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Bougainville Archive - May 1999

This page carries May 1999's Bougainville news updates.

Also on this site: latest updates and index of archives

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: May 1999


UN Observer Chief Briefed on NZ Talks

PORT MORESBY: Special state negotiator for Bougainville Sir John Kaputin has briefed the director of the United Nations observer mission in Bougainville, Ambassador Noel Sinclair, on the national delegation's participation in the meeting with Bougainville leaders in New Zealand.

The purpose of the briefing was to highlight the contents, significance and implications of the meeting's main outcome, the Matakana and Okataina Understanding, including the steps which will have to be taken so that it makes a real difference on the ground. Sir John said that the Understanding was important not because it contained new agreements but because of the way in which Bougainvillean leaders came together and renewed their commitment to co-operate in consolidating and advancing the commitments contained the Lincoln and Ceasefire Agreements. "The United Nations observer mission in Bougainville is a good friend, a strong supporter and, in fact, a key element in the Bougainville peace process," Sir John said. "With the support of all parties, the Director chairs the Peace Process Consultative Committee, the observer mission facilitates peaceful exchanges between the parties, while the official United Nations presence provides reassurance and helps to build mutual confidence on the ground. The United Nations observer mission's role in monitoring compliance with the Lincoln Agreement plays an important part in consolidating and furthering peace. It is, therefore, vital that it is provided with full information about developments as they occur. As Special State Negotiator for Bougainville, I am pleased at the way in which Ambassador Sinclair responded so promptly and allowed me to bring him up-to-date."

Source: The National - 5 May 99

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Rebels Claim Deception, Threaten to Withdraw

RABAUL: Bougainville rebels have threatened to withdraw from the peace process, claiming that the governments of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand have tricked them into signing the recent Matakana and Okataina Understanding in New Zealand.

Rebel supreme commander Sam Kauona's private secretary Robinson Asitau said in a statement that the rebels have now lost confidence in the New Zealand Government as a result of the role it had played in the recent Bougainville leaders study tour to New Zealand. He said what appeared to be a study tour as speculated by the New Zealand Government got cleverly planned into a major negotiation session with PNG 's Special State Negotiator Sir John Kaputin and Prime Minister Bill Skate manipulating the talks in the absence of the rebels' technical officers including their lawyers. Mr Asitau added that as a result of the signing of the understanding, the present BRG election have now been undermined, implying that they are no longer proper and seriously undermine the powers of the people under their own Bougainville Constitution. "The BRA is now seriously rethinking its position within the entire peace process. Under-hand tactics and moves as recently as recently orchestrated by New Zealand and PNG under the so called study tour only goes to undermine the credibility of the peace process," he said. He said Mr Kauona's decision against putting his signature in the understanding was a clear demonstration of the rebels diappointment about the manner in which the New Zealand and Governments had manipulated the sessions in New Zeland.

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki confirmed this position yesterday. Mr Miriki said their political leader Joseph Kabui, who signed the Makatana and Okataina Understanding, also endorsed this view.

Source: The National - 5 May 99

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Peace Monitors Ready to Conduct Arms Disposal

THE Peace Monitoring Group on Bougainville says it is ready to facilitate the disposal of arms as stipulated in the Lincoln Agreement.

In an exclusive interview with Post-Courier in Arawa recently, the commander of the PMG, Brigadier Simon Willis said however, that it was up to the leaders of the factions on Bougainville to sort out their differences before the arms disposal efforts could take place. "We are always prepared and ready to facilitate the disposal of arms and other weapons as agreed to in the Lincoln Agreement," he said. "As monitors of the peace process on Bougainville we are always on stand by to facilitate this, but it is really up to the Bougainville leaders to tell us when it is right to do so." He said that the PMG was seriously encouraging the leaders on Bougainville to continue discussions on the issue of arms disposal, hinting that this was the key issue at hand.

Brigadier Willis further described the peace process as working quite uniquely because of the fact that the PMG was working with all factions on Bougainville. He said the PMG's primary role was to constantly monitor the peace process and the agreements signed by all parties. "The people of Bougainville are the ones making the peace process to work and continue to prosper. We are only here to keep an eye on this process and make sure that no one violates the peace process," he said. "We would like the Bougainvillean people to reconcile, because we believe it is through reconciliation that more and more positive steps are taken."

Commander Willis said while the PMG was stationed throughout mainland Bougainville and Buka Island, he was pleased with what his troops were doing to justify their presence on Bougainville. He said the only area on mainland Bougainville the PMG has not set foot on was the stronghold of self-styled president Francis Ona in Panguna and the areas within the vicinity of Panguna. "There's nothing impossible and I am always optimistic about things," he said. "If the people of Panguna are not comfortable with our presence, we understand. But, I hope and am positive that one day Bougainville will be a free access area to move around in." Brigadier Willis said despite this, he was happy to see that the people of Panguna were freely moving in and out of Arawa, and were taking part in social activities like the Arawa soccer competition. A team from Panguna is competing as well. "Eventually and as time goes by, these people will relate to people in their villages that there is nothing to fear and they too can come to Arawa," he said. "This is basically what I mean by the people of Bougainville owning the peace process and further more driving it, we (PMG) are only supporting it."

Commander Willis who has only been on Bougainville for five weeks revealed that since the arrival of the multi-national peace keepers on Bougainville soon after the Burnham Agreement, there was a lot of suspicions about their role, but that had changed totally. "The people are now appreciative of our presence and the make up of the PMG is excellent. "We have the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Fijians and the ni-Vaunatu. This provides an outstanding mix in our working relationship on the ground. It's a team effort," he said.

Source: Postcourier - 5 May 1999

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Pay our People Before Killers, says Mission

THE Catholic Archdiocese of Rabaul has challenged the Government to sort out the banking dilemma faced by Bougainvilleans before it pays one toea to Sandline International.

Archdiocese spokesman Lawrence Stephens said in Vunapope at the weekend that the crisis of Bougainvilleans who had money tied up in the banking system needed to be confronted. He claimed the stalled accounts could run into millions of kina. For the past 24 months, following the peace pact signed in Arawa in 1997, thousands of Bougainvilleans have been emerging from the bush. Since then, hundreds have been knocking on the doors of commercial banks, seeking to withdraw their savings from accounts they operated before the crisis began in 1989. While the commercial banks have been helping, the major hurdle is the fact that all money from their accounts has been transferred to the Department of Finance. To date, it appears that the Government is not co-operating in trying to repay the money to the account owners. As a result, hundreds of Bougainvilleans have spent months in Rabaul trying to get their money. Many have fronted up at the Catholic archdiocese headquarters at Vunapope to seek help.

The church has been vocal and is also helping the Bougainvilleans as much as possible. Mr Stephen said: "Bougainvilleans entrusted the banks with millions of kina before the crisis. We are aware that hundreds of thousands of this money are still tied up in the banking system and we guess this figure runs into millions. Now we hear that Sandline will receive a settlement of many millions in compensation for the cancellation of a contract planned to involve killing Bougainvilleans and other Papua New Guineans." Mr Stephens said the people needed a sign that they and their interests came before those of hired killers and their political cronies. "The banks tell us the money is being held by the Department of Finance and that it takes six to 10 months to retrieve it," he said. "Bougainvilleans have waited 10 years to get access to their funds." He said in spite of continued calls by non-Bougainvilleans for the Government to settle the matter, nothing had been settled. "Bougainvillean funds are still tied up in the same Department of Finance now preparing to pay Sandline," he said. Mr Stephens said the people of East New Britain were trying to help the people from Bougainville, who had been stranded for months. "In East New Britain, people are showing their concerns for their fellow citizens," he said. "What we all need is evidence that the National Government is prepared to do its duty by its citizens and release their funds." Mr Stephens said our international credibility as a nation was worth nothing if our people could not see evidence that the State was working in their interests. "Before one toea is paid out to Sandline, our servants in the Parliament and the Finance Department must return Bougainvillean bank account funds to the rightful owners," he said.

Last week, a group of Bougainvilleans who have spent over half a year in Rabaul, trying to get their money, called on the Government to look into this issue urgently.

Source: Postcourier - 5 May 99

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Buka to Pick own Congress Members

RABAUL: Buka Island will select its representatives to the Bougainville Peoples Congress (BPC) instead of allowing proper election to take place as originally scheduled.

This follows an agreement reached between the members of the Bougainville Constituent Assembly (BCA) and the Laitena council of chiefs, which represents Buka Island and is chaired by Joel Banam. Mr Banam said that the decision to allow Buka to proceed with selecting its leaders to the BPC was in line with the BCA and its constitution. He added that there was no need to commit public resources in conducting an election when the Matakana and Okataina Understanding, signed two weeks ago in New Zealand, allowed for a proper election take place in the middle of this year. Central Bougainville chiefs selected their representatives for the 14 constituencies, including rebel leader Joseph Kabui, a month ago.

South Bougainville resistance forces commander Jacob Naisy said other parts of Bougainville including Wakunai, Tinpurtz, Buin, Siwai, Nagovis, and Tonu should also follow Buka and Central Bougainville by selecting their leaders. "After the signing of the Understanding in New Zealand, I cannot see any reason why we should be serious about holding any election for the BPC," Mr Naisy said. Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said chiefs in Wakunai and parts of South Bougainville were still undergoing consultative talks on whether to follow Buka and Central Bougainville on selecting their representatives. According to provincial electoral officer Mathias Pehei, it would cost K400,000 to conduct the election.

Meanwhile, Mr Banam left Buka last Friday to pay a personal visit to the Prime Minister Bill Skate. He told The National the visit had "nothing to do with discussing the peace process behind closed-doors. I am planning to go there because he (Mr Skate) had invited me for a personal visit," Mr Banam.

Source: by Philip Kepson - The National - 4 May 99

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New Bougainville Initiatives Announced

WELLINGTON: A group of 25 young Bougainvilleans have arrived at the Burnham military camp near Christchurch to undergo a youth training program as part of New Zealand initiatives to assist the peace process, Foreign Affairs Minister Don McKinnon announced yesterday.

Five army engineers also left on the weekend for Bougainville to supervise construction work for the small community of Wakunai on the east coast of Bougainville. Mr McKinnon said it was pleasing to announce the two initiatives one year after the April 30 signing of the Bougainville ceasefire, which New Zealand helped broker. Both projects are funded out of New Zealand's overseas development assistance budget.

The youth training program at Burnham, with the assistance of Christchurch's Aranui High School, was designed to assist former combatants in the transition to a post-conflict society. "The course has been specifically developed from the army's Limited Service Volunteer program, and is aimed at teaching the trainees individual and team-building skills, while also instilling discipline and self-esteem," Mr McKinnon said. The engineers are to initially supervise the construction of a double classroom. "The concept is to assist with the rebuilding of the infrastructure lost during the conflict, while also generating some income in the area by hiring local labour." It also would provide the engineers with valuable work experience in the Pacific.

Source: The National - 4 May 99

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Govt will Pay Off Sandline

PRIME Minister Bill Skate and the Government have finally conceded to pay the Sandline debt.

The Government will settle the mercenaries' contract. The National Executive decided on Friday to settle out of court, with cash and return of armaments now held in Australia. The Cabinet decision was calculated to restore investor confidence and to address other issues such as loan negotiations to finance the 1999 Budget. The Sandline saga has hindered the progress of negotiations. Mr Skate announced at the weekend that Cabinet agreed to settle the matter out of court and Government will pay $US13.3 million to Sandline plus legal and other costs. The cost was negotiated lower by a government team from K25 million and the money will be paid in four instalments over 12 months.

Mr Skate, who had resisted paying the balance of the contract and got into power with his stand against the Sandline deal, said he had to swallow his pride and think about the country and the people. "I have said from the beginning that I will never entertain Sandline but I have to weigh that against the interest of the people," he told reporters at Mirigini House on Saturday. "And if I continue to fight Sandline in court, I will have to spend another K120 million and I ask myself, can I afford to pay this money when my people are suffering." Mr Skate said Sandline has been a major problem and the nation has suffered in many ways and thanked his advisers including Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi who has written to him a few times, advising him to settle the matter out of court. "As a nation we have suffered and the decision to settle this long-standing claim is basically to win investor confidence," he said. "We have been through a lot of difficulties trying to win confidence for investors to come and invest in PNG and I believe by settling this matter we can expect more investors coming to invest in our country."

Mr Skate said Sandline International representatives and special Government negotiation team met in Singapore last week to discuss two options: TO pay the full amount of $US25 million and retain all military supplies and equipment, currently in Royal Australian Air Force base in Tindal, Australia; or TO pay $US13.3 million and Sandline can have all its equipment back. He said the second option had been agreed on and PNG will pay the money. It is not known where the money will come from. It is not catered for in the Budget.

The Sandline contract was entered into in 1997 for $US36 million by the former Chan/Haiveta government to hire ex-army officers from England to move into Bougainville and force the Panguna mine open. The first $US18 million was paid at the time of executing the contract and the balance was to be paid later. The secret contract deal was later leaked to the media and raised so much controversy which resulted civil unrest and military uprising in March, 1997. Mr Skate said both parties have agreed to discontinue all commercial litigation and refrain from initiating any fresh actions relating to the contract both in PNG and abroad. He said the contract underpinning the pact, which has been drafted by lawyers representing both parties was approved by Cabinet last Friday. Sandline's commercial adviser Michael Grunberg said he was pleased they were able to settle the matter. "I am pleased that we have been able to agree a settlement with Papua New Guinea which is acceptable to both parties," he said. "We sincerely hope that this draws a line underneath the affair and brings to an end a saga which has absorbed considerable time and expense for each of us over the last two years."

Source: Postcourier - 3 May 99

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Sandline Bill Expensive

THE Government's decision to settle the court battle with the mercenary group Sandline International is a good decision.

This is a more sensible approach which they should have taken without trying to fight it through the courts. This out-of-court settlement is far better than originally expected and hopefully will put an end to this issue and let the Government concentrate on more pressing domestic issues. The decision to let Sandline take back its war machine sitting in Australia is one that should help ease tensions about the Government's intentions on Bougainville. Papua New Guinea does not need such killer power and it was sensible to let the mercenaries collect the weaponry and move on to other countries that may have need of them.

The Sandline deal could be said to be the worst decision ever made by a government in the history of Papua New Guinea. It is a decision that has cost this nation in expenditures it hardly had the ability to pay, apart from wrecking the PNG Defence Force. The Government must now find $US13.3 million to pay Sandline while schools, health centres and hospitals suffer. Unfortunately, the Government has no choice but to find that money somewhere, somehow. All leaders should seriously look at the Sandline issue and learn from it. We do not need another deal like that. It is an issue that came extremely close to destroying PNG's democracy, let alone the untold loss of lives and property on Bougainville had the mercenary operation been allowed to proceed.

Source: Editorial - Postcourier - 3 May 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)