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Bougainville Archive - July 1999

This page carries July 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: Latest Updates


Ona uses Taiwan Trip Against 'Autonomy'

BOUGAINVILLE will not accept any form of autonomy other than total independence from Papua New Guinea, says rebel leader Francis Ona. He used some of the national Government's latest moves to justify his stand.

Mr Ona cited Prime Minister Skate's clandestine trip to Taiwan to "recognise Taiwan as an independent nation" and also raised the "fast-money" companies in PNG to portray his province as a wealthy place. In an interview with the Post-Courier yesterday, Mr Ona said Mr Skate had "flown all the way to Taiwan" to recognise that island as an independent nation. "What about Bougainville, which is right under his nose," he said. "Maybe it is the money from Taiwan that he is after. Well, let me tell you, there's a lot more in Bougainville than Taiwan." Mr Ona said his government was continuing its fundraising activities to strengthen its economy and was happy that projects like a sawmill and cocoa fermentaries were gaining support through these activities. He welcomed the Government's decision to recognise three get-rich schemes, "all operated and owned by Bougainvilleans". He said this was what he meant by fundraising.

On the issue of independence for Bougainville, Mr Ona said he would not support any form of higher autonomy as it was already paid for with blood. Mr Ona said that under international law, PNG must now recognise independence for Bougainville instead of offering higher autonomy which meant nothing. "I want to make it very clear to the Papua New Guinea Government that nothing has changed to our original stand," he said. "Bougainville must become totally independent. No higher or greater autonomy must be discussed. We want self determination which will lead to independence." He said he welcomed the idea of a referendum for Bougainville, because this was what was needed to fully support the unilateral declaration of independence of 1990. "When the Papua New Guinea Government pulled out of Bougainville in 1990, the people of Bougainville then created their own government to run the affairs of the country. We had that right to declare independence. What the referendum would do now is to endorse this UDI and it should only be a formality from there on to be recognised as an independent country," he said. "Papua New Guinea is incapable, bankrupt and has a very bad situation at hand and can not even fix up its deteriorating law and order problem, in fact it's out of their reach." He said he had received information from Buka, Buin and the other parts of Bougainville in which people had been expressing their reservations about the higher autonomy status.

Source: Postcourier - 7 July 99

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China Targets Downer on PNG

CHINA is seeking Australia's intervention in its diplomatic crisis with Papua New Guinea as Beijing warned yesterday of the "serious consequences" of Port Moresby's snap recognition of Taiwan.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is expecting representations from the Chinese on his arrival in Beijing on Sunday. Beijing officials yesterday said that PNG's recognition of Taiwan was an "erroneous decision", which would seriously damage ties between Beijing and Port Moresby if it were not reversed immediately. "Otherwise, the Papua New Guinean Government will have to assume full responsibility for the serious consequences arising from this," a spokesperson said.

PNG Prime Minister Bill Skate agreed yesterday to swap diplomatic recognition of Taiwan for an undisclosed amount of funding for his cash-strapped administration. PNG is the 29th country in the world to recognise Taiwan. Mr Skate, who expects to face a vote of no confidence in less than a fortnight, flew secretly to Taiwan on Sunday but returned home triumphant yesterday. A spokesperson for Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan last night confirmed the matter would be raised during the bilateral meeting with Mr Downer next week. "I think during the talks between the foreign ministers of China and Australia, the two sides will exchange views on this," the spokesperson, Ms Zhang Qiyue, was reported as saying last night. Mr Downer added his own warning yesterday, saying cheap loans from Taiwan were only delaying much-needed economic reform in PNG. "Papua New Guinea is an independent country, we can't stop them doing what they are doing . . . but that doesn't preclude us from having an opinion. "It is in Papua New Guinea's interests . . .that at a very difficult time they maintain their export markets. "Of course it will (also) put off for the time being re-engagement with the IMF and the World Bank. We would like to see that re-engagement take place," Mr Downer said.

Mr Skate received unexpected support for his decision from PNG Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi yesterday, who criticised Australia for its attempts to pre-empt Mr Skate's visit to Taiwan. "I would like to advise Australia not to influence our foreign policy," Mr Narokobi said. "Taiwan has clean money. They have enough (surplus) to supply and we wish to access this opportunity," he said, adding that PNG would need about 500 million kina ($290 million) to stabilise the economy and restore investor confidence.

John Howard said yesterday that Australia had not been consulted in PNG's dramatic foreign policy shift. "I'm not aware that we have been consulted," he said.

Source: By MARY-LOUISE O'CALLAGHAN South Pacific Correspondent - The Australian - 7 July 99

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Bloody Killings by Indonesian Forces Continue, as Regime Turns Blind Eye

WEST PAPUA (IRIAN JAYA)

"New killings and mass arrests of 44 civilians who participated in a peaceful flag raising ceremony by joint Indonesian police and military forces, in Sorong on 5 July 1999 was a criminal act against humanity. We condemn such crimes and urge the Government of Indonesia to release them immediately. We also call on the Government of Australia and the international community to intervene and take all necessary measures to ensure their safety and also to prevent any further escalation of civilian disasters, and social and political unrest", said Otto Ondawame, International Spokesperson for the OPM in Sydney.

"Four hundred soldiers of joint forces opened gunfire on the crowd indiscriminately and pulled down the flag which had been raised by the people. Considerable numbers of the crowd were seriously injured. Marthen Isir is in a critical condition having been shot in the head. He is under intensive medical care in public hospital with little hope of recovery. The lives of those 140 now detained in the police custody in Sorong are our serious concern." says Mr. Ondawame

"We are very worried about the fate of these innocent civilians. We do not want the history of the Biak massacre one year ago and massacres in other parts of West Papua to be repeated at a timea of peace dialogue and democratic process. We call on the Government of Indonesia to allow independent human rights organisations, including health personnel to have access to monitor their conditions", said Otto Ondawame.

The general situation in the city is now very tense. Main roads in the city area closed to the public and tightly controlled by the security forces. New curfews have already been put in place since yesterday as well as searching for the suspected members of the OPM. All shops in the city were closed down yesterday. People are afraid to go out and there is difficulty in getting basic needs. "We hope this was not a result of an orchestrated event as in other cases of destabilisation so that the Papuan suffer deprivation of basic necessities. If these conditions continue for more than a few days, it may lead to a new "worst scenario". It may not only generate new waves of social and political unrest, but also discredit the peace initiative that is presently being undertaken by the Forum for Reconciliation of the people of West Papua (FORERI) with the Government ofa Indonesia" said Otto Ondawame.

Source: Press Release - 7 Jul 99

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PM Commended on Peace Initiative

PRIME Minister Bill Skate has offered Bougainville the greatest form of autonomy.

And he has also agreed to Bougainville holding a referendum to gauge support for independence or otherwise among Bougainvilleans. Officials from the National Government, and the Department of Bougainville from Buka, are now in Port Moresby to iron out and draw up the parameters of the legal issues, pertaining to the concessions made by Mr Skate at his meeting with Bougainvillean leaders in Buka last Thursday. The talks were the first to start off discussions on the political future of the island. The offer by Mr Skate to the Bougainvillean leadership, led by president of the Bougainville People's Congress Joseph Kabui, is the best offer the National Government can make, given that it has made it clear previously and again at last week's Buka meeting, that outright independence for Bougainville is out of the question.

Minister for State Sam Akoitai said yesterday the offer was well received by the Bougainville leaders. He said Mr Skate told the leaders the National Government wanted to make an offer that would take care of the Bougainville people's push to mind their own affairs. But while the level of political "independence" granted to Bougainville had to be dynamic and innovative, it must not break up PNG as a country. Mr Akoitai said the Prime Minister's offer of autonomy would more than likely see Bougainville run its own affairs entirely, except for Defence and Foreign Affairs matters, which would be controlled nationally. "Substantive negotiations are to be held on these now," Mr Akoitai said.

In welcoming the offer from Mr Skate, Mr Kabui, in a letter sent last Friday after the meeting, said the commitments represented a major step forward in concluding the peace process. "It was particularly important for the People's Congress to hear on record the Government's commitment to an extremely high level of autonomy with Bougainville being given a level of self government greater than any other province, with Government of Papua New Guinea only retaining limited powers. "More importantly, I have noted your willingness to consider the question of a referendum on Bougainville's political future," Mr Kabui wrote. He described it as a breath of fresh air "to finally hear a Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea acknowledge this important fac. "The real issue now is to build on the firm foundations laid in our discussions yesterday. In that light we were particularly pleased that you gave a commitment for technical officers to meet in Port Moresby immediately, to continue negotiations on these matters. I have arranged for congress technical officers to travel as soon as possible, today if possible, to maintain the momentum to peace," Mr Kabui wrote. Mr Akoitai meanwhile has expressed concern over political power-play upsetting the peace process.

Source: Postcourier - 6 July 99

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Skate Junket Raises Hackles

A DIPLOMATIC crisis between Australia, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan and the People's Republic of China is set to erupt after the not-so-secret dash by PNG's embattled Prime Minister, Bill Skate, to Taipei over the weekend.

A spokesman for Mr Skate yesterday warned that Australia should mind its own business after Canberra's concern over PNG's courting of Taiwan failed to dissuade the PNG Prime Minister's visit. "It's an issue between Papua New Guinea and Taiwan, not Australia," the spokesman said.

Mr Skate, who faces a possible vote of no confidence this month, is understood to have offered to switch PNG's longstanding diplomatic recognition of mainland China to Taiwan if the renegade Chinese province can provide much needed "soft loans" for this year's as yet partially unfunded national budget.

Relations between Port Moresby and Canberra were further strained yesterday by news of comments by Australia's Minister of Defence, John Moore, which appeared to endorse a change of government in PNG. Asked about the apparent political instability in PNG, Mr Moore said a successful vote of no confidence against Mr Skate "might well lead to a better outcome than currently. "We have to wait and see what happens when the parliament meets (on July 13), as to whether the no-confidence motion is carried or not," Mr Moore told the Seven network's Face to Face program. "If it is carried, that leads to a new government and that might well lead to a better outcome than currently."

Mr Skate's spokesman said last night it was "unfortunate" such comments had been made. "PNG doesn't comment on the internal politics of Australia, it's unfortunate such comments have been made about the internal politics of PNG, which is a sovereign nation." However, Canberra has been harbouring grave concerns about the Skate Government since its inception in July 1997. It is not clear yet whether the Taiwan trip will provide Mr Skate with a much needed fillip for his chances of holding office after the constant drain of support he has experienced in the past few weeks. This has included the resignation of seven senior ministers and the withdrawal of his senior coalition partner, the People's Democratic Movement. A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said there were concerns about the implications of Mr Skate's plans for the rest of the region.

Source: South-Pacific correspondent MARY-LOUISE O'CALLAGHAN
The Australian - 6 July, 1999

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CPJ Protests Over 'Draconian Measures'

July 1, 1999
His Excellency Bartholomew Ulufa'alu
Prime Minister, Solomon Islands
Honiara, Solomon Islands

Your Excellency:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned over your administration's decision to impose draconian regulations governing all media coverage of the ethnic tensions there.

On June 28, the Governor General issued an amendment to the Emergency Powers Act of 1999 that threatens journalists who violate state-imposed reporting restrictions with up to two years imprisonment or a fine of up to SI$5,000 (US$1,050), or both. The regulations prohibit any reporting that "may incite violence," "is likely to cause racial disharmony," or that is "likely to be prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state." There are also provisions in the amendment that criminalize the possession of an official document by anyone "who has no right to retain it."

In order to avoid the risk of harsh penalties, the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation has stopped all live broadcasts of news produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Australia, and Radio New Zealand International. According to CPJ's sources, all foreign journalists left Solomon Islands by June 30.

The amendment was issued following official concerns that reporting on the ethnic conflict on Guadalcanaluthe island where Solomon Islands' capital, Honiara, is locateduwas undermining government-sponsored efforts to end the fighting. Clashes between armed militants native to Guadalcanal and settlers from neighboring Malaita island have escalated over the past six months, forcing thousands of Malaitans from their homes. This week, the various parties to the conflict agreed on the broad outlines of a peace accord, during negotiations brokered by Commonwealth envoy Sitiveni Rabuka, the former prime minister of Fiji.

As a nonpartisan organization of journalists dedicated to the defense of press freedom around the world, CPJ joins our colleagues on Solomon Islands in expressing deep dismay over the emergency regulations, which sharply limit the ability of journalists to report on issues of great public importance. In an editorial published on June 30, the English-language daily Solomon Star noted that "The wording of the regulations comes straight from the colonial era . . . [and] do Solomon Islands' democracy a major disservice."

The regulations are a flagrant violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsuwhich guarantees the "right to freedom of opinion and expression" and includes the right to "seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media"uand disregard the principles established by the Commonwealth's Harare Declaration of 1991.

CPJ respectfully urges Your Excellency to use the power of your office to repeal this amendment immediately.

We appreciate your attention to this matter, and await your response.
Yours sincerely, Ann K. Cooper, Executive Director

______________________________________

PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media, the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, and Pactok Communications, in Sydney and Port Moresby.

For further information, inquiries about joining the Pacific Media Watch listserve, articles for publication, and giving feedback contact Pacific Media Watch at niusedita@pactok.net.au or bfmedia@peg.apc.org
Website: http://www.pactok.net/docs/pmw/
NOTE: Temporary website where PMW items can be accessed while PMW website is undergoing upgrade changes.

Source: Pacific Media Watch

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You're Better Off Without Skate: Moore

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Australia's Defence Minister, Mr Moore, suggested yesterday that it might be better for Papua New Guinea if the Government of Prime Minister Bill Skate fell as a result of a no-confidence motion expected this month.

In comments that are sure to anger Mr Skate, Mr Moore said the PNG economy had deteriorated and that current reports pointed to "some instability" in the Government. "We have to wait and see what happens when the Parliament meets [on July 13], as to whether the no-confidence motion is carried or not," he told the Seven Network's Face to Face program. "If it is carried, that leads to a new government, and that might well lead to a better outcome than currently." He also said the PNG Government should "rethink" its reported offer to grant diplomatic recognition to Taiwan in return for "soft" loans. Mr Moore said Australia was monitoring the changing security situation in PNG and stood ready to help if necessary.

Asked about reports that Australian Defence strategists had plans for the evacuation of up to 10,000 Australians from Port Moresby if violence broke out, Mr Moore said there were "notional" contingency plans for many situations, but he was not aware of any that went to that extent. He said he would be talking to United Nations special envoy Mr Jamsheed Marker this week about his wish to have Darwin as an emergency evacuation base for East Timor if it became necessary. "I'll be interested to hear what he has in mind, but certainly we are in a position to meet any contingencies in the north," he said. But he emphasised that Australia would only act at the UN's request and with the full knowledge of Jakarta. "[It] has to be endorsed by the Indonesian Government ... otherwise we'd be seen to be invading a neighbouring country, and that we would not do."

Mr Moore said he did not think Australian police in East Timor were in immediate danger and defended the Defence Department's advice that they would be less of a target unarmed than armed.

Source: By PETER COLE-ADAMS, Foreign Affairs and Defence Correspondent
Sydney Morning Herald - Monday, July 5, 1999

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PNG Considers Greater Autonomy for Bougainville

The Papua New Guinea Government has indicated it may give greater autonomy to Bougainville.

The newly-elected Bougainville People's Congress has said it sees independence for the island as it's main goal. Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Bill Skate says his Government will not grant independence, or negotiate on the issue. But in a meeting with Bougainville leaders in Buka, Mr Skate said his Government is prepared to negotiate on greater autonomy for the island, and would consider a referendum on the issue: Independence is non-negotiable, the constitution does not allow it. Bougainville is part, an integral part of Papua New Guinea. We have had discussion on this issue and we both agreed that greater autonomy is the way to go. But we have to look at it and set up a mechanism that is going to be more realistic, practical and workable for the people of Bougainville.

Source: Radio Australia - 2 July, 1999 (7.00am)

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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)