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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 As of September 2004, a new website - Solidarity South Pacific - has superseded this, though this website has been left as it may still contain useful content.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 Updates

This page carries the Oct 1999 Bougainville news updates as received. You can find previous updates in the archive (as yet this only carries updates from October 1998 but I will try and add earlier ones if / when I can get hold of them).

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.


BOOK: Building Peace in Bougainville - Details & Order Form

Index: Latest Updates


Bougainville Parties Compromise as Talks Begin on Issues

A COMPROMISE has been reached between the Bougainville People's Congress and the Leitana Council of Elders on the issue of a referendum, according to BPC president Joseph Kabui.

It is now up to both Mr Kabui and Leitana chairman Joel Banam to sell their common interests on this issue to the Bougainville Members of Parliament and other leaders, when they start discussions on the issue of referendum and autonomy on Nissan Island today. Both leaders have also exchanged views on other important issues such as disarmament and compensation in two separate outdoor meetings. Those were considered by them as a prelude to discussions leading up to next week's Nissan meeting being attended by more than 100 leaders, including the four Bougainville MPs. The priority issues being autonomy and a referendum had been openly discussed by both leaders early this month on Buka Island.

At Kessa, located on the northern tip of Buka Island, Mr Kabui told Leitana, BPC, Defence Force and PMG representatives that while he acknowledged the PNG Government's position on referendum which, according to the Constitution is impossible, "what is then the middle road between independence and no independence? "As long as we have disagreement on this issue, there is danger," he said. Mr Kabui explained that a referendum would not come today, tomorrow or within six months, which meant it would be down the road when permanent peace was reached. But first, the healing process must take precedence over other things. He said a clear indication of the leaders' stand on the referendum issue would be obtained from the Nissan meeting. "But so far a general agreement on a referendum between BPC and the Leitana Council of Elders is a big compromise," Mr Kabui said. Mr Banam said the Bougainville MPs were prepared to listen to the people discussing the issues on referendum and autonomy on Nissan Island today. Consolidation of the bipartisan leadership in Bougainville, the political issue on autonomy and referendum and timetable for negotiations form the main agenda for the Nissan meeting, being chaired by the Chief Ombudsman Simon Pentanu.

Source: Postcourier - 29 October 1999

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Ona's Men to Show at Island Talks

REBEL leader Francis Ona is expected to let his representatives attend the Bougainville leaders meeting starting on Nissan Island tomorrow.

More than 100 leaders are expected to be at the three-day gathering. Some of Mr Ona's representatives from mountaintop Guava arrived on Buka Island yesterday. BPC president Joseph Kabui and Leitana Council of Elders chairman Joel Banam agreed to include automony and referendum on the agenda. A negotiating team will be formed to start talks with Waigani on a political settlement to the conflict. Administrative Secretary Francis Kabano yesterday extended an invitation from BPC and the Leitana Council to Chief Ombudsman Simon Pentanu to chair the coming Bouginville reconciliation meeting on Nissan Island.

Source: Postcourier - 27 October 1999

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Bougainville Hawks Firm on Freedom

RABAUL: Rebel hardliners on Bougainville reiterated yesterday that they would not disarm themselves until the Government clarifies its position on their push for independence.

Their spokesman and a member of the Bougainville Peoples Congress (PBC), Andrew Miriki, said they had taken up arms for the purpose of fighting for independence and it was foolish for them to disarm themselves without settling the root cause of the problem. "We have not accepted the Government's announcement on offering us greater autonomy as a political solution to the conflict because that was not what we have been fighting for," he said. "What we wanted from day one up until now is independence," Mr Miriki said. The rebel hardliner's comments comes in the wake of BPC president Joseph Kabui's statement that BPC had accepted the Government's offer on condition that the issue of independence through a referendum was still open for negotiation.

Mr Miriki said yesterday from Buin in South Bougainville through satellite telephone that what Mr Kabui said had represented only the views of the BPC members but not the rebels. "Our position is that we want the Government to come out clear on our push for independence. We want the Government to make its position clear on the Hurtzena Minute that allowed for a referendum to determine the political future of Bougainvilleans," Mr Miriki said. The Hurtzena agreement was signed between the rebel faction and former prime minister Bill Skate before the change of Government. Mr Miriki added that disarmament was a side issue that the Government was trying to give prominence to in the peace process with the aim of covering the real issue of independence. "Disarmament is not the root cause of the Bougainville crisis. The root cause of the conflict, as I have said, was independence and the Government must come clear on the issue," he said.

Asked about Mr Kabui's criticism about his previous statement, Mr Miriki said Mr Kabui was not happy about his statement because he had made the statement under BPC, adding that one must understand the difference between the rebel hardliners and the members of the BPC in relation to the background of the conflict. "We are not disputing the BPC's position because it is a faction of its own. We (the rebels) are different with our own position and ideas to pursue in the peace process," Mr Miriki said.

Source: The National - BY PHILIP KEPSON - 26 October 1999

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Independence for Bougainville

The Independent Commentary OUR University students are at it again. Who can doubt the ability of our so-called student leaders to organise a strike before they can manage to graduate and join the workforce if they do not go straight into politics. Take Pious Wingti, for instance. He left UPNG in his second or third year Arts and went straight into politics. We do not think he would ever regret that decision. Today he is known as the richest man in the South Pacific. It must be a well paid job to occupy the PM's office.

Getting back to our students, we must sympathise with the sentiments that 25 per cent increase in the UPNG fee structure is a hell of a lot of money for the subsistence farmer and most of those kids out there come from the rural setting. The UPNG Administration must go back to the government and insist that more money is put into education. If the administration is slack on that account then they cannot look to the students and their parents to bear the cost of their slackness or incompetence. The excuse by people like Dr Waiko that education is too expensive is nonsensical. Who said anything is cheap in PNG? If successive governments can find the money to sustain their EDF slush fund then surely they can find the lousy K1.5 million per annum to offer subsidised education for UPNG. Our MPs cannot go around telling us that there is no money for education in PNG. If they can find the money to pay themselves K1.5 million each year then they have to find a better excuse than that there is no money. We hope that the IMF and the World Bank will insist that the EDF is done away with before any loan funds are made available to PNG.

Talking about money, we acknowledge Australia's timely offer of substantial financial assistance to PNG. Our only regret is that Australia has not demanded enough from our members of parliament or the PNG government for that matter, it is fast becoming a reality that we are now more like one of those banana republics in South America funded by the US government because of their anti socialist or anti communist sentiments. If the Australian government is serious about what is happening in PNG then it must make its concerns known and it must demand action from the PNG government. Why would Australia keep pouring money into PNG and not insist on certain fundamentals as the minimum conditions that the politicians must observe before the funds are utilised. We are aware of the magnitude of Australia's investment in PNG and PNG's strategic position considering Australia's defence against any military adventure from the North. However, despite that underlying interest, Australia must take a more keen and genuine interest in the plight of the ordinary people who are helpless as against our spivying politicians.

Let us take a look at the political scenario on the island of Bougainville. Sir Michael has offered them total autonomy except for Police, Defence and Foreign Relations and the answer is an unconditional NO. We cannot blame the Bougainvilleans for their determination to do it alone. Who in his right mind would like to be part of a country called Papua New Guinea? Who in his right mind would like to be governed by our politicians who are wheelers, dealers and spivs? Sorry, Sir Michael, Bougainville wants full and unconditional independence and that is a non-negotiable issue. Bougainville must be independent. Why else did they fight a war with us for ten years and what is the significance of our acceptance of defeat? They did not ask for peace. We offered them peace and they accepted our offer, but they never compromised on their position that independence is a must. We offered peace on the assumption that they would come to a negotiated settlement on their political status and that is where we fooled ourselves into thinking that they would accept anything less than independence. We have to blame ourselves for being so naive as to doubt their position. Why else did the Bougainvilleans shed so much blood on the island? Yes, that blood was the price for independence and Bougainville must be independent. The alternative is to return to the battlefield which the Bougainvillean is ready to do? Are we to fight them again? And if so, what for?

Let the Bougainville issue lead us into a serious debate on the question of political structure and public administration for the rest of PNG. Let us ask ourselves if the present political scenario is the most ideal and if not whether there are any alternatives. If Sir Michael's offer to Bougainville is any indication, then we suggest that the same offer be made to all the other provinces. Look at the Malaysian system for instance, where the provinces are fairly autonomous and they plan and develop at their own pace. It is now almost a quarter of a century we have come since independence and if we have learned anything, surely, it must be that we are incapable of governing ourselves as a country because we do not have a clue what public administration is all about; we do not know what due process and accountability is all about; we do not know what financial management is all about and we do not know that this country belongs to a larger number of people than the lousy 109 members of parliament. We now have a government which believes in the proposition of reconstruction and development. We ask what is reconstruction and development all about? What are we to reconstruct and what are we developing?

Source: The Independent Commentary - 14 October 1999

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Bougainville Autonomy Offer

Letter to the Editor

Dear Sir/Madam,
I have been studying the Bougainville situation, as part of a Masters by Research, for a number of years. Your report regarding the autonomy proposal for Bougainville (PNG puts autonomy offer to Bougainville, 8/10) requires further comment. Papua New Guinea (PNG) Foreign Minister, Sir Michael Somare, was quoted saying, that he "held an open forum with rival factions", where the "offer had been warmly received". There was no comment directly from sources on the island. The rebel caucus within the Bougainville People's Congress (BPC) have, yesterday, in fact, rejected the proposal and is far from happy with Port Moresby's recent attitudes towards the political settlement. (The BPC is the interim government body on the island.) Meanwhile, as your report states, Australian Prime Minister, Mr. Howard, was "very encouraged by what Sir Michael had to say".

BPC member and rebel spokesman, Andrew Miriki said that Sir Michael's offer took them by surprise as the issue was not discussed by parties to the peace process. "We have not discussed the issue of greater autonomy with the Government. It was not discussed even with Sir Michael during his visit to the island last week," said Mr Miriki, "We maintain our position on pushing for independence". The comments by Mr. Miriki were reported in the PNG newspaper, the "National" (12/10).

Turning to the political settlement. According to the "National", Mr Miriki said that the BPC "would like to see the Government come out clearly on whether to pursue with the Hutjena Minute". This minute, "which was approved in June in Buka and signed later by former Prime Minister, Mr Skate and BPC President Joseph Kabui", had approved a referendum for the people of Bougainville to determine their political future.

A suitable political solution could bring relief to the long suffering people of Bougainville. However, this is unlikely to be achieved by such unilateral action on the part of the Papua New Guinea Government. As for the Australian reaction, Mr. Howard has promoted himself as a supporter of democracy and independence in East Timor, and has made significant moves towards this. Not so with regard to Bougainville. Australia has far more influence in PNG than in Indonesia, and therefore it has an opportunity to promote the same values there.However, the Australian government position is, as it has always been, opposed to independence for Bougainville. Unlike Timor, the most the Australian Government can countenance is some form of autonomy. The position on democracy is not much better. Mr. Howard's failure to push for a referendum on independence, is evidence that democracy for Bougainville, also, is not high on his list of priorities.

Jack Roberts,
Master of Education (research) candidate,
LaTrobe University.

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Bougainville Autonomy Offer Rejected by Rebel Faction

The rebel faction in the Bougainville People's Congress, BPC, has rejected the government's offer of greater autonomy as an option to settle the 10-year conflict.

BPC member and rebel spokesman, Andrew Miriki, said the Congress had vowed to maintain its push for independence as a lasting and final political settlement for Bougainville. Mr Miriki said the offer of greater autonomy had been rejected outright in favor of independence. Foreign Affairs and Bougainville Affairs Minister, Sir Michael Somare, announced last Wednesday after a two-day visit to the island that the government was willing to offer greater autonomy to Bougainville. He said the government had given the Bougainvilleans until the end of the yer to come up with a draft constitution that would cater for the proposed political arrangement.

Source: Radio Australia - World News, 13 Oct 99 (0.04am)

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Autonomy Offer is Rejected by BPC

RABAUL: The rebel faction in the Bougainville People's Congress (BPC) has rejected the Government's offer of greater autonomy as an option to settle the 10-year conflict.

BPC member and rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said yesterday the congress had vowed to maintain its push for independence as a lasting and final political settlement for Bougainville. "We have not accepted the offer (of greater autonomy). It was rejected outright because it was not our idea. We maintain our position on pushing for independence," Mr Miriki said.

Foreign Affairs and Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare announced last Wednesday after a two-day visit to Bougainville that the Government was willing to offer greater autonomy to the Bougainvilleans. Sir Michael said Bougainville would be self-governing except for defence, police and foreign affairs which would be administered by Waigani. He said the Government had given the Bougainvilleans until Dec 31 to come up with a draft constitution that would cater for the proposed political arrangement.

However, Mr Miriki said yesterday from Buin in South Bougainville that Sir Michael's announcement on the offer had taken them by surprise as the issue (of greater autonomy) was not discussed by parties to the peace process. He said when a Bougainville delegation was in Port Moresby two weeks ago to give a submission urging the Government to extend the term for the suspension of the Bougainville Provincial Government, their group leader and BPC Deputy Chairman James Tanis had put to the Government clearly that the Bougainvilleans should be given the opportunity to decide their political future. "To put the record straight, we have not discussed the issue of greater autonomy with the Government. It was not discussed even with Sir Michael during his visit to the island last week," said Mr Miriki. He said BPC members were taking Sir Michael's announcement as a new agenda for the Government for negotiation.

Mr Miriki added that the BPC would like to see the Government come out clearly on whether to pursue with the Hutjena Minute that was signed by parties involved with the former Bill Skate Government. According to the Hutjena Minute, which was approved in June in Buka and signed later by Mr Skate and BPC President Joseph Kabui at Rabaul's Kaivuna hotel, had given the green light to the Bougainvilleans to conduct a referendum to determine their political future.

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

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OPM Criticises 'Political' Trial

The West Papuan Independence Movement or O-P-M has attacked the trial in Indonesia of five men charged with subversion.

The five men are alleged to have raised the separatist flag of the West Papua Movement on July the first. They face up to 20 years in jail. The leader of O-P-M branch in Papua New Guinea, Clemens Runaweri says he condemns any punishment imposed by the courts for what he calls a political act. Flag raising is an expression of people's aspirations for freedom and we condemn that kind of punishment imposed upon them by the Indonesian court it's inhuman, it's against the human rights, it's not a criminal act, it's a political act and it should be seen from that side.

Source: Radio Australia - World News, 12 Oct 99 (7.13am)

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PNG Puts Autonomy Offer to Bougainville

PAPUA New Guinea has offered to grant autonomy to Bougainville, ceding all but the powers of defence, foreign affairs and police to the new state in an effort to craft a lasting solution to 10 years of civil conflict.

John Howard, on his first official visit to PNG, yesterday welcomed the move, describing it as "extremely encouraging". The Prime Minister also announced an $US80 million financial support facility to the Morauta Government, designed to help it lift the country's wallowing currency, the kina, and rapidly retire some of its debt. The facility, expected to be in place within weeks, will consist of a revolving deposit of the Australian dollar equivalent of $US80 million (currently about $121 million) by the Reserve Bank of Australia with PNG's Central Bank. "It is in earnest of our intention to support the Government of Papua New Guinea ... and the steps you have been taking in difficult circumstances to address the problems facing the (PNG) economy," Mr Howard said. Negotiations for an additional "not insubstantial" government-to-government loan would also be conducted as a further measure of support for the Morauta reforms once a draft agreement between the International Monetary Fund and PNG had been initialled. PNG Prime Minister Mekere Morauta welcomed the announcement, saying Australian support was critical to rebuilding international confidence in PNG and garnering further support from the international donor community. Mr Howard also praised the Morauta Government's policy on Bougainville, saying Australia was looking towards the "ultimate resolution" of the 10-year secession crisis.

PNG's Foreign Minister and Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Michael Somare, made an offer of autonomy during a two-day visit to Bougainville this week. "I was very encouraged by what Sir Michael had to say in relation to the situation," Mr Howard said yesterday. Successive PNG governments have resisted such a solution, arguing it could encourage similar secession movements elsewhere. Sir Michael, who briefed Mr Howard on the PNG Government's Bougainville policy yesterday, said the offer had been warmly received on Bougainville, where he had held an open forum with rival factions. "I appealed to them that I want to see that the year 2000 will bring a completely new Bougainville." Sir Michael set a Christmas Day deadline for Bougainvilleans to draft a proposed constitution for the new state that would still sit within the framework of PNG's 1975 constitution. "If they want all the powers to be given to them - Works, Transport, Finance - the national Government would give consideration, but they will now have to come up with a proposal for me to take to cabinet and the national parliament," he said. "In six months, I want to see that there is some form of a government on the island of Bougainville."

Source: The Australian Newspaper - By South-Pacific correspondent MARY-LOUISE O'CALLAGHAN - 8 Oct 99

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East Timor Rally Saturday 9 Oct

A rally and march will take place this coming Saturday 9 October 10:30am from Hyde Park North.

The rally is calling for the safe return of the 200,000 hostages in West Timor, reversal of Australia's recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor, an end to all military ties, East Timorese to be allowed to stay in Australia if they wish and money for aid and reconstruction. Please spread the word and invite as many people as possible. There are several thousand rally fliers which people can grab if they can distribute them here in the CFMEU office. They will be in the small room immediately off reception, 5th floor 361 Kent Street Sydney. The office is open 8-6 weekdays.

Source: CFMEU - 7 Oct 99

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Pacific Watch-Dog Criticises "Weak" Communique on East Timor

A Pacific watch-dog group has criticised the South Pacific Forum's communiquTheta on East Timor as being "too weak" on the Indonesian Armed Forces.

The Pacific Concerns Resource Centre said the forum and the international community must state in very clear terms that it will not stand by again while they kill innocent people. The group's director Lopeti Senituli pointed out that West Papua and Aceh are next in line for independence. He also criticised Forum leaders for what he called their soft stance on the continuing shipments of plutonium and high level waste from France and England to Japan through the Pacific.

Source: Radio Australia - World News - 7 Oct 99 (12.52pm

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Howard to Hold Talks in PNG

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard will reaffirm Canberra's support for Papua New Guinea's new Prime Minister, in bilateral talks today in Port Moresby.

Anne Barker reports, it's Mr Howard's first official visit since Sir Mekere Morauta's election in July. Mr Howard's visit is a show of support and encouragement for P-N-G's new government and follows similar visits in recent weeks by the Treasurer Peter Costello and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. Australia has high hopes that Sir Mekere can achieve what Bill Skate and others before him have failed to do - by delivering on his election promises to reform P-N-G's ailing economy and eliminate high level corruption. The two leaders will also discuss the peace process on Bougainville, and the future of Australian aid to P-N-G once budgetary support payments end next July. Mr Howard will address business leaders tomorrow morning and visit Australian war graves at the Bomana cemetery before flying home.

Source: Radio Australia - World News - 7 Oct 99 (9.35am)

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Australia's Prime Minister Prepares to Fly to PNG

The Australian Prime Minister John Howard, flies to Papua New Guinea today for talks with his new counterpart Sir Mekere Morauta.

Anne Barker reports, economic reform and peace on Bougainville are on the agenda. It's Mr Howard's first official visit to P-N-G since Sir Mekere Morauta took the top job from Bill Skate in July. Mr Howard will be reaffirming Australia's support for the new government and expressing Australia's hopes that Sir Mekere can deliver on his election promise to get P-N-G's economy back on track - by re-engaging with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund - and eliminate high-level corruption. The two leaders will also discuss the peace process on Bougainville, and the future of Australia's aid program, under which budgetary support payments are due to end next year. Mr Howard will spend 24 hours in P-N-G - and also meet business leaders and visit Australian graves at the Bomana War cemetery.

Source: Radio Australia World News - 7 Oct 99 (8:11am)

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Deadline set for Removal of Bougainville People's Congress

The Papua New Guinea Government has been given a deadline of later today to withdraw the international Peace Monitoring Group and the presence of the Bougainville Peoples Congress from Buka.

The ultimatum is from the Leitana Council of Elders, over frustration at the PNG Parliament's decision to extend the suspension of the Bougainville Provincial Government for another six months. In a letter to the PNG Prime Minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, the Chairman of Elders, Joel Banam said they would not tolerate the continuation of an illegal political authority on the island and wanted the BPC office removed. PNG's Minister for Bougainville, Sir Michael Somare, visited the island yesterday and is expected to discuss the issue with the Council.

Source: BBC Radio Australia World News - 6 Oct 99

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Questions Remain Unanswered from PNG Sandline Affair

A key figure in Papua New Guinea's Sandline affair says many questions remain unanswered from the 1997 political crisis.

Major Walter Enuma of the PNG Defence Force was speaking in Port Moresby at the launch of a book by Australian journalist, Mary-Louise O'Callaghan on the Sandline affair. The secretive decision by PNG's former Prime Minister Julius Chan to employ mercenaries to fight seperatist rebels on Bouganville led to the downfall of his government. Major Enuma challenged social scientists to thoroughly research all aspects of the Sandline affair, including the involvement of key PNG government institutions: There are a lot of reasons why the event happened the way it did. Why the soldiers acted the way they did for example. Issues can not be be answered just by looking at the law as it is. It has got to be looked at in a wider context and it will require a detailed analysis of various important government institutions. That has never been done.

Source: BBC Radio Australia World News- 5 Oct 99

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Contact Details:

BFM - Bougainville Freedom Movement (Coordination in Australia):
VIKKI JOHN - e-mail: vikki@law.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)