Bougainville: Before the Conflict, edited by Anthony J Regan and Helga M Griffin. Canberra: Pandanus Books and the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, 2005....
Events in Bougainville would challenge even the Queen in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass (1873), who sometimes believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. In 2004 the arch-secessionist Francis Ona, ignoring seven years of peacemaking and the election of an Autonomous Bougainville Government within Papua New Guinea, had himself crowned king of an independent Bougainville. His ally Noah Musingku, another fantasist and creator of fraudulent pyramid schemes, conducted the rites and became Prince David. But when Ona died, he received a state funeral from the state he did not recognize, subsidized (the ultimate insult?) by Australian aid.
Early in 2006, veterans of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and their once implacable enemies in the Resistance united to denounce Musingku’s dishonest fund-raising. The Autonomous Bougainville Government demanded that the Papua New Guinea Defense Force arrest Noah and disband and deport his Fijian soldiers. Meanwhile, the Bougainvillean minister for mines in the Papua New Guinea government offered to negotiate with multinational companies to resume copper mining at Panguna or elsewhere. Evidently anyone who understood Bougainville politics was misinformed....
It is impossible to summarize the richness of these studies, memoirs, and vignettes. James Tanis’s reflections (“Nagovisi villages”) are unusually eloquent but typical of the analytical and emotional power of these contributions. He left the university to join the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, fought to the end, engaged in peace negotiations, and served as a minister in Bougainville’s postwar government. He parted company with Francis Ona when Ona boycotted the peace process. Tanis reviews the prewar circumstances of Nagovisi and the land disputes that led to Ona’s supremacy—and his tragic descent into mysticism and irrelevance.
This is not a run-of-the-mill monograph. Like many other perceptive writers, Tanis raises more questions than anyone could possibly answer. He asks about the nature of Papua New Guinea’s stake in Bougainville; he ponders Australia’s interests in Panguna; and he wonders what unseen forces—global and regional—contributed to the destruction of the environment and years of civil war in Bougainville. And he concludes with the most radical of all questions: “After gaining political independence from colonial masters, do all third world nations enjoy only brief periods of real independence? Must they all then experience civil wars and revolutions and go bankrupt and join the queue awaiting solutions from elsewhere?”
22 January 2007
Bougainville in Wonderland
The latest issue of The Contemporary Pacific (now online at Project Muse), contains a review (PDF) by Donald Denoon of what looks to be an interesting set of perspectives on Bougainville before, during, and after the worst of the recent conflict. Here's the beginning and end of the review.