Moses Havini Speech on Bouganville to Alt. APEC
THE STRUGGLE FOR BOUGAINVILLE AGAINST CORPORATE COLONIALISM
(Of former BIG/BRA)
BOUGAINVILLE PEOPLE’S CONGRESS
…let me first of all acknowledge the Te Gnata Whenua of this land, and particularly of this tribal area where this conference is now being held; for your welcome and for allowing us to enter your country with and graciousness and your love…..
….and to the APEC Monitoring Group for your invitation to the indigenous representatives from Aotearoa, other parts of the world, the pacific including Bougainville to have this opportunity to present our concerns. Indigenous issues as we all know is now a matter before the United Nations and in countries such as NZ, Australia and Canada who are still colonising them; as we struggle for our rights to self-determination. Globalisation is a “wave” that is also trying to sweep our indigenous issues into the end of the horizon. We commend you for this great vision that you started in 1994, to reveal injustices that are now being perpetuated by closed circles of TNCs and Governments.
In the sixties and the seventies there were ‘prophets’ going around preaching and warning of an imminent take over by a ‘one world government’. Its leader would be identified as the one bearing the ‘mark of the beast’ on his forehead. Even one or two imminent leaders of that period/periods were identified, and that one of them would rise up to head this one-world government.
Half-truths, rumours or no truths at all, the fact remains that there are in high places, those schemers and manipulators that are proponents of this theory. They are working twenty-fours a day, twelve months a year round the clock; continuously planning how to control, and with grave consequences, our lives and our livelihoods, now and in the future.
Is APEC that beast? Or that version of that “one-world government”? It even has a rather nebulous existence. It is “voluntary” and “non-binding”, and most inclusive in its membership with no lack of formal structure and rules-based procedures. We know that it is a body that has no set policies by any stretch of imagination which it could not be held accountable to, for its actions. It is a free agent with vast unlimited powers and which we probably could not even pinned down, for accountability if we wanted to.
It can become a ‘tool’ that can be used to do a multiplicity of things from its current agenda (trade liberalisation, unregulated markets, unrestrained foreign investment, unrestricted trade, lifting of tariffs, etc.,) – to delving in political issues and influencing those political changes towards it end.
To suit itself is emphasised. As we have just seen in very weak statement issued by this current 1999 APEC Summit (here in Auckland); in regard to reprimanding the Government of Indonesia for its complicity to what is currently happening in East Timor. And for Indonesia in refusing a United Nations Peace keeping Force deployed there as soon as possible.
So the ‘war’ is on. For Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation is not seen as a “knight in shining amour” by environmentalists, protection of workers’ rights groups, small businesses and most of all indigenous peoples (who still own the only remaining natural resources in the world today). To these groups of concern citizens, we all fear that the impact of APEC on our rights, will only to create another circle of poverty; where the rich will get richer, the poor get poorer, and the powerful even more powerful.
The year’s host of the 1999 APEC Meeting, the New Zealand Government is tasked with jump-starting the organisation again after failing miserably in furthering its push for trade liberalisation. This is an encouragement to those of us and other like-mined organisations that sees APEC as a club for rich boys only. The NZ Government is tasked with energetically getting the political leaders to “deliver a strong, comprehensive statement on free trade for the next WTO round”, in Seattle in November of this year. It will also look at how to move forward the agenda on open and free trade investment.
But before that was the Maori traditional hongi ceremony. Between the welcoming six Maori leaders, and the 21 APEC members where they pressed their noses in this Maori ritual of sharing the breath of life together. We of course all pray that, that would have been a kiss of death instead for APEC, rather than anything to rejuvenate this dying “organism”.
Some members of the Asia
Pacific Economic Cooperation today have past histories of
one kind or another; including past colonisation and
exploitation of natural resources within the region. Some of
these mineral resources were owned and are still owned by
the indigenous peoples of
the region. Part of their (APEC) exploitative tools have their Transnational Corporations, which form the backbone of their economic strategy programs today. According to APEC Monitoring Group and GATT WATCH DOG’s observations, the push for a free market agenda is “essentially a licence” for these multinational corporations to do whatever they like; in the exploitation of resources including workers, transfer of such resources to other countries for the best possible price.
Human rights have clearly become the casualty of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. But there is however nothing new in this practice. As some of the Asian Governments who are members of APEC had long discarded this important United Nations Instrument long ago. The theme “development” has thoroughly been bastardised to carry meanings and definitions that only suit these governments; and now this has also become a part of APEC’s “aura”. For a long time within the Asia-Pacific region, and especially within some of the more dictatorial governments (some of them also APEC members), “state enforced development within the Asia-Pacific region has led to the naked exploitation of natural resources. Be it in the form of timber, fisheries or mineral wealth” (M. Havini – pge 16, The Long Struggle for Independence for Bougainville).
The United Nations Declaration on the “Right to Development” adopted by the General Assembly inn 1986 recognises that: -
“Development is a comprehensive
economic, social, cultural and political process, which aims
at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire
population and of all individuals on the basis of their
active, free and meaningful participation in the development
and in the fair distribution of benefit resulting thereof”
(United Nations General Assembly – Right to Development,
………… has long been a casualty of our governments, who are now also members of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Most governments are now selective in their application of human rights when it involves “development” and are increasingly choosing “economic rights” over other rights. They assert that in order to provide “social benefits” they must be allowed the right to exploit a country’s natural resources. It is also becoming the case where the push for trade liberalisation and free trade, now the “marching beat” of APEC; is now affecting the social rights of the workers and puts also into question of the protection of the environment and our natural resources.
Amongst APEC’s agenda’s strategies are areas that threaten the social, cultural and political rights of the indigenous peoples of the region. The actions that of plundering indigenous’ resources, etc., is not something new.
They are old practices that are only being perfected, more so now in a corporate fashion through an organisation such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation. In the concept of a ‘one-world’ government the indigenous people of the world and of the pacific region increasingly see this as way of weakening their struggle for their right to be self-determining in their own right.
Some of these government’s past actions of plundering, exploiting other people’s natural resources are no different from their present strategies still used to carry on with this business today.
The legal mechanisms used then are still the same, but have now been globalised across borders within the agenda of APEC for maximum effect.
Indigenous Struggles v Corporate Colonialism in Bougainville.
One of the very tastes of indigenous struggles verses corporate colonialism was in Bougainville against corporate and government forces based in Australia, London, Papua New Guinea, and the people from 1964 onwards. Whilst still under the Australian Administration a huge ore body containing, copper, gold and silver was found in the central mountains of Bougainville.
Using their own legal instruments Australian authority, CRA and the PNG Administration; informed the people of Bougainville that anything that was found below their customary land, including minerals was belong to the government of the day, and not to the title and landholders. This shocked the traditional landholders, which according to their ancient land tenure system and laws, stated and states clearly that no one outside of their territory had no claims over anything, whether minerals or otherwise that was found either on the land or below that land.
But the mother of all plundering began soon after it was confirmed that the ore body was economical and viable, and a drilling program and development of a mining infrastructure began in 1965. A huge population that owned this land, mountains, creeks hunting forests and rivers were soon forced out and re-settled in other people’s land.
A fearful people watched as their country was being transformed “into one of the largest industrial development sites in the Southern Hemisphere. A classical case of machine-modernity being dumped rather unceremoniously into primitive communities on the age of Stone Age” (Quoted in The Long Struggle for the Independence of Bougainville).
The people of Bougainville suddenly had to cope with the shocking experience of the full impact of western industrialisation thrust upon them. And the tearing at the very heart of their existence – defiling the home of their ancestral spirits and the loss of their land forever. The hundreds of Europeans flocking to Panguna (the mine site) knew exactly knew what they were doing and what lay ahead, but the 1000 Bougainvilleans in and around the valley almost every day saw what was new and became very frightened.
According to the people, outsiders had entered their land and sacred sites without asking permission and no proper negotiations with the rightful landowners of the land. This was the beginning of a surging wave of tribal resistance, to try and keep their only heritage, their land and to get rid of the mine and its workers from Bougainville.
Even a colleague of mine and one of the leaders at that time Mr. Leo Hannett wrote: – “Our once peaceful, non-violent living is now forever shattered: we are constantly by day and haunted by night with continual acts of violence in our midst. Where we once walked with our heads high, now we move with our heads hanging low…never quite knowing what to expect from these outsiders, heartless outsiders with their heartless machines slowly eating out like a cancerous growth the soul of our community: degenerating, humiliating, and dehumanising us with their ‘development’ at our expense. We are now made strangers in our own land”.
His expression of concern was now representative of the general feelings of the people of Bougainville; increasingly opposing this multinational corporations, and the prediction of a possible open resistance leading to warfare in the not too distant future.
A Transnational Corporation had entered traditional land with its modern technology and transformed that traditional environment into something beyond their imagination. The villagers were afraid, but at that point in time had no control. They would see their sacred mountains, sites their entire heritage lost forever.
What we fear now is the power government and Transnational Corporations give to themselves to do whatever they like. The English and Australian mining legislation were used to give legitimacy over the rights of the people of Bougainville for CRA to dig up their land. Thus this TNC Conzinc RioTinto of Australia was given an unlimited run of the field (as they have done elsewhere) to a ceiling of ten square miles to prospect for copper, gold and silver. Resulting in one of the environmental disasters in the pacific.
In our traditional land tenure system land is not a commodity that can be commodified and sold. It always had, and will always have a cultural and spiritual value that can not be measured in dollar terms. It is our life, our heritage that remains with the clan or tribe forever.
To us “ land is like the skin on the back of our hands. You inherit it, and it is your duty to pass it on to your children, in as good a condition as, or better than, that which you received it. You would not want us to sell our skin would you?” (Raphael Belle – a young Bougainville leader - M. Havini, The Struggle for the Independence of Bougainville).
In our own pacific region where the remaining “colonisers” still exist there is now an urgent message to them to recognise the rights of not only the indigenous peoples of the pacific, but of the world, of their right self-determination and independence. The right to decolonise is a ‘right’ in international law.
The United Charter on Human Rights is very clear on this matter, and talks very strongly against continued;
“Subjugation of Peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights and is contrary to the UN Charter ”.
Colonisation of other peoples can be defined also as a form of violence on the peoples it imposes its own rules upon, and should be outlawed also before we enter into the next millennium.
We, on Bougainville do not believe that the right to self-determination, meaning; " the right of a people to determine their own political future and destiny", is the sole prerogative of nation states. The people affected become the most important component of this act of "self expression" and their views and determination must be respected, understood and acknowledged. The act of self-determination is a human right. These are the signals that nation states must clearly understand and recognise.
It is now clear from the neo-liberal agenda of APEC, WTO, G7 and others; that through their globalisation program – citizens, workers and communities are going to suffer - and in fact are suffering, now as jobs and work opportunities, etc., are being affected. Indigenous and colonised peoples under APEC Governments are in despair as their resources are being sold and plundered by governments and transnational corporations.
And no description better describes this as our own Moana Jackson; who refers to his own government as a “neo-colonial harlot” only prostituting and putting itself up for the highest “investment price”(Carole Samdup – Human Rights Tribune, Sept 1997 Vol.4, No.4).
These “exclusive clubs” have a long list of “sins” as observed by this conference. Where our own governments have virtually lost control and given our sovereignty away by allowing; eg, free trade and investment to foreign governments and TNCs into our lives. A free run of unlimited exploitation by these “sharks” of our pacific resources such as timber, fish, minerals, worker’s rights and other natural resources which could well make our pacific, a “barren” place in the not too distant future.
In STRATAGISING for the future let us just simply take CONTROL and RECLAIM our SOVEREIGNTY. Firstly, for Indigenous Peoples of their right to Self-determination; and secondly for the rest of us, for all our human rights both collective and individual; those rights that we use to enjoy once upon a time, before colonisation and neo-liberalism hit our shores.