Posts Categorized: Ex-combatants

John Roka’s final day

By Leonard Fong Roka

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On the morning of 18 March 1993, when my late dad John Roka was taken from our Pomong Hamlet in the Kupe Village for his second interview (this time the BRA men from Kupe and Pooma Villages who came to escort him away said it was BRA Chief Ishmael Toroama’s turn to interview him), dad wore simple clothing for his fateful date.

He had white pants, a blue trousers and a white t-shirt with some Australian designs in the front. He also had a finger-ring type rosary he was using for his prayers and a fancy wrist watch.

Kapanasi, a small hamlet in the Siae Village of North Nasioi Constituency, was the setting that day in 1993 for a BRA administered village court to settle issues amongst the locals of the Siae-Pooma area.

There were many locals gathered around. Amongst them were armed local BRA men who had curious eyes on him. Many want him dead, but he remained aloof for the moment; others hovered around him listening to his stories curious of what life was like in the PNGDF controlled areas, especially Arawa Town.

According to my mother, dad was so relaxed on his final day of life. He was there under the shimmering heat of the sun chewing betelnut with one of his killers, Hendry Dupinu, and others. They shared tales like old friends watching the day winding rapidly down.

During this sharing and friendly gossip my father removed his shirt and had it dangling down one of his shoulders.

Just as the people became bored and decided to make their way home, the perpetrators of my father’s death appeared down the road. Dad remained relaxed in prayer and David Lompu made it straight to my dad angrily, demanding he remove his wrist watch and asking him where he had come from and why.

After a stream of minutes struggling with my defensive mother, Steven Topesi had a bullet through his head and the man dad was sharing betelnut with, Hendry Dupinu, finished him off.

The second the BRA men appeared the entire Kapanasi Hamlet was deserted as people fled in fear. The few who stood by in shock were Mr Bario and his son Boirinu, residents of the hamlet, a handful of other relatives and two other Pooma villagers.

Seeing no one around, the BRA demanded the family to bury my father’s body in the hamlet lawn. But the family resisted that it was their home where their children play and live.

Thus the family, at gun point, collected pieces of my father’s brains and skull and wrapped them in his shirt. They then wrapped his body in a piece of broken canvass and laid him in their cocoa plot.

On the afternoon 9 October 2015, after reconciling with Steven Topesi, his brother Diutepa, David Lompu and a representative of Hendry Dupinu, the Bario family led the unearthing of my father’s remains.

The unearthing began from his leg-side of the grave.  Since the tomb was knee-deep originally, his lower leg bones appeared first. Slowly and carefully they removed all the earth and the blue canvass was seen by all.

The Roka family unearthed John Roka's bones in order to burn them in the custom of Kieta. The Roka family unearthed the bones in order to burn them in the custom of Kieta.

Bones that made up his toes and lower leg came up carefully. Then the canvass was opened and there dad’s 1993 shirt, short and underwear appeared intact. Only the skull was smashed by the impact of those 1993 gunshots. There was no bullet mark in the chest plate for a .22 hunting rifle was used by Hendry Dupinu.

“We are unearthing so many crisis victims, but I never ever seen one with all his clothes intact,” one attendee said to me.

“Your father’s case is different. All his clothes are still the same; you can wear them if you like.

“His bones are also reddish because of the blood that built up and decomposed in the canvass wrapping.

“In other parts we had collected entirely wide bones and absolutely no clothes in the tombs. Your father was a man of God and so was he innocent to die like this.”

Our family bathed the bones and packed them into a tiny coffin.  His clothes were also tucked away into a bucket afterwards and brought home to Panguna where we a keeping them for a proper burning in 2016 in accordance to our traditional customary practices in Kieta.

My late dad’s clothes will be burned with a little feast of burning (katee) alongside my daughter Dollorose Fong Roka’s collection of belongings by 17 or 18 September 2016, the first anniversary of her death.

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All open seats declared as count nears completion

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People throughout the region now know who their local representatives will be for the next five years as all open constituency seats have been declared in the 2015 Autonomous Bougainville Government General Election.

Only the Presidential seat and the Woman’s and Former Combatant’s seats in North and Central Bougainville are still to be decided, according to the results posted by the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner.

Incumbent President, Chief Dr John Momis, currently leads the presidential race with 48,852 votes  after first preference count number 106, which represents approximately 47.4 per cent of votes.

Ishmael Toroama and Sam Kauona are the next best positioned candidates with 16,101 and 12,367 votes respectively.

The Former Combatants and Women’s seats are more closely contested. The top two candidates in the North Bougainville Former Combatant seat are only separated by 87 votes after first preference count number 17.

It should be noted that all results and declarations provided on the OBEC wesbite are unofficial, provisional and are subject to change.

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Five MPs will not defend their seats

By Winterford Toreas


David Sisito will not defend his seat as a representative of former combatants, preferring to stand for election in South Nasioi

Five seats in Bougainville Parliament will not be defended by incumbent members at the 2015 general election.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that member for former combatants in central Bougainville and Minister for Veterans Affairs, David Sisito, will not defend his seat when polls open in May.

Mr Sisito, who is widely renowned in the region as one of the hardliners of the Bougainville Crisis, has now set his sights on the South Nasioi constituency.

Mr Sisito surprised many, especially the former combatants from central Bougainville, when he nominated to contest the constituency seat instead of defending his current parliamentary seat reserved for former combatant representatives.

Mr Sisito and seven others, including female candidate Ismenia Ketsin, will be trying to unseat current member an outspoken leader John Ken.

Sisito’s former combatant counterpart in south Bougainville, Michael Laita, has made a similar decision and will not stand as a representative of the former combatants, instead choosing to run for a constituency seat. Mr Laita will contest the Makis constituency seat currently held by ABG Minister for Lands and Physical Planning, Newton Kauva.

The other two candidates that are not defending their seats include the member for Nissan constituency in North Bougainville, Leo Hannett, and Kokoda constituency member, Joseph Bausina.

Mr Hannet the former Bougainville Regional MP in the National Parliament and current member for Nissan constituency is believed to have decided not to contest due to his advancing years.

The reason behind Mr Bausina not defending his seat is not known.

The fifth seat in the parliament which currently has a vacancy is the Bolave constituency seat in the Bana district of south Bougainville. The seat became vacant following the death of member Lawrence Wakai earlier this year.

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Former enemies leave the past behind to move AROB forward

By Gideon Davika

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J4.2 Holdings is a construction company operating in south Bougainville which is currently working on the publicly funded feeder road maintenance instigated by Governor Joe Lera.

The company is owned by former members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and Resistance Army, fighters from opposite sides of the Bougainville Crisis.

The former fighters have decided to forget about the past and move on to work towards developing Bougainville. They believe that if they kept thinking about the past and holding their old grudges, nothing will happen in Bougainville.

In an interview with some of the workers, they talked about how they used to fight with each other when they were not on the same side during the Crisis.

The bulldozer operator, who hails from Siwai, is one of those who joined the PNG Defence Force during the crisis. His hand was shot during an ambush setup by some of his co-workers at J4.2 Holdings, who were part of the BRA at the same time.

The company is now expanding and they want to show  others, especially those who are psychologically affected by the crisis, that it is time to forget about the past and move on to a new life. The past is gone and now is time to start a new Bougainville.

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Buin gold operation benefits ex-combatants

By Gideon Davika

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Chimney Mining is a local business in the Buin District of south Bougainville owned by former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander and current Meekamui leader, Mr Goige.

As a former BRA commander Mr Goige values his former soldiers and started the mine to help them and the people of Bougainville as a whole.

The mine is operated by the power of manual labour and there are no machines used at the site. The men use sticks and spades to dig and a conveyer to wash the gold.

The operation drew interest from foreigners who wanted to mechanise the process, but were refused because of a commitment to keep the operation locally owned.

The gold which is washed is for those who work at the mine site who are either ex-combatants themselves or people who lost fathers, brothers and uncles during the decade long Bougainville Crisis.

Each day all the workers at the mine wash gold for only one person who is among the group and the next day they work for another person.

Chimney Mining is well organised by Goige and he has few strict rules which they follow when they hunt for gold.

There is zero tolerance of alcohol at the mine site and they must not use money which they get from gold to buy beer to get drunk. Money from the gold must be used wisely and to make good things.

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Momis shrugs off resignation calls from ex-combatants

By Anthony Kaybing

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President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Chief Dr John Momis, has said that demands for his resignation by ex-combatants are undemocratic.

President Momis said that though the ex-combatants, led by former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commanders, Ishmael Toroama, Sam Kauona and Thomas Tari, could voice their concerns on the government’s  priorities on development, demanding his resignation without due cause cannot justify their demand.

The ex-combatants’ ultimatum was issued through a letter to the President questioning his ability to act in the best interest of Bougainville and outlining certain ABG ventures that they said were a failure. They said that if the answers provided by President were unsatisfactory, this would warrant his removal from the Presidency.

“The ABG has already explained the dealings questioned by the ex-combatants clearly and concisely, so what is the criteria that warrants me to resign as President,” President Momis said.

“As the democratically elected leader of Bougainville what criteria justifies their demands for me to resign, without properly assessing the government’s development priorities before leveling accusations against me as head of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.”

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ABG and ex-combatants go head-to-head in Buka debate

By Anthony Kaybing

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The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) faced off with former combatants in a civil debate on issues pertaining to Bougainville’s stability at the Bel Isi Park in Buka Town on Friday, 30 January 2015.

The ex-combatants were led by former members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, Ishmael Toroama, Sam Kauona and Thomas Tari, who were dissatisfied with the ABG’s current development priorities.

In letter a to ABG President, Chief Dr John Momis, the ex-combatants raised concerns about the replacement of the ABG’s Acting Chief Secretary, Chris Siriosi, the ABG’s involvement with the Torokina Oil Palm Project, the benefit sharing arrangement of the Bougainville Flagship MV Chebu and government ministers owning shares in POGE Bougainville Development.

President Momis who bore the brunt of these accusations downplayed them and explained that there was no foul play on the government’s part as they followed every legal procedure to develop these projects.

“There was a need for a change in the Bougainville Administration in particular the Bougainville Public Service,” President Momis said.

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Students investigate regional issues for university research

By Leonard Fong Roka

393-dwu-students From left to right: Leonard Fong Roka, Douglas Deseng, Daphney Toke and Ancitha Semoso.

Four Bougainvillean students were amongst the 23 Papua New Guinea students who presented their 2014 major research projects in the PNG Studies & International Relations (PGIR) department of Divine Word University in Madang.

The research began in early June 2014 as a unit course within the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

We were supervised by lecturers Dr. Anastasia Sai and Glenda Baptiste of PGIR department over the duration of the research since June till October.

The four students were Daphney Toke from Buin District, Ancitha Semoso from Buka, Douglas Deseng from Tinputz District and myself from Panguna District.

My research, Irrelevance and Alternatives to the Third Pillar of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, attempted to find out if the terms and conditions associated with the weapons disposal program of Bougainville were relevant to the community in Arawa town’s Zone 3.

The research showed that 23 respondents did not see weapons as a threat to them; and it was also not relevant to the long years of struggle the Bougainville people had gone through since the colonial era.

It recommended that the weapons disposal program be re-designed to be more pro-Bougainville and beneficial to ex-combatants and Bougainville history.

Daphney Toke had a research project, Policing in Buin, South Bougainville: An Analysis of the Effectiveness of Buin Police after the Bougainville Crisis, which aimed to see how much the Bougainville police were doing to protect Bougainvilleans in the post-crisis era. It showed that the police on Bougainville are community peace oriented and not a force to enforce law.

The report stated that the police are understaffed and under-resourced for the Buin environment. All police personnel are locals and therefore attempt to avoid conflict with their own people who break the law.

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Youths construct scrap metal footbridge over Kavarong

436-kavarong-bridgeBy Leonard Fong Roka

Two stunning, locally produced footbridges have been constructed in the Upper Tailings area of the Panguna District, providing passage over waterways that are dangerous during the wet season.

The bridges were constructed by the Onove Youth, a local community group, using waste metals from the Panguna mining industrial structures left behind by scrap metal collectors.

This has all happened under the leadership of Wency Iangkari, a 1988 Grade 6 leaver from Deumori Community School and former BRA fighter from the Onove village.

“Flooding rivers tormented us over the years,” Mr. Iangkari said.

“So I suggested to the Council of Elders leadership to support us, the uneducated youths, to construct our own footbridges over our river systems to protect lives and serve our communities.”

“But they never listened, so we went ahead doing it to see if we could realize the dream without help.”

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Marcos Posiona – From BRA combatant to anaesthetist

By Leonard Fong Roka

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A former Bougainville Revoultionary Army (BRA) fighter is now saving lives in Bougainville and Madang as an anaesthetist and Officer In-Charge of Surgery.

It was a weekend in mid-1995 when Marcos Posiona and a band of Tumpusiong BRA men set up an ambush in the neighbouring Bana District of South Bougainville.

A patrol of pro-PNG resistance fighters—most of them relatives or well known to the Tumpusiong people—walked into the trap and were attacked; the young Posiona ran past his wounded enemies and later walked home.

With the weekend over, Posiona returned to his studies in a classroom at what is now Arawa Primary School. During that week his aunt, a nurse at the PNG soldier’s field hospital, told him about the wounded men. Despite his involvement in the attack, Posiona went and visited them with food, though they did not recognise Posiona as one of their attackers.

During the peak of the crisis, Posiona was exposed to his aunt’s nursing services to the wounded and sick in BRA controlled areas; he often assisted and learned much from the experience.

He graduated in 2004 from Bishop Wade Secondary School, but did not get a place in any tertiary institution. Instead he returned home, worked hard in his cocoa plot and earned enough to apply for the Lutheran Nursing College in Madang.

From 2006 to 2008 he worked hard at his studies, both theoretical and practical, and graduated with the prestigious Divine Word University Clinical Award.

In 2008, having been unsuccessful with a job application back in Bougainville, Posiona applied at Gaubin Hospital operated by the Lutheran Church on Karkar Island in Madang Province.

He was accepted and landed on Karkar Island in September 2009 where he served as a General Nursing Officer In-Charge in the Medical Ward until April 2010.

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