29 Apr 2013

Bougainville MP aims for unity

6:47 pm on 29 April 2013

The regional member of parliament for Papua New Guinea's autonomous province of Bougainville says his primary goal is to unite the people in the conflict-torn region.

Joseph Lera, who is a first-time MP in the PNG parliament, says Bougainvilleans must take ownership of decision-making in their province in order for there to be unity and prosperity.

He told Johnny Blades that Bougainville society remains fragmented, years after the civil war wound up"

"One of my first tasks is to unite the leaders. Not only unite, but also come up with a concept to involve them to participate in decision-making, and with the mining development and also finding answers to other issues affecting Bougainville after the crisis."

And do these issues need to be fully resolved and unity forged first before the mine reopens?

That's what I think. First we have to unite. I think the answer to the mine is with the people. And through that unity I'm trying to build, I think the people themselves must decide. At the moment that has not been the case. It's people outside trying to come in with answers. My belief is the answer is with my people and the leader has to do six things. One - set a reason, two - guide the people, three - support them, four - our system, five - direct them and six - unite. Through that process, from the leader's perspective, I think that people will come up with appropriate and relevant answers to the issues affecting Bougainville and hopefully that is in relation to the opening of the mine.

Are you on the same page as the president of the ABG on this?

Teamwork becomes very important with the president. If I'm going to be the voice of the president, the ABG and the people, I have to work very closely. So I've been trying to build that relationship in the last five, six months. And it's working for the good of Bougainville.

It must be difficult with these outside influences coming in trying to get the mine reopened quickly or as quickly as possible. There's pressure, isn't there?

It's really difficult. That's why the people are not responding. I'm saying through the process of uniting and involving people to participate in decision-making the answer is with the people of Bougainville. And hopefully soon, through that process I'm establishing, we can find the answer. It's not with the outsiders.

What about money? Money is a problem, isn't it? You need it for some of these things, to help people forge a better way of life.

I think that's when the outsiders can help us to facilitate this process of uniting and allowing people to come together, take part and participate in decision-making.

Bougainville Regional Member, Joseph Lera.