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Bougainville Archive - June 1999

This page carries June 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: June 1999


PNG Prime Minister meets Bougainville Leaders

Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Bill Skate has met Bougainville leaders on the island of Buka, at the northern tip of Bougainville.

Mr Skate made the visit, in keeping with a commitment given at a recent meeting of Bougainville leaders in New Zealand. The Prime Minister says he will discuss issues relating to the peace process and negootiations on Bougainville's political future. But he has re-stated the Government's position that independence for Bougainville is NOT an option -- despite statements by the Bougainville leadership that independence remains their ultimate goal.

Source: Radio Australia - 30 June 99 (7.53pm)

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President of Bougainville Congress sets no Time Limit for Independence

The president of the Bougainville Congress, Joseph Kabui , says independence for the island is still the ultimate goal, but says political leaders have no time frame in mind.

The congress - Bougainville's new parliament - was established last month, following peace talks. In his first interview with the foreign media since his appointment, Mr Kabui says there's now a great deal more trust and energy in the peace process, following the setting up of the congress. Mr Kabui also says the Congress can work with whatever government is in power in Port Moresby. We will use that unity that we have now achieved as our foundation, as our basis to start up a new relationship with whatever government comes in. But we'll try and reach some kind of an agreement with the Bill Skate government and hoepfully whatever agreement we can come up with is an agreement that the incoming government too must be bound to pursue.

Source: Radio Australia - 30 June 99 (8.17am)

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Solomons Mine Boss Vows to Continue with Operation

BRISBANE: Ross Mining NL managing director Bertus de Graaf has played down concern civil unrest in the Solomon Islands could cause interruptions to mining at the company's Gold Ridge gold mine.

Indigenous Guadalcanal leaders have reportedly called for the closure of the Australian-owned mine, which opened late last year. Provincial leaders want the mine closed to allow for further review and negotiation of current agreements with a view to increased benefits for indigenous people, The Solomon Star newspaper reported yesterday. Mr de Graaf said he met with government and community leaders in the Solomon Islands last week. "There has been no real attempt to shut us down,"

Mr de Graaf said. "(And) all indications are we will keep operating like we have." Mr de Graaf said he also met with Commonwealth mediator Sitiveni Rabuka, the former Fijian prime minister, who has been in the Solomon Islands attempting to broker a peace deal between the indigenous people and the settler community from Malaita Island. "(General Rabuka) felt it was very important that we should continue to operate," Mr de Graaf said. "He recognises it as a being a showcase gold mine and he said to me in so many words that it would not only be bad for the Solomons, it would be bad for the region, if we shut down." Mr de Graaf said, as he understands it, the call for the suspension of Gold Ridge was part of an ambit claim by indigenous leaders who were asking for major constitutional changes. "I see it more in the light that they have a fairly big ambit claim on the table, which has Gold Ridge as part of it it is not directed at Gold Ridge," he said.

He said Gold Ridge had a very good June quarter. "The mine has been performing very well to date," he said. Gold Ridge delivered 27,624 ounces in the March quarter. The Gold Ridge plant was expected to be upgraded by the end of the calendar year to allow for annual gold production of 160,000 ounces.

Ross Mining shares lost one to 69c yesterday.

Source: Postcourier - 29 June 99

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Bana Chiefs Reject Ona's 'No-Go Zone'

PORT MORESBY: The Bana people in Central Bougainville have rejected rebel leader Francis Ona's "no-go zone" saying it undermines peace initiatives.

At a meeting held last week on the island, the Bana leaders said that such outside influence undermined initiatives on peace, security and freedom in Bana district and Bougainville. Mr Francis Ona's declared "no-go zone", which also included areas in Bana district, is one such influence that is cause for concern.

A resolution passed by the leaders of Bana at Kalelia on June 17 rejected the move because it undermines the district's initiatives on peace, security and freedom. The leaders want the boundaries administered by the Bana district to be protected from such outside influence. "Our invitation to the Peace Monitoring Group, the United Nations observer mission on Bougainville and the non-government organisations (NGOs) still stands for them to continue their presence as neutral monitors and observers," he said. The leaders said that the peace monitors should continue their presence within the defined boundaries of Bana from the mouth of the Java river to the pump station, continuing up to Jaba river to the boundaries under the Resina Council of Chiefs to Detosi Council of Chiefs to the Tekana village government, cutting across the mountains to the borders of Siwai and down to the coast following the boundaries with Siwai.

While reaffirming their commitment for peace by peaceful means, the Bana leaders also recognised the members of the Bougainville People's Congress as the only legitimate leaders to pursue their political aspirations on the negotiating table with the National Government. "We see negotiation as the only way acceptable to the people of Bana," said the leaders. The leaders also called on all political leaders to reconcile and unite through the Bougainville People's Congress rather than dividing people and promoting discord.

Source: The National - 29 June 1999

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'Rebels not in Solomons Conflict'

BOUGAINVILLE: Rebel commander Sam Kauona has assured Solomon Islands Prime Minister Bart Ulufa'alu that members of his rebel forces were not in the Solomons assisting the self-styled militant group, Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army.

Mr Kauona said this in a statement released from Australia on Thursday as he was returning to Bougainville after a month in Australia with his wife, who had undergone urgent special medical treatment at the Liverpool Hospital, Sydney. "I want to assure the people of the Solomons that it is not the policy of the rebels to undertake cross-border raids; or even assist with insurgency in other countries. We hold the people of the Solomons and their government as our friends and as our closest neighbour with utmost respect and honour," Mr Kauona said. "The Solomon Islands government has been a major player, peace maker, mediator and facilitator in the Bougainville peace process since 1991; and hence, it would be ludicrous if the rebels went into the Solomons and abused their generosity," said Mr Kauona. "Our prayers are with all the parties and people of the Solomons as they try to negotiate a solution to this problem. And that all parties give their utmost co-operation to the Special Commonwealth Envoy Gen Rabuka as he tries to bring a solution to the people of Guadalcanal and their brothers and sisters from Malaita province," Mr Kauona said.

Source: The National - 29 June 99

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Buka People Support Referendum

BUKA: Prominent Buka Leader George Lesi said that most people of Buka supported a referendum on the future of Bougainville.

MR. Lesi is a former senior public servant and now the elected member for Tsitalato (Buka) in the Bougainville Peoples Congress. He was commenting on claims made by spokesmen of the Buka local government - the Leitana Council of Elders, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Elders, Patrick Kiroha, said last week that the people of Buka did not support independence or a referendum. Mr. Lesi said, "I was elected by the people of Buka only in May. The election process and the very wide public consultation I have conducted since show clearly that the people of Buka want peace before everything else. Then they want a very high level of self-government for a period to allow things in Bougainville to settle down. After that they are open to the idea of independence."

Mr. Lesi said it was wrong to say that the people opposed a referendum. Most people were quite open to the idea of a referendum. He said, "the public awareness meetings I have been conducting make it clear that the Buka people are very happy with the position taken by the Bougainville Peoples Congress. The President of the Congress has made it clear that all groups in the Congress will accept the decision of the people in a referendum process." He said that a referendum was obviously the best - the most democratic way to decide the views of the people on such an important question as independence. He asked - "It is strange that the Buka local government is opposed to a referendum. Are they scared of the views of the people? They should listen to, and accept the views of the people."

Mr. Lesi said that he and the other seven Buka members elected to the Congress have been elected specifically to speak on behalf of the people of Buka in the Congress debates on the political future of Bougainville. He said that he and other members were consulting as wide as possible and were sure they spoke for the people. He said the Leitana Council of Elders was not elected with a mandate to talk on the political future of Buka and Bougainville. Instead, it was elected over a year ago to provide local government to the people. Mr.Lesi said "Leitana should be working on local level projects, and supporting the peace process by developing local dispute resolution processes. There were many complaints from the people in Buka that the Council had not yet started its real local government work." Mr. Lesi said he hoped that the Leitana Council of Elders would now try to develop constructive ideas to solutions to local problems in Buka. There was now an urgent need for it to concentrate on its local development and peace building role.

Source: The Bougainville Peoples Congress (BPC).

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Fijian Commander of PMG Evaluates Tour of Duty

The head of the Fiji military force on Bougainville says the work of the Peace Monitoring Group has been made easier with the presence of Melanesian soldiers in the team.

Lieutenant Colonel Savai Vosaki has been in north Bougainville and completed his tour of duty there last week. On the eve of his departure, he said the people on Bougainville had contributed greatly to the ease with which the military forces had been able to carry out their job. Well the presence of the Fijians and the Vanuatuans - this is my personal view - the locals, they feel at home when they deal with us, because of our similarity. Some of the things they would not talk about with other nationalities, they will tell us because we joke - they are not afraid of keeping back information from the Fijians and Vanuatuans because of our similarities.

Source: Radio Australia - 28 June 99 (7.49am)

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French Explorer Sets Sail to Retrace Travels of Bougainville

A replica of a 17th century Chinese junk has set sail from Cambodia, on a one year voyage to retrace the travels of French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville.

Braving piracy and monsoon winds on the high seas, the French team aboard "La Boudeuse" set sail from the southern Cambodian port of Sihanoukville. The 17 team members plan to head via the seas of Thailand to Indonesia, the Phillipines and finally Papua New Guinea, visiting some of the estimated 30-thousand largely unknown islands. Bougainville, a French military officer and navigator who died in 1811, was renowned for his important contributions to science and geography.

Source: Radio Australia - 28 June 99 (7.49am)

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Buka Chiefs to Oppose Freedom Moves

RABAUL: Buka chiefs have resolved to oppose independence for Bougainville.

Independence for Bougainville was the resolution reached by the Joseph Kabui-led Bougainville Peoples Congress (BPC) in its meeting last month. The position adopted by the Buka chiefs was cemented in a meeting in Buka last Friday, according to Laitena Council of Chiefs deputy chairman Patrick Tiroha. Laitena Council of Chiefs is an umbrella body of the Buka chiefs, which is made up of representatives from the 43 council of elders on Buka Island. They represent a total population of about 45,000 people. "Buka will not be part of any move for independence or referendum. We view these issues as moves that would bring back disaster to the island," Mr Tiroha said yesterday. He said Bougainville leaders had made an undertaking during the signing of the Makatana and Okataina Understanding to allow transparency, understanding, and consultation to prevail in every issue they discussed concerning the peace process.

Mr Tiroha said however, that Mr Kabui and his group were seen to be trying to push their own agendas without consulting major parties involved in the peace process. He said the PBC executive led by Mr Kabui were undermining the provisions of the Understanding by talking about independence before the negotiations, to mislead the people.

Mr Kabui said last week that independence was one of the agendas his group had put together in a package which they came up with to negotiate with the Government. He also disagreed with the idea of allowing non-Bougainvilleans to make submissions on the future government of Bougainville for negotiating with the Government.

Mr Tiroha said according to the Understanding, Bougainville based factions were required to make submissions to the Chief State Negotiator Sir John Kaputin to come up with a package on the structure, functions, and the status of the Bougainville government for negotiation. "Once the parties are satisfied with the package, we are supposed to allow the Electoral Commission of Papua New Guinea to work on the proper reconciliation government election for Bougainville," said Mr Tiroha. He said however, that while the resistance forces and the Buka chiefs were working along those lines, Kabui led faction was conducting meetings lately behind closed doors to defy the provisions of the Understanding. "There is a total lack of understanding among the leaders. The people are again being led to confusion," said Mr Tiroha. He said the negotiation package that his chiefs had come up with was aimed at informing Kabui and his group that it would not be an easy task to grab independence from Papua New Guinea. He said they would inform the people in Buka about their position including their package before they take it up at the negotiating table with Sir John and the other parties for deliberation. "Our position is clear and the majority of the Bougainvilleans are with us," he said.

Mr Kabui, who was reportedly conducting another meeting in Buka with his followers yesterday, could not be contacted for comments. According to sources in Buka, former Bougainville Transitional Government Premier Gerard Sinato, his deputy Thomas Anis, who are the current vice presidents of the BPC, were said to be backing Mr Kabui on independence.

Source: The National - 25 June 99

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Important Step Forward in Bougain Peace Process

The Bougainville peace process has taken an important step forward with a reconciliation ceremony in Siara village.

Richard Dinnen reports by satellite telephone, the ceremony appears to be proof that the peace process is starting to pick up pace after almost stalling earlier this year: The ceremony took place at Siara Village in the heart of what was once a rebel stronghold but the talk today was all of peace. Leaders joined hands to break a spear symbolising an end to conflict. There have been many reconciliation ceremonies in Bougainville, but this one is the first on such a scale bringing together former opponents at a district rather than local level. Bougainville Peoples' Congress President, Joe Kabui, says these recent changes have created a stronger sense of unity and the peace process is speeding up. Richard Dinnen, Siara Village, Bougainville.

Source: Radio Australia - World News - 23 June 99 (7.48am)

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BRA Media Release

The BRA and Resistance Forces are not assisting the Guadalcanal Revolutionary Army (GRA) in the Solomon Islands.

Bougainville: In a statement released from Australia today BRA Commander Gen Sam Kauona assured Prime Minister Bart Ulu'falu, the government of the Solomons and its people that members of his BRA forces were not in the Solomons assisting the GRA. Gen Sam Kauona was returning to Bougainville after a month in Australia with his wife, who had undergone urgent special medical treatment at the Liverpool Hospital, Sydney. "I want to assure the people of the Solomons that it is not the policy of the BRA to undertake cross border raids; or even assist with insurgency in other countries. We hold the people of the Solomons and their government as our friends and as our closest neighbor with utmost respect and honour".

"The Solomon Islands Government has been a major player, peace maker, mediator and facilitator in the Bougainville Peace Process since 1991; and hence, it would absolutely be ludicrous if the BRA went into the Solomons and abused their generosity", said Gen Sam Kauona. "Our prayers are with all the parties and people of the Solomons as they try to negotiate a solution to this problem. And that all parties give their utmost co-operation to the Special Commonwealth Envoy Gen. Rabuka as he tries to bring a solution to the people of Guadalcanal and their brothers and sisters from Malaita Province," concluded Gen Sam Kauona from his hotel in Australia.

Source: The Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) Headquarters, Arawa - 24 June 1999.

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Bougainville: Another Step Towards Independence

"I am honoured by the trust that my people have placed in me in selecting me to lead this historical government into negotiations with PNG on the question that has been at the bottom of these past twelve years of conflict and division", said Joseph Kabui, who had just been elected President of the Bougainville People's Congress.

"The people have spoken out in very clear terms about what it is that they want us to agree on with PNG. We will be looking to a phased in period of self-government, leading to full independence, underpinned by a lasting friendship and brotherhood with PNG", said President Kabui. It is almost two years since the historic signing of the Burnham Declaration in New Zealand that set in train the present peace and reconciliation process after nearly 10 years of war with Papua New Guinea.

In July 1997, the Bougainvillean people embarked on a far-reaching process to restore peace, heal the divisions between Bougainvilleans, demilitarise their island, rebuild the lives of the people and determine their own affairs. The election of the Bougainville People's Congress (originally to be called Bougainville Reconciliation Government) fulfills an important step in the struggle for self-determination and independence. Members of the People's Congress were elected or selected by regional constituencies, depending on local conditions and the state of electoral rolls with so many people dislocated by the war.

Overall the election process ran well despite an extremely serious attempt by PNG and New Zealand to subvert the whole peace process. The New Zealand Government, which had previously won the confidence of the Bougainvillean leaders when hosting the Burnham and other meetings, invited a group of Bougainville leaders to New Zealand for a "study tour". Once there, the leaders were confronted with a new "agreement" to sign. PNG's negotiator Sir John Kaputin pushed it on the Bougainvilleans and PNG's Prime Minister Bill Skate was there in person. The document claims to be a reaffirmation of the Lincoln Agreement to which New Zealand is a signatory. But it actually negates the intent of the Lincoln Agreement. The document had been prepared in Port Moresby and was dated January 22, 1999.

The Bougainville leaders were unprepared for negotiations, did not have advisers present and had not had an opportunity to study the document prior to "negotiations". The BRA withdrew from the discussions and did not sign the document. But others, under pressure and not understanding the full implications of the document, signed the "Matakana and Okataina Understanding" on April 22. This document was an act of treachery designed to undermine the whole peace process and firmly entrench Bougainville's sovereignty in the hands of PNG. It failed to recognise the Bougainville constitution which had been drawn up under the peace process, and completely usurped the functions of the Bougainville People's Congress, even though the election process was under way. If implemented it could have created divisions amongst the Bougainvilleans and set the struggle for self-determination back years.

PNG has been tardy in withdrawing its military forces from the island, another indication of its reluctance to adhere to its commitments. The Government has consistently said independence is NOT an option although it has reaffirmed the Burnham Declaration acknowledging the right of Bougainvilleans to self-determination. The new People's Congress gives the Bougainvillean people one voice to negotiate their political future with Papua New Guinea. Joseph Kabui was vice-President of the pro-independence Bougainville Interim Government. His election and resounding victory over the only other candidate, Gerard Sinato, by 77 votes to 10, sends a strong message to Papua New Guinea as to the wishes of the people of Bougainville. Gerard Sinato was Premier of the former PNG-appointed Bougainville Transitional Government. The Congress has met and given its approval for negotiations to begin with the PNG Government on Bougainville's political future.

Source: The Guardian - June 23, 1999

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Government Prepares for Talks with Bougainville Leaders

THE National Government is ready to start negotiations on the political future of Bougainville.

Minister of State Minister and Central Bougainville Sam Akoitai said in Port Moresby on Friday all parties were to have agreed on a date for the first meeting to discuss the political future of the province. A likely date is June 24 in Buka but that is subject to agreement among all the parties to be involved in the talks. Mr Akoitai said a date and venue of the talks should be set by early this week, but on the whole the National Government was ready to hold negotiations.

Speaking a couple of days after President of the Bougainville People's Congress, Joseph Kabui had announced that his group was ready for the negotiations, Mr Akoitai said there were no questions about whether the Government was ready or not. He said Prime Minister Bill Skate would also attend the negotiations. The four Bougainvillean MPs will also take part in the negotiations. He expressed concern over the current political jockeying for positions by various parties in the lead-up to an expected vote of no- confidence in the National Government next month, might upset the plans. But he urged politicians not to let that interfere with the timetable of discussions on Bougainville.

He said it was important to maintain the momentum of peace initiatives on Bougainville despite the political situation. "We are getting to the core of the issue of the Bougainville crisis here. The Opposition, the Government, the Bougainvilleans and everyone that has a role to play in these discussions will take part. The Bougainvilleans have stated their position. The National Government's position is clear on Bougainville. Its up to us now to sit down and reach some common ground on that issue," Mr Akoitai said.

Last week Mr Kabui again re-iterated his side's position that independence was their ultimate goal.The National Government maintains that independence is out of the question as under the Constitution Bougainville was part of PNG. Mr Akoitai added that although these were the stated positions of either side, he urged everyone to be open minded about the issue. He said it would be tragic for the negotiations if both sides could not come to an understanding. "Negotiation is all about giving and taking. Both sides must be prepared for that otherwise there can be no negotiation," Mr Akoitai said. He again made it clear rebel leader, Francis Ona, who had excluded himself from all negotiations since last February, was welcome to attend the negotiations "anytime".

Source: Postcourier - 21 June 99

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Referendum a Must - MP

MOROBE Governor Luther Wenge has called for a referendum for Bougainvilleans to decide their own destiny, claiming peace initiatives so far, have not been fully successful.

Mr Wenge called on the Government to call for a referendum to allow Bougainvilleans to decide for themselves whether they want to become independent or remain with the rest of PNG. "If majority of Bougainvilleans want independence than we have to give it to them. If they decide to remain with PNG, then we have the assurance to silence those advocating independence," he said. Responding to a call by Rabaul MP and the Government's chief negotiator on numerous peace meetings, Sir John Kaputin for submissions on how to solve the Bougainville situation, Mr Wenge said considering the costs involved so far and the fact that Bougainvillean leaders were still advocating independence, a referendum should be held to allow the people to decide their own destiny. "There is no question that the crisis has made the rest of PNG suffer. Money that would have been used for development programs have been spent on the security forces operations and numerous other efforts to restore peace on Bougainville," he said.

He said if the country's Constitution could not allow a referendum to be called, then the Constitution should be amended in the next sitting of Parliament to allow it. "Many people have died, and the peace agreements do not seem to hold. "Francis Ona, the instigator of the crisis, has refused to be part of all the peace initiatives that have been put in place. Now Joseph Kabui has stated that political independence is still the ultimate goal for Bougainville," he said. He said only a referendum would show whether the people of Bougainville want to gain independence or be part of PNG. He said he did not feel that giving independence to Bougainville would encourage other provinces or regions to demand political independence. "I cannot see this happening; not in the near future anyway. And they would have to fight for it," he said. He said he did not see any other option to bring lasting peace on Bougainville, except through a referendum.

Mr Wenge has become the first national leader to publicly call for a referendum for Bougainvilleans, although the option has been on the minds of many papua New Guineans.

Source: Postcourier - 21 June 99

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Public Discussions for UN Bougainville Plan

A United Nations plan for disarmament on Bougainville is due to be discussed at a public meeting on the island this week.

Disarmament has been a key sticking point in negotiations to determine Bougainville's political future. A new agreement signed two months ago by most Bougainville factions gave the United Nations team on the island the task of supervising disarmament. And the newly elected Bougainville People's Congress is due to meet representatives of the Papua New Guinea Government for negotiations on the future administration of the island. The Congress president, Joe Kabui said last week that the Congress sees independence from P-N-G as it's ultimate goal, but the P-N-G Government has consistently said independence is not an option.

Source: Radio Australia - World News - 21 June 99 (8.46am)

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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)