PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
BOUGAINVILLE CON MAN FINDS HOME IN ‘NO GO ZONE’
By Dr. Steven Ratuva
SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 24) – As a fraudster, Noah Musingku is an amazing individual who, through his charismatic appeal, was able make thousands of poor Papua New Guineans and Solomon Islanders part with their meager savings. By some account, this con man was able to swindle millions of dollars and promised the people that they were going to receive up to 300 per cent return on their investment. Investment? There was no investment, just pure fraud.
Musingku ran the failed U-Vistract fast money scheme. He was wanted for corruption and money laundering in Papua New Guinea yet for some reason the PNG police failed to arrest the man before he fled to Bougainville. He arrived in Bougainville with guns when the peace process had just consolidated itself after the civil war, which led to the loss of about 20,000 lives. He quickly attached himself to Francis Ona, the man who led the rebellion against the Australian mining company in the 1980s. Francis Ona refused to be part of the peace process and made himself a king in an area that has come to be known as the "No-Go-Zone".
After Francis Ona’s death this year, Musingku the conman immediately jumped in to fill the void. After escaping from the law, he has made himself "King" of the imaginary Kingdom of Papala. He even made the eight Fijians in Bougainville "Sirs." He claims to have divine power and millions of dollars. But the reality is that he’s a conman, a thief, a fugitive from the law and a troublemaker. He wants Bougainville divided to save himself and he’s a threat to the peace process on the island.
Fijian soldiers have a long association with the island. It was where Corporal Sefanaia Sukanaivalu’s act of bravery won him a posthumous Victoria Cross and at the time of the 1990s peace process, Fijian soldiers were part of the regional peacekeeping operation on the island. Depending on what they are up to, the Fijian soldiers on the island have the potential to destroy the peace in Bougainville and also destroy the good honorable name and reputation of Fijian soldiers who have served and won high accolades on the island.
The presence of the eight Fijian soldiers on the island on the invitation of Noah Musingku should be a cause for concern. How did our boys allow themselves to be duped by this dangerous conman? According to reports, they were promised FJ$1 million [US$582,000] each to provide security for Musingku. In fact there are many stories regarding this situation. One says that they are genuine missionaries and another says that they are training young kids to be bodyguards. Another says that they are members of the Ronin High Security firm based in Fiji on a scouting mission before another 300 Fijian men arrive.
Whatever the real story, it is important for Fijian soldiers and former soldiers to be vigilant about those who are out to make use of their highly marketable military skills to serve dubious purposes. At a time when the security business is a lucrative one globally, with a lot of our men (young and not very young) involved, it is fundamentally important to make sure that those purposes are legitimate.
Fijian soldiers have a reputation as being amongst the best in the world, both in terms of fighting and peace-making skills, and this glorious reputation can easily be tarnished when these skills are used by some to serve their selfish and illegitimate interests. There are self-centered conmen, unscrupulous politicians, irresponsible businessmen and a whole lot of manipulative people who want to use soldiers to their advantage. When the soldiers later get into trouble, these manipulative idiots simply vanish as if they are phantoms. Fiji went through this during the 1987 and 2000 coups.
It is true that the eight men on Bougainville have to feed their families. But this should be done in a legitimate and legal way. The Meekamui group for which Musingku claims leadership is an illegal bunch. They are having a standoff with the legal government of Bougainville led by the newly elected President Joseph Kabui. The people of Bougainville have suffered a lot and the last thing they need is for more conflict. If, as has been reported, the boys have been "captured" and held hostage, then they should simply use their military skills to escape. My plea to those Fijian boys in Bougainville is, please come home, and tell that idiotic fraudster, Musingku, to get stuffed.
[Dr. Steven Ratuva is a political sociologist at the University of the South Pacific.]
January 24, 2006
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