The Bougainville Referendum vote winds down this week but its progress last week had been lauded as historical, festive and peaceful.
At the far flung Teua (Kunua) region south from Buka and on west coast of Bougainville island, six Upe men voted in the referendum.
Never during the political elections of Papua New Guinea had these men voted.
These men spend as long as three years in their college (Upe) located in the jungles going through many rituals and initiations to graduate from a boy to a man.
It has been a sacred culture practiced at regions like in Buka, Selau, Wakunai and the Teua region, west of Wakunai.
Women are barred from seeing these men.
Speaking through a translator and returning officer John Sisiesi who also voted last Friday, their teacher Sam Manu said: “They have been trained customs and how to work with the people.”
“They teach them traditional ways to do things, using herbs and making medicine.”
Other areas taught are fishing, hunting, gardening, singing the “kaur” and being able to attract women.
Manu said they also teach them respect and discipline.
“The school is only for males so that they become good citizens,” Manu said through a translator.
A call has been made by Manu requesting government support to develop infrastructure for the preservation and continuity of teaching and passing on the Upe tradition.
Village development assistant Samuel Munupalau said the significance of the Upes to vote is to amplify the message to government that they have preserved their culture and the design of the Upe is on the Bougainville flag, it was appropriate service delivery during any new Bougainville reaches them.
“Long hia long Rapois nogat developmen, tasol antap long flag bai yu lukim identity, em Upe,” he said.
(In the Rapois region there is virtually no development but on the flag you would see the identity, the Upe)
He said they needed road and other infrastructure and for the Upe to vote is to demonstrate that call for attention in bringing to them services.
“If there is any declaration, there must be respect to the Upe,” Munupalau said calling for a road to be build to the west coast of Bougainville.
He was supported by village chief Sylvester Bareresu and his deputy Michael Birarere.