Moses Havini tribute in Australian Parliament

Senator Lee Rhiannon 

Moses Havini was dismayed by the lack of concern Australians displayed for his homeland's plight.

Moses Havini was dismayed by the lack of concern Australians displayed for his homeland’s plight.

On another matter, a great Bougainvillean and a warm, generous friend of Australia, Moses Havini, died on 2 May this year. Moses, chief of the Nakas clan, was the third university graduate from the Bougainville Island. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in law and politics in 1972 and a Fulbright scholarship. He also completed his Master of International Studies from Sydney University in 1994.

I met Moses in the early 1990s when he was leader of the Bougainville Freedom Movement based in Sydney. At the time, my colleague Carol Sherman and I were setting up AID/WATCH, a watchdog on Australia’s aid program, and Moses launched our organisation in the New South Wales parliament. We often spoke about the problems with Australian aid and how that program was managed and how it needed to change considerably.

Moses was also the Bougainville Interim Government representative from 1991 to 1998 at the United Nations and later he became the director of parliamentary committees the parliamentary services for the Autonomous Bougainville Government. As part of his work reporting to the United Nations, Moses issued a number of reports. He set out some of the great tragedies that occurred on that island because of the activities of Conzinc Riotinto, one of the world’s leading mining giants. When that company set up with the assistance of the Australian government, not one equity share was offered to the people of Bougainville or to the landholders whose land was taken for the CRA mine. Australian mining legislation was used to give legitimacy to this company that took over so much land of the local people.

In 1995, Moses Havini made a report to the IWGIA International Conference on Indigenous Peoples, Environment and Development. He reported that close to 10,000 Bougainvilleans-men, women and children-had died from the lack of medicine and from the war. This was a huge tragedy-a tragedy from a war being waged on Australia’s doorstep that was rarely reported in this country. This is where I have to pay great credit to Moses because of his tireless work in this country, knocking on the doors of parliamentarians and working with small community organisations and with unions to speak about what was being done to his people, because there was a complete blockade at one point-land, air and sea.

The suffering was extreme. The Papua New Guinea government was working with this giant mining company, Rio Tinto, and the deaths and hardship were enormous. But through the struggle, through the leadership of people like Moses, life did change. These were Moses Havini’s words in 2005, when there was the birth of the autonomous Bougainville again:
It was a very special time; a lot of people had tears in their eyes as the flag went up just as sunrise was breaking through from the Eastern horizon.

He was there with international observers to observe the election and assist with the formation of a new government. The independence struggle was something that was very dear to Moses Havini. He sacrificed much of his life to bringing this story to the world.

I extend my condolences to his four children, Ricka, Torohin, Solomon and Taloi, and his wife, Marilyn. Marilyn Havini was his partner through this struggle, through assisting people to gain some sustenance during the blockade, and also in bringing the story to the people of Australia. I give my special appreciation and my special condolences to Marilyn, who I also got to know in the 1990s. It must be a very sad time for her and her family.

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Filed under Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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