LUKE Maneu of Siwai in south Bougainville successfully operated a retail outlet in Buka Town from 2009 until 2011, when the Asian influx and affected his operations leading him to venture into other businesses including operating a PMV service and a guesthouse.
“Bougainville is such a small place that needs us, the indigenous people, to be in charge of development in terms of business and other economic activities,” Luke told me.
“The ABG and our MPs in the national government should be the ones pushing the laws and systems to create an environment conducive for the localisation of all cottage industries.
“With the Asian entry into Buka Town,” he added, “my business was harmed along with other businesses owned by fellow Bougainvilleans. Customers left us for the cheaper Asian goods.
“Our shops are said to be expensive because we do not have an entrepreneurial or business culture.
“Thus we are learners who need time and government input to make things right for our services to the Bougainvillean public,” Luke said.
“‘I am moving into other areas to save myself from succumbing to the Asian takeover. I am safe for the time being.”
To Bougainvillean businesses time is not with us. Soon we will see more Bougainvillean businesses leaving the scene because they cannot stand the might of all these Asian operations.’
After talking with Luke, I visited a few other Bougainvillean business houses - Wedelyne, JN Trading, TM Trading, Haput Clothing, Maia Clothing and Evokong. They all shared the same fear.
Asian operations are competing aggressively and taking over business activities they have been involved in.
“We heard that the ABG was inviting Asians to work in multi-million kina impact projects like the Torokina oil palm,” Chris Haput of Haput Clothing told me.
“But we were amazed to see them setting up tiny retail booths everywhere.
“From one or two booths they spread all over Buka Town, grabbing and renting large buildings from Buka people.”
Haput Clothing operates next to one of the many Asian BCM Trading retail outlets legally owned by a Siwai lady, Mary Lyn, who is a second wife of a Chinese named Lyn.
“Mary Lyn is our neighbour and best friend,” said Nathan Haliken of JN Trading. “She knows Asians wants to make money in Bougainville and, despite being the legal director, she has not much power over the BCM trading retail outlets spreading around Buka Town.”
Evokong and Maia Clothing, both originally from Kieta, have a business presence in Buka and Arawa and admitted their operations in Buka Town had shrunk in terms of daily takings in the face of cheaper goods offered by the Asian business operations.
Wedelyne, a local Buka business, were emulating Luke Maneu’s survival strategy and had ventured into PMV and taxi services and a retail outlet.
Many Bougainvillean businesses, whether owned by Buka islanders or Bougainville mainlanders, feel operating in Buka is not worth it and are starting to move to the mainland.
Here, Asians were invited but, if seen to be going off-track, they were kicked out.
At Toniva near Kieta, Asian businesses have already faced a first wave of attacks by locals and reports suggest there may be worse to follow.
Last weekend Asians in Buka Town, warned that certain businesses were targeted for attack by disgruntling locals, organised for police surveillance at BCM Trading.
The story around town is that the Buka Police has been penetrated by Asian tycoons.
Anti-Asian feeling is growing amongst Bougainvillean business houses and ordinary people in Buka. Time will tell us the next move.