By Leonard Fong Roka
With social, economic and political changes ever blustering across the region, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) strives to keep pace with the rhythm of society and its citizens.
In post-crisis Bougainville the ABG must to maintain and nurture a cordial relationship with its people in an effort to affect peace building, unity and development.
The government must also attain a pacified political conversation on the troubled island through information provision and dredging.
There are people who dedicate their lives to play the part of wheels driving the government’s strategies and policies of change through the various ABG mechanisms like the ABG Bureau of Media & Communications.
One such ABG officer is the Panguna man, Tommy Alasia, Communication Officer of ABG print media paper the Bougainville Bulletin.
Mr Alasia oversees the collection of news, the publication and distribution of the paper that is freely disseminated across the island.
Born in March of 1988, with the sparks of the Bougainville Crisis sprouting high, Tommy Alasia grew up in his single mother’s care and love around the many places of the Kieta District and the Solomon Islands, where his mother travelled in response to the decade long civil conflict and PNG blockade of the island through the 1990s.
In 1992 Tommy Alasia was swept across the PNG-Solomon border for medication in Honiara and then, his health restored from paralysis, he began his primary schooling in Honiara.
With the peace process gaining momentum in Bougainville his mother brought him home in 1998 and in 1999 he began Grade 4 at school in Arawa.
He made his way through the education system until he entered the University of Papua New Guinea in 2009 and graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor Degree in Arts & Communications.
Soon after, seeing all the riches the PNG LNG project could offer, the young Bougainvillean was swept into the highlands of PNG in 2013 where he served the LNG project’s Community Affairs Department overseeing the stakeholder engagement office.
But home-sweet-home, Bougainville, was at the heart of this crisis child.
“For me there was no satisfaction of serving in these strange places, Bougainville was always calling somewhere in my heart for me to come home,” Mr Alasia said.
“This is something about most of us Bougainvilleans who had grown up during the 10-year civil conflict; we turn to think more about our beloved trouble torn island; there is satisfaction serving here.”
With that desire burning inside, he resigned in March 2014 from the PNG LNG Project and left for Bougainville and by August he entered his current ABG position running the Bougainville Bulletin news project.
“The Bougainville Bulletin was older than me,” he revealed, “it was in existence before, but under other names.”
“Such a medium was present as ABG was eager to bridge the information gap within Bougainville, where we see that our entire population seemed uninformed or unaware of what the government does and vice versa.
“I feel that such an issue of information gap is being filled in by Bougainville Bulletin.”
According to Alasia, the ABG made all attempts to promote the paper and it was not until third edition that his team spotted public acceptance.
“All editions had 20 thousand copies each,” he said, “so my team—including myself as the leader—toured Bougainville distributing the newspaper in about 12 days.”
“The west coast of Bougainville was missed in the early editions, but the third edition was the icebreaker into the area.
“I toured with about 800 copies of this ABG newspaper for Kunua, Kereaka, Torokina and Koiare and all the hinterland areas of those places.”
The people of Torokina were delighted when they received copies of the Bougainville Bulletin.
To Mr Alasia his distribution tours are actually bringing the ABG to the people who have long been neglected; with this free ABG newspaper, the government is visiting the people and creating its licence to operate in their midst.
“People we meet and hand them the newspaper are too proud to see one such newspaper,” Alasia said.
“Most of our people along the west coast had hardly seen a newspaper.
“They get so excited and had told us that they would be reading them all round till we bring them the next edition.”
But the ABG is not only paving its way into the hearts and minds of Bougainvilleans n the 43 Council of Elders (CoE)and the over 300 Village Assemblies (VA) they are touring, for the Bougainville Bulletin leader, Mr. Tommy Alasia, is crossing the Bougainville-Solomon border also with his papers.
Tommy Alasia is focused and determined that the ABG’s Bougainville Bulletin that features Bougainville general news, ABG updates, even major issues like the 2015 Bougainville General Election, issues on community and culture, various ABG departmental updates, various Bougainvillean districts updates and Bougainville sports be brought right throughout Bougainville and the areas that the issues affect.
Thus the fourth edition of the ABG newspaper, besides being made available online as a PDF edition, has reached out into the Bougainville’s sister islands of Shortland in the Solomon Islands.