Port-Mine road endangered by artisanal miners

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Panguna District police head Peter Tauna has warned gold miners that their activities are putting the road and people in danger (pictured in uniform) during an unplanned visit to the alluvial mining slope along the western side of the Panguna mine’s port-mine-access road on Monday, 2 August 2016.

“This is a public road that serves us in the Panguna District and most of south Bougainville,” Mr Tauna told a group digging for gold some 10 metres from the road.

“It provides us the access to Arawa and Buka where we receive much needed services.

“You must be aware that this road came into existence with BCL,” Tauna continued,” our government has no financial capacity to create such a road for us.”

“We are people with common sense so we have to be responsible.

“Mine the locations of the slopes that you see will not contribute in harming this public road.”

The gathered artisanal miners, most of whom came from the Bana District of South Bougainville, said that they were aware of the dangers thus they have already marked a spot where the activities will be restricted to.

Since the alluvial gold was discovered on the slopes between the former Panguna Mine’s Camp 10 site and the Shoofly Corner section of the Port-Mine Access Road in 2010, artisanal miners from all over Panguna and Kieta Districts had rushed here to make a living.

There are also miners working here who come from Bana and even some from across other Bougainville’s sister islands on the Solomon archipelago.

According to the miners a number of people have also accidentally died here. The first was a man from Wakunai District and the most recent incident saw the demise of a person from the Malaita Province of the Solomon Islands.

They also said landowners from the Moroni Village who oversee their activities also are concerned about the safety of the road that serves the public and so had enforced the boundary where all artisanal miners should not pass with their activities.

Police Officer Peter Tauna and his officers carefully walked around the rocky slopes talking to the busy miners.

Tracking up the ore veins, it is evident people have dug through the bed rock creating ditches some of which comes right near the Port-Mine Access Road bitumen.

Since the discovery of the gold, the activities of the artisanal miners have taken over a massive area of natural jungle. The area covered is roughly more than the combined space of 5 soccer fields.

Deep holes were bored into the slope with crowbars and miners were seen working inside without any safety measures in place.

People could be seen from the road downhill moving like ants. Beneath another mass of workers work on the Karona Creek. They work with sedimentation that is washed down from the slopes.

Peter Tauna, head of the Panguna Police contingent emphasized that the boundary must be respected for the good of the travelling public that use the Port-Mine Access Road.

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Panguna ex-combatant hands over weapon for peace

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Albert Nekinu (pictured right), a former ex-combatant from Barako Village of the Panguna District, willingly surrendered his gun to the local police after he was touched by the Bougainville peace awareness of an auxiliary police officer Junior Taneavi (pictured left).

The young Nekinu joined the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) late in 1994, thus did not see much action with the dawning peace process. But he had a .308 mm WW2 US infantry rifle which he obtained in the Torokina ammunition dumps.

“I had the rifle to fight,” Mr Nekinu said, “but then our leaders talking about peace, thus I did not have much opportunity to go into action against the enemy.”

“But now that we are in peace, as an ordinary serviceman in the BRA, I feel sad when our leaders in the BRA who may have had a voice in the creation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) are still holding onto guns.

“Peace is what our people need to move Bougainville forward to independence,” Mr Nekinu continued.

“We want a weapon free Bougainville where everybody is free as it was embedded in the BPA.”

One auxiliary police officer, Junior Taneavi, is singlehandedly spearheading peace awareness in the Tumpusiong Valley area of the Panguna District.

Taneavi was catalytic to the surrender of the weapon and said that people should work towards a better peaceful Panguna District.

“Panguna District is where the crisis erupted from and so it is our business to get working,” Mr Taneavi said.

“Every combatant in the district, be they from the Meekamui or any other faction, must honour the BPA for it is here we are seeing change and services for us and the people.

“We cannot go elsewhere,” he continued, “the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) is the government we are eating from and nobody else.

“Thus we all have to uphold the BPA and move with it just like our young man Albert Nekinu.”

Mr Nekinu admitted that after listening to all the Officer Taneavi’s words of peace building on Bougainville he felt really guilty seeing that normalcy for Bougainville can only come through the way ABG is moving with in accordance to the BPA so he went home took his weapon and handed it over.

Junior Taneavi then brought the weapon to Officer Peter Tauna (pictured middle with Chief Michael Pariu) who is responsible for policing in the Panguna District.

On Monday 2 August 2016, the weapon was locked away under Bougainville Police Service custody.

 

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Mandarin season hits the markets

By Pauline Karalus

805-arawa-market-mandarin Mandarins at the Arawa Market. Photo by Junior Karatapi

Bougainville is well known for its cash crops, unique fruits and nuts cultivated on the fertile soils of the island. Cash crops such as cocoa and coconut remain the main source of income for both subsistence and working class people.

Across the region, fruit farming is being undertaken more than ever before. Village mothers have now had the taste of income generation through marketing of garden produce at the local markets. Some are able to earn K500 per day from marketing, a great deal compared to waiting for fortnightly pay from their working husbands.

Driving along the trunk road, from Buka to Arawa and then on to Buin, the sights of fresh produce along the road gets the drivers’ attention, and so several stops are made at these road-side stalls to purchase fruits to beat off the thirst or hunger for these delicious, mouth-watering produce.

Arawa market is one of the richest markets you will ever find on your journey within Bougainville and is stunning with the many varieties of healthy garden produce on display on the benches.

Large bundles of peanuts, either cooked or raw, go for K1 each. Juicy watermelons, sphere-shaped or oval shaped of various sizes get sold at reasonable prices.

Both cooked and raw food is sold in the market as well. Fresh greens from places like Panguna add color to the market look and raw kaukau packed in baskets woven from coconut leaves go for K10 each.

The K5 pack of banana chips and fried fish are my personal favorite. When travelling along the Buka to Buin road, that one rest stop at Arawa is just something I appreciate so much.

During each specific fruit’s season, the market gets filled by that particular fruit thus competition in sales forces the price to reduce, making sure they sell most of their produce before the market gets locked up.

From May the market was filled with the varieties of Mandarin of varying sizes and prices with large heaps or bundles going for K2 each.

These mothers arrive with baskets of juicy Mandarin fruits from nearby villages within Central Bougainville. These include the Wakunais from Central Bougainville and the Wisais from Buin as well.

Though they sell them in groups they still do make money from the sales because back at the village these fruit trees are in abundance. Those intended for market sales are left untouched by the family members. Those that are marked for eating remain to be continuously harvested for the family to have.

The mandarin season continues until the Christmas holidays and for those Bougainvilleans living away from the province, seeing pictures of the large juicy fruits on Facebook will make you homesick.

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The majestic setting of Asitavi Secondary School

By Pauline Karalus

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Isolated from the trunk road linking Buka and Buin via Arawa, Saint Mary’s Asitavi Catholic Girl’s Secondary School lays on the Wakunai coastline some few minutes’ drive from the main road. The track leading to the school, which was recently upgraded from high school status, is often covered in bushes due to the fact that visitors call into the school grounds infrequently.

Visitors who enter the school grounds have to be with genuine reasons and this tradition is upheld to ensure smooth running of the school.

Strictly a girl’s school and technically being a mission school, students attending Asitavi Secondary abide by strict regulations of the institution. Adherence to school rules is highly practiced in fear of being terminated when caught on spot breaking any of these rules.

Isolated from the nearby areas of Wakunai, visitors from within the region occasionally call in at the school during road trips and field works bringing food and necessities for their relatives attending the school, otherwise isolation from the outside world lasts until term breaks or Christmas breaks.

The holidays are the most exciting moments of these young school girls. Overjoyed to hit the highway back to their loved homes, they wait for arranged highway vehicles to pick them up with their luggage.

A chapel built within the school grounds accommodates the staff and students of Asitavi Secondary School and even nearby villagers from nearby places during mass services. Asitavi Secondary School students have a reputation for being disciplined in their studies and behavior. They continue to shine out the best imparted into them by the nuns. This Asitavi sisterhood is maintained even when selected to other secondary schools to continue grade 11 and 12.

The school is located near the sea, thus weekends are spent chilling at the beach. School girls are not allowed to get into any conversation with outsider boys met along the beach.

Asitavi’s coastline is totally unique and outstanding. The beach is comprised of two main sectors. The first sector towards the edges where the waves call in and hit is made up of beautifully colored pebbles ranging in sizes. Towards the school grounds is sand dark blue in color on the surface and white underneath.

The pebbles have given the place the name Asitavi Rocky Beach, which it is called now throughout the entire region.

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Katua in Rio to chase Olympic dream

835-thadius-katuaBy Simon Belu

Bougainvillean boxer Thadius Katua is getting himself prepared for the toughest assignment of his life as he brushes up his skills for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The 19-year-old Carteret Islander is currently in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil with Team PNG training under the watchful eyes of coaches Joe Aufa and Allan Nicolson before the games commence with the opening ceremony on Friday 5 August.

Katua’s ticket to Rio came through the tripartite qualification which are awarded to athletes who show promising potential in certain sports who miss out on qualification through mandated Olympic qualification events.

Katua with his Team PNG peers Katua with his Team PNG peers

Katua won gold medal in the 60kg division at last year’s Pacific Games contributing to PNG winning 8 of the 13 gold medals that were on offer for boxing at the Games.

He also received the 2016 SP Sports Award for Westpac Junior Male Athlete of the Year

But his biggest achievement so far in his career is when he made history winning PNG’s first gold medal at the Youth Commonwealth Games in Samoa last year.

Katua has the whole of Bougainville and the rest of Papua New Guinea behind him as he pursues his dream.

Katua won gold at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa Katua won gold at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa
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Fish dependent Teop looks to next generation of students

By Benjamin Heribeth Noibio

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While many of us enjoy our life on Bougainville some of our neighbours stand firm on Teop Island, not far from the mainland.

The small island is part of the Teop-Taonita constituency and lays approximately 5 kilometres off the coast of Bougainville. The main island is populated with more than 300 people including the children attending primary school on the main island.

The people of the island possess a unique culture and customs, including the traditional ways of building and weaving using coconut fronds.

Their deceased are buried on the other side of the island, though the island is small.

Their customary way of welcoming new people is still active and they also love to see visitors exploring their homeland.

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There is also no garden food grown on Teop, instead the people have to pull their canoes to the mainland to plant garden foods to sustain their living.

“Our main resource is fish,” said Noel, a Teop man, “we get fish from the sea and sell them to earn our living.

“Only few of us plant cocoa on the mainland and some of us make copra from the few coconuts on the island.

Noel stated that not many of the students from Teop went to higher institutions in Papua New Guinea because at first there were only few who spend their life fishing on the sea.

“Currently there are many children attending primary school and we hope that these children will continue to higher institutions,’’ Noel continued.

The students spend their life in the sea and cross the passage to school with their canoes regardless of the weather.

Parents are also concerned in their education and many times they bring them to the other side so that they will safe until the end of the day.

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Okunu – a celebration of life and survival in Buin

804-buin-bougainvilleBy Pauline Karalus

While many Bougainvillean customs and traditions of have vanished over time, one celebration of life and survival continues to be practiced in Buin, South Bougainville.

Buin locals are closely attached to customs and traditions governing their clans and their customary land in which their entire life depends on. With respect and the greater fear of punishment from Gods and Goddesses, strict obedience to rituals and customs practices continues up to this very day.

With the introduction of Christianity, many of these traditions, customs and beliefs have become viewed as in conflict with Christian beliefs. A large portion have been erased over time according to the direction of elderly clan chiefs, though the ones that remain are distinguished and closely attached to the people’s lives. Some of these traditions, however finally reached their era of extinction, because of a failure to have been passed down onto younger generations from the elderly tribespeople.

The Buin people still practice many of their customs and rituals with pride still, up to this day. Arranged marriages, rituals and initiations performed to signify reaching a certain stage of manhood or womanhood in life and many more others still exist up to today. In the Buin culture it is the elderly tribes’ people’s job to make sure they pass on necessary traditions to the ones capable of being charge before they get too old and die.

Okunu is a ritual performed after the survival of tragic accidents, where one survives death where its seems impossible. Examples of such tragic accidents include falling off trees whilst hunting, overcoming a period of unknown paralysis, surviving a long-term sickness or disease and even recovering from large wounds from fights or accidents.

As soon as the person show signs of recovery, a special piece of cloth gets tied around the wrist. In the ancient times, in substitute of the piece of cloth a large lengthy piece of rope woven from bush ropes gets tied around the neck and is worn around as a necklace until the day of the Okunu.

During the day of Okunu, the celebrated gets seated on a decorated platform where a leader from his or her clan gets to say a few words first and then upon the witness of everyone he cuts the rope or the piece of cloth responded to by whistling and screams of happiness and joy from the crowd.

This ritual symbolizes the joy of the relatives because that particular person is being allowed to spend some more time with their beloveds. Multiple pigs are slain and a feast is served to celebrate the victory of surviving tragic events. The person whom the Okunu feast is conducted sits decorated in traditional garments as relatives and friends stand in queues to shake hands and present their gifts.

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New tourism plan will provide vision and purpose

By Ishmael Palipal

Photo courtesy of Bougainville Project Updates Photo courtesy of Bougainville Project Updates

A significant shift in the approach to regional tourism has begun with the launch of the Buka Town Tourism Development Plan Initiative 2016-2020 at the Bel Isi Park, Buka Town, on Sunday 14 July.

The major aim of the initiative is to develop Buka town as a tourism hub in the region.

The launch saw the unveiling of the program billboard and the new Buka Urban Council logo.

The formation of the Solomon Seas Tourism Zone Initiative Committee was also announced, which will help develop other potential tourism sites on Bougainville and the region as a whole.

Tourism is one of the major revenue generators that Bougainville is looking to put a greater development focus on.

The autonomous region is seen has having many tourism attractions that both Papua New Guinean and international tourists would enjoy.

Potential areas for tourist activities include site seeing, village stays, hiking, island outing, fishing, bird watching, attending a traditional feast and cultural festivals.

All it needs is a more organized structure, with the establishment of industry bodies and avenues for greater exposure.

Present at the launch was the National Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Hon. Tobias Kulang.

Mr Kulang emphasized that a strong cultural base should be built and for the region, with tourism bureaus should be set up for Central and South Bougainville with commitment from ABG.

He stated that potential sites still need to be developed in Bougainville need to be reliably accessible to be impressive and conducive for tourism.

Before the launch, Minister Kulang and a delegation, including MP for Central Bougainville Minister Jimmy Mirringtoro, ABG Minister for Economic Services Steven Suako and ABG Minister Community Development Robert Sawa, visited potential tourism sites in South Bougainville and Central Bougainville before heading to Buka.

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Kangu roadworks the latest development in Buin

By Pauline Karalus

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A massive development was launched in South Bougainville in late June as construction commenced on the Kangu road. The trunk road was scheduled to start operations during July.

Equipment was transported to the development site on the Kangu road, which leads out from Buin’s main shopping center in a south-easterly direction towards the sea down to the famous Kangu Beach. Here a small wharf caters to ferries that bring cargo for store owners and other Buin businesses.

The road is more commonly used by the people of Laguai and Malabita and it will also make it easier for neighboring Solomon Islanders who bring goods to trade at the market.

Amidst ongoing reconciliations between local tribes and clans who have had unstable relations in past years, the developments within the region remain the autonomous government’s priority.

Existing schools have been undergoing renovations alongside the establishment of new government and non-government schools in remote areas.

Education seems to be the government’s first priority and the poor road conditions affect the ability of students, teachers and other people to travel to schools.

Remote districts are widely recognized as the least developed parts of the island. Frequent visits from non-government officials and tourists have dramatically changed the mindset of the locals towards appreciating and allowing development to progress and contribute towards sustainable livelihoods of Buin locals.

Despite the everyday law and order problems that still occur, Buin people have showed interest in allowing development to take hold in their region.

Buin, often referred to as a cowboy town, hosts the main shopping center for the people of the three districts of the southern tip of Bougainville.

In recent years it has seen great private and government developments. by both business and the government wise over the last how many years after the cease fire. An increase in the number of locally owned trade stores and buildings belonging to various sectors of the government has noticeably raised the standard of the town vicinity.

Within the town area, just a few meters away from the shopping center, is the Buin Police Station, which contains a few cells where inmates are kept according to the level of crime they have committed.

Regardless of several attempts and threats from locals, Buin Police Officers continue to work together as a team and reduce the number of crimes committed everyday by applying the law.

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Flooding wreaks havoc in Central Bougainville

By Ishmael Palipal

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A small village at Aita in Wakunai, near the Aita River, was reported to have nearly been washed downriver in the early hours of Wednesday 27 July, following a long, heavy rain through the night.

People have reported that pots, plates, buckets, tanks and other objects without a firm foundation were washed away. A tank and some other items that the flood channeled through the feeder road over to the main road was saved by onlookers and placed on the safe ground.

Travelling in the Central Bougainville, especially in the Wakunai area, can be risky with heavy winds blowing down coconut palms and trees into the road. This area of Bougainville is also full of big, fast running rivers from the nearby mountains.

The heavy rains have resulted in flooding rivers that have overflowed into the roads. It is risky for public to travel both on the main roads or through feeder roads where rivers are close by.

So far there are no reports of any casualties or accidents from the affected areas by the heavy rain or wind or flooding.

The travelling public, drivers and passengers should take precautions as the heavy wind, rain and flooding can lead to accidents. Watch out for falling trees or palm trees and other falling things that might cause accidents.

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