The evolution of the Bougainville Peace Building Program

By Eleanor Maineke

 The BPBP Interim Governing Council Members during the 1st Council Meeting on the 28th of September 2015 at the Lumankoa Conference Room in Buka.

The Bougainville Peace Building Program (BPBP) is a partnership program between the Australian’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

BPBP is funded through DFAT’s program Strongim Pipol Strongim Nesen (SPSN) and was enacted in November 2011 through a Bougainville Executive Council policy decision.

BPBP is currently operating out of its office located in Arawa, Central Bougainville.

BPBP, which currently operates out of an office located in Arawa, started as Panguna Peace Building Strategy in the year 2011 in Panguna district. It was focused in Panguna area because of the fact that Panguna was the epicentre of the Bougainville Crisis and was under the SPSN’s small grant projects.

As time went on PPBS stretched out to other districts of Bougainville to cater for all the districts especially in regard to outstanding crisis cases. Thus the PPBS was changed to BPBP in 2014 and was witnessed by the Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Julie Bishop MP, who was present at the Arawa Coordinating Office of Bougainville Peace Building Program.

During the time when the program was concentrated in the Panguna area, the governing body was called the Panguna Joint Supervisory Committee (PJSC) and was the decision making body for the project. The Committee consisted of the key stakeholders especially the Meekamui, Women’s representatives and the ex-combatants of the Panguna area and the then Mining Minister, Michael Oni, was the Co-Chairman of the Governing Council.

After the 3rd House of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville was elected, the Interim Governing Council of BPBP had their first meeting on the 28th of September 2015 at the Lumankoa Conference Room in Buka Island.

The emergence the coconut

Previously published was a legend of the emergence of the coconut palm recorded by a German professor, Ernst Frizzi, in 1911 when he travelled to Bougainville on an ethnographic expedition.

The following legend, from a mission magazine called ‘Kreuz und Charitas’ (File 17. Volume No. 1, Page 7 1908), deals with the same subject but tells a different story of the coconut.

A mother, whose name was Sikouna, refused to prepare the daily meal for her two sons Komarara and Komakiki.

Crying, the sons flew into a violent rage and killed their mother.

After her death the sons heard the voice of their mother. She wanted her corpse to be burnt.

“Burn my body,” she said, “but before you do tear out my heart and lay it out on the earth, and on where it is placed, erect a fence.”

The sons followed their mother’s instructions and a tree appeared that had never been seen before from the heart of their mother.

They tried the leaves, but they were inedible.

The tree began to bloom, they tried those blooms, and they too were not very enjoyable.

In place of the blooms small nuts appeared.

“We want to leave them until they became larger,” the boys said.

When they reached the size of a child’s head, they picked, opened them and found the inside filled with a liquid. They drank and found them very good-tasting and were very pleased.

The remaining nuts were left to hang, until they were fully matured and fell down. Again they opened one and found in it a good-tasting flesh.

They hid the nuts in the forest not knowing what they should call them.

Then a dog went past. He saw the nuts and said: “I want to eat these coconuts, if I could only break them open.”

“These are coconuts, coconuts!” the boys repeated.

The nuts grew into trees and carried fruits, which soon spread throughout the island.

Read more

War and peace: Struggles for development in Koromira

The warrior dance is a part of Koromira culture; traditionally performed for visiting chiefs or tribes.

Research conducted by Ishmael Palipal at the Divine Word University in Madang has revealed that ongoing disruptions to peace have hindered development in Koromira.

The paper, Factors contributing to the lack of community development in Koromira area, Central Bougainville, examines the factors affecting development in the village assembly located within Kododa constituency and Palipal interviewed 40 local people for his research.

Many local people have said conflicts, often driven by jealously, are holding back the community.

“Something is wrong with our mentality,” one local farmer said, “jealousy is the fuelling factor behind so much arguments on land other new things such as agriculture projects.”

“I have been working on my poultry project and recently some people cut and stole 5 of my chickens ready to be sold.”

A lack of adequate resolution for past conflicts, including actions during the Bougainville crisis, is also a constant disruption to harmonious relations in the community.

“We cannot do new things because some of our young people, who are dead now, have caused some problems in the past to other villages,” one community elder said.

“We are still working to repay them before we can establish things for ourselves, otherwise we will just waste our developments to their hands.”

“We have to lay low until reconciliation is done with them.”

Palipal’s research indicates that Koromira cannot move forward unless the past is left behind through reconciliation and the lasting peace it brings.

Read more

A sing-sing legend

Festively decorated house to celebrate a Sing-Sing. The adornment, consisting of coconuts, bananas, taro, etc. These fruits and some pigs will be distributed among the participants at the end of the festival. Festively decorated house to celebrate a Sing-Sing. The adornment, consisting of coconuts, bananas, taro and more.

This tale was recounted by Ernst Frizzi, a Professor from Munich, in his paper Ein Beitrag zur Ethnologie von Bougainville und Buka mit Spezieller Berucksichtung der Nasioi

A child’s parents had died and he was taken by evil foster parents who treated him badly.

Secretly the child went to Tutueu, the residence of the deceased, in order to look for his parents.

He came to the Oropera River and could not cross. However, he could see some deceased souls on the other side of the river, but he could not see his parents.

His mother spotted him though and, very pleased, she crossed the river to see her child.

The mother feared greatly for him because if the bad spirits saw him, they would kill him.

“Wait until night, then I want to take you home with me,” she told him.

“I can’t take you during the day because the bad spirits would kill you if they noticed that you were here but had not died.”

However, when the mother brought her child at night to her house, all the spirits became very excited, because they assumed immediately, that he must be a living child visiting his dead parents in their house.

The spirits surrounded the house and spoke to the family.

“Tsimate? (he died?),” they said.

Matesiu! (he did not die!),” his mother and father responded in unison.

The parents were now quite fearful that if Mamari, a bad spirit came, the child would be eaten alive and they therefore decided that the child return back again.

They gave him a bamboo flute, which at the time he didn’t know how to play so they taught him.

They emphasized though that he was not to make any noise on it, otherwise it would attract the spirits and this would expose themselves to the threat of being killed.

“Only when you are at home”, they said, “may you play on the flute”.

The child however disobeyed this advice and tried the flute well before. The spirit came and caught the child and the instrument.

However they did not harm the child. Thus flute-playing became known on earth, and to have a sing-sing without it is unthinkable.

Read more

The 25 year history of Rememberance Day

By Tevu Tenasi

May 17 1990 is one of the greatest events in the history of Bougainville, marked in the Bougainville calendar as Independence was declared.

In Arawa on that day the Late Francis Ona made the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, one which is only acknowledged by one party.

In 1997, the term Remembrance Day began to be used in order to depoliticise the occasion and ensured respect was paid to the lost on all sides.

Since then the Remembrance Day was relatively quietly observed over the years, until 17 May 2013 when Bougainville President, Chief Dr John Momis announced at the the 23rd anniversary of UDI that the date was to be gazetted as a public holiday.

The following year, in the early hours of 17 May 2014, Bougainvilleans observed the 24th UDI in remembrance to the Bougainville Crisis fallen heroes.

A gun salute in the early hours was done in Arawa town and also other similar celebrations were held in Bel Isi Park in North Bougainville and also in Buin.

In South Nasioi constituency an occasion was held in Sianare village highlighted by a flag raising ceremony and other traditional dancers especially from the Kurai Primary School Students. The students had a chance to be informed about the significance of the event.

A speech from the Paramount chief of the community was delivered encouraging students to pursue education as a vital tool for future development in the region.

Today while we salute our fallen heroes and remember the lives lost, we also ought to teach Bougainville history to our children so that they don’t go off track.

Read more

Koromira gold hunter to return after 8 years in Panguna

By Leonard Fong Roka

Nearly every educated man or woman from a college or university returns to go job hunting after completing their years of studying or job training, but this was not so for Joe Onake of Koianu Village in the Kokoda Constituency of Central Bougainville. He is satisfied.

“I was in Port Moresby and heard people making a fortune in alluvial gold mining around Kieta, especially Panguna,” he recalled.

“I decided I need to partake in all these activities. Life needs experimentation to make it realistically enjoyable.”

Joe Onake left Arawa High School in 2000 and headed for Port Moresby where joined the Catholic Church Don Bosco Society completing his secondary studies and holding dreams of becoming a missionary within the congregation.

He continued here, undergoing the teacher training with minors in electrical studies. But upon his graduation in 2007, instead of a job hunting spree, and with flaring tales of alluvial mining in the Panguna District in his ears, he purchased a gold weighing scale and flew into Bougainville.

“I did not go home to Koianu,” he said, “But I hung out in Arawa with a little cash and began buying gold from people from Panguna, Evo and Kupe.”

“I made some money here on the streets of Arawa and also made a few friends especially from the Panguna District. Then slowly I entered the Panguna District itself.”

Digging for gold at Panguna, the mine site, was too difficult though for Joe Onake.

“I saw up at the mine site that panning was too difficult and went into the Tumpusiong Valley or the tailings area of Panguna,” Onake said.

“I spent nights with friends, woke very early and began buying their gold dust and so on.

“When the cash went out I came down to Arawa or Buka and sold the gold and returned back to Panguna and did the buying all over again.”

Gradually, Joe made friends with the locals and the Nagovis people. He even got married to a woman form Takemari Village in Nagovis whom he met panning for gold in the Tumpusiong Valley.

By 2011, Joe Onake had made his fortune of over K100,000 and was still going on. Slowly building his reputation has a gold buyer with always-available cash on hand for the miners in the Tumpusiong Valley.

Along the way he also began to pan regularly to support his stay in the place he does not belong to. He dug for gold and then bought it himself to cater for his food and travel funds.

In late 2015 Joe Onake, with almost double his 2011 earnings, decided to look for a job and a settled life outside of gold panning.

“There are attractions of the gold rush in Torokina,” he said, “but I am now not interested to venture further.”

“I am growing old and need to go back to Koianu and building my home with the fortune I have made so far.”

Joe Onake is just one such man making a fortune while away from home in the many erupting alluvial gold mining sites around Bougainville. It is not only Bougainvilleans that crisscross their island. Many from across the Solomons are also making a fortune here.

He is now selling his few old belongings, a shelter he built to live in and a few tools, to the other mining people.

Read more

ABG and national electoral body sign agreement for 2017

By Winterford Toreas

PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato signing the MOU in Buka last week. PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato signing the MOU in Buka last week.


Preparations to conduct of the 2017 National Elections in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville have been boosted with the recent signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Papua New Guinea Electoral Commission and the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

This small but significant ceremony which took place last week in Buka was facilitated by the PNG Chief Electoral Commissioner, Patilias Gamato and, the acting ABG chief secretary, Paul Kebori.

Speaking after the signing of the MOU, Mr Gamato said this event marks another important occasion between PNGEC and ABG.

“The MOU is for us to use the public service machinery or staff within the Bougainville government to conduct the election,” Mr Gamato said.

“As you all know, the PNGEC does not have all the staff and the resources and so what we have normally done in past elections is to use the staff from the provincial governments or provincial administrations throughout the country including Bougainville to conduct the elections.

“This MOU strengthens that working relationship,” Mr Gamato continued,” and what we also want to see under that MOU is that they start having the election steering committee.

“[This] is normally chaired by the provincial administrators or, as in Bougainville’s case, the chief secretary or deputy chief in the province in charge of the public service, so they can start planning the conduct of the 2017 elections.”

Mr Gamato said this MOU, which will also be signed with other provincial administrations in the country, was also very important because it will also enable stakeholders from other government departments operating in each respective provinces like the police, defence and NBC radio stations to also contribute to the staging of the elections.

He also commented briefly on the need to fully establish the provincial election steering committee in Bougainville, before adding that a provincial awareness committee should also be established to start utilising recognized materials to conduct awareness throughout Bougainville.

Mr Gamato thanked the ABG for signing the MOU before adding that PNGEC will continue to work with ABG in preparing for the 2017 National Elections.

The Acting ABG Chief Secretary Mr Paul Kebori has assured Mr Gamato that ABG public servants will be allowed to participate in carrying out duties and responsibilities pertaining to the staging of the national elections in Bougainville.

Read more

Community development in mountains lags behind coastal regions

Recent research by a final year student at Divine Word University has suggested that the diverse geography of Central Bougainville can play a major role in the varied levels of community development in the region.

The research paper, Factors contributing to the lack of community development in Koromira area, Central Bougainville by Ishmael Milton Palipal, found that there is a discrepancy in the perceived level of community development between coastal and mountainous areas in Central Bougainville.

Palipal’s research involved interviews with a sample of 40 people from Koromira, a village assembly in Central Bougainville that has both coastal and mountain areas.

One common concern expressed by many of interviewees was that people in mountain areas have less access to roads and other crucial public services.

“Currently, all the needed services such as good road, school infrastructure, mission infrastructure and health facilities are been slowly established along the coastal areas,” a community nurse told Palipal.


“Even most of the community government events like major celebrations are hosted along the coast.”

A grade 10 student from the mountains of Koromira reiterated this view. “Most of the government activities a based around the coastal villages only and the mountain villages exist like abandoned places,” the girl said.

The coastal areas are also more conducive for the growth of cash crops, which has led to greater development in those areas.

“In terms of economy growth, cocoa and copra are mostly grown by the coastal people,” said a businessman.

“Those that do not have lands in the coastal area are less well off than the coastal people.”

Palipal hopes that by understanding the issues that exist in the Koromira area and beyond, strategic solutions can be developed and implemented to overcome them.

Read more

Searching for Peace

By Ishmael Palipal

Peace, Peace, Peace

If peace is on the worlds’ stock markets
I can rob all the money in the world just to buy more
If peace is gain through killing people
I would sign up to kill every human race on earth
If peace can be found by travelling the world
I would travel the world restlessly for more

If peace can be found in corruption
I would be the worst corrupter in the world
If peace can be found in the sun
I would travel to the sun
If peace is found in sexual immorality
I could be a sex machine

But if peace can be found in honesty
Can I be the honest person in the world?
If peace is found in respecting others
Can I be the respectful man on earth?
If peace is found in love
Can I be the one whose love covers the sea?

If peace is earn by giving
Can I give to those who are needy?
If peace is found in unity
Can I break up my boundaries to unite?
If peace is found in equality
Can I distribute things equally?

If peace is found in truth
Can I be an honest guy ever lived?
And if peace is found in God
Can I be one to be called his son
Or where can I find that thing called


Read more

A cry in the heart of a Panguna saw miller

By Leonard Fong Roka

My uncle Steven Domiura is just 32 years of age and over this relatively short period of time he has witnessed the burden that local population growth has put on the few forest resources that his communities in the Tumpusiong Valley of Panguna District can reach to improve their living standards.

A trip to mill my timber at Nakorei Village in Buin last December was a cry in his heart.

The hardwood tropical tree (called bee in Nasioi, tolas in Buka or Moikui to the Buin people) is a sought after tree for building homes across Bougainville. It is sawn raw or felled and left to decompose its outer bark and expose the hardwood and timber millers love it since their chainsaw reaps the tree easily despite its hardness and weight.

In the Upper Tailings zone of the Tumpusiong Valley this valuable timber tree, both those matured and standing and those felled many years ago and laying on the ground, have now disappeared. There are a few still buried in the Panguna mine created tailings of the Tumpusiong Valley but that will take some period to await erosion to expose them for the timber hungry Tumpusiong people.

Since getting his chainsaw four years ago, Domiura had not touched a bee in his timber milling career at home, but a trip to Nakorei Village was mesmerizing as he was hopping for four days from bee to bee, around the tiny hamlet of my in-laws.

“In Panguna today we have the money or have easy access to cash but no tree to cut and mill timber to build our homes,” he said in Buin.

“Unlike up at Panguna, the people at Nakorei village struggle a little to make money but they have the resources like the jungle to help them improve their living standards.

“In Buin’s Nakorei Village everywhere you look there is a moikui lying on the ground or standing in the forest waiting to be milled for timber, but in Panguna every maturing tree is felled day by day to meet their needs.”

Most people in the Panguna District now go searching for timber into the Bana, Siwai and Buin Districts of South Bougainville. At home most are penetrating deep into Bougainville’s mountain backbone the Crown Prince Range, while others travel north on the east coast of Bougainville as far as Wakunai District for timber. Others are growing their own trees or buying timber at the many timber yards in Arawa Town.

For Steven Domiura and his chainsaw Nakorei Village was a shock. Out of the 350 pieces of timber on my list he milled 230 pieces in four days, intermittently giving way to the downpour of rain.

‘The bee here is too much,’ he was joked, “in the kitchen huts, under all these sago thatched homes they lay waiting for a chainsaw to cut them up.”

“In the gardens and the cocoa plots the timber hoisting trees are there.”

“Many of these trees, felled some years back, have decomposed their outer softer skin layers and are now dry that the chainsaw has no difficulty penetrating the bole so I have the efficiency to get more timber in a day.”

Steven and his machine will be back in Buin in February to complete his contract of milling my timber for a house in Buin and continue onto extracting timber for a house in Panguna.

Milling timber in Buin for Panguna has its own costs especially transport from Buin to Panguna that is about K1000. Getting Steven to Buin from Panguna costs some money. His chainsaw hire goes for a K150 per day and the operator goes for a K100 per day including his assistants.

The chainsaw’s fuel and lubricants gets a toll on pockets. In Arawa petrol hangs around K5 per litre and the pre-mix goes to K6 and in Buin it goes up to K6 per litre and the premix goes to K7. While the 2-stroke oils to mix with the petrol vary in accordance to their container sizes.

The engine oil to cool the cutting chain is the most expensive item so most rural chainsaw operators now prefer cooking oil for their machines, but nothing should come in between to bringing a chainsaw man from Panguna to Buin.

There is a belief, perhaps embellished, across the timber milling populace of Bougainville that a chainsaw man from an environment with no trees will kill any tree with more efficiency than the chainsaw man from the tree-rich environment.

Read more