Forgotten warriors need to be rememebered

PNGDF soldiers who fought in the Bougainville crisis should be remembered and commended for what they did in restoring order and services.

PNGDF is part and parcel  of the Bougainville peace process but their members are often forgotten when an ex combatant meeting is held on Bougainville.

A former soldier, Lance Corporal Gordon Quito Atona, who was with 1RPIR Bravo Company, shared his thoughts on the situation with Loop PNG.  Lance Corporal Atona is rare, because he comes from Panguna where it all started and coming back to fight with his brothers in the name of the PNG Government made him like the meat in a sandwich.

“Just like any other Bougainvillean with the PNGDF that time, we were often confused at who to shoot at when engaging the enemy, and when the enemy attacks us,’’ Cpl Atona said.

“At a contact point my real cousins were firing at me when I swore at them and told them to stop shooting,  it was me they were shooting at,’’ he said.

“One thing about us Bougainvillean soldiers with the Defence Force,  because of us and a lot of Bougainvilleans were not killed unnecessarily and it is sad that we are part and parcel  of the peace process and yet the ABG forgets us,’’ Cpl Atona said.

“In lots of meetings with the Veteran Affairs we are not included. There is no PNGDF representation  and that is totally unfair. The Defence Force still oversees the security of this country including the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.  We former soldiers are also known as combatants, not just the BRA and Resistance.

“The government needs to think twice and pay all the outstanding amounts for us and create a reserve unit. We have been loyal to the government and people of PNG and we feel so miserable when we get left out of a lot of activities.”

“The veterans need to know that we are the National Government’s security arm and what we say the National Government will listen to. We can make an effect on certain outstanding issues if only our brothers in the veterans allow us to say something too,’’ Cpl Atona said.

Photo: Combination police mobile squad and pngdf personnel  guarding kokopau at the other side of buka passage during the bougainville crisis.

Peterson Tseraha