BOUGAINVILLE

Post-War Era

           

For most Bougainvillians the period from the end of World War II to the middle of 1964 was one of gradual and only moderately unfamiliar change. The basis for most of that change lay in the new post-war policies adopted by the Australian government towards its Territories of Papua and northeast New guinea. In fact, those policies began to be formulated during the war, when the Labor government decided to make native welfare the principal objective in governing those territories, in deed as well as in word. This change of emphasis was of course in line with Labor's traditional ideology and in tune with anti-colonists stirrings elsewhere. but it was reinforced by a renewed recognition of the strategic military importance of New guinea to Australia's security, and by the corollary that a more prosperous, better educated, and politically sophisticated indigenous population would provide a stronger shield against future aggression from the north or the west.

In this spirit an agreement was made in 1946 with the newly federal United Nations which gave Australia exclusive trusteeship over the former Mandated Territory of New Guinea (Papua was already on integral dependency of the commonwealth), subject only to the obligations that administration would be carried out so that 'the customs and usages of the indigenous inhabitants would be protected, their cultural and educational advancement assured, their rights and interests safe-guarded, and an increasingly progressive shre4 in the administrative and other services given to them, as the territory developed. Meanwhile the Australian government declared its intention of combining Papua and the Trust Territory of New Guinea for administrative purposes, a practical arrangement that had been in effect since the early days of the war. This move was opposed by some members of the United Nations on the grounds that it might slow down the Trust Territory's political development, or even lead to eventual Australian annexation of it. Despite those objections, Australia continued to administer Papua and the Trust Territory as a single dependency, but also continued to submit its reports to the United Nations covering the latter only.

A whole chapter would be required to trace how the war-born policy underwent change over the ensuing thirty years. Here in this brief account will be considered only the highlights of these changes, as background to the particular concern with Bougainville and Buka. In terms of official government policy concerning the future political status of the (combined) Territory of Papua and New Guinea, there were some major shifts. The first was towards a larger, ethnically balanced, measure of self-government for all the Territory's residents, then there was a move towards an emphasis on a government largely of and for indigenes; and finally towards an independent and mainly indigenous nation.

The move towards implementing the policy of ethnically balanced self-government began in 1949 with the setting up of a Territorial Legislative Council. the inclusion of sixteen official members in this advisory body guaranteed that the Administration would retain firm control of it, but the addition of twelve non-official members, including three nominated indigenes and three members elected by the expatriate population, betokened some broadening of representation. It was the expatriate non-official members, and particularly the elected ones, who were most vocal in pressing for a larger share of self-government; the indigenous members tended to hew to the Administration's line. Of course, 'self-government' meant different things to different people in those early post-war days. to many of the Territory's whites it meant more freedom to run their own enterprises without Canberra's bureaucratic control, and while this view of self-government may have included some sentiment for increased indigenous participation, it was based largely on concern for the interests of the whites themselves. As for the official Administration view of self-government, it was undoubtedly more pro-indigene in sentiment, but was constrained by the assumption that the indigenes' interest would be better served by withholding political power from them until they could be educated to make the 'right' kinds of decisions for themselves.

As for the larger issue of independence, the Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, told the Australian Parliament in 1960:

We are not going out of the Territory in a hurry. In our judgment of the situation as it exists today, the Territory will need our help for many years to come and the advanced leaders of the indigenous people say strongly that they need us for a long time ahead. We are not going to abandon them or our own people who are working with them.

Nevertheless, events elsewhere moved the Administration speed up whatever timetable it may have been following regarding both self-government and independence. thus, in June 1960, after this return from a Commonwealth prime ministers' conference, the (Liberal Party) Prime Minister, Robert Menzies, made the following statement:

Whereas at one time many of us might have thought it was better to go slowly in granting independence so that all conditions existed for a wise exercise of self-government, I think the prevailing school of thought today is that if in doubt you go sooner, not later. I belong to that school of thought myself now, though I didn't once. But I have seen enough in recent years to satisfy me that even though some independences may have been premature, they have at least been achieved with goodwill . . .

Another such event was a resolution adopted by the United Nations' Trusteeship Council in June 1960, calling on Australia to set target dates with respect to political, economic, social and educational development 'so as to create as soon as possible favourable conditions for the attachment of self-government or independence'. The government was also stipulated to faster action by events in adjoining West anew guinea, where an Indonesian government was moving to take over control from the Dutch. And finally, many indigenes were themselves beginning to express a desire for a larger share in their own governance, and this sentiment received influential support from some Administration officials.

In response to these and other pressures the government set up a new Legislative Council in 1961 containing a majority of non-official members, including twelve elected members. The most noteworthy action of this new body, which contained six elected indigenes, was to foster the development of a much-enlarged and more widely representative successes to itself. This latter body, the House of Assembly, scheduled for 1964, was intended to provide the Territory's indigenes, with a larger share in their government, including education in responsible citizenship, while ensuring the continuation of the Territory's political stability and economic growth. With this in mind, the new body was to include ten official members appointed by the Administrator, and fifty-four members elected by universal adult suffrage (males and females eighteen years of age and over). To choose the elected members, the Territory was divided into forty-four open electorates and ten larger special electorates; candidacy in the former was open to any adult resident regardless of race, but only non-indigenes, i.e. whites or Chinese, could be candidates in the latter. Equality of population size was the main criterion in establishing boundaries for the open electorates, but this was outweight4ed somewhat in an effort to conform to ethnic, geographic and administrative boundaries as well. Thus the smallest open electorate, Manus, contained a population of only 18,000, while the largest, Bougainville District (Bougainville, Buka, Nissan, etc.), contained 54,000.

The boundaries of the larger special electorates were set so as to ensure a wide representation from the non-indigenes, and this served to delimit such areas according to degree of capital investment and economic development. With this as a criterion, the districts of Bougainville, New Ireland and Manus w4re constituted a single 'New Guinea Islands' electorate. The 1964 election was preceded by an intensive educational campaign, and produced some lively contests. In th4e end, over 70 per cent of the Territory's eligible voters cast their votes in the open electorates - a remarkable turn-out for a country often characterized as politically underdeveloped. Also, six of the forty-four victors in the open electorates were whites and two were of mixed race, an indication that the indigenes were at that time not yet eager to go it entirely on their own. With the elections of another ten whites in the reserved special electorates - most of them businessmen and planters - and the addition of the ten administrative appointees (all white), the ethnic composition of the first House of Assembly was twenty-six whites, two of mixed race, and forty-six indigenes. For the first time in the Territory's colonial history, its indigenes were offered an opportunity to legislate for themselves. They were subject, of course, to the Australian government's ultimate veto power, and limited, in fact if not in theory, by their inexperience in operating within the complex and alien procedures of the Westminster parliamentary system.

The first House of Assembly was in office for four years. An expert evaluation of it concluded that its business was efficiently conducted, in terms of the passage of essential legislation, but that it marked little progress in the political education of its indigenous members. Despite their majority, the latter exercised little initiative, and they tended to follow the lead of the white members, official and elected. Moreover, although ten of the indigenous members were appointed to serve as ministerial under-secretaries in the various departments of the Administration, they took little part in the actual running of them.

Parallel of these moves toward Territory-wide political unification and self-government, and preceding them by several years, were the Administration's efforts to increase the scope and domain of government at the local level. Beginning in 1949, encouragement was given to setting up local government councils, which were intended to replace the previous village or neighbourhood units headed by appointed officials (kukerai, tultul, etc.) with much larger units and elected officials. the new councils were empowered to levy (some) taxes, and to carry out (some) public works and developmental projects. These councils were slow to be set up, but from 2500 to 43,000 constituents and encompassing over 1.5 million, or 90 per cent of the Territory's population.

No comprehensive study was made throughout Papua New Guinea of these new units, so it is not possible to appraise their effectiveness. However, it is certain that they varied considerably in realizing the purposes for which they were established. As a minimum they appear to have helped to transform strictly local loyalties into wider regional ones. some of them seem to have been quite successful in undertaking projects in public works and co-operative enterprise. A few of them also began to assert their independence of Territorial administrative influence, although some others seem to have deferred to their Administration 'advisers', no matter how scrupulously the latter attempted to transfer initiative to the council members themselves. It is probably fair to say that, up to 1965, the new institution had not progressed very far towards educating the council members, much less the electorate, in the responsibilities of Australian concepts of citizenship.

Meanwhile much of the pre-war administrative and judicial structure of the newly combines Territories was retained. The executive functions were carried out by sixteen departments (health, agriculture, public service, etc.) headquartered at Port Moresby and under the direction of an Administrator who was appointed by the Governor-General of Australia and was responsible to the Minister for External Territories. In addition, Papua New Guinea was divided into eighteen districts, each under a District commissioner, who was responsible for many administrative matters and for coordinating the activities of the functional departments in his district. At the summit of the judiciary was a Full court of the Supreme Court of Australia whose judges were appointed by the Governor-General, and against whose decisions there was a right of appeal to the High Court of Australia. Lower down the judicial hierarchy the administrative officers continued to exercise ex officio judicial roles, but official policy seemed to be working towards the objective of completely divorcing the judiciary from administration.  

The Australian government's policy towards the economy of Papua New Guinea underwent marked changes after the end of World War II. In the immediate post-war period the emphasis was upon development as a strategic bulwark against external aggression, and upon assisting the indigenes to take a larger part in the development, and a larger share of its rewards. In the words of E.J. Ward, the Minister for Territories at the time:

This Government is not satisfied that sufficient interest had been taken in the territories prior to the Japanese invasion, or that adequate funds had been provided for their development and the advancement of the native inhabitants. Apart from the debt of gratitude that the people of Australia owe to the natives . . . the Government regards it as its bounden duty to further to the utmost the advancement of the natives and considers that can be achieved only by providing better facilities for better health, better education, and for a greater participation by the natives in the wealth of their country and eventually in its Government.

In a more pointed statement issued by the Department of Territories a year later, it was announced that:

for its own protection Australia cannot afford to permit the territories to remain undeveloped or its native population to remain in a backward stage . . . the limitation of the Mandate so far as fortification and defence measures are concerned will not be repeated under the trusteeship system and the administering authority will, in future, be in a position to take whatever measures it considers necessary for the defence of the Territory.

Indigenes and expatriates (and presumably resident Chinese as well) were to work 'side by side' in developing the Trritory's natural resources, which were popularly considered to be immense.

This new concern for the Territory's indigenes was expressed in a liberal war-damages; and in the phasing out of the penal-sanctioned indenture system itself. Approximately 2 million pounds was eventually paid to the Territory's indigenes as compensation for war-caused deaths, injuries and property damages. the cancellation of war-time indentures was also a well-intentioned move, but it resulted in a mass work-stoppage and may have slowed down reconstruction. Also the war damages paid out to indigenes, much of which were dissipated by the purchase of scarce, high-priced trade-store goods, may have served further to slow down reconstruction by reducing the indigenes' incentive to work for wages. 

Slowly, however, the economy started moving again, despite the fears of European residents that the end of the indenture system would spell the end of native labour as well. Indigenes continued to work in expatriate enterprises, with or without contracts; and the higher wages and improved rations now owed them proved commercially feasible because of the high post-war prices paid for the Territory's exports, including copra, of the high post-war prices paid for the Territory's exports, including copra, rubber, and the relatively new major crops of cocoa and coffee. Another, perhaps the principal, factor in the Territory's economic progress during the late 1950s and early 1960s was the Australian government's large subsidies in the form of direct grants and departmental budgets. The pre-war policy requiring the Territories to pay for themselves had limited expenditures to about 500,000 pounds per annum in the Mandated Territory and to about 180,000 pounds in Papua. by contrast, the Australian government contributed an average of nearly 23 million per annum to the combined Territories during the period 1958-63.

A large proportion of this expenditure went into projects and services of direct benefit to the indigenes - to make them healthier, better educated, more self-governing, and capable of earning a larger share of the Territory's wealth. Health faciliti4es were greatly expanded, and the large-scale anti-malaria programmes that were mounted from 1960 onwards met with spectacular success. Schooling was also increased by direct government operation and by subsidies to missions. Thus, during the first eighteen years of the post-war period the official economic objective appears to have been a prosperous multi-racial society, with the indigenes comprising a stable, homogeneous, literate and relatively affluent peasantry. As such, it was thought, the latter would supply a well-treated and well-paid labour force for the larger-scale expatriate enterprises, while residing mainly in their own villages, growing their own foodstuffs and raising more and more cash-crops. Altogether an idyllic picture, made possible by a benevolent government and, it was hoped, a compliant indigenous population which would not demand or be prepared for total economic equality for decades to come.   

Unfortunately for this well-meaning policy, events outran the complacent assumption on which it was based. As already noted, national and international politics helped to induced officials to shorten their timetables fort the introduction of self-government, and even to speak of independence. Moreover it became increasingly clear that the political trends envisaged would probably undermine the policy of economic development, as indigenous-dominated New Guinea government could not be expected to tolerate an expatriate-dominated economy for very long. Needless to say, when the implications of changing official views were perceived by expatriate businessmen, many of them became less enthusiastic about long term investments there.

Turning now to Bougainville-Buka, the three agencies of pre-war colonialism - Administration officials, missionaries and planters - resumed their operations on these islands as soon as the military allowed, and in much the same manner as before. While Administration officials were armed with the new policies described in the preceding Bougainville Web sites, these apparently did not come into play for some time. And while the missionaries may have begun to view their tasks in a somewhat broader way than before, the old pre-war mission rivalries reasserted themselves. (In south Bougainville, for example, it was reported that one mission would not provide storage space for another's building supplies.) As for the expatriate planters, the frustrations of rehabilitating overgrown groves with an indifferent and unreliable labour force would have discouraged the most liberal of sentiments among them.

Meanwhile, the Bougainvillians them selves, the subject of all these efforts and sentiments, had undergone some major changes both in life circumstances and in mental attitude. to begin with, many indigenous communities had suffered grievous losses, as, for example, in south Bougainville, where some Methodist teachers reported that the population of their villages had decreased by about 50 per cent as a consequence of exposure, malnutrition, and resulting illnesses. also, throughout the southern half of the larger island, taro, the principal food crop, had been wiped out by disease, a blight Phytopthora colocasiae. The substitution of another staple, sweet potatoes, eventually removed the hazard of famine in the blighted areas but resulted in some major changes in diet, in gardening practices, and in patterns of land use. Some 400,000 pounds - about 8 pounds per capita - was distributed among Bougainvillians as compensation for casualties and property damages caused by the war. At this late date it is impossible to learn what effects this windfall had on the recipients' daily lives or mental attitudes, but it undoubtedly relieved many of them of the immediate necessity of resuming wage labour on plantations or on government projects.

Although the early post-war Administration professed a deeper commitment to the welfare of indigenes, the district headquarters was set up at Sohano, a small island at the western end of Buka Passage which was geographically isolated and effectively insulated from all indigenes except those actually employed by the Administration or those working in officials' homes. Kieta, the former headquarters, and the historic colonial centre of the populous east coast, was relegated to sub-district status. From Sohano, a salubrious, comfortable and thoroughly European enclave, the administrative staff sought to supervise the islands' rehabilitation and to introduce the new programmes as commanded by Canberra and Port Moresby. Efforts were made in the early 1950s to transform the pre-war village kukerai system into local government councils. bit no progress was made for a number of years: the District's first, at Teoip-Tinputz, was set up in 1958. Eugene Ogan's account (1972) of a council's beginnings among Masioi-speakers in the Kieta area will exemplify how inertia and direct opposition served to frustrate this well-intentioned move to give the indigenes a larger measure of self-government:

The effect of this effort in polarising opinion in the Kieta-Aropa area is difficult to believe if not observed at first hand. Local government councils became an idee fixe, albeit with varying associations, among all parties concerned. Administration officials seemed convinced that establishment of a council would solve most of the problems of 'cargo cult' and general disaffection among the Nasioi. consequently a great proportion of the patrol officer's time and energy went into 'sales talks' for the council. Nasioi proponents of the council - almost exclusively SDA (Seventh Day Adventist) and Methodist in the early stages - became sufficiently enthusiastic to exaggerate further the already grandiose Administration claims of what a council would accomplish: the favourite theme, in Pidgin, was 'Sapos mipela gat kaunsil, mipela stap olsem ol waitman' ('If we have a council, we will live like Europeans'). the patent absurdity of some of these claims provided fuel for the anti-council majority.

This dissident majority became equally heated in their denunciations, to the point where other efforts at social development - directed towards goals shared by all Nasioi - were rejected out of hand because they were tainted as 'smating bilong kaunsil'. Were the Nisioi encouraged to plant cash crops? 'Nogat, ol i laik pulim mipela long kaunsil' ('No, we won't. They're just trying to draw us into the council'). The favourite anti-council rumour was that, in order to pay an increased council tax - and it must be noted that tax in many council areas is considerably higher than the annual head tax in the (Aropa) Valley - Valley women would have to prostitute themselves for the necessary cash.

the Administration's post-war efforts to improve the education of Bougainvillians began by granting subsidies to mission schools, in return for some control over the curriculum and, later on, over the qualification of teachers. It was not until the 1960s, that government high schools as such began to be set up, the first at Hutjena in 1964. Official post-war efforts to improve the indigenes' health also got off to a late start, but in one respect at least met with spectacular success. In the early 1960s the Administration embarked upon a malaria eradication programme by mass administration of suppressants and by spraying houses with DDT. This campaign resulted in a speedy and dramatic reduction in the incidence of the malady and, probably as a direct consequence, a marked reduction in infant and child mortality, thereby creating a long-term problem of another kind, namely, an unprecedented population increase.

The Administration produced impressive results in encouraging Bougainvillians to plant cash-income crops. After several ill-starred beginnings allegedly brought about through initial enthusiasm but lack of follow-through on the part of non-specialist officials, most indigenous enterprises in this sphere settled down into the growing of coconuts and cocoa. The missions were also very active in these endeavours. One of the more visible consequences of the Bougainvillians' turn to cash-cropping during the late 1950s and early 1960s was their reluctance to work on the islands' expatriate plantations. a few of the latter still managed to attract some of their Bougainvillian neighbours, but had to depend increasingly upon New Guinea mainlanders - from the Highlands or Sepik Districts - to perform the onerous and monotonous jobs on which plantation production continued to depend. Most Bougainvillians who resumed work on expatriate plantations did so on a casual or short-term contract basis.

Another post-war landmark, for some at least, was the end of the regulation prohibiting purchase of alcoholic beverages. In 1962-3 indigenes throughout the Territory were permitted full access to beer, wine and spirits - with consequences that turned out to be more harmful than beneficial. The first organized mass reaction to post-war political and economic changes took place on Buka in the form of the Hahalis Welfare Society. The full story of this many-faceted movement has not yet been published, and is obscured by the conflicting accounts of its friends and enemies. the more palpable facts are as follows.

During the 1950s two Buka youths, John Teosin and Francis Hagai, discontinued their studies in mission schools and returned home intent upon modernizing their communities through communally organized activities. As Hagai described,

We held a meeting of all our relatives, and suggested that instead of working separately we should all work together. thirty people were ready to try and we started in a small way.  .  .  .

We put all our fowls together, instead of keeping them in separate runs, and we grew some peanuts, which we sold to traders. We did not spend this money, but used it to open a small store, which we stocked with bags of rice, cases of tinned meat, shorts, shirts, and women's clothes. Before this, those who wanted to buy any of these things had to travel 20 miles (323 kilometres).  .  .  .

Soon people saw that our idea was a good one, and they joined us. We gradually increased our activities.

By the mid-1960s, the society was officially registered as a private company.  By then it consisted of fifty shareholders, and some five thousand other individuals who participated in some way in its activities, that is, over half of the total population of Buka. Its major economic activities were at that time the production of copra and dried cacao beans; it maintained eight co-operative stores, owned its own trucks, built and maintained feeder roads, operated an electric generator, engaged in dressmaking, etc. Productive work was communal and followed a regular weekly schedule. All profits went into a common fund from which members were doled out cash for specific needs. Officers were elected (chairman, village spokesman, president, secretary, treasurer, etc.) and met regularly to plan activities, decide on expenditure and oversee accounts; a philosophy of self-help and hard work prevailed. All very prosy and admirable; just what Administration officials liked to see. But the society, or 'Welfare' as it came to be called, included other practices that pleased officials and missionaries not at all.

What disturbed the missions about Welfare were its alleged cult-like aspects and its sexual 'immorality'. As described earlier, beginning in German times and continuing into the Japanese occupation, large numbers of successive generations of Bukans became devotees of self-styled millenarian prophets who promised white-type material prosperity and an end of white colonial domination, by means of magic and pagan practices. It was probably inevitable that the new movement would acquire some features of the old, or that its opponents would label it cargoistic. According to one undocumented interpretation, the youthful leaders of Welfare, although themselves wholly secular in outlook, deliberately added some cargoistic elements to their programme in order to attract the support of less educated but more influential men.

Like previous manifestations of mass movements on Buka, the latest one included both Christian and pagan (or rather neo-pagan) elements; but this one contained much specifically anti-missionary, principally anti-Catholic, sentiment as well. This centred on the grievance that by providing their converts with catechisms only, in place of the full Bible, the Catholic missionaries were deliberately hiding from them the full scope of Christianity. From their side, the Marist opposition to the society focused mainly on its 'baby gardens', where young unmarried women were domiciled and visited by male members of the society. To its scandalized opponents these baby gardens were regarded as free and communal brothels, which served to attract and hold male members within the society and to express open contempt for mission-imposed morality. to their defenders, who labelled and served as a sensible means for satisfying rational and God-given sexual needs.

Meanwhile marriages continued to be engaged in by some society members, but without the customary bride-price or Christian ceremony. Marist opposition to baby gardens led to excommunication of the society's leaders (some of whom had received training as Catholic teachers), and in 1961 the latter countered by setting up a congregation and lotu of their own which included Bible reading, hymn singing, and prayers to God via the members' own ancestral spirits. Most society members took their children away from mission schools and their sick from mission hospitals. By 1962 the Marists had lost hundreds of their parishioners to the new movement. The Methodist mission also lost a large number of its members and adherents to the society, but adopted, publicly, a less uncompromising policy toward the movement's sexual and religious practices, thereby leaving the door open for defectors' eventual return.

Administration officials at first appeared to view the new society as an enterprising self-help effort, and later, with the establishment of baby gardens and a separate lotu, as a problem mainly for the missions. But when in January 1962 the society's leaders complained that the government had done nothing for them and advised their followers to refuse to pay the annual head tax, the problem became an Administration one as well. When an Administration official attempted to collect taxes from the Welfare leaders he was opposed, as was a larger party of police sent to arrest the defaulters. More police were then rushed from Bougainville Island and Rabaul to arrest the rebels, but this force, 155 strong, met with heavy resistance and also had to withdraw. Finally, Administration officials and some 400 more police were flown to the scene from other districts. These succeeded in arresting hundreds of the rebels, 256 of whom were sentenced to gaol for periods of three to six months.

This punitive action served to chasten the society's members - for a while at least. Tax-paying was not resumed until some time later, but many of them returned to mission religious services and sent their children back to mission schools. but then, after two months in gaol, all those who had been arrested, except the leaders themselves, were released following a successful court appeal. When the freed men returned home, they and other society members resumed their opposition to missions and Administration, and large numbers of other Buka Islanders flocked to join them, further swelling their ranks. After a while some of the anti-government feelings of the movement were dissipated when the Administration constructed a good all-weather road down the entire length of the island, thereby greatly facilitating the transport of cash-crops and trade goods. Nevertheless, the society remained aloof from the island's Administration-sponsored local government council.

Meanwhile, on Bougainville Island itself there occurred some manifestations that can be more appropriately labelled cargoistic. In 1959, for example, some cultists near Teop were caught up in a plot to murder the local missionary, whose prayers they blamed for delaying the cargo. In 1960 the mission station at Keriaka was looted, and its priest forced to flee for his life, by indigenes who blamed him for their lack of success in obtaining cargo by means of their cult practices. Faced with these reverses, the Marists adopted a more positive attitude towards the economic side of their people's lives. for example, they helped to organize several timber-milling and house-building co-operatives, one of them in collaboration with the Methodists (in itself a radical change from the mission's anti-ecumenical past). At Torokina they assisted in the replanting of war-devastated coconut groves, and in Nagovisi they engaged in road-making. But perhaps the most far-reaching of the Marists' secular enterprises took place along Bougainville's northwest coast where over 3000 mountaineers were encouraged to resettle and then assisted in planting over a million coconut palms and cacao trees.  

These kinds of projects sponsored by the missions, and evidence of Administration concern such as was shown in the building of the Buka road and in the anti-malaria campaign, may have served for a while to reduce anti-malaria campaign, may have served for a while to reduce anti-white sentiment in parts of Bougainville, but other events elsewhere fed the discontent. One of the most widely publicized of these latter concerned a timber project in southeast Bougainville, a succinct account of which was written by the Marist mission priest, Father Wally Fingleton:

. . . some 10 years ago the Forestry Department negotiated for a large area of timber surrounding Tonolei Harbor. The Administration assured the people that all it wanted was a 40-year lease on the timber. They were assured that their land was sacrosanct. At the same time, they wee promised that, if they agreed to the timber sale, they would be given roads leading from the back of the timber lease to the harbour, thus giving them an outlet for their products. the sum of 30,000 pounds was paid to the land-owners for what was estimated at more than 500 million super feet (1.2 million cubic me4tres) of standing timber. subsequently, the Administration announced that it required 200 acres (80 hectares) of harbour frontage at Tonolei. The owners agreed that the Administration could have the use of the land for the period of the lease. They were not willing to sell it. Canberra usurped the 200 acres by 'right of eminent domain'. One of the owners had some ground at Samiai, a swampy area on the coast outside Tonolei Harbour. In 1958 a two-year rental for one acre of Samiai was arranged by the Administration between a Japanese salvage company and the owner. he was paid $14 for the two-year rental of his acre of land. When his Tonolei Harbour frontage, on good ground, was completely alienated by Canberra, he was offered $2 per acre. he, along with the other owners of the 200 acres, refused to accept the money. The ground was taken, anyway. The Japanese occupied Tonolei Harbour during the war. They were pushed out by the Allies who claimed that they were doing so to hand the land back to the native owners.

Some 20 years ago, the Tonolei owners in question set out with bows and arrows to shoot the Qantas Catalina that had initiated a service to Buin. They looked upon its advent as the start of a new invasion. the warriors were assured that their land was not to jeopardy. They took their bows and arrows home. Now, they are told that by the stroke of a Canberra pen, without any armed invasion, they are no longer the owners.

They can scarcely believe their ears. The timber company, Bougainville Development Corporation, has, to date, lost more than a million dollars, and is in recess. Contributing reasons for failure were wrong techniques and a vicious squeeze by the Japanese market. There is not one road in the area. So much for promises. Disillusionment and distrust continues among the natives.

Another well-publicized expression of Bougainvillians' dissatisfaction occurred in April 1962 when a United Nations mission visited Kieta on an inspection tour of the Trust Territory. At a general meeting at Kieta several Nasioi, all Catholics, complained of their treatment by Australians ('like dogs'), and requested that the administration of Bougainville be turned over to the United States - probably a residue of war-time experience with the powerfully armed, richly equipped, more egalitarian and generous GIs.

The first Territory-wide elections for the new House of Assembly in 1964 provided Bougainvillians with an unprecedented opportunity to express their sentiments about their governance to particular and their lot in general. It will be recalled that the whole Bougainville District (Buka, Bougainville, Nissan, etc.) constituted one open electorate - the most populous onein the Territory - and that the district was joined with New Ireland and Manus to form a single special electorate, in which only non-indigenous candidates were eligible.

Nine candidates, all of them indigenes, competed in the open electorate. Most of these were, or had been, Catholics, and all were comparatively well educated. The winner by a wide margin was Paul Lapun, a member of the Banoni language-community of southwest Bougainville and conversant in all the other languages of south Bougainville. Lapun was forty-one years old at the time and a successful farmer and cash-cropper. he had received secondary education in a Catholic seminary, and was fluent in English. Although popularly believed to be a devout Catholic, he was not as closely identified with any Christian mission as were some other candidates. Nor was he as vocally for or against the Administration as were some other candidates. Although he was believed by some of his backers to possess the esoteric knowledge essential for acquiring cargo, he himself appears to have made no such claims (in comparison with at least one other candidate who was a leader in the Hahalis Welfare Society). In any case, whatever the basis of his strong support at the time, Lapun's appeal was so magnetic that in one of the district's twenty-three census divisions (the only one for which such information is readily available) most of the large majority who cast their votes for him declined to voice any other preferences, despite their right to do so.

This tendency to support only one candidate showed again in the special electorate, in which the votes constituted only 58 per cent of those cast in its three component open electorates. In this case the circumstance that all the special electorate candidates were whites must have reinforced the Bougainvillians' tendency to abstain. The 1964 election were a fitting culmination of Bougainville-Buka's early post-war period of gradual and familiar change. The next twenty years were to witness the creation on the larger island of a huge mining enterprise, and with it an accelerated rate of economic, social and political change. That enterprise was only one of the forces involved in that change but it was a very powerful one; however, before describing it we shall take a closer look at the ways Bougainvillians lived just before the mining began .  

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Papua Home Page
Oceania Postcards and Picture Galleries
Jane Resture's Oceania Page
Jane's Oceania Travel Page

   
Pacific Islands Radio Stations
 
 
 (E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 30th November 2008)
      
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