As Mothers of the Land: The Birth of the Bougainville Women by Josie Tankunani Sirivi, Marilyn Taleo Havini

By Josie Tankunani Sirivi, Marilyn Taleo Havini

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The other gardens were in the opposite direction towards the lowlands on the coastal plain. I used to feel nervous going to the gardens on the coastal plains because they lay in the direction of the enemy’s territory. I often asked my youngest sister, Rose, to accompany me to the lowland gardens to help me carry the loads back uphill. Our days in the gardens were always hurried and frantic and not like former times when women enjoyed watching their gardens grow. Gone were the days of chatting and socialising and discussing various harvests, or exchanging cuttings at leisure.

The PNG Government then declared war on the militant landowners. The declaration of war only intensified the situation and resulted in the militants securing more support from the Bougainville public. Observing the situation at home, I became ill. Because of this my parents would not allow me to return to my studies in PNG. We all agreed that I would return to school when I felt better and the political situation had improved. During this time my health deteriorated. One weekend, my fiancé Sam came home to check if all was fine.

He was sick in bed, but the soldiers dragged him out, threw him off the veranda and kicked and beat him with their M16 rifles and heavy machine-guns, all the time accusing him of sheltering Sam and me. My uncle Kevin has been ill ever since, because of this beating and the injuries he sustained. The whole congregation was ordered out of the Church, men, women and children were lined up, threatened and questioned. A road-block was set up on the approach to the church to catch all the late-comers, who were forced to squat on the road in the sweltering sun.

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