Moses Havini: A Life Devoted To Independence Struggle

It is important that CAFCA pays tribute to these leaders of a successful struggle to drive rapacious and murderous TNCs from our neighbourhood. It is the ultimate manifestation of good neighbourliness.

Murray Horton | Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa

Moses Havini speaking at the opening of an exhibition of artwork by his wife, Marilyn, in 2004. Behind Moses is a painting of members of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville. Photo: Anna Pha

Moses Havini speaking at the opening of an exhibition of artwork by his wife, Marilyn, in 2004. Behind Moses is a painting of members of the Autonomous Government of Bougainville. Photo: Anna Pha

It is always important to be reminded that the battle against transnational corporations (TNCs) and “globalisation” is not an intellectual exercise. When push comes to shove, some people shove back hard. They actually wage revolutions and wars of independence against the TNCs. One such struggle occurred in our backyard – in 1989 the people of Bougainville , led by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), succeeded in shutting down the cause of their misery, the gigantic Panguna mine, owned by Rio Tinto, the world’s biggest mining company, and the owner of the Tiwai Point smelter in this country. The mine has never been re-opened nor has the company ever returned to the island. That war of independence against a TNC and its client government exacted a terrible cost in human suffering for the people of Bougainville .

For most of the 1990s, the island was sealed off by a particularly brutal blockade by the Papua New Guinean (PNG) military (backed up by helicopters piloted by Australians and New Zealanders), which closed off all contact with the outside world and led to the deaths of anything up to 20,000 people, many from perfectly treatable illnesses. No medicines could get in and anyone requiring hospitalisation had to risk violent death from PNG forces on the short but extremely risky sea crossing to the nearby Solomon Islands .

In 1997 the military stalemate led to the extraordinary spectacle of the PNG government hiring foreign mercenaries to try to succeed where its own military had failed. This use of mercenaries by TNCs, particularly mining TNCs, is the logical development of corporate feudalism. State violence has become privatised, along with all other State “services”. But we owe the people of PNG a big vote of thanks – they rose and physically chucked out the mercenaries, forced the Government to back down, and voted out the politicians (including the Prime Minister) who were responsible. The mercenaries’ fiasco provided the breakthrough to the peace settlement on Bougainville , which has achieved autonomy. The people of one of the world’s most “primitive” countries defeated the world’s biggest mining company and its local agents. And they did so with a minimum of bloodshed, using homemade weapons or those retrieved from where the retreating Japanese had stashed them during WW11.

Watchdog has reported on Bougainville for decades, through its many twists and turns. And it’s important to remember, and to pay tribute to, the honourable role that New Zealand (under a National government) played in ending that war. Peace talks were held at Burnham Army Camp leading to the 1998 peace settlement (I thought it was a stroke of negotiating genius to uproot tropical combatants and drop them into a Canterbury midwinter. The threat of hypothermia alone would give them a powerful incentive to settle). New Zealand followed that up with a deployment of unarmed troops as peacekeepers in Bougainville .

Speaker At Taking Control Conference

Watchdog has previously paid tribute to leading figures in the Bougainville independence struggle (see the one to Francis Ona in issue 109, August 2005). Moses Havini, who died in May 2015, aged in his 60s (he wasn’t sure exactly how old he was), spent 15 years from 1990, based in Sydney, as the representative of the Interim Government of Bougainville for the region and the world. In that capacity he was one of the featured speakers at the 1998 Taking Control Conference in Christchurch , organised by CAFCA, GATT Watchdog and Corso. My report on that is Watchdog87, June 1998.

Writing about the public meeting which opened the conference I wrote:

“There was supposed to be a second international speaker there – Moses Havini, who represents the Bougainville Interim Government in Australia – but he unfortunately missed his Sydney flight and did not arrive until the next day. It had been quite a saga getting him to NZ, so we were just grateful that he came at all (when first invited, nine months earlier, Bougainville was a forgotten war behind a blockade. How things have changed. Taking Control was actually Moses’ fourth visit to Christchurch – the other three were for peace talks – but the first time he’d got into the city and met the people)”. Writing about the Conference proper I said: “We brought in the Canadian and Bougainvillean speakers (whom Corso subsequently hosted on national speaking tours) because our problems and struggles are far from unique (the personal highlight for me was the session where Catherine Delahunty and Moses Havini spoke about the battle against mining TNCs in Coromandel and Bougainville). The only difference is one of degree”.

A Life Devoted To Independence Struggle

The Sydney Morning Herald (15/5/15) had a lengthy, detailed obituary of Moses, so I refer you to that. Moses devoted his life to the struggle for Bougainville ’s independence.

“On May 28, 1975, the Interim Provincial Government in Bougainville agreed to secede from PNG. On September 1, 1975, a month before PNG’s planned Independence Day, Havini carried the Bougainville flag to Wakunai (North Bougainville) and a Universal Declaration of Independence (UDI) was proclaimed. Similar ceremonies were conducted around the island. In January 1976, at Hutjena, the PNG Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters into the crowd. Havini, a man committed to non-violence, was hit in the back with a canister, causing a wound that took months to heal and left a large scar….

“…In January 1990, Moses, Marilyn and their four children fled Bougainville and moved to Sydney. As Havini was married to an Australian citizen, PNG’s request for his deportation as a ‘terrorist’ was unsuccessful. For the next 15 years Havini, living in Sydney , was the representative of the Interim Government of Bougainville for the region and the world. …Connected to his homeland only by satellite telephone and fax, Havini learned the arts of diplomacy with the UN, media, Australian and regional politicians. He attracted supporters to build an Australian political base, the Bougainville Freedom Movement, when Australian progressives were more motivated by events in East Timor .

“…A decade later the Bougainvilleans again learned that although they had won the war with PNG and set up the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), the victory had little meaning if no country recognised the winner. So Havini decided his focus was to encourage a just peace between Bougainville and PNG. He made representations to the United Nations Human Rights Council, supported by Bougainvillean delegations. These efforts were also supported by the many women’s groups on Bougainville that Marilyn had helped to create. They charmed Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to take seriously the need to support a New Zealand initiative to set up peace talks. These led to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, where Havini was a key member on the ABG’s side. It decreed that all armed personnel should be withdrawn from the island by December 2002.

“…By 2005 the Havinis had moved back to Buka, as negotiations between PNG and the ABG had established autonomy on Bougainville. Moses became mentor to the ABG as Director of Parliamentary Committees. Marilyn says Moses’ aim throughout his life was to see ‘Papua New Guinea as a friendly neighbour, rather than their ruler’. In August 2013, Havini was diagnosed with multiple myeloma and returned to Sydney for treatment”. He died in Sydney and received a State funeral on Bougainville .

Marilyn is also a longstanding Bougainville independence leader. Watchdog 106 (August 2004) includes Jeremy Agar ’s review of “As Mothers Of The Land: The Birth Of The Bougainville Women For Peace And Freedom”, co-edited by Marilyn Havini and Josephine Sirivi (women play a much more prominent role in Bougainvillean society than is the case in most other Pacific nations. It is a matrilineal society i.e. land is passed down the female side of the family. Both editors were leading figures in the independence struggle, as were their husbands. Josephine Sirivi’s husband, Sam Kauona, was the head of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army).

Being Good Neighbours

It is important that CAFCA pays tribute to these leaders of a successful struggle to drive rapacious and murderous TNCs from our neighbourhood. It is the ultimate manifestation of good neighbourliness.

“Moses Havini, like his namesake, was a man who had a date with destiny. They shared the same cry: ‘Let my people go’. Neither man lived to see the fruits of his labours realised but Havini’s struggle for Bougainville as an independent country was fundamental to its destiny” (Sydney Morning Herald, ibid.). Rest in peace, Moses, you fought the good fight.

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