PACIFIC: by John Momis, Governor of BougainvilleNews Weekly
After the civil war: Bougainville looks ahead
, October 20, 2001
After a 10-year war between separatists of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the central government of Papua New Guinea, causing thousands of deaths, a negotiated ceasefire was reached in 1997. This culminated in the re-establishment of an autonomous government of Bougainville, which remained within the nation of Papua New Guinea.The Governor of Bougainville and former PNG Cabinet Minister, John Momis, delivered this address on the future for Bougainville at Victoria University, Melbourne, on October 2, 2001.
I now find myself in the midst of my people in search of a new identity, an identity that encompasses the best of our traditional values and modern practices which are relevant to the felt needs and basic aspirations of the emerging Bougainville society.
We believe we have identified the root causes of the hardships and negative influences which are impeding the proper development of our people and country.
At this time, our people are going through some of the most difficult times in our recent history. Whilst some of the problems are due to natural causes, most - like corrupt practices, misuse of public office and funds, and the consequent breakdown in law and order - are man-made, and we only have ourselves to blame.
Despite circumstances which may not seem conducive to healthy socio-economic and political development, we as people of faith must rise above the seeming sense of hopelessness and instil hope and confidence in our future.
The Bougainville crisis was a rebellion against many years of colonial and neo-colonial systems and policies of government that marginalised and disempowered the people.
After the war, despite Bougainville's contribution to the national purse, through its coconut and cocoa plantation revenue, the Australian Government treated Bougainville as an outpost compared with other provinces whose contribution was less.
Without the Missions, which made a tremendous contribution in terms of health and education and spiritual development, Bougainville would not have achieved what it was able to achieve under difficult circumstances.
It was the Missions which, through their educational programs, raised the critical awareness of the people with respect to land rights, environment, natural resources and other social justice issues.
In 1975, just before Papua New Guinea's political independence, the people of Bougainville declared their independence from Papua New Guinea when the central government under Sir Michael Somare abolished the provincial government system from the independence constitution.
At least this provision would have given Bougainville a certain measure of autonomy to manage its own affairs within the constitutional framework of the sovereign nation of Papua New Guinea.
In 1976 Somare, realising the political blunder he had committed, decided to grant Bougainville provincial government status and undertook to devolve powers progressively to the government of Bougainville.
This, unfortunately, did not happen, due to the lack of political will and the moral courage to implement the decision of power-sharing.Different
Historically Bougainvilleans always had a sense of being culturally, geographically and ethnically different from other Papua New Guineans.
They felt that the central government failed to affirm them as important stakeholders in its development programs and strategies, and they were made to feel at the mercy of highly centralised and bureaucratised government, insensitive to their felt needs and basic aspirations (and aloof from the people who are the resource owners).
The immediate causes of the Bougainville conflict of 1988-97 involve local land owner resentment of the impacts of the giant copper and gold mine at Panguna, in the mountains of central Bougainville, from 1972-89.
Heavy-handed responses by police riot squads, and later the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, created ethnic tensions and separatist demands once again.
Even though a great number of Bougainvilleans wanted independence and nothing else, the combined leadership of Bougainville managed to convince their constituents to negotiate more autonomy, a deferred conditional referendum on independence, and disarmament, which was achieved after numerous peace initiatives and agreements and lengthy and difficult negotiations.
The Bougainville peace agreement is the embodiment of the kind of vision of the kind of society we want to create for ourselves, a just society embracing the best of our human values.
We stand at the threshold of a new political structure, based on a new socio-economic order.
This agreement is not
just another agreement; rather, it is a new covenant washed in the blood of so many of our people of both sides of the conflict - between 15,000 and 20,000 - who died during the crisis.
It is a contract that offers a new promise, a new hope to our people who have been structurally and attitudinally marginalised and disempowered.
We have been victimised by existing structures that sacrifice human dignity and human participation in the interest of economic rationalism, which promotes the benefits of the few at the expense of the majority, for the sake of a highly centralised and bureaucratised government.Agents of change
The comprehensive Bougainville peace agreement offers a new paradigm shift, that liberates our people from the syndrome of dependency and powerlessness, and empowers them to become active agents of change and development and be both subject and object of development.
On August 30, 2001, Bougainvilleans celebrated the dawn of a new era, an era that offers new opportunities, new challenges, a new potential that must be actualised for the common good.
This new contract which has been painstakingly negotiated and agreed between the people of Bougainville and the Government of Papua New Guinea, is a commitment to enable the people to manage their own affairs and determine their own destiny.
At this time, Bougainvilleans embarked on a new revolution, a revolution with a difference, a revolution of peace, justice, and integral human development.
We are called to stand up and make a difference in the world; to reject violence, greed, and ignorance, and to espouse justice and peace and human dignity.
The new political régime rejects the concept of unity in uniformity, and promotes unity in diversity, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, which stipulates that the central government must not usurp the role of the autonomous government.
It makes the people of Bougainville active stakeholders with the national Government in the all-important national enterprise of nation building and sovereignty.
The parties negotiated this peace agreement in a typically Melanesian way of reaching decisions, through consultation and consensus.
In this way, new common grounds accommodating the interests of the parties different from the original diametrically opposed positions of adversaries have been developed through fermentation of concepts and ideas.
Hence the comprehensive political agreement on referendum, arms disposal and autonomy.
As Bougainvilleans, we ought to thank different people and organisations for their contributions. On behalf of the people of Bougainville, I, as the Governor, wish to formally thank the governments of Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and the United Nations.
And last but not least, I wish to acknowledge the contributions made by European Union countries, and other donor countries like Japan, the churches, chiefs, women, ex-combatants and the people of Bougainville towards this significant achievement in history of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.Principles
After the signing, we have begun an intensive program to inculcate Christian and democratic principles and values. Instead of resorting to violence we must resort to democratic means to resolve our differences and conflicts.
We must have policies and strategies to create an egalitiarian society in which every man's, woman's and child's needs will be met.
The success of this epoch-making deal will depend on the partnership and mutual co-operation of the national Government and the people of Bougainville.
Before the crisis, Bougainville had one of the best provincial governments that led the way in providing capable, political leadership that was responsible for effective and efficient administration and economic growth.
However, the crisis has caused the loss of infrastructure, government institutions, businesses and other income-generating activities.
Finally, let us thank and praise God, our Creator, who in His wisdom and discretion opted to invite us to be His co-creators charged with the responsibility and privilege of bringing justice and peace and a new creation into our world.