BOUGAINVILLEANS are voting in a referendum between Nov 23 and Dec 7 for either greater autonomy or independence.
Independence would be a long road and would require the PNG government’s blessings to proceed with the process.
However, it can be intercepted by some of the factions in Bougainville which could possibly start another crisis.
Voting in favour of independence would result in breaking our ‘united in diversity’ PNG slogan and weaken our beautiful nation of many languages and cultures.
Before voting for independence, one should consider several critical issues and consequences. I have listed a few below.
- The future economy of the country;
What will happen after the copper mine? We may say there is fish and cocoa? Will this sustain the country, or will they resort to aid?
Smaller countries have smaller resource based economy similar to the times when we were living in tribes. The modern world requires, larger resource base economy.
We are not developed enough or in the position of developed small-landmass countries such as Japan or New Zealand, we have a long way to go.
Contrastingly, let us see and learn from United Kingdom or Great Britain which is a country comprising a combination of smaller nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland depending on each other.
- The factions of more than two that fought during the Bougainville crises;
Some people wanted independence, some did not while others were neutral.
Will there be another crisis after the referendum; it doesn’t matter whether if the polling result is positive or negative.
A good example of post-independence was the new nation of South Sudan. What is the message there? We may have factions with war lords.
- Effect on the Bougainvilleans around the country; There are many people from Bougainville working in the other provinces. How will they be accommodated in PNG or a possible new country?
How will Bougainvilleans or the rest of PNG behave towards them if the polling result was to go for independence?
What would be the perception of the people of Bougainville and Papuan New Guinea? Will there be any backslash within our one country, one nation and wan solwara.
- Fragmentation of the country
Will this be the start of a process where PNG “united in diversity” will eventually split into small nations?
I don’t think any educated Papua New Guineans would like to look in that direction.
I believe many people would know the slogan “divide and fall” or “divide and conquer”.
A good example was the Arabs in the Middle East and another example would be Pakistan and India.
Can we take something from this?
If we just think about a single gold mine and try to achieve greater autonomy or independence, it can be successful for a short time but may not have the necessary plan for the long-term sustainability.
Nauru was on an island of phosphate; the country’s economy was wholly dependent on phosphate; most of the phosphate had gone by now and they are depending on aid.
Will this teach us a lesson?
When PNG became independent in 1975, many people did not know what independent meant.
I doubt every single person in Bougainville know what is meant by Independence and what would become of Bougainville.
Some faction leaders may have their own agenda to address.
All Bougainvilleans should vote with informed knowledge of what they are deciding or voting for and the consequences.
Similarly, when it comes down to the parliament, it is sensible to think about the country before all else.