Bougainville Development Corporation

Bougainville Development Corporation (BDC), a corporation established in the 1970s, in which the NSPG held slightly more than 50 per cent of the shares, was generally referred to as the business arm of the NSPG. How the BDC operated was little known to village people. All that was known and expected was that it should support the financial autonomy of the NSPG.

Following the 1984 provincial elections, however, it became clear that the NSPG was losing control over BDC. The premier from 1980 to 1984, Leo Hannett, was regarded as a Pangu Pati supporter, an opponent of the Melanesian Alliance Pati, whose candidate, Alexis Sarei, became premier. But although the NSPG was the majority shareholder of BDC, it did not have control of the special majority of shares needed to remove Hannett as chairman of the BDC board of directors after the elections. Tensions between the NSPG and elements of the BDC board were evident, and these became quite intense when the board organised an issue of new shares that diluted the NSPG shareholding below 50 per cent.

BDC was now seen in the village as a private business benefiting just a few individuals. It became an object of exactly the same kind of anger and resentment as the issues that divided the mine lease landowners in relation to the old PLA and the New PLA. Former premier, Leo Hannett, became a household name as part of the widespread public discussion of BDC affairs. The perception in the village, based on what the leaders were saying, was that Leo Hannett ‘emi bagarapim BDC’ (he was messing up BDC).

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