Go Pinis

Go Pinis

Saturday, November 13, 2010

BBQ with a Bougainvillean

So I was travelling to work the other day and happened to glance out of the bus window…and much to my surprise I saw the former President of Bougainville, James Tanis, standing on the side of the road.

As soon as the bus stopped I bolted out the door and caught up with him. Turns out James has been in Canberra for the past six weeks, working on his memoirs and consulting on some papers in cooperation with the Australian National University.

From left: Me, James, Saskia

We’ve since had James over for a couple of barbeques at our apartment. It has been great catching up on events but more importantly we have both enjoyed just having a beer together. Saskia also set up a talk for James and ANU academic Anthony Reagan at the Attorney-General’s Department which apparently went very well.

James heads off next week and may return next year to study a Masters in International Relations. He’s got some ideas on how to continue to help Bougainville while he is abroad, and with all of his connections I’m sure he will be able to get something going. If he does I will be sure to write a post about it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The debate continues

G'day from Canberra, Australia,

Since leaving Bougainville on the 8th of May I've managed to spend my time running around NZ and Australia. Places I've managed to visit (in order of appearance): Port Moresby, Brisbane, Napier, Wellington, Auckland, Sydney, Woollongong, Canberra and Jindabyne. Have managed to see most of my friends and family which is fantastic, but all this travel and socialising left me exhausted! Am now temporarily settled in Canberra, where I've been relaxing and taking things in. I hope to work at Perisher Ski Field for the winter season so I hope the snowfall improves soon...

Enough about me though. Those who have worked in PNG, whether as a volunteer or on a salary, may take great interest in this article. Susan Merrell, a freelance journalist hits the common points on the debate around whether Australian aid can really help PNG. I encourage you to check the comments that follow, they run across the spectrum. For a local perspective check out this blog post on Tubuans and Dukduks.

Also have some news on Bougainville. Apparently there was a bit of drama in Arawa with a ship coming illegally into PNG waters (again) and handing out arms to a local faction that is competing for the last of the oil at Loloho. The faction was successful and managed to out do a dodgy Kiwi/local joint venture which had spent months working to salvage the oil (this had nothing to do with the NZ government or other Kiwis working in Bougainville).

The dodgy Kiwis apparently retaliated by complaining to the authorities on their way out of PNG. The PNG Customs and Immigration Department eventually intercepted the boat and seized the ship when it left Loloho on its way to Singapore. It is anyone's guess as to what is going to happen to all that valuable oil now...

The real issue here is the impact on New Zealand ex-patriots in Bougainville. I'm reliably told that a curfew was imposed on the weekend of the 19th of June because factions associated with the ship fought local police and threatened to seize assets associated with NZ. This just reinforces the importance of local relationships in ensuring any ex-patriots are safe. All it takes is one group with selfish interests to put everyone at risk.

On a less serious note, to those who offered support for Alvin I am pleased to say that my last act in Bougainville was to purchase an open ticket that will fly a dermatologist to Buka so that Alvin can finally get the treatment he needs. Bjorn has updated his website with the details here. My flatmate Victoria (still in Buka) is now pushing for confirmation of the travel dates. I will continue to post updates on this as they come through.

All right, plenty to chew on in this post! Lukim yu.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bogan I Go Pinis

Hey there,
After 21 months of adventures I finished my contract and left Bougainville on the 8th of May 2010. It was an amazing adventure....I wish I could say more, but words fail me!
Thanks for reading my blog, I don't know if I will keep it up but at least for now it stays for those with an interest in the issues I've written about. If you are interested in Bougainville and have any questions I can be contacted on hi.mrwolf@gmail.com. If I can't help I may be able to forward you onto someone who will.
Peace, love and jagermeister,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


The elections have closed and the results are in: John Momis will be the new President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. He will be Bougainville's third President (James Tanis is the outgoing President, voted in after Joseph Kabui passed away during the first term). If you'd like to know more, the Ginger Ninja has covered it here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Alvin IV


Sorry for the lack of updates on the Alvin issue. We had originally intended to have the dermatologist visit Buka in early April but due to some miscommunication with my bank the funds for the dermatologist's flights were not transferred in time. Am pleased, however, to let you know that we have raised a total of 1,582.55 kina through the website and direct donations to me. This will cover the cost of flights for the dermatologist.

We have contacted the dermatologist twice this week and we are currently waiting for confirmation of arrival and departure dates. I am hoping he will wish to come within the next two weeks. Will keep you posted.

Thanks for the support.

Enough law, no order

In my previous post I told the story of our Chief Administrator's run in with raskols in Siwai. Although this story was of interest on its own, it illustrates some significant problems facing law and justice in Bougainville.

As a local senior official has often said, "Bougainville has lots of laws but no order." The system of law and justice in Papua New Guinea is a slowly merging mix of customary and formal* approaches to conflict resolution. Bougainville is establishing a similar system post-Crisis. But it faces some significant challenges.

For example, at present there is approximately one police officer for every 1,341 Bougainvilleans, which, given that the population is mostly rural and spread over mountainous terrain, puts the formal system under some strain. The Bougainville Police Service are also unarmed and under resourced (shortage of houses, vehicles, police posts etc).

It is therefore not surprising that the BPS are struggling to assert their authority in the community. But we need that to change because there are a number of trends in the community that the ABG needs to get a handle on. They include:

  • the prevalence of violent crime in the community (i.e. sexual assaults and retributive killings);
  • the prevalence of domestic violence in the community;
  • the continued presence of guns in the community;
  • the trade in small and light arms over the border with the Solomon Islands; and
  • the continued existence of the Morgan Junction and Tonu roadblocks.

These challenges are significant and I should note that none of the problems detailed here are unique to Bougainville – you will find similar examples in many other provinces in Papua Guinea, as reported by local media. The question for the Autonomous Bougainville Government is: can it take advantage of its autonomous status and steer the region away from the trend of rising crime and insecurity in Papua New Guinea?


* When I use the term 'formal' I am referring to the legal system introduced by Australia and adopted by Papua New Guinea when it gained independence in 1975.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Mob Rules

I have a story for you. As far as I am aware this is a close a rendition of the truth.

Our Chief Administrator, the bureaucratic head of the public service, was recently accosted in Southern Bougainville. Six thugs, or raskols, decided they wanted his government vehicle and used an M16, a .303, a shotgun, a hand made gun and a grass knife (a grass knife is a very long machete) to try and persuade him to hand it over. He refused, explaining that his driver had the keys, which was a good idea since the driver wasn't there at the time. The raskols left and promised to come back for the car later.

The Chief Administrator then collected his driver and went and complained to the local chiefs. The chiefs in turn called on the local ex-combatants to round up the raskols.

I should note at this point that ex-combatants are still relied on as an alternative to responding to crime through the police. Their 'bush justice' essentially involves finding those who are allegedly guilty, taking them into the bush and applying brute force. Sometimes only the ex-combatants return.

And so the raskols were rounded up. As soon as the Chief Administrator heard he rushed down to intervene, fearing of course that they wouldn't survive the encounter….but they did, although one had a few chunks taken out of him with a machete. They are all in custody in Buin, apart from Mr Chunks, who is in Buka General Hospital. Reconciliation between the raskols, their people and the Chief Administrator is currently being planned and the Chief Administrator is in good spirits.

End of story time. You can now return to your completely different world.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dunedin, what happened?

First the Bowler was lost, now Gardies…one by one Otago's famous student institutions are disappearing…I propose a day of remembrance, lest we forget.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alvin III

I am pleased to let you know that we have enough funding to fly the dermatologist to Bougainville. Furthermore, the Director of Medical Services at Buka General Hospital has just informed me that they want him here for two weeks, during which time the dermatologist will see patients in Buka, Arawa and Buin.

So, my next job is to get in touch with Alvin and have him here on the 9th of April as the D is arriving on the 10th. The goal is in sight.

Thanks for your support :)

Torokina and Munitions

Last year I posted an article about the WWII munitions still present and put to use in Bougainville. They remain a hazard to locals, with some using them as weapons and others using the gun powder to create bombs for killing fish. Sometimes there are tragic consequences…

An American WWII mortar bomb exploded two weeks ago in the southern district of Torokina, taking the left leg and hand of Sylvester Minel. The story was captured by Gorethy Kenneth in the Post Courier on Wednesday 10 March. I will quote her directly:

"Eye witnesses told this reporter in Buka that Sylvester … was 'playing around' with the live mortar bomb when it went off blasting his legs into pieces and cutting off his arms.

He is in critical condition at the Buka General Hospital after being rushed to the hospital on a motorised dinghy from Torokina.

His leg was amputated as it was badly damaged and beyond construction while his right leg had an iron rod inserted to support the bones."

A local constable was quoted as saying that Sylvester was hitting the live mortar with a hammer and chisel to remove the bomb's fuse and powder. The intention was then to turn that into dynamite to blast fish in the ocean for an easy catch. The constable goes on to say that this "is now a practice young people in the area are obsessed with."

My grandfather was responsible for managing munitions stores in Italy during WWII. I wonder what he would make of all this.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Alvin II

Spoke to a government official about Alvin's plight and he said "why don't you fly the dermatologist to Bougainville?"

Good idea.

Spoke to Director of Medical Services at Buka General Hospital. Turns out the dermatologist working in Port Moresby's public hospital (at least I think that's where he works; they have several private hospitals over there) is married to a Bougainvillean, and he is keen to come over. Furthermore, he wants us to organise a week's worth of appointments for him so that Bougainvilleans get a decent chance to see him while he is in Buka.

Seems like good value for money to me. Am still looking into things so will let you know how it goes.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aid workers earning more than Rudd

JOHN Dinsdale, a former clerk of a court in Melbourne, is being paid more than half a million dollars a year, tax-free, as Australia's law and justice adviser to Papua New Guinea, where crime and corruption keep rising as aid increases.

Peter Kelly, an engineer from Brisbane, is receiving $433,000 tax-free a year to supervise the maintenance of the 73km of paved roads, 1303 km of gravel roads and 400km of earth roads in the tropical tourist haven of Vanuatu.

Both are earning substantially more than Kevin Rudd, who is paid about $350,000 a year, on which the Prime Minister also pays tax.

Australia's aid budget has soared by 42 per cent since mid-2005. And the Rudd government is pushing to meet an election promise by doubling current aid spending to $8 billion a year, 0.5 per cent of the economy, in five years.

This, in turn, is pushing AusAID -- which employs 914 people directly, 187 based overseas -- to spend almost half of its budget on "technical assistance", twice the average in other industrialised countries' aid budgets.

Much of this is deployed through contractors such as Mr Dinsdale and Mr Kelly. The "implementing service provider" of the PNG Australia Law and Justice Partnership with which Mr Dinsdale works is Cardno, a global consulting firm that recently took over Australian firm ACIL.

Cardno is being paid $137 million to run the program, which employs about 60 advisers, over five years to mid-2014. Australia is giving PNG $414m overall this year.

AusAID is also diversifying beyond its Asia-Pacific focus to encompass Africa.

But although spreading the aid program geographically makes it easier to spend the $8bn, this provides poor use of taxpayers' money, says Jenny Hayward-Jones, director of the Lowy Institute's Melanesia Program. Besides, she said, this thrust "is really motivated by Australia's desire to be elected to the UN Security Council".

Mr Dinsdale said that his contract prevented him talking to the media, but he did not believe his cost "would be out of the ordinary with anybody else".

Mr Kelly, who was previously the top roads adviser at AusAID, for which he worked directly for eight years, said: "I am not in a position to comment on those details."

He has to use his package, as does Mr Dinsdale, to pay for his housing and security overseas, airfares and other needs.

Paulinus Sikosana, AusAID's health adviser to PNG, is receiving $743,000 over two years. Originally from Zimbabwe, where he was health department head, he has worked in seven countries, and AusAID believes it is necessary to pay such amounts to persuade people with the needed skills to work in a place such as Port Moresby, recently listed by The Economist as the third-least liveable city in the world.

The objective of AusAID is "to assist developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development, in line with Australia's national interest guided by the Millennium Development Goals".

The Australian National Audit Office's latest review of AusAID, two months ago, while positive overall, said that as the aid budget doubled, "AusAID faces considerable management challenges".

"AusAID staff are concerned about workloads and stress levels at many overseas posts and there is a shortfall of expertise in some areas," it said. The office recommends "improved external reporting to make aid program running costs more transparent".

The audit office says Australia has "a tendency to rely too much" on technical assistance, the goal of which is usually "capacity-building". Top of the "key goals" of the law and justice partnership in PNG is "to achieve measurable progress against sector goals".

But Sinclair Dinnen, senior fellow at the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia Program at the Australian National University, said that "crime and corruption is certainly not getting any better" in PNG.

In recent weeks, Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, a leading ethnic Chinese businessman was murdered, and all the inmates of the maximum-security jail escaped, with only two recaptured.

Dr Dinnen asked: "What are we getting for this money?" What can aid projects achieve "in the context where the whole notion of public service is, to say the least, fragile, and people are operating in different worlds?"

He added: "Capacity-building is such an inexact and uncertain process, and you can't see significant advances there in PNG. We've been working at helping improve the crime situation for 35 years now, and haven't got a lot to show for it. There's a culture of impunity now. You can get away with murder."

An AusAID spokeswoman said: "The PNG government frequently requests Australia to provide technical experts to advise PNG government departments, and approves these appointments. These advisers bring crucial skills that often do not exist locally.

"In order to attract the best people to adviser positions, it's necessary to pay competitive market rates."

AusAID said the positive results of the PNG justice program included revitalisation of village courts and a decrease in the number of juveniles held on remand.

And road maintenance was important in Vanuatu for those in isolated rural areas dependent on transport links.

From The Australian with additional reporting from AAP.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Last year me mate Bjorn visited a coral atoll known as the Carteret Islands, which is a cluster of islands about three hours east of here. On one of those islands he met a 14 year old boy called Alvin.

Alvin is suffering from an undiagnosed skin disease which has resulted in the loss of his toes and fingers. The local doctor is unable to provide any treatment beyond covering his wounds. For Alvin to get proper treatment he needs to be sailed to Bougainville and flown from there to Port Moresby (Buka General Hospital does not have the necessary laboratory facilities).

Bjorn has decided to do what he can to help Alvin and has set up a fundraising website to try and raise $2,000, which would cover the costs of return travel to Port Moresby and medical treatment in a hospital. Please take the time to visit this website and make a donation so he can get some medical treatment. Note that the pay pal link for payment is in Danish, but you can easily switch to English by choosing from the drop down menu on the top right hand corner - click on Dansk.

Once the money is sorted I will then personally make the arrangements to get Alvin to a hospital.

Thank you in advance or any help you can give.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rage Against The Machine

You can't make this stuff up. I love it!

Rage Against The Machine to play free show as reward

Rage Against The Machine have revealed details of a free gig rewarding fans following the campaign for last year's Christmas number one.

The Californian band have fulfilled their promise by playing a concert at London's Finsbury Park venue on Sunday 6 June.

Tickets for the 40,000 capacity event will be distributed via a lottery system - fans have until midnight on Sunday 14 February to register their details for the ballot.

Announcing the news on Radio 1's Zane Lowe show guitarist Tom Morello said: "We promised to play a free show if our song was number one at Christmas and here we come."

He added: "We were very happy that our song was a vehicle for what was truly a grassroots people's revolution.

Rage beat X Factor's Joe McElderry to Christmas number one

"It was not so much the band as the people who toppled the X Factor giant - frankly it was a shock wave around the world."

In December Rage Against The Machine beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry to Christmas top spot following a Facebook campaign begun by music fans Jon and Tracy Morter.

In the most competitive festive race for many years the Californian rap-rockers sold 500,000 downloads of their track Killing In The Name, beating McElderry's cover of Miley Cyrus's The Climb by 50,000.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bougainville vs Rio Tinto

So those that have been paying attention will know that there was a domestic dispute between Bougainville Copper Limited, the Government of Papua New Guinea and (some) Bougainvilleans. Things went bad very quickly and Bougainville is still picking up the pieces.

The conflict essentially centred on disputes over the distribution of profits arising from the mine, the environmental impacts of the mine and the influx of migrants. The conflict itself added another dimension when guns were introduced and the middle ground became no-man's land.

So where does Rio Tinto, one of the largest international mining corporations, fit into the picture? Well, as it happens, they own Bougainville Copper Limited, and some locals have connected the dots and filed a class action law suit against Rio Tinto in the United States.

How can they do that? Well, I won't drag you through the details, but a piece of legislation called the United States Alien Tort Claims Act allows foreign nationals to bring suits in the United States against companies that violate international law. And let me tell you, we are talking some serious allegations here…

In brief, the 22 Bougainvillean plaintiffs have alleged that improperly dumped waste rock and tailings from the Panguna mining operations harmed the island's environment and the health of its residents.  They further alleged that Rio Tinto engaged in racially discriminatory labour practices at the mine by paying local black workers lower wages than white workers and by housing black workers in poor conditions.

If you think that's starting a fight, the plaintiffs have also argued that, because the mine was a joint venture between Rio Tinto and the PNG Government, and because Rio Tinto's threats led PNG to use military force against Bougainvilleans, Rio Tinto is responsible for human rights violations and war crimes committed during the Crisis.


Rio Tinto immediately counter-punched by challenging the basis for filing the case in the United States and after lots of dodging and weaving it has finally been decided that, yes, it's kosher to hear the case in the US and certain allegations (specifically the claims concerning crimes against humanity, war crimes and racial discrimination) were of universal concern and should be heard.

Now, it has taken nine years for the case to get this far, so don't expect too much in the near future, and even if they make it to the 12th round there's a nasty hook waiting for them… under PNG law it is illegal for compensation proceedings to be taken or pursued in a foreign court.

So this whole thing has barely started but it is clear that it is going to be controversial. At best this case will bring up issues that have yet to be dealt with in a public arena; at worst this case risks undermining Bougainville's progress on reconciliation and peace building. Time will tell.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Restoration and Development in Bougainville

Tok Save

Community Views on Restoration and Development

3 February 2010


The ABG Division of Planning, Monitoring and Aid Coordination has released the findings from a series of public forums that were conducted across Bougainville in 2009. Public forums were held in Buka, Arawa, Buin and the Carterets Islands to seek public opinion on whether progress has been achieved over the last four years, what the challenges to progress were and where the ABG should invest its resources to ensure continued development in Bougainville.

Forum participants were generally of the opinion that progress has been made on restoring and developing Bougainville. Participants complimented the community policing programme, noted the increase in the number of aid posts and discussed the number of schools in Bougainville.

Forum participants have also identified a number of challenges facing Bougainville, including the continued presence of guns in the community; the existence of the Morgan Junction Roadblock; the lack of financial and electricity services in most of Bougainville; the costs involved in sending children to school and shortages of medical supplies in Bougainville's health centres.

To achieve continued progress forum participants have recommended several actions that the ABG could take, including: improving the performance of the police; disarmament or registration of guns; the rehabilitation of dormant plantations; extending access to electricity and credit facilities; subsidisation of school fees; improved teacher performance; more health patrols and the recruitment of more nurses and doctors.

On behalf of the ABG the Division of Planning, Monitoring and Aid coordination would like to thank the 725 Bougainvilleans who took time out of their day to attend the forums and express their points of view.

A report summarising the issues raised at the forums is available from the Division of Planning, Monitoring and Aid Coordination. This report will inform advice to the Bougainville Executive Council on what Bougainville's development priorities are for the period 2011-2015.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On My Last Legs

Kia ora,

I am back in Bougainville after my final holiday and am now in the last quarter of my 24 month contract. Feels great to be back and I am now focused on getting my work completed and ready for a handover.

With elections scheduled for June it is going to be an exciting year for Bougainville. This is the Autonomous Bougainville Government's fifth year of operation, and, if the referendum on interdependence does happen in 2015, then we are half-way towards Bougainville's big deadline.

So, a time of change, reflection and focus.

After juggling too many balls last year I am now concentrating on three projects:

  1. A briefing to the incoming government on Bougainville's development priorities for 2011-2015
  2. Completion of the ABG Health Plan 2011-2015
  3. Completion of policy advice on Crisis Related Grievances

All three will keep me flat out until I finish and I am happy because they are good, solid projects. Will try and keep this blog updated on my work

Hope you had a great holiday and happy New Year!