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Bougainville Archive

This page carries January 1999's Bougainville news updates. You can find the latest updates here, and more archives here

If you don't know what all this is about, Bougainville - The long struggle for freedom tells the whole story of the colonialisation, successful revolution and continuing war being waged against the life of Bougainville by western governments on behalf of corporations.


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Index: Latest Updates


Momis Denies Refusing Offer

PORT MORESBY: Bougainville MP John Momis has denied he has refused to accept a power-sharing arrangement, which could have installed him as co-governor of Bougainville.

According to Government sources, former Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai - now State Minister assisting the Prime Minister - and senior advisers were going to put the proposal to him at a scheduled meeting at Deputy Speaker Michael Ogio's office at Parliament House last Sunday but Mr Momis refused to attend. "In fact, (the power-sharing arrangement) was never mentioned to me. It was a blatant lie" he said in a statement. "In any case, the offer to become a co-governor really doesn't address the substantive issue. The Government was wrong in suspending the Bougainville provincial government" he said. Mr Momis continued: "I am mandated by the people as regional Member for Bougainville through the electoral process and by virtue of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments, I should become the governor. People who are doing everything to keep me out are not mandated or legally recognised by the electoral process and the Organic Law."

He said he met with Mr Akoitai and Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi last week when they discussed a proposal for an out-of-court settlement of his court petition questioning the constitutionality of Cabinet's decision of Jan 1 to suspend Bougainville provincial government. Mr Momis said the proposal for him to become a co-governor was never discussed at this meeting. What was discussed, he said, was a proposal for him to be chairman of a committee to draft a Bill for an Organic Law - separate from the one already in existence on provincial and local level governments - to set up a Bougainville reconciliation government. No agreement was reached, however, because Mr Momis insisted that any agreement was conditional on Cabinet rescinding its decision to suspend Bougainville provincial government. He refused to attend Sunday's meeting because the Government was not prepared to rescind its decision, he said.

Source: The National - 29 Jan 99

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I'm Ready to Recall Parliament over B'ville: PM

PORT MORESBY: Prime Minister Bill Skate is prepared to recall Parliament to sort out the Bougainville problem.

Mr Skate told reporters on Wednesday the problem was not only legal and constitutional but also political and if it was necessary for Parliament to resolve the ongoing conflict, he would reconvene Parliament irrespective of the additional costs involved. "It is paramount that the men, women and children of Bougainville are assisted to achieve peace by peaceful means" Mr Skate said. The Prime Minister was commenting on the decision of the National Court to refer regional MP John Momis' challenge against the Cabinet decision suspending the Bougainville provincial government to the Supreme Court for constitutional interpretation. He said the National Executive Council decision of Jan 1 was based on the best legal advice available and took into account not only legal and constitutional issues but also political, social and economic aspects as well.

Solicitor General John Kawi, representing the government in the case, agreed with the Prime Minister. He said apart from legal and constitutional issues, the issue was highly political and should be considered as such. "It's not only a legal problem. It must be looked at in totality" Mr Kawi said.

Meanwhile, Mr Momis said in a statement he was disappointed that the National Court did not grant or refuse his application for a judicial review and instead referred the matter to the higher court. "I am meeting with our lawyers to decide on the next course of action to take. My initial thoughts are that there were no ambiguities or uncertainties whatsoever" he said. Mr Momis said the question of fact as to whether the power to suspend was properly exercised was a question of enforcement and not interpretation. "It appears to me that that court has shirked from the discharge of its judicial duty and functions to restrict itself to the question before it. This is whether to grant leave to apply for a judicial review and at the hearing of substantive issues if the court considers a Supreme Court reference is necessary, then it can refer the question" he said.

Source: By NEVILLE TOGAREWA - The National - 29 Jan 99

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Buka Threatens to Secede

PORT MORESBY: Leaders on Buka have threatened to form their own province unless Bougainville MP John Momis is made governor.

The Leitana Council of Elders wrote to Prime Minister Bill Skate on Jan 25, demanding that Mr Skate's cabinet rescind its decision to suspend the Bougainville provincial government and allow Mr Momis to take up his legal position as governor. The council's chairman, Joel Banam, also said Buka chiefs wanted the rebels disarmed under United Nations supervision immediately. The chiefs also demanded that any discussion and election of any Bougainville government be carried out only after disarmament has been satisfactorily completed. "It is my firm duty to draw your attention to the gravity of the situation which the current situation on Bougainville lends itself" Mr Banam said in the letter to Mr Skate. "Failure to respond positively to these demands (sic), Buka will pursue, through every means available at its disposal to attain separate provincial government status on its own as a matter of priority."

Source: The National - 29 Jan 99

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Moses Havini's Statement on Abolition of Office of B'ville Affairs

Whilst Bougainville can not play any part in how Prime Minister Skate wants to run and organise his Government; we are however cautiously skeptical at his abolition of the Office of Bougainville Affairs to promote Mr. Akoitai as Minister for state. This now means that Mr. Akoitai will have additional state responsibilities, whereas he needs to devote all his time on the Bougainville Peace Process that has been a sensitive development since the first agreement was signed in Burnham in New Zealand, July 1997.

The greatest need of the Peace Process has been to develop a "mechanism" where only Bougainville needs, including financial assistance, not only from the government but also from overseas donors could be channeled through for development and infra-structural development of the war-torn Bougainville.

Overseas Donors have refused or have withheld much needed funding into Bougainville - because of fear that it would be lost within PNG coffers or be re-directed to other needs in PNG other than in Bougainville. There is now a budget of $5 million for Bougainville with the former Ministry - the question is, what is now going to happen to this funding. This money is now urgently needed for the BRG Administration at this very point in time. We now fear that all Bougainville funding, etc., will be quickly lost within the Prime Minister's Department.

Now that all functions relating to the administration of Bougainville will come under the Prime Ministers department - the Bougainville Peace Process is going to be snowed under extra bureaucracy within the PM's Department. This will undoubtedly is going to be a major setback to the current momentum of the Bougainville peace process we have established so far.

The special ministry was created for Bougainville, because of a very special problem on Bougainville that could not be solved in any other way except through a special ministry. This was not to suggest that it would encourage provincialism in other parts of PNG, as the issue in Bougainville is very special which Papua New Guinea other provinces could never emulate.

The people of Bougainville strongly call upon the Skate Government and the Opposition to stop using the "Bougainville Issue" as political platform to further their own agendas in their current power struggle. Too much is at stake in Bougainville to be clouded in petty politics of the Opposition and the Skate Government.

Source: Bougainville Media Release - 28 Jan 99

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A Breakaway Threat to Bougainville Peace Talks

A dispute over the administration of Bougainville appears set to escalate. Richard Dinnen reports, chiefs on the neighbouring island of Buka have threatened to break away if a dispute over the administration of Bougainville is not resolved:

The Papua New Guinea Government suspended the Bougainville Provincial Government late last year, and Bougainville Opposition M-P John Momis has been fighting through the courts to have that decision reviewed. Now the Leitana Council of Elders, representing the chiefs of Buka, has come out to support Mr Momis. The Council has told Prime Minister Bill Skate the dispute is delaying the peace process and causing grave concerns for the people of Bougainville. The Council says it wants the suspension lifted, Mr Momis installed as Governor, and disarmament under United Nations supervision. If these demands are not met, the Council says it will break away and seek to have Buka declared a separate province -- a move which would seriously complicate the peace process. Richard Dinnen, Port Moresby.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 17:15:01 (AEDT) - 28 Jan 99

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PNG Leader Willing to Recall Parliament

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister says he's willing to recall the country's Parliament -- if it would help resolve a dispute about the administration of Bougainville. Richard Dinnen reports the dispute has been referred to the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court.

The P-N-G Cabinet suspended the Bougainville Provincial Government late last year, effectively preventing Bougainville M-P John Momis becoming governor of the province. The National Court has been hearing his application to review the suspension, and has referred it to the Supreme Court. It has been argued that the matter should be decided in Parliament rather than a court, but Prime Minister Bill Skate has adjourned Parliament until July, mainly to prevent a no confidence vote. But Mr Skate says, depending on advice, he would be prepared to recall Parliament if it would help strengthen the Bougainville peace process. The dispute is one element of a power play between Bougainville leaders and representatives -- Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai's hand has been strengthened by an extra appointment as a special Minister of State. Richard Dinnen Port Moresby.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 09:15:02(AEDT) - 28 Jan 99

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Bougainville Ministry Abolished - Matters come under PM's Department

ALL functions relating to the administration of Bougainville will come under the control of the Prime Minister's Department, Prime Minister Bill Skate announced yesterday.

He told a press conference at Morauta Haus that the National Executive Council made a decision to abolish the Bougainville Affairs Ministry and ``promote'' Central Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai, who currently holds the portfolio, to Minister of State assisting the Prime Minister. Mr Skate said Mr Akoitai will have more responsibilities and it will relieve him from the day-to-day administration of the Prime Minister's Department. Mr Akoitai is the third Minister of the State. The two ministers already assisting the Prime Minister are Commerce and Industry Minister Ian Ling-Stuckey, on economic matters, and Public Enterprise and Communications Minister Dr Fabian Pok, on projects and implementation.

Mr Skate said Mr Akoitai will help him run the department, giving him more time to address major issues, including economic recovery, Bougainville, law and order and to ensure that government ministers and departments are implementing the 1999 Budget. "And as a result of these considerations, I have promoted the Minister for Bougainville Affairs, who will now be known as the Minister for State" he said. "Bougainville functions and responsibilities that are being carried out now will automatically come under the Department of the Prime Minister." Mr Skate said Mr Akotai will take care of the day-to-day operations of Bougainville and will continue the peace process from the his department. "The other thing is to send a signal that by promoting him, my Government is showing confidence in his leadership and the confidence we have in the people of Bougainville" he said.

Mr Skate also pointed out that the Government can't afford to have a special ministry created for Bougainville because it may create provincialism and encourage regionalism, which is not good for the country. "So I've purposely created that simply to achieve the peace process, which is progressing well at this stage" he said. "And by giving Mr Akotai the position, we are giving the signal that Bougainville, as it is, is an integral part of Papua New Guinea. It cannot have a special ministry of its own. Therefore, I want to inform the people that Mr Akotai will be now known as a Minister for State." Mr Skate said both the chief secretary and deputy secretary will work under Mr Akoitai in running the affairs on Bougainville.

Source: POSTCOURIER - 28 JAN 99

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Bougainville Issue sent to High Court

THE National Court yesterday referred to the Supreme Court for interpretation or application, the decision by the Cabinet to suspend the Bougainville Provincial Government.

Judge Warwick Andrew ruled that the resolution of the matter involves the interpretation and application of the Constitution and of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments. Judge Andrew said the questions relating to the interpretation of the Constitution and the Organic Law in this matter, clearly involve very substantial issues and Section 18(2) of the Constitution provides that a court or tribunal "shall" refer the matter to the Supreme Court. Section 18(2) provides that;``subject to this Constitution, where any questions relating to the interpretation or application of any provision of a constitutional law arises in any court or tribunal shall, unless the question is trivial, vexatious or irrelevant, refer the matter to the Supreme Court and take whatever other action (including adjournment of proceedings) is "appropriate."

Judge Andrew was ruling on an application by Bougainville MP John Momis, for leave, to review the NEC decision to suspend the BPG, claiming the suspension was unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect. The court was satisfied that both Mr Momis and the BPG had standing and there was also a case to be tried. In deciding whether there was an arguable case such that leave should be granted, Judge Andrew set out the background to this matter contained in the words of the Minister Bougainville Affairs Sam Akoitai as stated in his affidavit tendered in court. It said: "On 1st January 1999, the NEC met to consider a report from the Minister for Provincial and Local Government Affairs. Having formed the opinion, by virtue of its powers under S.187(E)(1) of the Constitution and S.58 of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments, that the ground for suspension existed and that the matter could only be put right by suspension, the National Executive Council then decided to provisionally suspend the Bougainville Provincial Government with effect on and from 12:01am on 1st January 1999. I was appointed to exercise all the executive powers, functions, duties and responsibilities of the suspended Bougainville Provincial Government on behalf of the National Executive Council."

Judge Andrew said this was the NEC resolution that needs interpretation and application according to the Constitution and the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments, quoted by the Minister. The matter will now be listed before the Registrar of the Supreme Court to be given a date for hearing. + OUTSIDE court, Mr Momis said he was disappointed that the National Court neither granted nor refused his applications for leave to apply for judicial review.

Source: POSTCOURIER - 28 JAN 99

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Akoitai now Demoted

TIME will tell whether yesterday's decision by the Prime Minister to move the Office of Bougainville Affairs to come directly under the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council is a wise move.

More so is the decision to make Sam Akoitai the Minister for State assisting the Prime Minister on Bougainville Matters going to lead to any major change in the Bougainville peace process? What is more likely to happen is that the change is likely to be taken as a demotion for Mr Akoitai, who has done a good job so far to foster goodwill and co-operation among the parties in the Bougainville conflict. Few if any right thinking Papua New Guineans would have seen the creation of the Ministry of Bougainville Affairs as promoting anything other than demonstrating the desire of the government of the day to give special attention to resolving the worst internal conflict in the history of PNG. There is no reason to move the office to the Department of Prime Minister save to say it is going to create more bureaucracy and less efficiency in dealing with the issues on Bougainville. As Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Mr Akoitai always worked closely with the Prime Minister in matters relating to the peace process and the restoration of essential services throughout the province of North Solomons. How much better is his performance going to be as a Minister of State? We can only pray that leaders on both sides of the Bougainville conflict accept this change as announced by the Prime Minister.

Source: Editorial - POSTCOURIER - 28 JAN 99

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Crisis in PNG's Police Force Before the Court

Papua New Guinea courts will today deal with the crisis in the country's police force and a challenge against the suspension of the Bougainville Provincial Government. Richard Dinnen reports a decision is expected in the Bougainville case today.

Bougainvile M-P John Momis is seeking judicial review of the Papua New Guinea Cabinet's decision in December to suspend the Bougainville Provincial Government. The suspension prevented Mr Momis becoming Governer -- and helped his opponents in a power play between leaders on Bougainville. Justice Warwick Andrew will decide the matter this morning. Also in court today is the complex fight over the removal of Port Moresby Police Chief John Wakon. It's been alleged the sacking was politically motivated -- Mr Wakon and his special task force had been investigating some high profile people. The case has dented public confidence in the police force, and created the impression it's being used as a political weapon.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 08:45:02 (AEDT) - 27 Jan 99

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Aborigines Mark Australia Day with Protests

Australia's indigenous communities have held various rallies, concerts and protests around the country. Nino Tesoriero reports, the events were a protest against mainstream Australia Day celebrations.

The theme of stronger reconciliation has been consistent across Australia amongst those who've supported the indigenous events. Hundreds of people held a cleansing ceremony at Lake Burley-Griffin in the A-C-T. The elders at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in Canberra are hoping it will encourge the Federal Government to talk directly with Aboriginal people. Meanwhile, Aboriginal activists in Brisbane have called for Australia day to be celebrated on June the third, to conincide with the anniversary of the Mabo judgement. They've labelled January the 26th, "Invasion Day" claiming it holds no relevance for indigenous people. Around 300 people have taken part in the Invasion Day rally in Melbourne, While in Sydney, thousands joined in a peaceful celebration of Aboriginal culture at the Survival Day concert in Bondi.

Source: Source: Radio Australia World News - 00:45:01 (AEDT) - 27 Jan 99

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Momis Refuses Offer to Share Power

PORT MORESBY: Bougainville provincial MP John Momis has refused a Government offer of a power-sharing arrangement in a bid to settle out of court the case relating to the suspension of Bougainville provincial government, according to reliable sources.

If he had agreed, Mr Momis would have become a co-governor together with Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai and a nominee of former Bougainville Transitional Government and the rebels. The triumvirate, the Government proposed, would work closely with the other Bougainville MPs - Deputy Speaker of Parliament Michael Ogio (North Bougainville) and Michael Laimo (South Bougainville) - as well as former BTG Premier Gerard Sinato and his group, rebel leaders Joseph Kabui and Sam Kauona, resistance and other community representatives.

A meeting was arranged at Deputy Speaker Mr Ogio's office at Parliament House last Sunday where the proposal was going to be put to Mr Momis and Mr Laimo. Mr Akoitai, Mr Ogio and senior government advisers turned up but both Mr Momis and Mr Laimo failed to attend. As a result, the meeting was called off. Mr Momis could not be reached yesterday but a spokesman from his office confirmed that Mr Momis and Mr Laimo had refused to attend. The spokesman said Mr Momis was initially prepared to attend the meeting to find out the details of the Government proposal. He stressed, however, that as far as Mr Momis and Mr Laimo were concerned, whatever agreement reached between the Government and the two Opposition MPs was conditional on the National Executive Council rescinding its decision to suspend Bougainville provincial government. The spokesman said Mr Momis and Mr Laimo did not attend the meeting because they had found out that the agenda was not related to the suspension. He said he understood the Government was going to appoint Mr Momis chairman of a committee to draft a bill to amend the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments to enable the establishment, composition and operation of a Bougainville Reconciliation Government. The spokesman said the Government was prepared to allow Mr Momis to draw up his own terms of reference. He was asked if the Government was trying to induce Mr Momis to withdraw his court case seeking a judicial review of the NEC decision to suspend Bougainville provincial government. The spokesman replied: "They were trying to hint at some sort of reconciliation, but because (the proposal and the meeting) did not relate to the suspension of Bougainville provincial government, Mr Momis and Mr Laimo were not interested."

The National Court will today hand down its decision on whether leave should be granted for a judicial review of the NEC decision of Jan 1 suspending Bougainville provincial government.

Source: By NEVILLE TOGAREWA - The National - 27 Jan 99

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Survival for People and Nature

This month the government in Jakarta will auction off logging concession rights for some 60 000 square kilometers of forested tribal lands on Borneo island and western New Guinea. In total the land, nearlya as big as Ceylon, will be legally deforested and the tribal societies, who lived there since a for many generations, have never been consulted or even informed. Only few protests erose until now. The world media has keep silent. Why can such terror happen? The answer is quite simple. The world is full of school-educated idiots who have been trained into slavery anda obedience towards governments and the legislation, both mass murderers everywhere, rather than to a respect of savage tribal peoples in the forests. Please contact us if you want to take part in the action to save as much forest as possible. Only if we are many, we may have the chance to succeed.

Source: Hartmut Heller - Friends of Peoples Close to Nature
H.Heller@bigfoot.com

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Skate Hails Strong Aussie Bonds

PORT MORESBY: Prime Minister Bill Skate yesterday described PNG-Australia relationship as "one of the strongest in the world".

"Over the years, the governments and peoples of both nations have nurtured and fostered this unique relationship. Today, it is one of the strongest relationships in the world" he said in his message to mark Australia Day today. "Certainly we have had our differences from time to time but when brothers are close, there will be differences. Despite these differences, our core relationship always remains strong." Mr Skate said PNG acknowledged Australia's positive contribution to its development on this special day. "The Australian aid program assists with the development of our nation so that our people will have a more prosperous and economically independent country" he said.

On Bougainville, the Prime Minister said: "The Australian contribution to the peace process in Bougainville, along with that of our other regional neighbours, has seen normalcy and peace return to the troubled areas. "The men, women and children of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea thank you for this."

On the Aitape tsunami disaster: "The immediate response from Australia when the tidal wave struck Aitape stands as a testament to the commitment Australia has to our people. Your surgeons and relief workers saved the lives of so many Papua New Guineans."

On the future, Mr Skate said: "It is my hope that our relationship will continue to grow and develop. The people of Papua New Guinea invite more Australian businessmen to come and invest in the increasingly sound economy we are building. We invite more Australians to come to Papua New Guinea and visit our land and explore our culture. I am sure you will find that the real Papua New Guinea is somewhat different to the image projected by the tabloid media." "Happy Australia Day and God bless our Aussie wantoks."

Source: The National - 26 Jan 99

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Yagabo Backs Govt Moves for B'ville Peace

PORT MORESBY: Provincial Affairs Minister Dibara Yagabo said yesterday his ministry and department strongly supported the Government's initiatives to restore peace on Bougainville.

He commended these initiatives undertaken by the Prime Minister, National Executive Council, departments and agencies to bring about lasting peace. Mr Yagabo said he had been prompted to issue a press statement by what he described as "provocative and irresponsible statements and comments made by the Opposition and other parliamentarians". "It is because of the lack of support for legislation relating to Bougainville on the floor of Parliament by these leaders that the National Government has had to come up with new initiatives, agreements and arrangements currently in operation in order to continue with the fragile peace process" he said. "The Government has acted in good faith and with the best legal advice available to it and in full consultation with the leaders and representatives of the people of Bougainville and the various factions. The arrangements, agreements and mechanisms currently in place are the best way forward to ensure that all the parties to the Lincoln Agreement honour their commitments" he said. The minister said the Bougainville Constituent Assembly was a forerunner to the Bougainville Reconciliation Government, to be established through free, democratic and fair elections. "The hopes and aspirations of the majority of Bougainvilleans for true reconciliation, lasting peace and a permanent political solution are vested in and dependent on the establishment and operation of the BRG" Mr Yagabo said. "Any person or organisation that attempts to destroy these arrangements cannot possibly have the best interests of the nation and Bougainville at heart" he said. He said he would continue to work tirelessly with national and provincial leaders in pursuit of peace. "I call on those opposing these efforts and initiatives to desist and change their attitudes and join us in a bipartisan approach to resolving the conflict" Mr Yagabo said. "It is time to unite and persevere with the best possible ways and means to end the crisis and establish peace through peaceful means" Mr Yagabo said.

Source: The National - 26 Jan 99

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Momis Challenge to go to Court Today

THE COURT challenge by Bougainville MP John Momis against the National Executive Council decision to suspend the Bougainville Provincial Government will be heard today.

Mr Momis' lawyer Alois Jerewai said there were privileged discussions on a likely compromise outside of court. The application for review was set for last Friday morning but deferred to the afternoon session and finally to this afternoon. Mr Jerewai said he had been instructed not to release any information at that stage but the matter was adjourned to 1.30pm while discussions went on. He said: "If any compromise is reached then naturally the case will not go any further." Mr Momis said yesterday that the discussions were between their lawyers and not between himself and the affected parties. When quized on a possible compromise he said: "We've instructed our lawyers to proceed with the case."

Mr Momis and the Bougainville provincial government are seeking to review the NEC decision made at midnight on December 31 which successfully moved the suspension of the BPG. They claim that the NEC decision was unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect because the BPG never existed at the time it was suspended, and also that it was unwarranted given that there was no rebellion or military uprising on the island.

Source: Postcourier - 25 Jan 99

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Reunion Highlight of Sinato's Efforts

RABAUL: Former Bougainville Premier Gerard Sinato told constituent assembly members in Arawa last week that his reunion with rebel leader Joseph Kabui was a major highlight of the peace process on Bougainville.

"I must tell you, the honourable members of the assembly, that my brother and colleague was the premier and I was his deputy 10 years back" he said. Mr Sinato said that working relationship was torn apart by the crisis which had led to Mr Kabui leading a rebel faction while he (Sinato) was leading another group under the former Bougainville Transitional Government. "Our reunion is a landmark in my personal effort in the ongoing peace process, and looking forward for more of this to come from other colleagues" he said. The former premier made the remarks when urging Bougainville leaders to put aside difference to promote the peace process. Mr Sinato said that reuniting of different factions was one of developments that he had strived to see, adding that Bougainvilleans had committed some of the worst crimes against each other and must reunite to restore lasting peace. "Above every tools we can afford, unity through forgiveness among Bougainvilleans must come is important and it must come first before we move forward with the peace process towards a final political settlement on the conflict" he said.

Mr Sinato said he was prepared to apologise for his latest remarks against other leaders and forgive those who had discredited him. "I am planning to do that for the sake of the people. We leaders must not continue to inflict pain on the innocent mothers and our children. They had enough of what we had created. Let's get together and forgive each other to give our children the life they want to enjoy" he said.

Source: by PHILIP KEPSON - The National 25 Jan 99

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Rebel Calls for Meeting

BUKA: A rebel commander in North Bougainville, Tanahan Getsi, has called for a meeting of all factions involved in the current debate on the suspension of the North Solomons provincial government.

He said the meeting would enable the rebels to get an independent assessment of the debate. "We need to come up openly and discuss the issue and find out whether it is to the advantage or disadvantage to the Bougainville peace process" said Mr Tanahan. He urged leaders such Gerard Sinato and James Togel to attend the meeting, which should be held at Tsunpets this week.

Source: The National - 25 Jan 99

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Metals Allegedly Exported from Bougainville to Asia

The company which operated the giant copper mine on Bougainville has taken legal action to stop its assets being sold off for scrap metal. Richard Dinnen reports the metals are allegedly being exported from Bougainville to buyers in Asia.

The war on Bougainville forced the closure of the Panguna Mine almost 10 years ago, now peace has come, it seems a lucrative but illegal trade has developed. Bougainville Copper Ltd has managed to stop a shipment of 10 containers of scrap metal bound for Asia, worth a considerable amount of money. Bougainville Copper says even though the Panguna Mine and its other operations on Bougainville have been closed for many years, equipment and fixtures belong to the company and cannot be sold in this way. The company says if equipment at the Panguna Mine site has been stripped, future operations there might be impossible. Bougainville Copper released its annual report this week, announcing a profit of about six-million dollars.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 15:15:00 (AEDT) - 22 Jan 99

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Australia Acknowledges Potential Health Risks at Bougainville Mine

The Australian Government has acknowledged potential health risks posed by left over chemicals at the abandoned Bougainville Copper Mine, and is urging a clean-up of the site as soon as possible.

Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer says the chemicals in the Panguna, Arawa and Loloho areas may be in a hazardous state, presenting risks to villagers, and Australians working there. Mr Downer says Australia stands ready to assist with the clean-up of the chemicals, as soon as access can be negotiated by the groups involved in the Bougainville peace process.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 13:15:01 (AEDT) - 22 Jan 99

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Parties Meet to Discuss Disarmament

PORT MORESBY: Bougainville resistance and rebel leaders met in Arawa on Wednesday to discuss the issue of disarmament and the withdrawal of the Security Forces.

Bougainville administrator John Siau said the meeting, which was chaired by peace monitoring group commander Brigadier Roger Powell, was attended by the resistance leader Hilary Masiria and rebel commander Sam Kauona. Mr Siau said the meeting was informative and agreed that further talks should be held separately by the rebel and resistance factions to be followed by a second meeting of all parties. Mr Kauona raised the issue of the withdrawal of the Security Forces as stipulated in the Lincoln Agreement and the delay in the release of rebel prisoners. Brig Powell said he was satisfied that the first meeting on disarmament had taken place. He is expected to brief the PNG Defence Force Commander, Brigadier General Jerry Singirok on the issues discussed.

Source: The National - 22 Jan 99

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Rebel Raps Criminals

RABAUL: Bougainville rebel planner Ben Kamda has expressed concern that his faction's reputation has been tarnished by criminal activities on the island.

He said the rebels had fought for a genuine cause and had stopped when the peace process began following the signing of the Lincoln Agreement. Mr Kamda, who was convicted by the National Court in 1990 for his part in the rebellion, said he was sad and disappointed to see rascal elements taking advantage of the situation on Bougainville to carry out hold-ups and threatening innocent people. He referred to an armed robbery last week at a shop owned by a Chinese businessman and threats issued against the younger brother of rebel commander Paul Bobby, who was allegedly killed late last year by criminal elements. Mr Kamda said Buka Island, which was now the main government and business centre, had become a target for the criminals. "The latest break and enter, hold-ups, and threatening innocent people, are the makings of the criminals. We (the rebels) got nothing to do with it because we are not rascals but political freedom fighters" he said. Mr Kamda said it was up to the chiefs in Bougainville to monitor the movement of youths to ensure they were not carrying arms in direct breach of the Lincoln Agreement. He said the rebel factions would cooperate and work closely with the leaders in addressing the issue of disarmament. "On disarmament, cooperation will be required from all Bougainvilleans because every faction on the Island have arms, including the civilians. It is wrong to think that the rebels are only elements possessing arms" he said.

North Bougainville peace committee chairman and member of the newly formed constituent assembly, Joe Watawi, expressed concern about the lack of consultation by leaders on the issue of disarmament. He told assembly members in Arawa that the issue of arms destruction was an important provision in the Lincoln Agreement and it was time for leaders to formulate strategies on disarmament. "As arms destruction remains an important issue, we have yet to talk about come up with a workable strategy on implementing this important provision in the Lincoln Agreement. We have to do something about it before going for the BRG (Bougainville Reconciliation Government) election" he said.

Source: by PHILIP KEPSON - The National - 22 Jan 99

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Lawyers Call for Charges Arising from Sandline Crisis to be Dropped

The lawyer representing Papua New Guinea Defence Force Commander Jerry Singirok will move for a sedition charge against the commander to be dropped. Richard Dinnen reports the charge arises from the Sandline mercenary crisis in 1997.

The sedition charge relates to a radio broadcast General Singirok made at the height the crisis when elements of the Defence Force removed mercenaries hired by the PNG government to fight rebels on Bougainville. The case came before the Waigani District Court today for mention but did not proceed because the police force is in complete disarray. The Prosecutor handling the matter Thomas Ellu has been suspended following the sacking of Port Moresby Police Chief, John Wakon. General Singirok's lawyer Moses Murray says he will ask the court to rule that there is no case to answer and the matter should be dropped. The case is being adjourned until March 3. Richard Dinnen Port Moresby.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 15:15:00 (AEDT) - 21 Jan 99

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Tension High in BRA Groups

TENSION is mounting in the Bougainville district of Buin between the relatives of slain BRA leader Paul Bobby and another BRA faction led by Thomas Tarii.

Mr Tarii is alleged to have shot dead Bobby last October outside his house in the presence of his family. Islands Divisional Commander, Assistant Commissioner John ToGuata revealed yesterday that relatives of the late Bobby, have organised relatives and taken up arms to avenge his death. Mr ToGuata, whose area of responsibilty covers Bougainville, raised concern that the latest uprising could have serious implications on the overall peace process on the island. Reasons for the slaying of Bobby, one of the most prominent BRA commanders during the height of the crisis, has never been known. It is believed Bobby was slained because of his stance as a pro-PNG Government supporting a quick return to normalcy. Since the slaining of Bobby, relatives have been demanding for justice to be carried out against those responsible this has never been carried out, resulting in relatives threatening to take up arms to avenge his death. Mr ToGuata said from Rabaul yesterday that the sudden turn of event is a serious one which needed the intervention of the PNG Government. He said both sides taking arms against each other was in direct violation of the Lincoln Agreement and can be seen as a criminal offence.

Source: Postcourier - 21 Jan 99

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Back off on U-Vistract, says Akoitai

RABAUL: Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai says he will urge the Government and Bank of PNG to back down on moves against a private finance company, U-Vistract Finance Corporation Ltd.

He said that instead of discouraging its operations, they should assist the company. Mr Akoitai said this following concerns raised by Bougainvilleans about the controversy. In the last fortnight, the Central Bank has been warning people through newspaper advertisements about the security of their cash deposits with U-Vistract. The bank also urged the company to apply for a licence to legitimise its operations. Company spokesman Nicholas Balagaize last week said the company was started by a prominent Bougainvillean and that the majority of its customers were Bougainvilleans. Company papers state that it's headquarters is at Tonu village on South Bougainville. Its registered office is at Rhema House, Mangrove Street, Post Office Buka and its PNG office address is PO Box 316, Boroko, Papua New Guinea. The company claimed to have more than 3000 customers in NCD, mostly Bougainvilleans.

Mr Akoitai said the company was contributing to the Bougainville peace process in terms of better interest rates than regular commercial banks. The Minister said he would agree with authorities who opposed the company's operation only if customers were complaining about mismanagement. "However, if authorities are complaining about procedural irregularities, why not assist a Papua New Guinean who is trying to be creative, particularly in terms of trying to assist his fellow Papua New Guineans and provide competition against foreign financial institutions" he said. Mr Akoitai said he would also talk to Prime Minister Bill Skate about assisting the operation of the company instead of penalising it on procedural grounds. "I am even planning to see the Prime Minister with the aim of urging those financial institution that are complaining about the existence of the company to provide assistance so it can continue with its operation" he said. "If other financial institutions see the company as a threat then U-Vistract is teaching them a lesson in how to improve their services to the people."

Meanwhile, Buka district manager Charry Napto said that the people of Bougainville were disappointed with the Bank of PNG's remarks against the company. "They are complaining because of the simple fact that U-Vistract is giving them more than what the commercial banks offer in interest rates" he said. Mr Napto said since U-Vistract started its operation late last year in Buka, it had been paying out huge sums of money as interest to the people, adding that both the people and the company would suffer if there were any move taken against its operation. "One advantage is the tremendous boost in cash flow into Buka and mainland Bougainville because of its favorable interest rates" he said.

Source: By PHILIP KEPSON - The National - 21 Jan 99

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PNG Land Owners Threaten to Shut Down OK Tedi Copper Mine

Papua New Guinea land owners have threatened to shut down the OK Tedi copper mine. Richard Dinnen reports the land-owners are angry at delays in reviewing an agreement under which the mine operates.

The agreement between local land owners and the Papua New Guinea Government sets out benefits the land owners receive for allowing mining on their land. It should have been reviewed in 1996 and land owners say they've waited patiently but the government shows no signs of beginning the review. Land owners spokesman, Brook Pitalok, says the review must begin by the end of the month or the mine will be closed. The OK Tedi mining company has warned that shutting down the mine would be illegal. OK Tedi is no stranger to controversy - land owners previously took legal action against parent company BHP over environmental damage.

Source: Radio Australia World News - Jan 20 99 - 3:15:01 (AEDT)

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BCL Records K7.7m Profit

PORT MORESBY: The value of Bougainville Copper Limited's (BCL) cash reserves held in kina has declined further, company secretary Paul Coleman said yesterday.

Despite this, the company posted a profit of K7.7 million last year "as a result of increased interest rates" Mr Coleman said. The 1998 figure compares with K1.391 million profit recorded in 1997. In a statement from Melbourne, Mr Coleman attributed the decline in the value of reserves to the floatation of the kina in 1994, the subsequent devaluation and the recent downturn in the world economy in general. BCL is required to keep its cash holdings in kina on shore under government regulations. "This requirement was put in place after the kina was floated" he said. Mr Coleman said the decline in the value of the local currency particularly against the United States and Australian dollars has concerned the BCL directors. But he said "on the positive side, interest rates in PNG have generally been much more favourable than either US$ or A$ rates and explained the improved profit last year. "Nonetheless the off-shore buying power of the company's reserves has deteriorated as a result of being required to hold funds in kina" he said. Mr Coleman also said that the BCL directors had not declared a dividend for 1998 and there was no borrowings were outstanding by the year end.

The annual general meeting of BCL will be held at the Port Moresby Travelodge at 10am, on March, 18, 1999. The 1998 Annual Report and notice of meeting will be mailed to shareholders on Feb 16, Mr Coleman said. The company also said it could require further writedowns in the value of its Panguna copper mine assets if operations recommenced. While signs of peace on the island of Bougainville were promising, the company said it might still be some time before it had access to the mine site. Bougainville Copper, majority-owned by Rio Tinto Ltd, emphasised that even with a resumption of operations, a major writedown of assets from their pre-closure value may be required. "Accordingly, the 1991 provision of K350 million may eventually prove to be an inadequate sum with which to reflect the loss in value of the company's assets" the company said. Bougainville Copper said where access to assets was available, such as the power station at Loloho, predictions of considerable deterioration have been confirmed. "If this situation is repeated at the mine site, little if any of the company's assets will be suitable for renewed operations." But the company said other factors such as the weak prices for copper and gold and the downturn in world demand also mitigate against a restart of economic operations at Panguna. "These factors require a cautious approach to values put on assets and provisions made for future writedowns and calculations of reserves based on historical data" the company said. The net carrying value of fixed assets at balance date was K198.6 million and cash balances were K71.8 million. BCL shares closed steady at 20 cents, while Rio Tinto eased 14.6 to A$19.409.

Source: By KEVIN PAMBA and AAP - The National - Business Section - 20 Jan 99

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Opposition MPs Partly to Blame for Crisis: Chiefs

ARAWA: Two Bougainville chiefs claim that the crisis is partly a result of failure by certain leaders to provide proper advice to landowners on "active local participation" in the operation of the Paguna mine.

North Nasioi chief Peter Garuai and Buin chief Paul Aisa said the same leaders who had misled people were now appearing to be innocent. "The leaders' failure to provide proper advice to the landowners on equal and fair participation in the mine was one cause of the crisis" Mr Garuai said. He said advice from the then Justice Minister Bernard Narokobi in 1988 to landowners, including rebel leader Francis Ona, to become part of the Bougainville Copper Limited's executive when they were trustees of the company was an example of how the people were misled by these leaders. Mr Narokobi, now Opposition Leader, has strongly opposed the establishment of the Bougainville Reconciliation Government. Mr Garuai said Mr Narokobi's advice was later interpreted as an instigating cause of the bitter conflict that had started between the landowners and BCL. He said if Mr Narokobi and other leaders including, Bougainville MP John Momis, were serious about unfair treatment the landowners were receiving from BCL, they would have negotiated better deals for them using proper procedures.

Mr Aisa said the Bougainville people were aware of those leaders who were partly responsible for the crisis. "The same leaders, who are now pretending to be innocent of the crisis, were the ones who described BCL as a wild pig that they wanted the people to chase away" he said. "We do not want to point fingers at each. What we want now is restoration of peace."

Source: The National - 20 Jan 99

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Rebel Leader's Wife Declines Nomination

ARAWA: Rebel commander Sam Kauona's wife has turned down nomination for the constituent assembly because she wants to pursue academic studies.

"I have decided against being nominated to the assembly because I want to go for studies" Josephine Kauona told The National, when asked to explain her refusal to nominate. Mr Kauona had also declined nomination. Mrs Kauona said she was forced by the crisis on Bougainville in 1989 to abandon her studies at Divine Word Institute (now university) in Madang. "I was doing my second year business studies when the crisis erupted in 1988. I have now decided to resume studies" she said. However, she did not want to disclose where she would be pursuing her studies for security reasons. "I am feeling a bit uncomfortable in disclosing where I would be going because of security reasons but I am looking forward to it" Mrs Kauona said.

She said three women from South and Central Bougainville were nominated to represent the rebel factions. "I have a lot of confidence in these three women because they are hard core peace promoters and women's rights advocators. I know that they will contribute meaningfully to the peace process together with their male counterparts" she said. The other three women members represented the other factions, including former Bougainville Transitional Government member Agnes Titus and Bougainville Women's Council president Theresia Jaintong.

Mrs Kauona also appealed to Bougainvillean leaders to put their differences aside and unite to promote the peace process. "It is sad to see that leaders are pointing fingers at each other, mainly when we are going closer to seeing lasting peace. My appeal to them is to put aside differences and come to work together for common good of the people" she said.

Source: The National - 20 Jan 99

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Quake off Buka

PORT MORESBY: An earthquake of the magnitude 7.1 on the Richter scale occurred today 100 km north-north-east of the island of Buka in the North Solomons Province, the Geophysical Observatory reported.

Chief Seismologist Dr Horst Letz said in a brief statement that no reports of damage had been received from Buka Island. Dr Horst said the earthquake occurred at 13.35 local time at 4.24 degrees south and 154.64 degrees east at a depth of 100 km. Authorities on Buka were not immediately available for comment. -AAP

Source: The National - 20 Jan 99

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Govt Urges Leaders to Resolve Row

BUKA: Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai says he will personally ask Bougainville MP John Momis to attend a proposed leaders' meeting this month to sort out the infighting among leaders.

Mr Akoitai said before he left for Buin and Siwai in South Bougainville to inform people about latest developments that he had no choice but to make a personal appeal to Mr Momis reconcile with other leaders for the sake of saving the peace process. He said Bougainville leaders must take the proposed leaders meeting seriously as the infighting was causing confusion among the people of Bougainville and the general public. "I will personally ask Mr Momis to attend the leaders meeting. Otherwise, I cannot do much more than that as they have the right to make their own decisions" he said. Mr Akoitai said he would also urge the other MPs, Michael Laimo (South Bougainville) and Michael Ogio (North Bougainville) to attend the meeting, adding that the date for the meeting and the venue would be decided within the next two weeks. He added that the current peace process would not end up with a common political settlement if there were no unity, common understanding, and transparency among parties to the Bougainville conflict. "For lasting political settlement to take place on the Island, there must be common understanding, transparency and unity among major players of the peace process" said Mr Akoitai.

The infighting among the Bougainville leaders came into light after the Government suspended the Bougainville Provincial and Local Level Government to allow a smooth transition of the Bougainville Transitional Government to the Bougainville reconciliation. The Buka council of elders and Mr Momis did not support the formation of the constituent assembly under the new BRG constitution. Despite the opposition, the constituent assembly however agreed last Friday in Arawa to have the leaders meeting before the Bougainville reconciliation election in May or June this year. The assembly also agreed to allow the two co-chairmen, Gerard Sinato and Joseph Kabui, to appoint 10 assembly members to hold consultative talks with Mr Momis and other leaders on sorting out their differences.

Mr Akoitai said he would also make arrangements on allowing the Basic Agreement to be signed during the meeting. He would return to Port Moresby today to brief Prime Minister Bill Skate on the constituent assembly meeting and other developments.

Source: By PHILIP KEPSON - The National - 20 Jan 99

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UN and Monitors call it 'Historic'

ARAWA: The United Nations and the Peace Monitoring Group representatives on Bougainville have described the formation of the constituent assembly as a historic development in the peace process.

The commander of the group, Brigadier General Roger Powell, and UN special envoy James Sloan said on Friday that the meeting was a historic occasion that would have a great impact on moves towards restoring lasting peace. Mr Powell, who was a special observer at the first meeting of the Bougainville constituent assembly together with the UN envoy, said that many people had predicted that the meeting would not turn out well because of the prevailing circumstances. "However, you have made it and I offer you my full endorsement" he said. He said the meeting was historic because it was the first that has brought Bougainvilleans from different factions together, since the crisis started, to discuss issues on how they could restore lasting peace. "The ongoing peace process requires unity among Bougainvilleans to discuss the issue of peace together. I am sure to say that the occasion of this kind will provide much needed assistance in the journey for peace" Brig Powell said. He said they would remain neutral and facilitate assistance where necessary until their services are terminated. "We are only to observe your peace initiatives. It is you, the Bougainville leaders to be more creative towards making the peace process work" he said.

Mr Sloan said he also had doubts about the BRG constitution because of the recent issues that came about following its adoption late last year. He said consultation has proven to be a powerful tool for resolving conflict. Mr Sloan said another UN officer would be coming to Bougainville next month to assist in the peace process. "I congratulate you for your nomination to the assembly and wish you well in your effort to bring peace back to Bougainville" he said.

Source: The National - Tues, 19 Jan 99

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Assembly Illegal, says Buka Chief

BUKA: Buka people do not want to be part of the Bougainville constituent assembly because it was "illegal", and the stance of Bougainville leaders and the National Government on the whole peace process was confusing them, a leader here said.

Former Bougainville Transitional Government member and Buka chief Thomas Sogae said he had decided against being part of the constituent assembly because he did not want to be part of an "illegal" government. Mr Sogae said the Buka council of elders will continue to press the Government to accept their position on allowing Buka to be the 20th province unless regional MP John Momis was allowed to become governor under the reform law on provincial and local level governments. "We have enough agendas to discuss. The formation of the constituent assembly is a new agenda because it is illegal in the sense that it was formed outside the Constitution of PNG" he said. He was speaking in a meeting with Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai on Saturday after the first constituent assembly meeting to explain their position in boycotting the meeting. Mr Sogae added that he was also not happy with the manner in which the leaders were dragging the peace process without giving any indications about when they would end the conflict with the restoration of civil authority on the island. "For how long are we going to drag the so called peace process without any indication from conflicting parties about reaching a common settlement" said Mr Sogae.

Chairman of Leitana Council of Elders Joel Latubanam said the way the leaders were pursuing the peace process appeared to be confusing with the Bougainville party saying that their ultimate goal was independence and the PNG Government maintaining that it (the issue of independence) was not negotiable. "At the same time both parties are saying that they are promoting peace. But how are they promoting the peace process...Can they come out clear and tell the world whether they will go on with the way they are going forever. We are already fed up of the funny game they are playing" said Mr Latubanam. He said the people of Buka have suffered enough from a crisis that they were not part of, adding that they wanted to be left alone if the leaders wanted to continue with the peace process on the island of Bougainville. "We want an immediate stop to the peace process and Mr Momis as governor or allow us to run our own province" he said.

Minister Akoitai told them the Government would not recognise their position. "What you leaders are saying is funny. I want an immediate change of your position and support for the peace process...You just can't come out of the blue with all this" he told the chiefs at Saposa guesthouse here. The Council of Elders (COE) here have petitioned the Government two weeks back to recognise John Momis as governor for Bougainville or they would push for Buka to become a province of its own. "What are you leaders trying to prove. Are you serious about what you are saying or you are playing around with the people of Bougainville that wish to see peace return after nine years of suffering" Mr Akoitai said.

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Contact Details:

BFM - Bougainville Freedom Movement (Coordination in Australia):
VIKKI JOHN - e-mail: V.John@uts.edu.au
P.O. Box 134, Erskineville NSW 2043, Australia, Phone +61-2-9558-2730

BIG - Bougainville Interim Government
MOSES HAVINI (International Political Representative in Asia/Pacific)
PO Box 134, Erskinville, NSW 2043, Australia
tuluan@ar.com.au Phone/Fax +61-2-9804-7632 , Mobile +61-(0)414-226-428

MARTIN MIRIORI (International BIG Secretary in Europe, NL)
e-mail: UNPOnl@antenna.nl (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Org.)
Phone +31-55-577-99-60 , Fax +31-55-577-99-39

MAX WATTS - (specialised Journalist) email: RosieK@bigpond.com
P.O. Box 98, Annandale NSW 2038, Australia
Phone +61-2-9564-1147 , Phone/Fax +61-2-9818-2343 (work)