South Pacific “funny money” is in the news again. A couple weeks ago in this blog, we reported on a French police raid on an armed monarchist encampent in Tahiti to arrest a self-styled Polynesian king and his followers for circulating the currency of their proclaimed “Pakumotu Republic.” And now, at the other, western end of Oceania, a United States citizen was arrested in Papua New Guinea (P.N.G.) for possession of the “illegal” currency of the Bougainville separatist movement
On February 15th, Barry Keith Webb arrived in Port Moresby, the P.N.G. capital, on an Air Niugini flight from Manila, in the Philippines. He was en route to Buka, the current interim capital of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. But he was arrested after customs officer found his briefcase contained a million and a half crisp, new Bougainville kina. Webb produced a letter to corroborate his claim that he was an officer of the International Organisation of Economic Development (I.O.E.D.) formally invited to Tonu, a town on Bougainville Island. The letter, signed by “King David Peii II,” was to award him the position of Minister of International Monetary Relations, a post with the so-called Central Bank of Bougainville. But the problem is that Bougainville is not an independent state.
|Barry Webb, King David Peii’s royal money-launderer|
|Bougainvilleans celebrate independence day|
|King David Peii II|
|Their currency looks pretty slick and professional.|
But the same cannot be said of all of Bougainville’s trappings of state.
|Is this what you want to see on the résumé|
for a candidate for Minister of International Monetary Relations?
Separatist sentiment is high in Bougainville, but it is not clear how much faith the general population there has in King David Peii II. A binding referendum on independence has been promised by the P.N.G. government for some time before 2021. It will probably pass. But the fledgling nation will do well to clean up its act a bit when it comes to financial dealings if they want to have a viable state.
|Not ready for prime time: King David inspecting his troops|
[You can read more about Bougainville and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar. The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]