Mungkas Association

Although Ona was on the executive of this important Arawa-based organisation, its major focus was on the impacts of the influx into Bougainville of people from elsewhere in PNG and the limited mine-related opportunities for Bougainvilleans in general. The name, Mungkas Association, originated with Bougainvillean students at the University of PNG who met to discuss Bougainville’s political future in the late 1960s. Various manifestations subsequently emerged, in Port Moresby and other urban centres, as well as in Bougainville, to address specific problems. The Arawa Mungkas Association, set up in 1987, comprised representatives of communities from many parts of Bougainville then resident in mine-related urban areas. During 1988, its members held public meetings and demonstrations to express grievances about squatter settlements.

The minutes of an executive meeting in held in Arawa on 24 March 1988, with Ona and Serero in attendance, provide insights into their concerns and demands. Squatters from elsewhere in PNG were said to be committing crimes, taking over customary land, running small businesses and taking jobs and business opportunities that should have been reserved for Bougainvilleans. The NSPG administrator, Peter Tsiamalili, reported on the Operation Mekim Save taskforce that had just been set up to respond to such problems. He counselled moderation and collaboration with the NSPG.

Some members wanted ‘to take violent action now’, while others spoke of the need to save Bougainville from crime, or called for an end to the PNG plantation labour scheme, under which labourers were recruited from elsewhere in PNG, because ‘it is the vehicle of death’. As an indication of the broad but unfocused sympathy amongst Bougainvilleans for secession from PNG, the minutes record unanimous agreement on two points: ‘in view [of] all the suffering, misery and lose facing [sic] we have been made to bear’, to ‘put it in strongest terms to the Prov. [Provincial] and Nat. [National] Governments that North Solomons DEMANDS SUCCESSION [sic]’; but ‘if they object to this demand’, then the two governments must ‘act immediately to remove all unemployed squatters from the whole of North Solomons’, and the PNG Constitution must be amended to require employers to return workers to their place of origin at the end of their contracts. Furthermore:

This meeting strongly felt that our inclusion with PNG is a direct route to Bville neutralisation. This is starting. This plan is not because of BCL, but for our own safety and wellbeing.

Additional calls were made for BCL and the NSPG to remove outsiders; for 80 per cent of BCL employees to be Bougainvilleans; for BCL to terminate non-Bougainvillean contractors undertaking jobs that could be handled by Bougainvilleans; and for ‘all tradestores [to] be returned to landowners’. The minutes also record the presentation of a plan by ‘landowners’ (presumably the NPLA) that included ‘mine shutdown’, secession, and ‘BCL demanded to pay K10 billion for the damage’. However, it is most unlikely that permanent closure was envisaged here, or that the Mungkas executive would have supported such a proposal, for the minutes also advocated pressure on BCL to preference Bougainvillean employees and contractors.

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