By Ishmael Palipal
People at the tarmac of Aropa Airport during the opening ceremony.
2014 was a great year in the history of Bougainville. Let us not yet put away the important events that will later be known as Bougainville history.
Since I have been writing on many of these events I would like to just briefly reflect back on the major events of 2014 and show that we can do much better in 2015 and beyond.
First of all as a post-conflict region that will soon make a decision on becoming a nation, we have so far gone through a lot of thick and thin, but here we fancy highlighting the positive happenings. Through positive thinking and action we’ll prosper.
2014 begun on a high note for our region with the goodwill visit from Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill, who came from January 27-29. He became the first ever Prime Minister to visit to central Bougainville since the Bougainville Crisis. The Prime Minister visited Buka, Buin, Panguna and Arawa and his stated aim was to foster peace and unity amongst leaders from Bougainville and PNG.
He made it his priority to see that infrastructural development takes place in Bougainville and this has been evident with the re-opening of the Post PNG, Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited, Department of Works, and Air Niugini Ticketing Office, amongst others. The visit by Prime Minister O’Neill also paved the way for the re-opening of the Aropa Airport which is currently in use by traveling public now.
The National Government Minister for National Planning & Monitoring, Hon. Charles Abel, followed suit by coming to Bougainville to open a number of national government funded projects. These included opening of classrooms in primary, high secondary schools. These facilities will enable and cater for the increased enrolment of school students throughout Bougainville. The Minister had the privilege to meet with the staff of the Arawa Health Centre who presented him with a proposal to upgrade the facility’s status from health centre to hospital.
MV Chebu being welcomed at the Buka passage by outboard motors.
On November 11 2014 we witnessed the arrival of the newly bought Bougainvillean ship at Buka. The new ship, MV Chebu, is a joint venture with the Chow family and was bought to minimize the cost of travelling to other provinces. It is now serving the route from Buka through Rabaul, Lae and back.
The day after the arrival of MV Chebu it ferried about 350 plus Bougainvillean athletes to Lae for the 6th Papua New Guinea Games. Bougainville, without much in the way of proper sporting facilities and equipment, came fourth out of 21 provinces that took part in the games.
The re-opening of the Aropa International Airport in the lead up to the festive season of Christmas and New Year was a very memorable event, witnessed by many. The airport was jointly opened by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, and ABG President, Chief Dr John Momis, and is now serving the people of central and south Bougainville. It marks the opening of a new era and is the biggest of all the recent achievements.
New developments are set for 2015 including the general election for the Autonomous Bougainville Government. The government that will be formed from this election is vital for the future of our region and will lead Bougainville to a referendum on autonomy and independence. I therefore would like to urge all our people to think carefully and choose the right leaders to carry us forward.
Do not choose a leader because he gives you money or because he is your wantok, choose a leader that will help you for a long run. Remember, we have suffered enough through the years of civil war and now we see many still suffering because of our own choices.
We must screen and decide the right leaders who will carry us forward with justice, equality and honesty. No mothers should continue to shed their tears because of a lack of services provided; no children should continue to suffer because of corruption, injustice or self-gain and Bougainville should move higher with healthy and honest leaders in place this year.
We are in a critical period now for our journey to achieve referendum and the onus is now upon us Bougainvilleans to work together in peace and unity.
Remember, your vote in this ABG Election can break or mend Bougainville!