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11 November 2015

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As an individual, I am not much convinced at all that citizens of the region will differ much with the achievement of political independence spiritually, morally, socially, intellectually, and in other ways, now and in the future.

Just like everybody else, citizens of the region seem to be no better than any other Papua New Guineans in the web of pursuits of consumerist lifestyle and/or commodification of all aspects of life in general.

The evidence is there as clear as the sky above for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. To my mind, the way forward for Bougainville is by "rising". Let us all rise and, in fact, all of PNG needs to rise.

By rising, we substantiate whatever our dreams may be towards achieving a more truer sense of justice, both for ourselves as individuals and, towards others.

Only in this way, to my mind, autonomy or independence achieves substance in order for it to be meaningful and to be lived meaningfully.

Only in this way, true self-knowledge becomes authenticated in relation to peaceful co-existence with others. Only in this way, one's future is constructively woven in light of one's past and living tradition.

I've re-posted these comments I made on New Dawn FM site sometime ago with the intention of inviting some critique from different perspectives.

I would appreciate critique from those who think that ARoB should become independent and those who think union with PNG is still a much better or realistic option in the longer term.

Reflections from 'Devil's Advocate' on Referendum and Independence. Lummani, J. Oct. 17, 2015

It is always better for Bougainville or any part of the great nation of PNG to remain an integral part of it. In fact, already enough rights and freedom are accorded by the national constitution to citizens to follow whatever lifestyles collectively or individually aspired to and, even more so, for the ARoB inhabitants under the arrangements being agreed upon with the national government.

Really, independence, considered at a more basic level of peoples' existence is not the answer to the kind of basic issues that families grapple with in their day to day livelihoods, including, for example, moral issues or poor material standards of living.

In fact, it might even somehow lead to accelerated changes in a direction opposite to whatever cherished expectations and dreams of the people: development is not just about roads, bridges, fancy looking buildings, etc. In this, citizens of the region would rightly reflect if the rights and freedoms they have, have been used wisely and to what extent in the pursuit of individual or cooperative-based aspirations before the war.

Meanwhile, the ideological views of the leadership of the region ought to be respected as part of a proven living tradition in the national history of Papua New Guinea, while an ideology which is self-destructive such those being expounded upon by some sections of the ARoB community must be opposed.

In this regard, ABG is the only legitimate organization in the region with sanity. This sanity seem to have departed other organizations in the region, while some groups tend to sound nostalgic in terms of some kind of societal arrangements being yearned for and for living a lifestyle based upon some envisioned foundational values of their kind of society being yearned for.

For these people, their hopes and dreams are legitimate and have always remained secured, enshrined in the national constitution which, I believe, had been modelled upon in the region's constitution.

They can make of it what they can knowing that, in practice, the national constitution had not really guided overall development in the country, as would have been expected, especially from the mid 1980s on.

Awareness

There need to be a very good awareness among the people in order for them to make a well-informed choice in an atmosphere totally free of intimidation of any form.

This awareness should include communications not only about what the BPA says or proposes to Bougainvilleans but also about what independence is and what it means.

The advantages and disadvantages of independence including potential consequences should be explained clearly to the people and questions raised answered adequately with an open mind.

It must be that, I think, some views contained in the report compiled by the PNG parliamentary delegation in the immediate aftermath of the war which gazed the views of the majority in support of independence, are more of a by-product of an euphoristic atmosphere of the time and, as such, need to be treated with caution.

Emotional stability is needed for people to think properly and see what really matters in relation to merely passing whims. In fact mental rehabilitation for most people is a drawn out process but it is good to see many coming good at least outwardly.

Reasons for Independence

The eventuation of the events in the region is normally presented in a historical context in academic discourses.

From this perspective, protests toward the central government and thoughts about potential political independence are said to have been in existence before the arrival of the mining activities on the island.

The historical cultural and socio-political experiences of the people are said to have contributed to the crystallization of their self-consciousness as a distinctive group of people.

However, I believe every group in PNG would have had similar experiences in the context of their own particular histories in the process of realizing PNG's nationhood.

Therefore, the question of 'why people want independence' after all should be asked, and I think, this will help force people to achieve some level of clarity in their thoughts and thinking instead of reacting most times from unsettled emotional sentiments.

One would expect that some would come to realize that what they first thought were strong and good reasons for desiring independence were perhaps not so in fact.

It is generally held that subsequent inadequate impact development activities (especially those ensuing from the BCL mine), acted as a catalyst to thoughts about self-determination formerly held and, activated the drive towards its materialization.

In this is said to have been a felt sense of injustice on the part of the immediate resource owners, as well as the then provincial government at the time.

However, the fact is, a lot of our brothers and sisters in other parts of PNG were somewhat less fortunate than we were, in terms of availability and access to basic socio-economic services.

Many of us did not appreciate this fact because we have never witnessed such situations ourselves. It is good to see so many young people from the region travelling to other parts of the country after the war and getting an experience of life elsewhere.

I believe many of these young people will feel more conscious of being Papua New Guineans. As Sir Michael Somare put it: "if you don't feel like a Papua new Guinean, nobody will turn you into one", esp. in a nation of thousand tribes and clans.

Unfortunately, currently, as all move on the road to referendum, the government of PNG seem to be making quite a mistake, by failing time and gain, in terms of showing that it still has the region in its union by honouring the BPA. This seems like a self-defeating strategy in terms of protecting national interests.

Ethnic Identity

Bougainvilleans are Melanesians with our brothers and sisters from Mortlock and Tasman isles of mixed Polynesian origin.

The people of the region are not a race apart or some distinctive minority group culturally and ethnically insulated from other Papua New Guineans.

This is an eternal fact. Papua New Guineans must learn to accept their differences including cultural and biological facts of life and build upon these a strong and powerful democratic nation while paying due respect to each other's differences.

Less ideological reasons, it sometimes appears as if we are trying to force a nation state based on crystallized group consciousness and identity born out of internalization of some primitive paternalistic comments from patrol officers during colonial days, which happen to contribute to the formation of peoples' self-image and identity.

Let us rise above trivialities of life and look to the future with hope for a much better culturally, morally, socially, economically and politically prosperous life in union with PNG and other people around us.

Preparedness for Independence

A crisis of value systems is somewhat tricky and more often than not riddled with hypocritical representatives irrespective of sex, age, etc.

Lots of people in the region are not really following 'common good' laws, as evidenced by very common sights of young people who resemble outlaws and heroes of all sorts.

An elite I met in Buka excused this behaviour by arguing it to have been a result of the harsh experiences people went through, which, therefore, would naturally disappear over time. Whatever the truth there be, facing a future with firm convictions is better than facing it like an empty drum.

This is a very big challenge not really pitting ourselves against the rest of PNG but, above all, to demonstrate to ourselves that we are worth what we have been given or our efforts in fighting for independence have not been in vain.

Independence will not mean anything if we cannot do better in administering our government and getting rid of bad attitudes of mind/habits of thought. We will not only be a laughing stock but look bloody stupid.

Economic Aspects

Most people probably think that an independent region would be financially better off with their own country, with resources like oil, minerals, marine products and tourism.

Looking at small and large countries around the world, there is no noticeable advantage or disadvantage to being a small country and that the residents of the region are hence unlikely to be materially affected in the long run by independence (at least in economic terms).

However, overall, in my view, independence seems to be more about self-image and identity (as noted above) than it is about money. '

Even though the push for independence might well be coming more from those (especially elites) that would gain prestige and income if they ruled an independent country, the population deciding on the vote will probably vote on emotional grounds, not economic.

This will see some who will vote to break away from the rest of the United PNG simply because they believe the people of the region should be independent, regardless of advantages or disadvantages, while others may adopt a more pragmatic approach.

Self-image and identity aside, the most arguable point is "whether independence for the region is good or bad". The most important discourse in this respect seem to be centred around the sovereign right of nations to self-determination.

This speaks to the fact that people must be actively allowed to practice their democratic rights in determining whether or not the current union with PNG is ensuring their best interests ideologically, politically and economically.

Let me end my remarks by saying that, "there is always strength in unity and trouble in break up. I believe Papua New Guineans have the courage, capability and capacity to forgive one another and face much greater challenges in the wider scientific, geopolitical & economic world".

God bless all. Thanks.

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