a Fidel Castro type cap, is clad in khaki clothes with an Australian Aboriginal flag badge sewn on the breast and he sports a Fidel Castro beard. He is calm, cool and does not flinch at his critics.

I don’t know where he popped up from. He says he made a single visit to Bougainville, a lone trip that has convinced him that he knows Bougainville well enough to insert a Tribunal there to disable the culprits responsible for the island’s demise.

He has some strange ideas about what might be best for Bougainville. He impresses me as someone who has probably been wandering around admiring rock drawings in arid caves and sacred aboriginal sites and suddenly thinks he is sufficiently indigenous to transplant himself into another traditional society like Bougainville.

Clive Porabou is the next best thing to cheese, biscuits and shiraz. Just as these tasty and intoxicating items make party conversation flow freely, Clive's presence and discussion with the likes of the people I have mentioned above make their adrenalin flow from both excitement and anger.

Clive lives abroad and, for those who have no personal experience on Bougainville, he is the Bougainville expatriate expert who satisfies the appetite of a certain mould of Australian academic, environmentalist, social psycho and welfare benefactor.

Always with an acoustic guitar in hand, he longs for the day when Bougainville might be governed by Me'ekamui, financed by Noah Musingku’s new Bougainville currency.

Hearing from Clive is enough to convince most non-Bougainvilleans that they have a duty to rescue Bougainville from bondage, and the government outfit to accomplish this is the version of Me'ekamui that Clive peddles abroad.

In truth, the Me'ekamui in central Bougainville have been consulting and beginning to work and cooperate with the Autonomous Bougainville Gobvernment (ABG), which was always bound to happen.

I can't be too critical of Clive, because in his heart of hearts he will always remain a true Bougainvillean, but suspicious of his expat friends. It suits him fine if they are gullible enough to believe him, because as long as this unfortunate business lasts, he can continue to enjoy peace and a relatively convivial lifestyle offshore.

Take heart, the reason why most Bougainvilleans won't whinge about, or flinch at, research that is carried out overnight from abroad is because it's not worth the paper it's written on.

If you were to enter the same Bougainville communities in the same locations and conduct your own research to extract a ‘yes to mining’ response, you would get it. It really depends on how the comments and questions are framed. The Jubilee research is simply a means to an end.

Jubilee, Kristian, Andrew Jones and all of these parties will always support such research and support each other. They are birds of a feather, flocking, scheming and screeching together. As some Bougainvilleans have commented in the Bougainville Facebook forum, this is all “bullshit”.

The ABG must make the Australian government aware that Jubilee is going to the Australian Parliament entirely of its own accord, without the knowledge, authority or respect of the ABG and most Bougainvilleans.

If we are not careful and if the ABG turns a blind eye, the confusion, disunity and anger these people can generate could pit Bougainvillean against Bougainvillean, community against community, clans and families against each other, and even the people against their leaders and government.

These are people coming into a society they really don't know much about or understand. They are attempting to ride roughshod over the programs and projects the ABG and landowners have been involved in towards resolving every issue in Panguna.

There has been steady progress towards addressing many outstanding Panguna grievances that affect everyone, not just the sampling of villages Jubilee has selectively interviewed.

There are senior ministers in the Abbott government, like foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, who always have an ear and heart for Bougainville. There is no reason why the president and senior bureaucrats who have the carriage of different aspects and areas of discussion over Panguna, e.g. Steve Burain, Raymond Masono and advisers like Dr Naihuwo Ahai, cannot approach Canberra and confront the Jubilee research.

This is how absurd it is: Jubilee operatives come to Bougainville, do their fact finding visit up the road, fold up all the work and turn up in Canberra unbeknownst to ABG and most of Bougainville.

They do not even have the courtesy to call on the authorities on Bougainville to explain or share what they have done. If this is not conspiracy against ABG, for reasons only known to themselves, then I don't know what it is.

There is a real risk that foreign elements that have no responsibility or obligations on Bougainville and that are not accountable to anyone can derail fifteen years of peace process and reconciliation achieved without meddling from uninvited offbeat academics, latter day NGOs, busybodies and socialites that have nothing better to do in their own countries.

If they have nothing to contribute to their own governments and people, it is hard to accept the claim that their reconnaissance on Bougainville will enhance our future.

Comments

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Leonard Roka

Our problem, as Bougainvilleans, is not the re-opening or not of Panguna mine but of getting free from Papua New Guinea.

Bougainville suffers exploitation, indoctrination and genocide in this political status quo.

And for my wantok, Simon Pentenu, 'character assassination' is what this article portrayed. Of course. And this is trait of weakness to be a balanced by broad minded leadership from an elder of your stature.

But from all these comments here, and credit to Dansi Orerupeu, I see your skin has grown too deep over time.

Furthermore, we cannot let go of the past mistakes, which the current ABG leadership tends to be doing.

Our politics today is all to 'please PNG' who is the ruler behind the three killing agents of our Solomon Island of Bougainville and Bougainvilleans that are indoctrination, exploitation and genocide and not to pursue the right to be free that has cost us lost of lives and property since 1988.

But I feel your generation is not the generation that can let go the tether from the problem our northern Solomons faces for you are entangled in the past.

Vikki John | Bougainville Freedom Movement

Bougainville “...let not outsiders pit us against ourselves”. Excuse me, but aren’t BCL and Rio Tinto the outsiders that are pitting you against yourselves in Bougainville, Simon Pentanu?

Firstly, I would like to thank you Simon Pentanu for acknowledging me for the Jubilee Australia report “Voices of Bougainville”. I am over the moon!

“Voices of Bougainville, Nikana Kangsi, Nikana Dong Damana (Our Land Our Future) is a truthful and well researched report and I feel elated that you think it was part of my doing! Many thanks.

Simon Pentanu and whoever helps you with your research, you are totally wrong! Actually, I had nothing to do with the fabulous report by Jubilee Australia. Guess you should get your facts straight before accusing me, don’t you think?

As a very dear and respected friend of mine from Bougainville, who I sent the “Voices of Bougainville” report to, replied to me by email and said, “Congratulations to Jubilee Australia report. Momis and chair lady of BCL set up landowners association are great liars......The report is the truth of Panguna reopening. I give my endorsement and blessings to the committee. Don’t give up team. Vikki you too don’t give up.”

So Simon Pentau, whilst you now have included me as an instigator of the “Voices of Bougainville” report so incorrectly, I would like to know the following:

Why do you insist that “Jubilee is at the forefront and is in this for exposure and publicity, not for the benefit of Bougainville”?

You are not making sense. Why would anyone in their right mind in Bougainville want BCL and Rio Tinto back on Bougainville?

Have you read Paul Quodling’s book he wrote in 1991? The book is titled “Bougainville: The Mine and the People”.

In the back of the book are the appendices and at Appendix C you will see correspondence from the then Father John Momis (now your current President) to the author of the book Paul Quodling, the General Manager of Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) at the time. Would you like me to copy and paste it here for you? I will attach it at the end of my comments.

At page 90 of the book , John Momis says, “... The BCL mine has forever changed the perceptions, the hopes and fears of the people of Bougainville. You are invaders. You have invaded the soil and the places of our ancestors, but above all, your mine has invaded our minds.”

So, why now, has John Momis changed his mind about the Panguna mine? It does not make sense.

On page 91 of the book, John Momis again stresses his opposition to the Panguna mine. He says, “You have been so determined to take our earth and send it to Europe and Japan as quickly as possible, that you have created an operation on a scale which makes it overwhelming.

Because of that massive scale you pour fifty million tons of our earth into the Jaba River every year. Because of that massive scale, you have made such massive profits that our economy has been reduced to colonial dependence.”

So again, why do you want BCL back in Bougainville?

Even the response from Paul Quodling (BCL) to John Momis is definitely worth a read particularly the last paragraph. He certainly was a well regarded company man, or shall I say in today’s terms a capitalist corporate thug who had no respect for the environment or the people on Bougainville.

Yes, the shareholders of BCL and Rio Tinto were his friends, not the people of Bougainville. Money was all they thought about and still do until this day.

Yes Simon, I again thank you for your regard for me, so now I copy and paste your quote:

“There’s little I can say about Vikki John. I believe she’s relatively harmless because I understand she rarely expresses her own views, assuming she has some. Apparently, her function is to cut, paste and disseminate any anti-mining material she comes across, in order to alert poor, ignorant Bougainvilleans to the dangers of doing further business with notoriously nasty mining companies.”

Yes Simon, who needs a knife and fork? Use your fingers or chopsticks. Who needs gold or diamonds? If only those who wear it were aware of the devastation to the environment and humanity to have the gold or diamonds, they would soon realise they should not wear it.

In honour of my friends who died in Bougainville, thanks to BCL and Rio Tinto.

Peace be with you.

Dansi Oerupeu

I stopped reading this after the first two paragraphs. I just saw your attack on Clive Porabou. Man you have a hide, suggesting he is in bed with Noah Musingku. This comes from you, the man who made a mountain of money from U-Vistract. Aung bai yu tok wanem lo disla?

Not all us mountain people are as stupid as you think. For instance I was reading a book by Dr Patrick Gesch, and here is what he said about you and U-Vistract, and I quote "When the Ombudsman of PNG, Simon Pentanu, received K90,000 in an early return on his investment, it was a disgrace because he must have been aware of the nature of this pyramid scheme".

A disgrace, wise words.

And you talk about birds of a feather flocking together. Who do you flock with Simon?

Tell us about some of your friends, who pay you the big bucks (well, besides Noah Musingku). Mipla lo hia save long ol samting yu save mekim baksait lo mipla ol pipol lo hia.

Tell us about your consultancy work for Bougainville Copper Limited. Yes, your good friend Lawrence Daveona has told us all about it.

And tell us about your deal with Godfrey Mantle and the Mantle Group, that Queensland businessman who has grabbed 12,500 hectares of Bougainville.

You are certainly flying with an interesting flock Simon. BCL, Noah Musingku and Godfrey Mantle. You are a real nationalist.

Michael Lorenz

On their website, Jubilee invites us "to pray for long-term solutions to the global poverty crisis".

Fair enough I suppose. But their actions appear to belie their noble aspirations.

I mean, we won't have much progress in that direction if there is no copper to be had. Metals like copper are vital if we are to find solutions to the "global poverty crisis".

Given these realities, one has to ask why Jubilee appear to oppose the re-commencement of mining when it could be argued that mining is part of the solution to the problem that they ask us to pray about.

Next question... is Jubilee, therefore, part of the problem? :-)

By the way, I don't know that you can blame the socialist ideology for Kristian's obsession.

Socialism does not oppose mining per se, in fact many of that ilk have been in the mining business, and Trotsky, being a man of action, would have not have questioned the need to produce metal.

I think one needs to look elsewhere for the source of the bee in his bonnet.

Dansi Oerupeu

Usage of assumptions in this piece is just epic. And yet you cannot disprove the report's findings.

Still need to know where Momis and ABG got their 97% support from. Oh, wait a minute, isn't that a lie? Care to shed some light on this Mr Pentanu? Mining kasiampa!

Tampara Kamuno.

Peter Comerford

Congratulations Simon on a well written, thought provoking article, highlighting what many of us have always been aware of in our involvement with PNG: the opinionated 'experts', the naive 'do gooders', and the 'wannabes'.

I am no expert either and only spent several years on Bougainville.

I wonder historically how different things may have been if women (who I am led to believe were the landowners through matrilineal lines), had been the signatories on the original lease.

The women certainly seem to have a voice during the peace process.

Barbara Short

Thank you Simon for this brilliant summing up of all these expatriate "do-gooders" who really haven't got a clue.

I'm glad to hear you have a Bougainville Facebook Forum. I'm an Aussie Sepik who enjoys being part of the Sepik Region Development Discussion Forum on Facebook.

I've been a member for about a year now and learnt a lot how PNG works today.

Fortunately I have some of my ex-students, "senior Sepiks", who often comment on my comments and try to help me understand the situation today.

Aussies need to understand that PNG society includes some who are very well educated and many who are not so well educated and are still struggling to come to grips with the modern world.

They all have a vote on election day. The people who get elected to run the country include a few who are well educated and have plenty of savy plus many who are quite the opposite.

PNG will only survive if it can make things work with this mix of people.

I realise that you may not like to be lumped in with "PNG people" but I taught at Keravat NHS for 7 years so I naturally lump Bougainville in with PNG.

I apologise for Musinku - he was there after I left! I didn't teach him economics.

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