Posts Categorized: History

The heavy civilian cost of WWII

The fighting and suffering of the Bougainville Campaign of WWII cost many soldiers their lives, but the people of Bougainville too paid a huge toll for the war fought on their soil, with the local population being reduced by as much as 25 per cent.

Fought from 1 November 1943 to 21 August 1945, the Bougainville Campaign saw troop casualties of around 1000 Americans, 43 Fijians, 52 Papua New Guineas, 516 Australian, over 300 New Zealanders and in excess of 18,500 Japanese combatants.

According to Hank Nelson’s chapter Bougainville in World War II from the book Bougainville Before the Conflict, post-war patrol reports identified a considerable drop in the local population and a high number of orphaned children as a result of the war, particularly in the Kieta and Buin areas.

When the first post-war census was done in 1950 it was determined that there was a population of 41,190. In 1940, three years before the effects of war were felt on Bougainville, the population had been measured at 49,067 and Nelson states that it was probably closer to 52,000 by 1943.

Nelson writes that “the war on Bougainville was as profound disturbing and destructive as anywhere in the Pacific.”

“The impact of the war on relations between Bougainvilleans was so profound that ceremonies of compensation and reconciliation for sides taken and things done continued until the late 1980s.”

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Contemporary topics present in old Arawa Bulletin issue

568-arawa-bulletin-march-1973As the revived Arawa Bulletin continues to deliver news to the people of Bougainville, an archived issue of the magazine from 1973 reveals similar issues were big news at the time.

Issue No.29 of the Arawa Bulletin, published on 2 March 1973, features a news item with President Momis.

At that time Momis was the Bougainville Regional Member of the House of Assembly, the legislature of Papua New Guinea under the Australian administration of the pre-independence era.

“The people of Bougainville must define their goals and how to achieve them before deciding on their political future,” Momis told the Arawa Bulletin  in 1973.

“Three of the Bougainville MHA’s (Lapun, Bele and Momis) have never said we do not want a referendum (on succession). I believe it is the right of the people to decide their own future.

“Any referendum must allow for three-way discussions between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments and the Bougainville people.”

The original Arawa Bulletin was a monthly magazine initiated by expatriates that began publication in the early 1970s and continued until the 1990 when the Bougainville Crisis forced its closure.

The periodical provided local news, features, opinion pieces, information on local events and was made possible by advertising from local businesses.

In 2013 a collective of Bougainvilleans, including Romulus Masiu of the Post Courier, decided to relaunch the Bulletin to once again deliver information on the local happenings in central Bougainville.

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AROB’s legacy of media transparency


Radio Bougainville was the eighth broadcasting station built by the Australian Administration in Papua New Guinea and was launched on 20 April 1968 following some weeks of testing.

The station, which later became part of the National Broadcasting Corporation, programmed news, music and information for its listeners.

It aimed to inform the people of activities the government was undertaking and was an important source of information for people across the region.

The station was officially opened by Assistant Administrator Les Johnson, who later became the last Australian Administrator of Papua New Guinea before independence.

Keith Jackson, station manager at Radio Bougainville from 1970 to 1973, says perceptions of the station by the local people changed greatly during his time there.

“Bougainvilleans are great people and even back then were very tuned in to current affairs,” Jackson said.

“Initially the people around Kieta wouldn’t let their young people join the radio station, because it was seen, and rightly so, as a propaganda machine for the Administration.

“We started to take their views into account and broadcast programs and news that provided a balanced view of what was going on.

“Later we successfully recruited announcing staff from central Bougainville – I remember that Perpetua (Pepi) Tanaku was the first to join the station and she was a very popular personality.”

The station increased its broadcasting hours greatly, diversified its programming, sent recording patrols into the bush and saw its audience growing rapidly.

“We opened the station up to let people air their views and the response was overwhelming,” Jackson said.

“The news was straight down the middle, but our current affairs and audience participation programs offered a variety of views.

“On one program, Kibung bilong wirelesss, we would use material from cassette tapes people would send us as well as broadcasting their letters.

“At one point we were getting over 1,000 letters a month from listeners, often on political and social issues.”


One of the announcers who worked at Radio Bougainville at that time, Sam Bena (pictured, top left) is still on air as a member of the team at New Dawn FM. He has been involved in broadcasting as an announcer for more than 45 years

Radio Bougainville initially broadcast for 21 hour a week, which within three years had increased to 81 hours a week.

The station provided features on education, council news, health, agriculture and political education. Through Toktok Save vital local information was provided such as weather forecasts, copra and cocoa prices, land for lease and information that people wanted to communicate with each other.

Music was also an important part of the Radio Bougainville’s content and programs included Bougainville traditional music, string bands, hymn & choral requests, listeners’ requests, South Seas music, march with the band, latest releases and plenty of country music.

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Yamamoto crash site reopens for tourists after a decade of closure

By Ishmael Palipal


After 10 years of closure, Bougainville’s iconic World War II relic has reopened to tourists.

The crash site of the Mitsubishi G4M ‘Betty’, which carried the Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, is located at Kokopo village of Makis Constituency in Buin District.

Admiral Yamamoto was one of the Japanese masterminds of Pearl Harbor attack and was gunned down with his war plane on 18 April, 1943 by US forces, causing his plane to crash south Bougainville.

According to the landowners Chairman Mr Raphael Bakiri, before the crisis the Yamamoto crash site was one of the hottest tourism spots in Buin District.

He stated that the place took in many tourists every day and the villagers now want to revive that.

“The place was very restricted because it is on the border of two clans,” Mr Bakiri said.

“This caused a conflict, but after the recent reconciliation they are very happy to make revenue out of it in an equal basis.”

Chairman Raphael Bakiri standing at the side of the Bougainville Experience Tours hire car with Steven Tamiung of Bougainville Experience Tours.
Chairman Raphael Bakiri standing at the side of the Bougainville Experience Tours hire car with Steven Tamiung of Bougainville Experience Tours.

According to Mr Steven Tamiung of Bougainville Experience Tours (BET), the first Japanese tours will visit the Yamamoto site in the month of April. These are Nichibu Research Group who is already booked with BET to do a four day tour and Yamamoto site is their priority site to visit.

BET also stated that more interested requests for the site are coming in. One confirmed for June and July is Japanese Homestay documentary filming group.

Steven Tamiung stated that according to the villagers, Bougainville Experience Tours is the first and the only tourism consultants that the landowners are engaging to bring tourists to the Yamamoto site.

“The landowners are very happy to engage us to help bring in tourist to visit the site,” Mr Tamiung said.

“They have agreed to the price of K150 per head for international tourists to visit the site.”

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Australia’s development contribution on the rise

Koromira Primary School.

Bougainville has received increased funding support from Australia over the past five years according to a recent report from the Australian High Commission.

The report, Highlights of Australia’s development assistance to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, states that Australian assistance in 2013-14 reached nearly K100 million, having increased each year since 2009.

The funding provided to the autonomous region went towards the key areas of health, law & justice, governance and transport infrastructure.

Among the improvements in healthcare were new clinics, which were built in Buka, Arawa and Buin, and the provision of medical kits across the region. These medical kits contain essential supplies and were provided to 32 health centres, 162 aid posts and the Buka General Hospital.

Australia has committed to help Bougainville’s education system by reducing class sizes and improving the learning environment. Between 2012 and 2014, twenty primary schools benefited from the construction of a double classroom, teacher’s house, office and an ablution block.

These schools were located at Lemanmanu, Hahela, Ubuko, Kunua, Sohano, Iaun, Tekoknih, Koromira, Sipatako, Peter Lahis (Arawa urban), Tupukas, Wakunai, Asitavi, Kongara, Tabago, Iruh, Ugubakogu, Laguai and Tonu.

Law and justice is vital in Bougainville as a post-crisis region and Australian assistance has seen the construction and refurbishment of a number of police stations, court houses and centres for justice around the region.

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President says peace agreement conditions can be met before 2020

By Anthony Kaybing


The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) has said tha the conditions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) can and will be met by Bougainville within the next five years as a prelude to its referendum.

Autonomous Bougainville Government President, Grand Chief Dr John Momis, made the statement in reference to Bougainville’s referendum on independence and autonomy, which must be held between 2015 and 2020 as set out in the BPA.

The conditions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement are good governance, fiscal self-reliance and weapons disposal.

“We must not fear, we must have faith in each other and ultimately, of course, we must have faith in God to give us the wisdom and strength to prevail,” President Momis said.

“We have now reached a critical juncture on our journey to freedom, where we stand at the threshold of a new socio-economic, political and spiritual order.”

He added that this new future means Bougainvilleans will want to be liberated from structural impediments, from institutional impediments and become agents of change and development.

“We know for a fact for example that the people of Bougainville for a long time have always seen themselves as a people set apart from the rest of PNG,” the President continued.

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The bustle of the Buin Market

By Eleanor Maineke

The Buin Saturday Market, circa 1978.


Buin is the headquarters of south Bougainville and is situated on the sea border which Papua New Guinea shares with the Solomon Islands, extends to the Laluai River on the eastern side and borders with the Siwai District to the west.

In the 2011 National Census of Housing and Population, Buin District had a total population of 34,074 persons living under 7 Councils of Elders (COEs) and this has likely increased of the last 3 years. The district is the most populous of the four south Bougainville districts, the others being Torokina, Bana and Siwai.

Thursdays and Saturdays are Buin town’s two market days each week.

On these two days, folks from the west (Siwai & Nagovis) and the east flood in great numbers to trade at the Buin Market.

Neighbours from the Solomon Islands also join the commercial transactions, bringing their seafood catches to sell at the market.

The Solomon Islanders are the regular sellers of fish. They arrive on Thursdays and Saturdays with their baskets full of fish to sell. They also spend some of their money on products they have difficulty accessing on their islands, primarily store goods such as rice, tinned-meat and other household necessities.

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Kemuroi and the Buin kinship system

By Alice Peter

Kemuroi is a traditional concept that comes from the kinship system in Buin district and outlines acceptable marriage within the family bloodline.

The system, which would see first, second or third cousins getting married to each other, was upheld and prevailed in many communities, but nowadays due to modernisation it has disappeared.

Kemuroi is a term used amongst cousins who can marry each other. The Buin custom distinguishes between brothers and sisters differently. You will call your mother’s sisters “mother” and your mother’s brothers “uncle”. Your “uncle’s” children are your kemurois, meaning you can marry them.

This works in the opposite way on the father’s side.

The system existed to keep wealth within families and to avoid land fights amongst clans in the district. Clans would even start pairing children before they were born.

With the modern understanding of genetics there has been a transition of this tradition from a culturally accepted norm to being seen as primitive and an unacceptable practice.

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The tale of how Buka got its modern name

 By Maryanne Hanette


Buka is a town located on the southern coast of Buka Island, in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

It is the administrative centre of North Bougainville District and Bougainville Province and Buka Island is separated from the northern tip of Bougainville Island by the Buka Passage.

For a period after the arrival of Philip Carteret in 1768 the island was also known as Winchelsea.

As told by the elders of the Island, the name Buka originates from the indigenous word boka, which was used by coastal people of the island.

People in the past never knew anything about the white men and ships until the first contact with Europeans in 1768.

When they first saw the explorers and traders they were amazed and started shouting boka, boka,   asking themselves who these people were. In the Halia tok ples the word boka, when connected to a question, translates to what is it?

Resultantly the European explorers thought that the people said buka and so the place became known as Buka.

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Emperor Rangers lead contemporary music charge

By Tevu Tenasi

Back in the 1980s Bougainville had musicians who paved their way into the music industry within the Papua New Guinea and were also recognised internationally.

These included Ben Hakalitz, who played for the Sanguma Band, and Bernard Hanga, a well-known guitar wizard who played with the famous Aunge Punks.

A few others emerged through live performances like the Cotton 22 and the Black Temple.

Today, with normalcy and peace returned to the region, the Bougainville music scene has improved with an increased number of bands being formed.

Some of these talented young Bougainvilleans are those like Jordan Opeti and his brother Morris Opiri.

Jordan Opeti, who hails from Tinputz District in northern Bougainville, does not have any formal education, but has natural talent for creating music.

Jordan is the lead vocalist of the band called Emperor Rangers known well for their hit song “Aunge Mangi”, which dominated the Bougainville music chart in 2012.

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