The week beginning 4 May was a big week for me. It was a week of first times:
- I was criticised on the radio
- I was interviewed on the radio
- I briefed a President
- I briefed Cabinet, and
- I cooked naked.
I'm quite proud of this. Ignoring the signs that I am going feral without a flatmate, things are looking up :)
Highlight was probably the radio. Story with that – some git came up from Arawa and falsely reported facts concerning a public forum I ran in Arawa, the former capital of Bougainville. Fortunately for me, I'm friends with the lads down at Radio Bougainville, so I went down there and (diplomatically) gave them an ear full. They in turn politely requested to interview me about the forums, to which I consented.
One of the projects I am working on at the moment requires that we conduct public forums on restoration and development across Bougainville. This is pretty important, as it provides the public with an opportunity to send a message to the politicians. Furthermore, there are big differences in development across the regions, and I am hoping the forums will identify those differences. That should result in more informed planning of the delivery of services…I hope. At a minimum the politicians will be better informed come budget time.
The bonus is that I am getting a chance to see Bougainville. Two forums have been conducted so far, one in Arawa and one in Buin, the 'urban' centre for southern Bougainville. I was very lucky to go on that trip, not many volunteers get to go down there, but it really opened my eyes to the challenges facing development in that region. Fighting is still ongoing, albeit on a small scale, and the police face significant challenges in imposing law and order…and that's just one of the issues they are grappling with down there. Conversely, Arawa is much more settled yet seems stuck in time. It is noticeably different to Buin; it is safe for women to move around at night and there is a lot more economic activity. Arawa still has a long way to go but at least it is further along the line than it's southern neighbour.
The upswing of all this so far is I am starting to pull together the key themes for each region. I will talk more about that once the forums are completed, but I'm happy to say that I managed to get several key messages across in my radio interview and they have now been broadcast. Hopefully the participants at the forums will feel reassured that we are listening when they talk.