Bougainville elects ex-BRA commander


Ishmael Toroama’s path to the top is paved with blood and tears. In an interview shortly after his inauguration last week, he highlighted what he intends to do in the first 100 days in office.

Toroama and Bougainville Police chief Francis Tokura.

AS I stood recording the inauguration speech of the President elect of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama in Buka on Tuesday Sept 29, I couldn’t help but reflect on the 10 years of fighting and how it was in NCD as a little girl.
I remember on one particular occasion if you were from Bougainville it was advisable not to move around at night.
One night my uncle had finished late from work and was taking a route he usually walked during the day. He walked by the Murray Barracks and was attacked, assaulted badly that he took himself to the hospital and using the landline at Port Moresby General Hospital he called the house.
All I remember was that his assailants said “em wanpla man Buka, paitim em.” My uncle is dark-skinned and a lot of people always mistake him for a Bougainvillean but he is from New Hanover in New Ireland.

1997 Sandline crisis
I was in Grade 5 at the Port Moresby International Primary School and our teacher Peter Castle from Tasmania was in the middle of lessons when we heard loud gun fire.
Castle told us to get under the desks, and he locked the classroom door, barricaded it and told us “whatever you do stay quiet.’’
Initially we thought rascals had come into the school yard; it wasn’t until the school principal ran up to the door, telling him that he needed to get all of us to the assembly hall.
Our parents were called and one by one we were told to go home and stay home.
Someone turned on the radio and that’s when we heard of the military coup.
My dad arrived and when I got on he told me he would pray because my grandfathers were involved in the incident at Murray Barracks.
As a kid I didn’t know what was happening, and we had to get home fast.
Sirens were blaring, police vehicles rushing here and there, radio announcers were telling everyone to remain indoors.
At best it was chaotic but I still had no clue what was happening.
And then at 6pm I saw what was happening in NCD.
I knew this was serious.
Today, as I report on the country’s political and security matters, I think back to the many issues I witnessed as a child with no clue what these events did to change the country that day.
Fast forward to 2020 and I am back in Buka witnessing one of the former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) commandersbe being sworn in as the president of the region that is moving towards independence.

President Ishmael Toroama
A husband, father of three, and grandfather to five who all live in Arawa, Ishmael Toroama has been married to his wife Betty for nearly 20 years.
Doreen is 31 years old and is newly engaged, Esau is 30 years old and is married with four children, while Victor the youngest is 27, married and has a daughter.
In the interview, Toroma spoke of his childhood memories in the Southern Highlands province where he began his early education.
“I am from Roreinang Village, in the district of Central Bougainville. I was born to missionary parents; my father served in the Kagua-Erave district in the Southern Highlands. My early education was in Southern Highlands, before my dad moved the family back to Bougainville.
“We moved to Bougainville in 1976 and I did the rest of my school years right up to junior high school, however I did not finish my schooling and I started looking for a job.
“While working, the war erupted and I forced my way in to see what was happening in Panguna,’’ Torama said.
From 1988 to 1990 Toroama was part of the Panguna militants.
“In 1994 I was chosen to go for the Arawa Peace Conference, in 1995 I attended the Cairns talks.
“In 1997 a declaration was made for a choice to make sure Bougainville must talk with the Government of Papua New Guinea in resolving the political issue.
“I attended most of the international conferences and much of the peace and weapons disposal programme was headed by me and by the UN where I was observing,’’ Toroama said.
“I was a signatory in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
“In 2015 I contested the regional seat. It did not come about the way I wanted but I told the people of Bougainville my political interests at least and when the time came I could stand and represent the people,’’ he said.
“That’s where I saw I could be one of the candidates that would do well in the 2020 election. That’s why I chose to stand in 2020.’’

As I got off the flight on Monday Sept 28 it was a dull day.
We checked into our rooms at the local motel we were staying in and off we went to look for stories.
With me was Adelaide Sirox Kari from EMTV and Francis Pulu from Sunday Chronicle.
Assisting us was Travertz Mabone from the Bougainville Affairs office.
As we got out we were told we would be meeting with the Minister for Bougainville Affairs Sir Puka Temu.
We were told he was in a meeting with the President-elect.
Shaking hands with Toroama you get a sense of authority. He is quiet but commands respect; when he talks you know that he wants the best for Bougainville.
We finished our short interview with Sir Puka and Toroama and we went up to Kubu, where the House of Representatives is located and managed a quick interview with the Deputy Commissioner of Police-Bougainville Francis Tokura.
Then we went back to the motel and sent across our stories having a rest before Tuesday Sept 29, the inauguration day.

Bougainville President-elect Ishmael Toroama meeting Prime Minister James Marape in Buka on Sept 29.

Inauguration Day
I woke up to a dull wet day in Buka, vehicles were moving around, boats were coming in as early as 5am and there was an air of excitement.
Bougainville flags were flown high, the team had breakfast and off we went to the airport to pick up Paul the EMTV Cameraman who was on the chartered flight with Prime Minister James Marape.
The delegation arrived and we had to rush off to Kubu, to get ahead of the PM and his delegation.
It was wet and slippery but working in an industry as fast-paced as the media we ran to get our positions to await the PM.
He arrived and was welcomed by a guard of honour from the Bougainville Police.
Then Toroama inspected the guard of honour and went to meet the PM in private. It was a smile, handshake, a hug and they sat down for talks.
Twenty minutes later and it was back to the podium where both the PNG and Bougainville flags were raised.
Toroama had tears and Marape was crying, visibly moved by the anthems of PNG and Bougainville played.
It was a picture of the long road that Toroama had taken and the PM who was part of the talks as a minister and now as the PM.

Walking into the House of Representative is different. While it is not as grand as the National Parliament it is still respected.
It was a bit awkward for us because covering Parliament we know the protocols in place and in Buka because it was a swearing-in ceremony we were seated near the speaker’s chair to take pictures and videos.
After the swearing-in of the caretaker cabinet we were allowed to move around as each member of the House was sworn in.
There are 40 members in total in Buka; the President, 33 constituency representatives and three representatives each of women and former combatants.
In Buka, the person nominated for the Speaker’s seat is not a Member of Parliament, he or she is nominated by provinces, so to speak, so Central Bougainville nominated Simon Pentanu, the outgoing speaker while North Bougainville nominated Joseph Wawagi. Pentanu was re-elected by 24 votes to16 for Wawagi.
The race for deputy speaker was between two women; South Bougainville’s Theresa Katevara and North Bougainville’s Amanda Mosono. Again Kaetavara won with the same number of votes like Pentanu had earlier.
When the session resumed Pentanu told the house: “I want to mention that this is my allegiance to his House, we all play a part in ensuring Bougainville is taken care off. I welcome the new members and I hope we all can work together to be a better house.”
Parliament was then adjourned to December with the president now presenting his speech to the people of Bougainville.

Inauguration speech
The first 100 days of leadership under President Toroama will be focused on the six strategy points to drive economic empowerment, law and order and post referendum.
The strategies are:

  • Political control and formation of the new Government
  • Economic growth and control
  • Administrative Control
  • Mobilising private sector and civil society
  • Long term vision and planning; and
  • International relations

However, Toroama said that any new standards of services delivery must await improvements in the economy.
‘’Education and health will continue to be offered as normal services. As it is we are generating about 24 per cent of our total budget from within Bougainville. Furthermore, Covid 19 has impacted the world as well as the PNG economy.’
“PNG has slashed its budget by K2 billion, so all of these need to be taken into account as we are planning and implementing the strategies.’’
This means setting the house in order, Toroama said.
“Preconditions are necessary to embark on these strategies and they are setting the right political leadership, having an innovative leadership of the administration, a long term Bougainville blue print and control over the population and territory.
“A long term Bougainville blueprint captures the entire Bougainville society, and I intend to establish a high-powered planning secretariat made up of highly qualified and competent citizens who will report directly to the president and the executive council so that our people’s political and development aspirations are achieved.’’
Toroama intends to introduce change once he has his full cabinet. Hesaid that there was an intention to review, restructure and make changes as appropriate with a view to redirect resources to the district level.
“While I understand that the drawdown of powers and functions under Section 290 of the PNG Constitution that were made available to Bougainville have not been fully drawn down yet, this needs to be progressed.’’
“As we consult and dialogue with PNG, we will also look at the possibility of getting powers and functions currently with the PNG Government,’’ he added.
As it is Toroama wants the powers and function of:
Section 289 {powers with PNG govt; Section 291 (powers relating to Criminal Code); Section 293 (exercise of international obligations); and Section 298 (National govt assets and lands as lrelates to Bougainville).
He also added that international relations especially with PNG was forged in battle and the power of forgiveness.
‘’History must be our guiding light in moving forward, so that we do not make the same mistakes of the past.
“We must work together to achieve Bougainville’s dream that is a mutual benefit to us and to our friends to be,’’ Toroama said.

Marape to Toroama
The PM has maintained that the National Government would assist Bougainville with funds to enhance public services, restoration and development.
“The new president is one who can lead Bougainville as the next critical phase of the peace process is continued.’’
The PM further stated that “The 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement is an historical document. It requires that both governments consult on the outcome of the referendum that took place last year and put in place a final road map for an enduring peace.
“The statement that I have issued today outlines the commitment that our government has made to ensure that we deliver on that process.
“I look forward to working with President Toroama and his team in the months and years ahead.
“Toroama was a signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement. He was instrumental in working with the late President Joseph Kabui and others in bringing a halt to the conflict.
“He has led reconciliations and demonstrated his capacity for forgiveness.
“I can think of no one better to lead Bougainville as we enter this next critical phase of the peace process and I again congratulate him on his election”, the Prime Minister said.

End of the day
The day ends with much fanfare, songs are sung, dances are performed and Buka celebrates as their President has been sworn in.
Sitting back I watch Toroama as he sits down after his speech. He slowly puts his head in his hands and silently weeps.
He wipes his face and steadies himself as he starts accepting handshakes from those around him.
In that moment I think of the times as a 19-year-old he decided to be part of the fight to where he is now.
This is a moment in history for a region that believes in itself and her people to be free and independent.
It is the people that have made the region what it is today.
Toroama will lead his people with dignity and will remain true to his word.

Symposium on Facebook

“In my view the situation with COVID-19 along with restrictions calls for us to imagine alternative ways of doing things,” Professor Fr Philip Gibbs SVD, Deputy President of DWU.

ON Friday, Sept 25 a faculty in Divine Word University (DWU) in Madang hosted its annual symposium with a difference.
The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) presented its research symposium called Liklik Maror to a national and global audience using the live streaming technology on Facebook. This was the first time a symposium in DWU was presented online via the streaming technology on Facebook.
The faculty hosted the Liklik Maror Research Symposium as an abbreviated version of its usual on-campus event that used to attracts participants, both internal and external from the university, congregating in a selected venue. (The use of the Tok Pisin word “liklik” for “small” denotes the abbreviated symposium).
The condensed symposium was hosted in the Sir Peter Barter Auditorium with a pre-selected small audience in attendance. Members of the audience included the Deputy of President of DWU Professor Fr Philip Gibbs SVD, Vice President Academic and Acting Vice President Research and Higher degrees Professor Pamela Norman, Dean of the FASS Associate Professor Dr Sister Miriam Dlugosz SSpS and University Chaplain Fr Elias Aiyako SVD.
The Faculty used the live stream technology in response to an earlier call by Professor Gibbs who urged faculties to find alternative means using available technology to deliver symposia and presentations of projects by students and faculty. Prof Gibbs offered the advise when faculties and their departments opted to cancel the symposiums and project presentations due to the threats posed by the COVID 19 pandemic. Prof Gibbs, who is also the incoming President of DWU (as of 1st January 2021) urged the faculties to “imagine” and come up with alternative ways to present their symposia as they “are an integral part of our learning at DWU”.
“In my view the situation with Covid-19 along with restrictions calls for us to imagine alternative ways of doing things,” Prof Gibbs said to the DWU community.
The condensed Maror symposium had nine top undergraduate student researchers from three of the four departments in the faculty presenting their research work and findings. Members of faculty and external presenters did not participate as they used to in the past. The FASS faculty staff were instead facilitators and chairpersons of each of the three segments of presentations.
The first session of the symposium was under the theme “Contemporary cultural influences” and it was chaired by Alison Sariman Kintau from the Communication Arts Department and three students presented under this theme.
Pamela Barara was the first presenter who spoke on her research titled “The Impacts of Social Media on the Social Lifestyles of female students at Divine Word University”.
The second presenter was Ezekiel Harold who shared his research titled “Impacts of urbanization on the understanding and usage of local vernacular by mixed parentage Divine Word University students residing in Port Moresby”.
The final presenter in this session was Ms Jessica Oata who spoke on her research topic “Factors affecting students’ academic performance post-conflict in Bougainville: A case study in Bishop Wade Secondary School and Hutjena Secondary School”.
The second session was on the theme “Conflict and disciplinary approaches” and was chaired by Mr Bernard Yegiora. The first student presenter under this theme was Ms Shonnie Puteuha who presented her research titled “Traditional disciplinary approaches on parenting and behaviourial issues: A case study on employed and stay-home parents residing in Boroko, Port Moresby”.
The second presenter under this theme was Micahleen McKenia who presented her research titled “Ethnic mobilization in conflics: A perspective of secondary schools in Madang Urban”.
The third presenter was Jason Rarin who spoke on his research titled “People’s perception on weapons disposal and its impacts on the lives of Haku people in Bougainville”.
The final session was under the theme “Women, politics and pregnancy issues” and it was chaired by Leonie Baptiste who is also the research coordinator for the Faculty.
The first presenter under this theme was Bradley Asa who spoke on his research titled “Women’s attitude toward women candidates contesting the national elections: A perspective study of female registered voters of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea during the 2017 National Election”.
The second presenter was Francis Peli who presented his research “The perceptions of the people of Vanimo West Coast regarding female candidates’ participation in elections in Vanimo-Green River district”.
The final presenter was Triola Pula who spoke the research topic “The perceptions of students and lecturers on pregnancy and its impacts on the lives and studies of female students in Divine Word University, Madang Province”.
At the end of the symposium, three students were awarded as “best presenters” from the three departments that were represented. They are Shonnie Puteuha (Department of PNG Studies and International Relations), Triola Pula (Department of Social and Religious Studies) and Pamela Barara (Department of Communication Arts).
Baptiste in her feedback to the DWU community reported that the live streaming of the Maror symposium had audiences and feedback or comments from all over PNG and overseas including Poland and Japan. Meantime, other faculties and their departments are expected to follow suit in using technology to do their research and project presentations in the coming days. The DWU’s annual missioning ceremony for final year undergraduate students is expected to be beamed to the nation and the world using the live streaming technology on Facebook on Friday Oct 30, 2020.

  • Dr Kevin Pamba, PhD is based in Divine Word University, Madang.

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