The National,Tuesday August 18th, 2015
On the eve of Papua New Guinea celebrating its 40th Independence Anniversary, and amidst all the demonstration of national pride, we must also take time to reflect and seek forgiveness from our people in Bougainville.
The Bougainville crisis was perhaps one of the most destructive man-made disasters in the history of PNG as an independent state. It was a preventable crisis from the beginning and one that should provide somber thoughts for reflection as PNG celebrates its 40 years of independence.
More than 15,000 Bougainvilleans, mostly innocent civilians and countless other Papua New Guineans lost their lives through this conflict. The Royal PNG Constabulary and PNG Defense Force were involved in this conflict on orders from the successive governments since 1989 to 1997.
Initially the RPNGC as the coercive arm of the State was called on to quell a protest that grew out of legitimate concerns about environmental damages and wealth redistribution.
What was more unfortunate about the ensuing conflict was that it was prosecuted in the name of ordinary Papua New Guineans. The State through its instrumentalities, representing the collective will of the people committed us to a war against our very own people in Bougainville.
PNG citizens through their taxes, and the decisions of our elected representatives in Parliament legitimized the presence and the wanton destruction of Bougainville.
Bougainville prior to the conflict was a thriving province and set the benchmark in terms of its economic development. It also was the main source of revenue for the PNG economy.
The civil war destroyed the economic infrastructure of Bougainville and traumatized generations of Bougainvilleans. The PNG State in seeking to reopen the Panguna mine and later preserving the national unity of PNG against the secessionist demands by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) created a wrong that needs to undergo a cleansing process of national reconciliation.
What was done in the name of all Papua New Guineans by our government against the innocent peoples of Bougainville is a serious curse that needs a process of national healing and reconciliation.
Hopefully in the cause of the next 40 years, one hopes we do not repeat this traumatic experience.