Key Areas to look in Preparation for Bougainville’s Independence and Beyond

Although there is a lot issues that need to be addressed in such a short time before referendum, Bougainville really needs to prepare for independence and beyond now. This is one way of showing the international community and other stakeholders to the peace process such as Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Island States that we indeed are preparing for independence.

While referendum is just a stage in our journey to independence and beyond, we should remained focused despite all challenges ahead of the this event.

If Bougainville is going to be a prosperous nation after independence it must get it right from the outset. It’s leaders must not give into advise from outsiders who have the motive of promoting their own interests and the interests of those they represent. Following are some of the key areas that need to be given attention to in order of priority they are in:

A. Governance

For governance to be acceptable, it must meet the following fundamental requirements

1.    Accountability

Accountability is a fundamental requirement of good governance. Local government has an obligation to report, explain and be answerable for the consequences of decisions it has made on behalf of the community it represents.

2.   Transparency

People should be able to follow and understand the decision-making process. This means that they will be able to clearly see how and why a decision was made – what information, advice and consultation council considered, and which legislative requirements (when relevant) council followed.

3.    Must follow the rule of law

This means that decisions are consistent with relevant legislation or common law and are within the powers of council.

4.    Must be responsive

Local government should always try to serve the needs of the entire community while balancing competing interests in a timely, appropriate and responsive manner.

5.    Must be equitable and inclusive

A community’s wellbeing results from all of its members feeling their interests have been considered by council in the decision-making process. This means that all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, should have opportunities to participate in the process.

6.    Must be effective and efficient

Local government should implement decisions and follow processes that make the best use of the available people, resources and time to ensure the best possible results for their community.

7.    Must be participatory

Anyone affected by or interested in a decision should have the opportunity to participate in the process for making that decision. This can happen in several ways – community members may be provided with information, asked for their opinion, given the opportunity to make recommendations or, in some cases, be part of the actual decision-making process.

This can be further enhance through the incorporation of our traditional systems of governance into the structure where hereditary chiefs can also be involved in decision-making processes.

B. Law and Order

Law and Order in Bougainville is peculiar to type of post crisis environment that exists today. There is no law and order as we know it in other parts of the world. Crimes committed are not reported but in general the environment is peaceful and people go about their daily chores without thinking much about law and order or dealing with it in their own way developed over the years as it became necessary. The Bougainville Police Service has limited powers. For the Bougainville to be independent it must have rule of law that citizens should adhere to and that citizens, business and other activities are protected by the law and are performed with the boundaries of the laws of Bougainville as an independent nation.

An independent Bougainville would come under two types of law, customary law and the law of the country which is based on other laws adopted from western society.  Often these two laws come into conflict with each other in some areas. When a murder is committed people just pay compensation to the relatives of the deceased and the murderer is not brought before the law. This does not seem to be a deterrent to those who may commit the same crime in future.

The biggest challenge faced by law enforcement agency is the existence of firearms in the community, mostly in the hands of former combatants who did not hand them in during the arms disposal program facilitated by the United Nations. The other area were weapons still remain is with the breakaway faction from BRA, the “Meekamui” which was never party to the Bougainville Peace Agreement and therefore considers itself not bound by the Agreement to disarm. The situation has become more complicated with Noah Musingku a failed money scheme operator employing them as his army for a the self-styled “Kingdom of Papala” of which he claims himself to be the Monarch “King Pei”.

Law and Order needs good decisive leadership at the political level and properly trained and disciplined police.

C. Health

Health is a very important aspect of development. A nation of healthy people is vibrant and prosperous rather than a nation of sick people. A nation needs are health workforce to drive its economy and provide services. Health along with Education should be placed high on the list of government list of development priorities.

Bougainville’s heath care system should be modelled along the lines of Cuban healthcare system. According to World Health Organization (WHO), Cuba’s health care system is an example for all countries of the world

During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country’s achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: “Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation,” She also praised “the efforts of the country’s leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development”

Our health care system should be based on preventive medicine and not so much on curative efforts which many times have failed. More research should be made into traditional medicine and healing. All plants with know healing and curative properties should be tested for substances that can be used to prevent or cure diseases and safe guard health of the population.

Like in Cuba our citizens should have access to health care. With an infant mortality rate of 4.2 per thousand births, the Caribbean island is the best performer on the continent and in the Third World generally. This is also demonstrated by the quality of its health care system and the impact it has on the well-being of children and pregnant women. The infant mortality rate in Cuba is lower than it is in the United States and is among the lowest in the world. [5]

With a life expectancy of 78 years, Cuba is one of the best performers on the American continent and in the Third World, achieving results similar to those of most developed nations. On the average, Cubans live 30 years longer than their Haitian neighbors. In 2025, Cuba will have the highest proportion of its population over the age of 60 in all of Latin America.

The Cuban health system is recognized worldwide for its excellence and its efficiency. Despite extremely limited resources and the dramatic impact caused by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States for more than half a century, Cuba has managed to guarantee access to care for all segments of the population and obtain results similar to those of the most developed nations.

With our limited resource we can also achieve what Cuba has achieved. The only thing that can prevent us is the lack of political will to protect the vulnerable population.

D. Education

The current education system teaches our children to go and find non-existent ready-made jobs. After spending most part of their young lives in school they find themselves unceremoniously dumped or dropped out by the system that they put they faith, hope and trust in to secure a better life.

A good education system should be the one that prepares students for life. It should not continue to drop out students who leave the system believing they have “failed” in life and must live the remainder of their lives thinking that way.

Education must begin early at home where parents must be responsible for shaping their children’s character and behavior. Early childhood education is very import phase of learning for all students and firm learning foundation should be established by early childhood learning schools in their pupils.

Bougainville can do well to learn from it’s Asian neighbours who are the top of the world rankings in education systems. These countries value hard work and diligence over inherit talent or “smartness”. Teachers and education administrators maybe sent to train and understudy the Asian systems of education so that we can adopt and adapt them for use in our schools.

Teachers should be well trained and proficient in all aspects of learning and methods of imparting knowledge and skills to the learner. They must be well-versed in teaching in both in the classroom and as well outdoors.

Peer to peer education must be encouraged apart from teacher to student education. Students must learn to interact with each other for this what they will do when they go out to work. The current “outcome based education” (OBE) must be done away with as it has not been successful through the country and in many other places it was introduced to.

Finally education system should create people who can create, innovate and bring about results with whatever resources they have on hand. It should teach our students their traditional and cultural values of relationship and customs.

E. Avoid Over-reliance on extractives industry

Like Bougainville, Papua New Guinea is blessed with a vast endowment of natural resources and a geographic proximity to rapidly growing Asian markets for those resources. But as many developing countries have found, such blessings can also be a curse. Although PNG policymakers are aware of the ‘resources curse’, they have been unable to avoid suffering from it.

The socio-economic impact of PNG’s extractives sector has been uneven at best. The resources sector will continue to offer opportunities to skilled university graduates but the majority of these jobs are largely dependent on favourable world prices and are limited in number.

Bougainville has had a terrible history and experience with a copper mine that was responsible for destroying it’s environment while giving back little in return to the landowners and people affected by the mine. Despite huge profits made during the mines life Bougainville saw very little development in terms of roads and other infrastructure and the improved standard of living.

Before Bougainville can ever consider turning back to mining and other extractives industries it should develop other industries such as cash crop and subsistence agriculture. For Bougainville’s economy to avoid problems associated with falling commodity prices and other disasters it should establish a broad-based economy.

F. Develop potential of subsistence agriculture

Bougainville relies on subsistence agriculture to feed approximately 90 per cent of its population. The rural population’s ability to feed themselves from crops they grow means the country largely avoids the severe hunger problems that afflict much of the developing world.

A diet based on subsistence agriculture has also helped Bougainvilleans avoid the growth of diet-related non-communicable diseases such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, which have afflicted neighbouring Polynesian and Micronesian states.

While the government has focused on enabling opportunities for the extractives industry, it has ignored the very substantial job creation and economic returns that could come from investment in commercializing subsistence agriculture.

Given that agriculture is largely in the hands of subsistence farmers, is the economic mainstay of most developing countries and a main source of foreign exchange, reductions in barriers to trade expand the opportunities for raising the sector’s output. The extent to which developing countries are able to take advantage of new market opportunities emerging from globalization ultimately depends on their competitiveness and their capacity to increase the production of goods which are in demand (World Bank 2005). This
may require substantial investments in infrastructure, technology and communications aimed at reducing costs and speeding up transport. But it also calls for developing institutional capacities to set and enforce high standards and for training of farmers in the production of marketable products of a high standard (Dixon et al. 2001a, 2001b;
IFPRI2001; World Bank 2005)
The potential of subsistence agriculture to eradicate hunger and poverty and improve the well being of the rural communities in developing countries cannot be underestimated.
The challenges the farmers face must, however, be addressed if this potential is to be realized. Meeting these challenges will require coordinated and concerted efforts by all the
stakeholders, private and public sectors and the involvement of farmers at all levels of decision making. Active participation by the farmer involves participatory approaches to planning and implementation of programmes, building the capacity of the farmers and farmer organizations to influence policies. Upgrading existing basic rural infrastructures and developing new ones, increased investment in rural agriculture and, access to information and assured access to markets will be important supportive pillars for this great potential to be fully realized.

G. Population

The population of Bougainville was recorded at 249,358 in the 2011 census, a 42.36 per cent increase since the previous census in 2000 which was 175, 160

This rapid  population increase presents complex problems for Bougainville and its development aspirations. It offers an opportunity to drive GDP growth and improve human development but it also increases the burden on governments delivery of services to such a rapidly increasing population. The government has to come up with a population policy to control the population on a manageable level.