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This website has not been updated for some years. As of September 2004, a new website - Solidarity South Pacific - has superseded this, though this website has been left as it may still contain useful content.

Bougainville Archive

This page carries February 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.


Index: 1998


Skate to Fight 'Blood Money'

PAPUA New Guinea's Prime Minister vowed yesterday to fight worldwide legal action seeking $US25 million ($39 million) from PNG, saying the British mercenary group Sandline International was holding the country to ransom for "blood money".

Bill Skate, who was elected on an anti-Sandline ticket just months after the army in March 1997 revolted against the mercenaries, said he felt only disgust for Sandline's attempts to recover the funds through foreign court orders that already had led to the freezing of some of PNG's funds overseas. But Mr Skate conceded Sandline's action could disrupt PNG's efforts to raise finance offshore. "The people we are dealing with turn my stomach in disgust. Sandline is attempting to hold the people of this nation to ransom" Mr Skate said. "It was bad enough that the Chan/Haiveta Government paid them $US18 million so they would go and murder Papua New Guineans on Bougainville. Now they want to stand in the way of this nation receiving the financial support we are currently in need of."

A Sandline spokesman yesterday condemned Mr Skate's response as emotive and accused PNG of evading its legal obligations. A recent court order in a Luxembourg court, freezing PNG funds in Brussels, was won by Sandline on the basis of an international arbitration, which upheld its $US36 million contract with PNG as legal and enforceable. "It is regrettable that Mr Skate should make such an emotive and inaccurate statement" the spokesman said. "Mr Skate shows himself in his true colours by seeking to evade his country's legal obligations. PNG agreed to be bound by the decision of the arbitration, which subsequently went against them." Sandline, which had been paid only half the contract price at the time of a revolt, is now seeking the additional $US18 million plus costs estimated to be close to $US7 million. PNG has lodged an application in the Queensland Supreme Court seeking leave to appeal the arbitration ruling. It is to be heard on March 11.

Source: By MARY-LOUISE O'CALLAGHAN - The Australian - 26 Feb 99

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Sandline Freezes PNG Cash

SOME overseas funds of the Papua New Guinea Government have been frozen as part of world-wide legal action by the British mercenary group Sandline International.

PNG has already seen the bank accounts of its mission to the European Union in Brussels frozen and three other European missions forced to clear their accounts of operating funds. The unprecedented action that sees a mercenary group take on a sovereign nation will jeopardise PNG's hopes of raising vital funds to salvage its ailing economy. Faced with losing $US25 million ($39 million), the Skate Government has vowed to fight the legal action, saying it plans to recover $US18 million already paid to Sandline in 1997. The mercenary group signed a $US36 million agreement with the State of PNG in January 1997 to end the conflict on Bougainville, and won an international arbitration last October awarding an outstanding $US18 million plus costs are estimated to stand at about $US7 million u to the private military consultants.

It is on the basis of this award that the lawyers for Sandline recently registered its claim in Luxembourg. But it is unlikely that this action is primarily aimed at the funds of PNG's overseas missions. Rather, the claim has implications for any efforts by the PNG Government to raise funds overseas, including plans u now on hold u for a $US120 million loan from the German Kredit Bank as well as a substantial amount believed to be held by a Belgian bank on behalf of the Bank of PNG.

PNG's Attorney-General, Michael Gene yesterday said his nation would "vigorously oppose" any attempt to enforce the arbitration's finding before an appeal, which is being sought before the Queensland courts. "PNG is not only going to defend itself, instead we have also filed court proceedings to ... recover from Sandline the $US18 million the State previously paid to the mercenary company" he said. "I will not allow a private company to force the closure of the embassy that represents the interests and obligations of PNG abroad as we still have many legal options available to us" Mr Gene said. However PNG's efforts to seek leave for an appeal against the international arbitration were dealt a humiliating blow last year when the Queensland court, in an extraordinary move, ordered the PNG Government to pay $70,000 security to cover Sandline's legal bills if the PNG Government lost the appeal. Mr Gene admitted that the PNG Cabinet had already allocated $US20 million to be held in trust if Sandline sought further security.

The original Sandline contract provided for an offensive to reclaim Bougainville. The ensuing revolt in March 1997 against the contract by the commander of the PNG Defence Force, Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok, brought down the Chan Government and led to the election of Mr Skate. The Sandline saga has since plagued PNG, which has been struggling to finance its recurrent budget and has recently announced plans launch an issue of Eurobonds. A spokesman for Sandline said last night he could not comment while the court action was pending. PNG Prime Minister Bill Skate is also currently on leave and unavailable for comment.

Source: By MARY-LOUISE O'CALLAGHAN - Front Page, The Australian - 25 Feb 99

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Bougainville MPs told to Work Together

SIR John Kaputin has said "the four Bougainville MPs must co-operate to safeguard the Bougainville peace process and ensure continuing progress towards lasting peace".

"They hold the keys to bipartisan co-operation at the national level and it is only with bipartisan support that an acceptable legal framework for the future government of Bougainville can be built. Whatever the outcome of any further court actions concerning the legality of the national Government's suspension of the BPG on January 1, the four MPs have to work together by law in order to provide good government and for peace. The council of governors and the group of 17 Members of Parliament from the Islands region (the G17) have therefore invited the four Bougainville MPs to set aside their differences and meet with other members of the G17 in Manus on March 8 to 9. The invitation has been issued jointly by Manus MP Stephen Pokawin and myself."

Source: Postcourier - 23 Feb 99

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Nissan Classes Suspended

NISSAN High School on Bougainville has suspended classes since last Friday because of food and water shortages.

About 400 students at the school have all been told to return home until advised to resume classes. The shortage of food and water on Nissan Island is a result of the dry season last year. Assistant Education Secretary Tony Tsora confirmed and added that six other community and elementary schools were also affected. Mr Tsora said about 120 students from Uru community school on one of the Pinipel Islands also had its classes suspended because of water shortage. "Uru Island is very infertile and it takes a long time for food crops to grow. The Government should declare the island an emergency area because of the food shortage and unhealthy water problems." Mr Tsora said. He reported, however, that Nissan High School students could be returning to school this week because of the strong winds and torrential rain that covered the North Solomons Province and most of the New Guinea Islands region yesterday. Mr Tsora also announced that the provincial education department received about K350,000 for the final payment of the fourth quarter subsidy for school fees paid out to the province by the national Department of Education.

Source: Postcourier - 23 Feb 99

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Europe's Conscience Awakens

Environmental and corporate responsibility has historically been governed by voluntary codes of conduct, but now the European Parliament is proposing legislation to curb corporate exploitation.

The proposed code, tabled by a British Labour MEP, Richard Howitt, will try to create a legally binding framework to regulate European multinationals operating in developing countries. The code would set minimum standards for human rights, labour conditions, social and environmental protection, and the rights of indigenous people. Discussions will also begin in June about setting up a European Monitoring Platform (EMP) of impartial and objective independent experts. They would have the power to assess complaints about corporate misconduct, and then name and shame those companies that fall foul of regulations. The proposals have met intense opposition from business and Conservative MEPs. Howitt recognises their concerns, but he says a binding code is necessary because many voluntary regulations are not worth the paper they are written on. "Self policing doesn't always work and, to have credibility, voluntary codes of conduct must be accompanied by independent monitoring and verification" he says. Shell, for example, has had a code of conduct since the mid-seventies. But it did not prevent devastation in the Nigerian delta or the military regime's execution of community leader Ken Saro-Wiwa. Howitt predicts a temporary EMP could be up and running on a voluntary basis within months, but the legal framework could take several years.

Heavyweight corporate players such as Rio Tinto and the Confederation of British Industry are already on the offensive. Graham Mason, Business Environment director at the CBI, says they and their European counterparts, Unice, will not support it. "We don't think it's well conceived. Many of these issues are being dealt with in international bodies such as the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), which we believe is the proper forum" he explains. Britain's Labour government also prefers the OECD's Multinational Enterprise Guidelines, which are currently under review.

Over the past two years Shell, BP and Rio Tinto, among others, have worked with NGOs to develop voluntary codes of conduct. But the problem today is still on of transparency and implementation. One mechanism under debate is "social auditing", the independent verification of ethical conduct codes. So far most multinationals are happy to leave this to friendly corporate accountancy firms instead of impartial auditors. But even Rio Tinto accepts that social auditing can sometimes amount to no more than a "box-ticking exercise."

Source: Melissa Jones - Guardian Weekly - February 21 1999 (p23)

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Public Lecture by Moses Havini

PLEASE NOTE: Moses Havini will be returning from Bougainville to speak at a public lecture on Thursday 25 February 99 at 6.00pm in Room B112 at the UTS Law Faculty, Quay Street, Haymarket, Sydney (behind Paddys Markets). Please spread the word. All welcome.
For further information, please contact Vikki: V.John@uts.edu.au

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Governors to Meet over Bougainville Conflict

The governors of the five islands provinces in Papua New Guinea will meet next month to help find a solution to the 10-year-old Bougainville conflict.

They want to find practical ways to enhance the peace process. National parliamentarians will also attend. The State Minister, Sam Akoitai, who is assisting the Prime Minister on Bougainville affairs, welcomes the governors' proposed assistance. He says however, the governors help should be viewed in light of the Bougainville leaders' meeting, which has been deferred because of security concerns over the venue on Nissan Island. He warned of a collapse in the peace process if the Bougainville leaders do not put aside their differences and agree to work together for the common good.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 06:15:02 (AEDT) Fri Feb 19 1999

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PNG Opposition moves to Over-turn Suspension of Bougainville Govt

The Papua New Guinea Opposition will take Supreme Court action in support of moves to over-turn the suspension of the Bougainville Provincial Government.

Opposition Bougainville MP, John Momis, this week lost a National Court challenge against the suspension. He says he will appeal against the verdict. Now, acting Opposition Leader, Chris Haiveta says the Opposition will ask the Supreme Court to declare illegal the establishment of any government which does not comply with PNG laws. Mr Haiveta says the case will not specifically refer to the Bougainville Provincial Government, but it does target the suspension. Under amendments passed by the PNG parliament last year, a Provincial Government should have been created on Bougainville. But the Cabinet blocked its formation by summarily suspending it on New Year's day.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 09:15:02 (AEDT) 18 Feb 99

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PNG to Increase its Military Presence along Irian Jaya Border

The Papua New Guinea Government will increase its military presence along the country's border with Indonesian-controlled Irian Jaya. Richard Dinnen reports from Port Moresby.

A P-N-G Defence Force unit will move to the border town of Wutung, to monitor the Irian Jayan border in close co-operation with the Indonesian military. Both sides are concerned about the movement across the border of rebels aligned with pro-independence groups in Irian Jaya. The troop build-up is under an agreement reached between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia last year. But the implentation of it seems to have been expedited, following reports a few days ago that Indonesia wants permission for its troops to operate inside PNG territory against Irian Jayan rebels. The request for so-called hot pursuit rights was reportedly made by Indonesia some time ago, but the Papua New Guinea Government has so far not confirmed that it's received such a request. Richard Dinnen, Port Moresby.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 06:15:02 (AEDT) 18 Feb 99

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Australian Aid Agency Criticised by Bougainville Member

The Australian aid agency, AusAID, has been criticised for by-passing Bougainvillean leaders in their funding of projects on Bougainville.

The regional member for Bougainville, John Momis says it's important that Bougainvillean leaders are consulted on the projects to be funded and the companies to implement projects. Mr Momis was commenting on the latest advertisement by AusAid in local newspapers for tenders of a major coastal trunk road project on Bougainville. It's now in the hands of AusAID and consultants, except the Bougainvilleans. You know, this is really an insult. I thought, and the Skate government is allowing this. The Skate government has abdicated. It's obvious AusAID is deciding things, probably in consultation, some form of consultation. The Government of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea should determine the priorities, the needs of Bougainville and seek assistance from friendly nations. Not the other way round.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 20:15:01 (AEDT) - 16 Feb 99

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PNG Defence Force Commander to Publicly Apologise to PM

Papua New Guinea Defence Force Commander Jerry Singirok will publicly apologise to former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, for comments made at the height of the Sandline crisis.

The comments were published in a newspaper interview in March 1997, after the P-N-G Government hired the Sandline mercenary company to conduct operations against Bougainville rebels. General Singirok implied that Sir Julius was using the Sandline agreement to equip a private security company operated by his family. Sir Julius sued for defamation and General Singirok's apology is part of an out-of-court settlement reached by lawyers yesterday. General Singirok's apology will be published in P-N-G newspapers this week.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 20:15:01 (AEDT) - 16 Feb 99

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Momis Refusal Stalls Talks

RABAUL: The proposed Bougainville leaders meeting which was scheduled to start this weekend suffered another setback when regional MP John Momis decided against Nisan Island as the venue for the meeting.

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said Mr Momis's refusal to attend the meeting at Nisan was relayed to the rebel faction and other leaders who were ready to make their way to the Island. Mr Momis apparently would like the meeting to be held outside of Bougainville. "We were prepared to move to Nisan when we were told this afternoon by officials from Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai's office that the proposed meeting would not go on as planned because Mr Momis did not want Nissan or any other place on Bougainville as the venue for the meeting" said Mr Miriki. Mr Miriki said that the rebel faction on the troubled island including their political head Joseph Kabui were happy with Mr Momis's latest decision to attend the meeting. The leaders' meeting was proposed recently in the new established constituent assembly meeting in Arawa to sort out infighting among Bougainville leaders following the suspension of the Bougainville Provincial Government by the Government early this year after Bougainville Transitional Government's term expired on Dec 31, last year.

The meeting was proposed to be held early this month but did not go as planned as a result of Bougainville leaders, particularly Mr Momis's position, against supporting any political moves by Kabui/Sinato led faction. Attempts to contact Mr Momis for comments were unsuccessful but Mr Miriki said other agenda for the meeting include:

Source: By PHILIP KEPSON - The National - 12 Feb 99

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'Carpet of Red Blood'

I write with regard to the venomous letter from Gurox Naisi titled "Don't give Bougainville red carpet treatment'.

After nine years of war it seems imperative that their be 'red carpet treatment' for the people of Bougainville. It appears from the venomous letter that the writer prefers a continued 'carpet of red blood on Bougainville' and not the current peace that the people of Bougainville are finally experiencing. Over 20,000 Bougainville people are dead and thousands more could have been killed if the murdering company , Sandline Mercenaries (hired by Sir Julius Chan), had not been stopped by those wonderful citizens of Papua New Guinea. When people are deprived of their rights it is natural to resist. When injustice becomes law, resistance is justified and becomes duty. The people of Bougainville were made landless, poor, denied access to health care and education. Confronted with injustice and aggressive development policies, resistance from the people of Bougainville became their only form of expression. The price has been high - blockaded by land, sea and air - genocide of a people merely fighting to protect what is their own. Deliberate extermination of a people, disrespect for their fundamental human rights - is that abiding the PNG Constitution?

Maybe it is time for your readers to view graphic photographs of Bougainville children, women and men - innocent civilians - now dead. People just sitting in church in Malabita village, not hurting or harming anyone, massacred by PNG Defence Force detachment in Buin, South Bougainville. Is this abiding by the PNG Constitution?

It appears the writer's surname is from the Buin, South Bougainville area. Could it be that he is also a self-interested individual who does not care how much the people have suffered on Bougainville? If you are a disciple of John Momis, then you are of the past.
Vikki John, Bougainville Freedom Movement, Sydney, Australia

Source: Letter to the Editor - POSTCOURIER 9 Feb 99

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Don't Give B'ville 'Red Carpet Treatment'

I WRITE to express my disgust and anger at the manner in which the Bougainville issue is being given a 'red carpet treatment'.

Why is it that the Bougainvilleans, in particular the so-called rebel leaders like Joseph Kabui, Francis Ona, Gerard Sinato and their band of gangsters, can't respect and abide by the Constitution of Papua New Guinea? When the Bougainville Transititional Government's team was to expire on December 31st, 1998 thus allowing Bougainville to join the rest of the country in adapting the newly reformed Local Level Government system, the Bougainville leaders threatened to form their own system of government irrespective of whether Parliament liked it or not. This, from my understanding, is very funny because they are only making the constitution of our (or shall I say my) country a mockery. What shame to you Prime Minister and the other leaders of the country if you can bow down to and be manipulated by certain elements in society to suit their needs and desires.

When the vote was taken during the three different times Parliament met to decide the fate of BTG (Bougainville Transititional Government), the results all went against the extension of the BTG term, or the formation of another system of government other than the newly reformed Local Level Government system. The few MPs who voted against, notably Sir Peter Lus and others are commended for a job well done. I really salute you guys. We can't really afford to see our country being dragged along by a minority group of people. Even the whole population of Bougainville is equivalent to only about one quarter of the population of my province the Southern Highlands province. I would like also to make a mention of our two former leaders - Sir Julius Chan and Mr John Giheno - in their failed attempts to have the Bougainville crisis solved once and for all by bringing in the mercenaries to wipe out the rebel elements on the island.

Now, back to the issue of having another system of government on Bougainville, from the Bougainville Transititional Government to a newly created Bougainville Reconciliation Government (BRG), for how long can we allow the Bougainville rebel leaders to manipulate the system of government in our beloved country? You (the rebel leaders) have cost this country more than any other province, that is the real fact I'm telling you now. When the term for the BRG expires again, don't tell me you rebel leaders have the plans to introduce other forms of government. Maybe you could call the systems of government as; a BDG (Bougainville Discrimination Government) and a BCD (Bougainville Confirmation Government) or a `BCRG' (Bougainville's Continuously Rebellious Government) would also be appropriate. And to you Prime Minister, keep bowing down to the rebels and make sure the Attorney General and the Government Lawyers consult and study the laws and the Constitution because every time the term of one form of government expires, they (the rebel leaders) will demand for a new form of government, as long as the very rebel leaders who created the crisis on the island are still living there.
Gurox Naisi, Lapogo village, Kagua district, SHP

Source: Letter to the Editor - POSTCOURIER 9 Feb 99

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Row over Venue Halts B'ville Meet

RABAUL: A Bougainville leaders' meeting has been deferred to later this month as rebel and resistance commanders gathered last week in Arawa to discuss the issue of disarmament on the island, according to Bougainville rebels.

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said the deferral of the proposed leaders' meeting was to give enough time to the parties in the peace process to make further consultation to select an adequate venue for the meeting. Mr Miriki said yesterday, from Buin in South Bougainville, choosing an adequate venue was necessary as regional MP John Momis wanted the meeting to be held outside Bougainville and PNG while others say it was not necessary to have it out of the country. He said selected members from the recently established constituent assembly were undergoing consultative talks with other Bougainville leaders, including Mr Momis, on the time and venue for the meeting. Mr Miriki pointed out that his faction was not happy with information reaching Bougainville; that Mr Momis was in favour of having the meeting outside PNG and Bougainville. "There is really no need for us to have meetings outside Bougainville and PNG. We don't know why Mr Momis would like us to have the meeting outside the country" he said.

Mr Miriki said the question of funding the meeting was another pressing issue that needed to be considered seriously when talking about taking the meeting to other places. "If the meeting is to be held outside the country, we want to know about the sources of funding" he said.

The proposed leaders meeting was resolved at the recent constituent assembly meeting in Arawa with the purpose of settling differences that Bougainville leaders had towards promoting the peace process. Mr Miriki said the next constituent assembly meeting this month will finalise the date and the venue for the meeting, adding that the Bougainville based leaders would like to see Mr Momis and the other three MPs cooporate and make the proposed meeting fruitful for the sake of restoring lasting peace on the crisis torn Island.

In other developments:

According to NBC Buka, chiefs Thomas Sogae and Latu Labanama were urging people in Buka to accept the reform law on provincial and local level governments. The two leaders and their colleagues were also reportedly telling people that Buka would become the 20th province if leaders from mainland Bougainville did not want to accept the reform.

Source: By PHILIP KEPSON - The National - 9 Feb 99

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Underground in Irian Jaya

Using Underground contacts, Foreign Correspondent's Evan Williams secretly visits this rarely -seen land to reveal a new nationalist timebomb right on Australia's doorstep Emboldened by Suharto's downfall and East Timor's moves towards independence. The movement for a free West Papua has spread from bow and arrow warriors in the jungle to Papuans in every town and village. For the first time key opposition and church leaders publicly demand independence, rejecting Jakarta's offer of greater autonomy as too little too late.

Source: ABC TV Foreign Correspondent Tuesday February 9th

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Building a New Role for Army

SOUTHERN Highlanders will long remember that small group of Australian army civil engineers who were stationed in Mendi since 1971.

By December 1999, the 12 Civil Engineers Works Unit (12CE) will have gone. But they leave behind a legacy which they will be remembered by: Roads, bridges, classrooms, aid-posts. That is a face rarely seen of our own Defence Force, and certainly not in the rugged and populous Highlands of Papua New Guinea. That was until this year when the Skate government decided to put into action what at least two other Prime Ministers had only talked about - put an engineering battalion in the central Highlands. Over the weekend, the Prime Minister, the Defence Force commander and a group of dignitaries sealed the transfer of a civil engineering battalion to be stationed at Kerowil near Banz, Western Highlands. We welcome this move as positive and encourage similar battalions to be distributed to all four regions of the country. The plans for this move were there from the time of the Defence Force white paper presented to Parliament by former Minister Mathias Ijape. The plans then were:

It was an laudable policy which took account of the security needs of the country while taking cognisance of the resources available. No doubt the present commander and others who he has promoted and sacked were closely involved in the drafting of the white paper and are familiar with it. Unfortunately, the implementation of the policy has been delayed several years as first Bougainville, then Sandline took centrestage. Now that the immediacy of those issues is fading, it is time for the force to start implementing the contents of that white paper.

There are today between 3,000 to 4,000 able-bodied soldiers doing nothing. Bougainville is simmering but for the time being it is a constabulary role and the level of Defence Force activity is unnecessary. Maritime surveillance can only be conducted if the boats are functional and if they have fuel. The air element is virtually grounded. These disciplined men should now become the front line against lack of development. The army should actively participate in building roads, bridges, aid posts and classrooms throughout the country. A well-managed civil engineering unit of the army could well make the money the force so desperately needs by bidding for major contracts such as the trans-island highway or the Gulf-Southern Highlands Highway. This is where we feel the morale booster of the Defence Force lies - in rekindling the flame to do something for the nation, to build the nation, to conquer lack of development and push the boundaries of ignorance further and further back. Only then can they leave a legacy throughout Papua New Guinea such as the Australian army 12CE left in the Southern Highlands. A fine place to start for the Highlands engineering battalion after it has settled in would be the Highlands Highway as many leaders pointed out last week. The cost to business and ultimately the nation of this deteriorating vital link to the Highlands is too high to leave it to later.

Source: The National - Editorial, 2 Feb 99

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Bougainvilleans in Banking Crisis

THE Catholic Diocese of Bougainville has claimed that hundreds of Bougainvilleans are still unable to retrieve their pre-crisis savings held in bank accounts.

In a press statement released by the apostolic administrator of Bougainville, Archbishop of Rabaul Karl Hesse, many of these Bougainvilleans are being turned away by commercial banks at Kokopo and Buka. They are being told either to see their eadquarters in Port Moresby or that their savings have been transformed over to the Bank of Papua New Guinea and that it would take a long time to get their money. Out of all the commercial banks operating in Kokopo contacted by the Post-Courier on Friday, only one indicated that they it constantly tries to help Bougainvilleans to get their money. Archbishop Hesse appealed to the banks to "act in accordance with the spirit of reconciliation and reconstruction" and show concern for the people. "I am given to believe that many, possibly hundreds of Bougainvilleans are still unable to retrieve their pre-crisis savings" he said in the statement. "Many of them have visited my office and on behalf of these people, I call on the Government and the banks to take immediate steps to help. There are people coming out of South and Central Bougainville who are being put through terrible, frustrating hardships as they try to get access to their funds in banks in Buka and Kokopo."

According to Archbishop Hesse, two banks told the people the matter was being handled in Port Moresby and they could either wait or go to Port Moresby. "They have also been told that as their accounts were no longer operating the funds have been transferred to the Bank of PNG and that the process of retrieving the money would take time" he said. "These people, the voiceless ones who reach Buka and Kokopo at considerable costs are then forced to wait for weeks, often unsuccessfully, as efforts are made to look into their cases." Archbishop Hesse said immediate action should be taken to help these people.

Archbishop Hesse's secretary, Lawrence Stevens, said the number of people seeking help could be in the hundreds. He said the reason why so many people were seeking help from the Catholic Church in East New Britain was because they were frustrated and also lost trust in the Government. "This is a time that we are trying to build trust between Bougainville and the rest of the country, yet there has been sheer neglect on the part of the Government" he said. Mr Stevens said such actions were only dividing the Government and the people of Bougainville. "This is a horrendous thing and it is similar to what happens in other organisations which failed to release funds to members and contributors" he said.

A senior employee of one of the commercial banks operating in Kokopo said that his bank was constantly trying to help those affected. "Most of those we have helped are the ones with passbook accounts" he said. The employee said the difficulty faced by all banks was identification. "While the bank is eager to assist all the people with their requests, it is also very cautious about their identities, as we want to be assured that we are giving money to the right people" he said. The officer said many people had lost their signature cards, passbooks and other form of identification during the crisis. He said that in the past, those wishing to get money needed a letter of authorisation from the government in Buka and a statutory declaration from a court to prove they were genuine claimants. He said account numbers alone were not readily accepted as they could easily be forged. The officer said that accounts which had not been operated for a period of over seven years were forfeited to the Bank of PNG where they were held. He said: "The accounts and funds could be claimed later by the right people. But, that the process will take a little longer than if they were trying to get it straight from the banks."

Source: Postcourier - 1 Feb 99

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Momis Deflects Criticism over Bougainville Court Stance

BOUGAINVILLE MP John Momis says peace on Bougainville cannot be talked about in isolation from works of restoration, road construction services, administration and the rehabilitation of services and businesses.

"The people of Bougainville have spoken and they want peace and services, peace and development. Justice and services are inextricably intertwined" he said. Speaking yesterday, Mr Momis said the Bougainville Transitional Government under Gerald Sinato had done very little in these matters. He said many of them saw themselves as promoters of peace but they were not prepared to accept the arduous responsibility of providing services and other forms of development. "This was very unfortunate, consequently, people are saying we want a government, a leadership that will provide services, that will engage the people themselves in participatory development, not things being done for them" he said.

Mr Momis said during his recent absence from Bougainville, his opponents had created confusion and misled the people on the island about his intentions in challenging the National Executive Council decision to suspend the Bougainville Provincial Government. Mr Momis said he has been a "champion for decentralisation" and he does not see new provincial government reforms as an adequate measure to people's aspirations of empowerment and the decentralisation of government services, powers and responsibilities. "I've always believed that unless we give more autonomy to the provinces, Papua New Guinea's unity will always be threatened because people in the provinces who own the resources, as they become more politically educated and astute, will not accept being ruled by authoritarian, centralised and bureaucratised authority" he said.

Mr Momis said the Bougainville people do not have a choice at the moment and should use the provincial government as a vehicle to set up their own government within the framework of the PNG Constitution. "The other option is to be ruled by NEC, to have NEC as their government which is totally unacceptable, so in that light, I am prepared to accept the new Organic Law (on provincial governments) as an interim measure for the people of Bougainville because it's legal, it is constitutional to use and provide badly lacking services to the people of Bougainville" he said. He described the suspension of BPG as a desperate political move by the Government to take a stranglehold on Bougainville. "Unless we start talking about promoting tangible signs of development, the elusive peace process that a lot of people are talking about will not take ground" he said.

Source: Postcourier - 1 Feb 99

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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)