Saturday, July 3, 2010

New Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG)

I was lucky enough to be in Buka for the swearing in ceremony of the new president and the second house of representatives for the ABG. It was far from boring! There were lots of song and dance items presented by the various language groups in the Bougainville region. The politicians’ speeches weren’t boring either, in fact I thought they were rather inspiring.

One of the cultural items:

At one stage when we were standing around watching the dances, the police shooed us away, saying ‘Hide, hide’. We didn’t do much other than just move along a little bit, then they told us all to sit down, which we did. The police were actually enforcing culturally appropriate respect for the next group who were coming out. There were some ‘born-chiefs’ in this group and they wear traditional ‘upe’ hats. They stay in their houses in the bush all the time and you would never see them walking around town. Women aren’t supposed to be near them and should show respect to them, so that is why we were told to hide and sit down. The men grow their hair and the hats are only held on by their hair inside it. I’m amazed that some of the ones that are on a bit of an angle don’t fall off!

Here are some of the men with the upe hats.

It was a really hot sunny day, and we wanted to be in the shade, but still see everything, so we ended up joining others who had crawled under a stage that the dignitaries were seated on. I turned around and took this photo of the people behind me under the stage:

The people of Bougainville are hoping that this new government will prepare Bougainville for independence. The earliest that they could gain independence is in five years, but it could be 15 years away at the latest. My friend Ailyne told me that three things need to be established before they gain independence: weapons disposal; economy; and good governance. Mining is Bougainville’s best option for economy, but that was what caused the civil war from 1988-2000. The new president, the honourable John Momis, is considering re-opening the mine however, in consultation with the landowners. The local newspaper recently said that independence for Bougainville is still a long way off.

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