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 As of September 2004, a new website - Solidarity South Pacific - has superseded this, though this website has been left as it may still contain useful content.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 Sept 2000 Bougainville news updates as received. You can find previous updates in the archive.

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: September 2000

Mekere: Aust meeting has Pacific issues on agenda

POLITICAL issues affecting the Pacific are to feature prominently in talks between Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta and his Australian counterpart John Howard this week.

Sir Mekere yesterday left for Sydney, Australia, where he is to meet Mr Howard and their New Zealand and Vanuatu counterparts, Helen Clarke and Barak Sope. Issues lined up for discussion among the leaders are the West Papua independence movement, the political situation in Fiji, the Solomons Islands and Bougainville. On economic issues, the leaders will hold talks on the PNG-Queensland gas project and further assistance to help PNG's structural reform program. "The main agenda item will be regional security matters," Sir Mekere said yesterday. "Further and broader discussions on these matters will be held at the South Pacific Forum meeting next month," the Prime Minister said. He said recent developments in West Papua, especially with Vanuatu and Nauru pushing to have the future of the Indonesian province become a United Nations issue, were also of concern. He said Papua New Guinea regarded West Papua as an integral part of Indonesia. This position had been reiterated to the Indonesian Vice-President, Meg-awati Sukarnoputri, during her recent visit. "I will put this position to my counterparts during the Sydney meetings," Sir Mekere said. Regional security issues were becoming significant, he said. Papua New Guinea's leadership of the recent African-Caribbean-Pacific-EU Pacific Mission to Fiji and the Solomon Islands will be discussed at the meetings. The mission, led by the Foreign Minister, Sir John Kaputin, has been endorsed by the ASEAN nations and the South Pacific Forum foreign ministers. "It offers a different approach to problem-solving that builds on our own experience in Bougainville and an intimate understanding by island nation leaders of the causes of conflict and the possible solutions," Sir Mekere said. Bougainville itself would be discussed, including the recent breakthroughs made by the Government and Bougainville negotiating teams. The Prime Minister said the next round of talks was expected to make further important progress, particularly on the issues of weapons disposal and a political settlement including autonomy and the Government's plans for setting up the Constitutional mechanisms for possible referendums on important national issues, including Bougainville. The continuing role of Australia and New Zealand in helping PNG maintain the peace and advancing a political settlement would also be discussed.

On the gas project, Sir Mekere and Mr Howard are expected to talk about PNG equity in the infrastructure section of the huge project. Thirty per cent equity has been offered to the state by the project developers, and this is expected to cost about $US400 million. "Methods of financing this equity have posed problems for Papua New Guinea," the Prime Minister said. "Papua New Guinea wishes to look at the possibility of innovative methods of financing."

Source: Postcourier - 28 Sept 00

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Govt refining Bougainville autonomy powers, says Somare

THE National Government recognises that an autonomous Bougainville will need sufficient control over revenue raising and other resources to ensure it can use its powers and functions effectively, Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare told Parliament on Tuesday.

Sir Michael also said that National Government agencies were currently refining proposals on powers and functions as far as autonomy was concerned and agreed to at the recent political talks in Rabaul between the National Government and North Solomons leaders. He said issues discussed in Rabaul included provision of a constitutional guarantee and a special Organic Law for autonomy, the process by which Bougainville could make its own constitution and powers and functions. "Relevant Government agencies are trying to identify possible options for Cabinet's consideration," he said, adding that his ministry was also coordinating further work on other important issues in the hope that both delegations would be able to finalise an agreement on autonomy and other issues soon. Sir Michael told Parliament that the referendum issue had been among the most difficult items on the Rabaul talks agenda. "The main Bougainville factions came together last year after I challenged them to present the National Government with an agreed position on Bougainville's political future," he said. "One of the main ways in which they managed to bridge previous differences between those who favoured independence for Bougainville and those who preferred to remain with Papua New Guinea was that they agreed to seek a guarantee of a binding referendum on the question. Unfortunately, the briefings on which their discussions were based do not appear to have paid much regard to relevant constitutional issues such as the lack of a proper, legal framework for referenda." Sir Michael said Bougainville leaders seemed to have said little about important aspects of international law, especially regarding the way in which self-determination was closely defined as a right limited to colonial countries and people. He said Bougainville leaders also appeared to have taken inadequate account of the strong sense of nationalism among people throughout Papua New Guinea, including Bougainville. "However, agreeing to let the people decide allowed different factions to come together and develop a common position," he added. "It even opened the way - so many Bougainvilleans seem to believe, and the National Government continues to hope - for Francis Ona and the hardcore of his most militant supporters to join in the peace process." Sir Michael said both delegations at Rabaul confirmed their continuing support for a progressive political settlement which took account, among other things, of Bougainvilleans' wishes.

They agreed to address the referendum issue, he told Parliament, adding that they also agreed that the actual conduct of a referendum could be deferred "until autonomy has been implemented and can be fairly and properly judged". "Despite misunderstandings and misrepresentations in some quarters, the two delegations did not agree that there will be a referendum. We had no mandate to do so. And no legal framework for holding a referendum if we had," he said. "We merely agreed what the issues were, and what the options might be if agreement was reached."

Source: The National - 28 Sept 00

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Bougainvilleans urged to drive peace process

THE people of Bougainville have been urged to keep the peace progress moving forward despite the difficulties faced.

Japanese Ambassador Tatsuo Tanaka make this remark during the official handing over of several projects to the College of Distance Education and the office of the Governor last Thursday in Buka. Mr Tanaka told the capacity crowd that gathered to witness the occasion that his Government and the people of Japan were friends and were always ready to assist wherever and whenever required. He said Japan has a very long relationship with Bougainville established during the Second World War and these memories would remain for many years to come. "Japanese soldiers travelled 5,000 to 6, 000 miles to come to Bougainville many years ago. This was the beginning of that relationship." He said Bougainville was progressing forward to peace and reconciliation, and urged the people to concentrate on nation and capacity building. He was speaking when handing over development projects worth about K655,000 to the people of Bougainville in North Solomons. The four projects are vehicles for Bougainville peace work; installation of four sawmills and four chain saws; installation of six rice hand hullers; and the College of Distance Education (CODE) Bougainville. The Bougainville Interim Provincial Government will oversee the implementation of the first three projects while CODE Bougainville takes charge of the last project. Governor John Momis also announced during the ceremony that the provincial CODE centre will receive a major boost next year through funding from the Interim Bougainville Provincial Government. Mr Momis said the College of Distant Education was very important and would turn the whole island of Bougainville into a big classroom of learning. "Next year in our provincial budget more money will be given to CODE to provide that drive to excel. We also intend to have our own university. We have qualified Bougainvilleans out there that can come home to teach our own people to become teachers and also provide tertiary education for our people. I also emphasise teacher training. This CODE centre and the University centre can become very vital learning institutions for Bougainville."

Source: The National, 27 September 00

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Peace Monitoring Group to shift office to Loloho

THE Commander of the Peace Monitoring Group in Bougainville, Brigadier Mike Silverstone, announced in Arawa yesterday that the PMG headquarters will move to Loloho in mid October.

Brigadier Silverstone said the move will allow the PMG to consolidate its support base and importantly, allow the Arawa youth centre to be returned to its rightful Bougainvillean owners. "This adjustment is a reflection of the PMG's optimism about the direction of the peace process," he said. The headquarters will move into seven prefabricated buildings that arrived at Loloho in August. Brigadier Silverstone said that the move to Loloho is not related to any security concerns or issues and the PMG's Negotiation Cell and Monitoring Team - will remain in Arawa town with its commander, along with a number of key PMG members. He said consolidation of the PMG's role and functions will also see its numbers reduce by the end of October.

Source: The National, 26 September 00

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WOMAN: Bougainville women march for peace


SOME three hundred women of Bougainville went on a peace march in Buka last Wednesday to submit a five-point petition to Bougainville Governor John Momis.

In their petition, the women pledged their commitment to the current cease-fire and re-affirmed their support to the Buin declaration for Bougainville's self-determination. They also called on the National Government and Bougainville leaders to demonstrate serious commitment to the question of giving Bougainville the highest possible level of autonomy and then a binding referendum on self-determination. Addressing the gathering of women, Mr Momis congratulated the women for their continuous commitment and support for the peace process. He lauded their guidance and initiatives and said: "You are leading the way in self reliance and I urge you to stand with pride and dignity." The governor said the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea are being held captive by greed, arrogance, hatred and dependency. "All these attitudes are our worst enemies in the society. They are lowering our basic traditional rights." Mr Momis noted the tremendous contribution that the women of Bougainville have made to the people since the crisis began, and declared that they deserve full support in their endeavors. He further pledged his commitment and support for these women to be given due recognition. The Governor nevertheless called on the women to keep up their good work as there's more to be done before a lasting solution can be reached. Meanwhile the President of the Bougainville People's Congress, Joseph Kabui saluted the women of Bougainville, saying that they have earned their place in the peace process. "You have the hearts to solve any problem. You have played a vital and important role in bringing peace to Bougainville. You have maintained to put pressure on the political leadership on Bougainville and this pressure has continued to give us strength to go all the way," he said at the gathering where he received the women together with Mr Momis. He thanked the women for their support, prayers and tears that he described as encouraging to the leaders of Bougainville as they push on with the negotiations with the national government.

Source: The National, 22 September 00

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MP warns rebels may not disarm

CENTRAL Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai believes former combatants will not disarm, unless an agreement is reached on the political future of Bougainville.

Speaking before flying out this morning to Bougainville to talk to members of the BRA and the resistance forces on the issue of disarmament, Mr Akoitai said unless there was a major shift towards an agreement on the two issues of autonomy and a referendum on the political future of the province, there will be a reluctance on the part of armed youths not to lay down arms. "The disarmament issue has been agreed to but it will not be successful unless the political issues of autonomy and the referendum is agreed to," he said. The Government has maintained, however, that disarmament must be a pre-requisite to any political agreement. The United Nations, which has an observer mission on Bougainville, has been charged with effecting disarmament. Mr Akoitai believes not much will be achieved by the mission. "Yes, we have agreed to in the Lincoln Agreement but it will not happen," he said.

Source: Viewpoint - 21 September 00

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Deaths remain a mystery

AT the recent National Medical Symposium held in Port Moresby, Dr Gerard Saleu presented a research paper on the "Mystery Disease Of The Strickland Headwaters" which he said had killed 120 people in the past 10 years.

Two anthropology doctorate degree students first reported the disease in the upper flood plains of the Strickland river in 1998. The unknown disease was said to have affected people living in nine villages on both sides of the Strickland river - in the Southern Highlands and West Sepik Provinces respectively. Dr Saleu said a preliminary survey of communities in the Yeru, Hewa, Duna, Sinali and Oksapmin areas found that 54 per cent of the villagers attributed the symptoms to the consumption of pork, 5 per cent to the consumption of catfish while 11 per cent attributed it to consumption of bamboo shoots, cassowary and pig intestine. Interviews with the relatives of those who died revealed they suffered abdominal distention and tenderness, swelling of the lips and other parts of the body, vomiting blood, nasal bleeding, jaundice, blood in the urine, red-like blisters and peeling off of the skin. Most died without treatment. Of those who died, 66 per cent were male, 34 per cent female. Eighteen per cent children. In Parliament on Tuesday, Lagaip-Porgera MP Opis Papo blamed the deaths on the dumping of poisonous wastes from the Porgera gold mine operated by Australian-based gold mining company Placer Niugini. The company has strongly rejected Mr Papo's claims as "politically motivated", adding that they were "outrageous and completely untrue".

The Prime Minister said the claims are serious and he would ask the Minister for Environment to investigate and provide a full reply to Parliament. The people who have lost loved ones are entitled to know the real cause of their deaths. Similarly, the whole nation is entitled to be fully informed on what this mysterious disease really is and what actions if any will be taken to prevent further loss of lives. Placer Niugini's managing director Evert van den Brand said a team of international scientific and environmental experts organised by CSIRO of Australia had done a study of the mine's waste disposal system, and approved their waste dumping management and monitoring systems. In fairness to all parties, the Government should seek a second independent, international opinion before drawing any conclusions. This should be done without delay.

Source: Postcourier - 21 September 00

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Resistance chief refutes claims of arms shipment


BOUGAINVILLE Resistance Force chairman Hilary Masiria has urged all parties involved in the Bougainville peace process to continue consultation on sensitive issues that could hurt the process.

Mr Masiria was referring to recent media statements by Mr Miriori alleging shipment of weapons into Bougainville from Australia via Honiara. Mr Masiria said he would have liked Mr Miriori to have consulted with the relevant parties in the peace process before going to the media. "I call on Mr Miriori to come home to Bougainville and assist in the peace process instead of living so many miles away from where he should be. I also call him to have some courtesy in consulting relevant parties on the ground about sensitive issues that have a lot of impact on the peace process on Bougainville," he said. Mr Masiria said it was unfair to the people of Bougainville to be made to feel insecure with such reports that must be branded as unfounded and baseless. "Such statements will only destroy the peace process and stir up fear and uncertainty amongst our people", he said. Mr Masiria claimed the issue of former Sandline weapons was a dead one which should be left to the relevant authorities in Australia and Papua New Guinea to solve. "The Sandline issue is not a concern to us and Bougainvilleans like Mr Miriori should not waste their time bringing the topic up," he said. "Such issues could only re-ignite problems for the peace process on the ground." Mr Masiria said the Bougainville resistance force and the PNG Defence Force were committed to the peace process. He said they would stand by this commitment until a political settlement is reached through the ongoing negotiations. Meanwhile, the Peace Monitoring Group's chief negotiator on Bougainville, Rhys Paddicom also refuted the claims in a meeting with members of both the Bougainville People's Congress and the Interim Bougainville Provincial Government. Mr Paddicom said that the Peace Monitoring Group headquarters in Arawa was relocated to Loloho because of the downsizing of its manpower and therefore it was necessary to bring in building materials to build the Peace Monitoring Group headquarters in Loloho. He added that Australia had done a lot for Bougainville as well as getting Martin Miriori out of Honiara to where he is now and because of this there should be some trust from Bougainvilleans. He said the seven containers suspected of containing ex-Sandline weapons were actually prefabricated building materials for the new Peace Monitoring Group headquarters in Loloho.

Source: The National, 19 September, 2000

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For immediate release, The Hague. 13 September, 2000.


The general public in Bougainville, particularly the BRA are said to be not very happy at all about the manner in which Australia has gone about organising the trans-shipment of suspected cargo to Loloho through Honiara, especially using a privately owned chartered vessel without any proper consultation and prior notice to the authorities in Bougainville. Such action has therefore caused great concern and led to creating some serious suspicion among the general public on the issue. People are now saying that Australia should have at least had the decency to advise the authorities on the ground before hand, especially when they knew that the cargo was coming on a private commercial ship, instead of the normal Australian navy supply ship HMS Tobrook direct from Brisbane to Loloho.

The BRA network understands that there is also deep suspicion and great disappointment from the general public in Solomon Islands as well, that their country was used to trans-ship the suspected cargo. Sources has informed BRA intelligence that the Australian High Commission in Honiara appears to have only informed one of the other junior Ministries, and not officially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the trans-shipment. Therefore, the Government of Solomon Islands is also reported to be unhappy about the way in which Australia had gone about in handling the whole issue without any real sensitivity.

Both, the people in Solomon Islands and Bougainville are now said to be asking themselves a lot of questions as to WHY Australia had suspiciously decided to play such a very low key in organising the trans-shipment, although they may claim that it was a genuine cargo as described in the official shipping documents.

People are now saying that Australia should have been at least very sensitive and lot more transparent in going about making the arrangements, so as not to undermine the public confidence from the people on the important role which they continue to play in leading the peacekeeping operations and promoting peace on Bougainville.

Meanwhile, a BRA envoy is now on his way to Bougainville from Honiara for first-hand briefing with BRA and the other leaders on the ground. This is part of the ongoing investigation into the matter until the issue is finally put to rest.

BRA intelligence has also learned that the workers at the Honiara Port Authority have decided to go on strike since Monday, 11 September. However, it is still not very clear at this stage as to whether the strike is in any way related to the trans-shipment of cargo by Australia, which also included the payment of $25,000.00 to their Manager to captain MV Neptune Gale to Loloho, while his workers were not equally compensated for the work that they did in handling the cargo when in transit at the Port.

For further information, please contact Martin R Miriori on telephone number 31 70 4277027


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PM lauds outcome of latest Bougainville talks

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta has welcomed the outcome of the latest round of Bougainville talks in Rabaul.

He said the calm and careful consideration of his statement to Parliament last week during the talks demonstrated both parties' commitment to the maintenance of peace by peaceful means, to the restoration of basic and essential services, and to progress on a political settlement. "The statement that came out of the meeting, particularly relating to autonomy, weapons disposal and a national referendum, were very pleasing," he said. "This will help take the heat out of the debate that arose from a misreading of my statement. A careful reading of my prior statement would show that the Government remains firmly committed to moving forward on Bougainville according to the laws of PNG, in a spirit of cooperation, and in the best interest of everybody concerned. Hasty, uninformed and ill-considered comments about this very sensitive issue do nobody any good." Sir Mekere, speaking in New York where he is attending the United Nations Millennium Summit, was especially please at the common understanding reached on weapons disposal. "This is an essential element in restoring normalcy to Bougainville," he said. "An agreement on weapons disposal will make progress that much easier towards the highest possible autonomy and a debate about the framework of referendums on matters of national importance, including Bougainville," the Prime Minister said. "Both sides have much to gain from the approach that is now developing. I encourage everybody to see that it continues." The Prime Minister also cautioned the negotiating teams against overly ambitious timetables.

"In reality, yes we have come a long way in the past 12 months," he said. "Now we are approaching a state where we have to start thinking about the details and practicalities of many, many issues besides continuing the restoration of normalcy. When we reach that stage, we must be extremely careful not to make mistakes."

Source: The National - Monday 11 September 00

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Beware the lawyers, Bougainville landowners advised

THE CAIRNS representatives of the Bougainville Support Group are concerned to hear of a class action taken by Bougainville landowners against mining company Rio Tinto in the United States.

The group said in a statement at the weekend that although its members are supportive of any landowner group taking class action suits against any mining company, which is within their rights, "we are concerned about the law firm assisting the landowners in their suit". "The firm was recently criticised by the Solomon Islands' appeal court, chaired by former Australian chief justice Sir Anthony Mason, as 'cavalier and irresponsible' in its conduct of a case involving a gold mine operated by Sydney-based Delta Gold," the support group said. The support group said it is not in the interests of the landowners to get involved with firms and foreign lawyers whose only interest appeared as "contingency only" fees. "From the Ok Tedi class action suit experience, we understand that the landowners did not receive adequate compensation. It is understood that the law firm involved was paid millions to walk away from the case," said the group. "We appeal to the Bougainville landowners and those assisting them to carefully scrutinise the law firm before they proceed with the class action, otherwise the landowners will be the losers and left penniless once again."

Bougainville landowners last Thursday filed a class-action lawsuit in the United States against Rio Tinto, one of the world's largest mining companies, which owns the closed Bougainville Copper Limited's Panguna mine. In an unprecedented move and using a US Federal law which allows such civil actions, the landowners are seeking damages for massive environmental destruction, human rights violation and for discrimination against Bougainvilleans. They have engaged Steve Berman, a high-profile litigation lawyer who successfully represented 13 US states in lawsuits against the tobacco industry in the US several years ago. Mr Berman, of Seattle law firm Hagens-Berman, filed the lawsuit in the US District Court in San Francisco. The suit claimed the London-based Rio Tinto engaged in a joint venture with the PNG Government to maintain a copper mine on the island, which resulted in violations of international environmental laws and crimes against humanity, stemming from the PNG Defence Force military blockade sparked off by civilian resistance to the mine.

Source: The National - Monday 11 September 00

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Australian denies weapons sent to Bougainville (10.22pm)

Australia has denied claims that weapons it held on behalf of Papua New Guinea have been shipped to Bougainville.

The weapons were destined for Sandline mercenaries commissioned to fight Bougainville rebels in 1997. Australia offered to store the weapons when they were intercepted at the height of the 1997 Sandline crisis. They had been stored at the Tindal military base in the Northern Territory ever since. The Australian-based Bougainville Freedom Movement claims the weapons were shipped to Bougainville last month and unloaded there by Papua New Guinea troops.

Australia's High Commissioner in Papua New Guinea Nick Warner says the claim is baseless. It was made as Bougainville leaders reached an agreement with the PNG Government on the next step towards resolving Bougainville's political future, and may have been a deliberate attempt to undermine the negotiations

Source: ABC News Online 9 September, 2000

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Bougainville peace force wound back


Australia's peace monitoring force on Bougainville is being wound back, the Foreign Minister, Mr Downer, confirmed yesterday as he welcomed a breakthrough in peace talks between Bougainvillean leaders and the Papua New Guinea Government.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the number of Australians on Bougainville was being cut back from a peak of 203 in May 1998 - in a total force of 253 - to 150 of a total force of 170 by next month. Mr Downer said the peace process was going through "rather an important period" in Australian-funded talks in Rabaul between the PNG Government and Bougainvillean leaders.

The meeting on Wednesday saw both sides reach an understanding "where they could take the peace process forward and we very much welcome this," Mr Downer said.

"We're anxious that peace continues, we have a peace monitoring group in Bougainville and there are a lot of Australians involved there. All parties are committed to continuing negotiations and, Mr Downer said, it provides a way through on the two key issues of autonomy for the province of Bougainville, the referendum on its future, and the great importance of a competent and complete plan for weapons disposal.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people died in the war fought between the PNG Defence Force and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 8 September 00

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Associated Press reports:

Using a law allowing foreign nationals to bring lawsuits in the United States, Bougainville islanders have sued a London-based mining concern citing environmental degradation and human rights violations.

The lawsuit filed yesterday names Rio Tinto, one of the world's largest mining companies. Because of the time zone difference, mining officials in London could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit alleges that residents of Bougainville were and continue to be exposed to toxins from Rio Tinto's copper mine. The mining company destroyed villages as well as razed rain forests and polluted rivers, causing health problems for islanders, the lawsuit alleges.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 8 September 00

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Breakthrough reported on B'ville peace talks


BOUGAINVILLE Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare and Bougainvillean leaders Governor John Momis and Bougainville People's Congress President Joseph Kabui yesterday lauded a breakthrough in peace talks conducted over the last two days at the Malaguna Technical School in Rabaul.

The talks covered many different aspects of the progressive political settlement, including autonomy, the referendum issue, as well as weapons disposal and re-establishment of civil authority. The delegations paid close attention to the statement on "the Bougainville peace process, autonomy and referendum and the motion on providing a constitutional framework for referenda", which Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta presented in the National Parliament on Sept 1. In a communiqué released after the meeting, the two delegates reached the following understanding: * The parties noted with appreciation the Prime Minister's statement and initiative in moving a motion in the National Parliament intended to lead to the establishment of a constitutional framework for holding referenda; * This framework should be used to hold a referendum on Bougainville's further political status consistent with the Loloata Understanding; * The National Government delegation undertakes to submit this Understanding to the National Executive Council and advise the National Parliament of it; * The Bougainville delegation will present this Understanding to the Bougainville Interim Provincial Assembly and the Bougainville People's Congress for consideration; and *The parties will cooperate in promoting public awareness of this Understanding. According to the communiqué, the Bougainville delegation welcomes the National Government's agreement to many of its proposals, including the constitutional guarantee and an Organic Law on Autonomy, provision for Bougainville to adopt its own constitution and increased powers and functions for Bougainville. Both delegations recognise that further work and mutual consultation are needed on details of the powers and functions to be transferred to Bougainville or be retained by the National Government.

According to the communiqué, the National Government has responded positively to the Bougainville delegation's position that the financial arrangements including the revenue raising powers of the autonomous Bougainville government must be given the most careful consideration in order to ensure that the powers and functions under final Bougainville control are backed by sufficient control over resources to ensure that they can be effectively used. The delegation will meet again in Arawa at a date to be advised to consider the financial arrangements and other aspects of autonomy. On the question of weapons disposal, the National Government delegation emphasised the need for firm dates to be set for the Peace Process Consultative Committee to complete plans for weapons disposal before Bills on autonomy and referendum are formally moved in the National Parliament, and for the plans to be implemented before these bills become law. The Bougainville delegation confirmed that the National Government's position on weapons disposal is very similar to its own proposals and noted the Bougainville position that implementation of weapons disposal requires agreement on the political issues and legislative guarantees. The Bougainville delegation believes that there should be no difficulty in finding an approach that suits both sides. In a news conference after the meeting, Sir Michael who led a bipartisan National Government delegation to the talks, acknowledged some misunderstanding on the Government's part to the real issues pursued by the Bougainville leaders for lasting peace on the island. "It is now my duty to take these issues back to the National Executive Council and the National Parliament to seriously consider," he said.

Source: The National, 7 September 00

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Govt services ceasing for want of money

THE NORTH Solomons government is on the verge of closing down all services on the island because of the lack of funds. Governor John Momis announced at the peace talks in Rabaul that the National Government had not allocated sufficient funding for his government's operations this year, resulting in a budgetary shortfall of some K4 million. He warned that all government services on the island will close down next week if no additional funds are forthcoming. "Services and funding of Government projects that are vital to the process of restoration on Bougainville will be halted as of next week," he said, pleading with the Government to release the next round of budgetary allocation so that the people are not denied their right to government services. Mr Momis also revealed that the situation has forced his government's hand to seek direct budgetary support from external sources to fund its operations. "We have formed the Bougainville Development and Reconstruction Commission, which will solicit funds from donor agencies including AusAID, European Union and other donor agencies to fund services and developments on Bougainville. The Bougainville administration in recent times had informed its creditors in writing that no credit facilities are to be offered to the administration because the financial situation of the provincial government has reached a very unhealthy state, where we cannot allow any further credit facilities to operate," he said. Provincial finance officer Peter Siana attributed the freeze on the credit facility to the National Government not fulfilling its budgetary obligations. "We are experiencing monthly shortfalls of about K500,000 in grants from the National Government," he said.

Source: The National, 7 September 00

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Letter to Editor - Bougainville doesn't need aid forever

YOUR editorial of Friday, Sept 1, painted a negative picture on Bougainville leaders.

While I appreciate the positive reporting of aid projects in rebuilding infrastructure and rebuilding and expanding agriculture on Bougainville, you fail to mentioned that it is equally important for the PNG Government to address the issue of highest autonomy and referendum which is a prerequisite of the continuing peace process. In your editorial you may have assumed that Bougainvilleans would be blinded by these aid projects and not to pursue the issue of a meaningful political solution with the PNG Government, which is the price of the 10 years civil war. A strong autonomous Bougainville government with a strong political will is what is needed on Bougainville to run their own affairs rather than been dictated to by Waigani. You fail to give credit to the Bougainville leaders who are united and representing the aspirations of their people as their representatives and instead mentioned that they are pursuing their self interest. What self interest are you talking about? On the same token the aid projects given to Bougainville by European Union, AusAID, Japan and others are the result of the tireless effort by the Bougainville leaders in consultation with the PNG Government because the National Government has limited financial capacity to rebuild infrastructure and agriculture on Bougainville. Even up to now there is no budgetary support for Bougainville for any major project except for public service salaries only. Australia, European Union, Japan and others by virtue of their bilateral economic co-operation with PNG also have the moral obligation to assist where they can according to the needs and priorities of the people of PNG because they are rich industrialised countries. Moreover its part and parcel of their regional co-operation and strategic and security interest to have stability in the region. However, Bougainvilleans do not need aid forever. What they want is a strong autonomous government of their own to negotiate loans internally and externally to develop and sustain their resources. They don't want to be mere recipients of overseas aid and become complacent and lazy. They are hard working people who wants to be masters of their own destiny. Therefore while the aid donors are helping Bougainvilleans on the ground it is equally important for the Bougainville leaders and the PNG Government to have continuous dialogue towards achieving a peaceful political settlement by addressing the issue of the highest autonomy and binding referendum. These are the fundamental key issues still outstanding to be discussed and nothing to do with any Bougainville leaders self interest.

Peter Nerau, Waigani, NCD

Source: The National, 7 September 00

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PNG landowners file action against Rio Tinto (12.10pm)

Bougainville landowners are filing a class action against mining company Rio Tinto in the United States today.

The group is seeking punitive damages for alleged environmental damage, personal injury and human rights abuses as a result of Rio Tinto's operations at the Bougainville Copper Mine.

US lawyers are being assisted by Melbourne-based law firm, Slater and Gordon, which successfully sued BHP over environmental damage from the OK Tedi Copper Mine.

Partner Nick Styant-Browne says the case is strong. "The environmental degradation right around the area of Bougainville in some sense pales Ok Tedi into insignifance and so the people are claiming the loss of their land and the destruction of their environment," he said.

Source: ABC News Online, 7 September 00

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Oceanic Islanders use Federal Law to Sue British Mining Giant Rio Tinto for Alleged Ecocide and Human Rights Crimes

Wednesday, September 06, 2000

Class-action suit filed against Rio Tinto PLC (NYSE:RTP) and Rio Tinto Limited (OTC BB:RTOLY) seeks justice for Bougainville villagers and families harmed by Rio Tinto mine

SAN FRANCISCO - In an era where political leaders, corporations and consumers are debating the environmental costs of doing business globally, a new lawsuit by a group of landowners is challenging the role and liability of corporations in developing countries.

Using a Federal law that allows such civil actions, residents of Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) filed a class-action lawsuit today in the United States against London-based Rio Tinto, one of the world's largest mining companies. The suit claims the company engaged in a joint venture with the PNG government to maintain a copper mine on the island, which resulted in international environmental violations and crimes against humanity stemming from a military blockade motivated by civilian resistance to the mine.

The Rio Tinto lawsuit could have broad implications for other groups seeking redress from crimes committed during wartime by private companies acting in concert with local governments.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court in San Francisco. The suit seeks to represent Bougainvilleans who continue to be exposed to toxins resulting from the Panguna mine, individuals who lost property due to ongoing environmental contamination, and people injured or killed during the Bougainville conflict between 1989 and 1999.

Under the Alien Tort Claims Act, foreign nationals can bring suit in the United States against companies that violate international law. Rio Tinto is the parent company of subsidiary U.S. Borax Inc., headquartered in Los Angeles. The plaintiffs are seeking damages for massive environmental destruction, human rights violation and for discrimination against the islanders.

Environmental Events Leading to the Lawsuit
At the core of the lawsuit is the Panguna copper mine and the political events that erupted since the mine was established. Bougainville Island, located northeast of Australia, is part of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea. The people of Bougainville had lived on their rain-forested land continuously for thousands of years.

Between 1969 and 1972, the Australian Colonial Administration leased land on the island to Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), a mining subsidiary of Rio Tinto. The suit claims that landowners unsuccessfully resisted intrusion onto their land, and many Bougainvilleans were forced to relocate or flee the island. Three principal villages were relocated.

According to the suit, Rio Tinto then destroyed entire villages, razed the rain forest, sluiced off a hillside and established the world's largest open-cut mine, two kilometers across and half a kilometer deep. The mine excavated 300,000 tons of ore and water every day during its operation between 1972 and 1988.

The suit alleges that Rio Tinto laid the groundwork for environmental disaster by improperly dumping waste rock and tailings and emitting chemical and air pollutants without regard for the villagers. The tailings turned the fertile Jaba and Kawerong river valleys into wasteland, according to the suit. Fish and whole forests died and water became non-potable, turning 30 kilometers of the river system into a moonscape. As tailings made their way down the Jaba River to drain into Empress Augusta Bay, the Bougainvilleans major food source of fish was also destroyed in the bay.

According to the suit, Rio Tinto's mine operators also dumped chemicals directly into the Kawerong River, leaving the river alkaline and copper green. The mine also emitted dust clouds that created upper respiratory infections and asthma in villagers.

The suit charges, that environmental damage destroyed the villagers' food production and cash cropping systems. The Bougainville people began dying more frequently from upper respiratory infections, asthma and tuberculosis (TB). Coughs, colds and chronic ear infections became more common in children.

Political Events Leading Up to Lawsuit
When Panguna Mine originated in the late 1960s, Bougainville was an Australian colony. Australia granted independence to Papua New Guinea in 1975, insisting that Bougainville become part of the nation state.

In March 1988, the Bougainvilleans organized into the Panguna Land Owners Association and petitioned Rio Tinto for greater control of the land around the mine. By November 1988, when BCL ignored requests, individual Bougainville militants engaged in acts of sabotage that forced the mine to close. According to the suit, Rio Tinto stepped in and assisted PNG's military actions that were designed to stop the rebels.

According to the suit, PNG coordinated with Rio Tinto to bring in troops to Bougainville, allegedly providing helicopters for troop transport, to crush the resistance. By April 1990, the PNG army imposed a military blockade of Bougainville.

"The men and women of Bougainville stood up for themselves and forced the open-pit mine that was ravaging their environment to close, but they paid a terrible price at the hands of the PNG army which was encouraged by Rio Tinto," said Steve Berman, lead attorney for the plaintiffs. "The complaint alleges that Rio Tinto used their huge economic influence to effectively turn the PNG army into their private police force in the attempt to break the will and spirit of the Bougainvilleans, They didn't, and the villagers want justice for the horrible pain and suffering they were forced to endure."

PNG's blockade of Bougainville cut off medical supplies to pressure the people to submit to PNG control and reopen the mine, the suit claims. The siege resulted in deaths from preventable diseases such as TB and whooping cough, in more than 2,000 children in the first two years. Between 1990 and 1997, approximately 10,000 Bougainvilleans died as a result of the siege, the suit claims.

"We intend to prove that Rio Tinto treated Bougainvilleans with no respect and thought of them as inferior in every way: socially, economically, racially and politically. This lack of basic human compassion is one of the many reasons that Bougainvilleans are demanding justice," said Steve Berman.

The suit also claims that approximately 15,000 civilians died as a result of armed acts by PNG troops. PNG military actions included aerial bombings, burning of houses and villages, wanton killing and acts of cruelty, rape and degrading treatment, alleges the suit.

"By exerting financial pressure, Rio Tinto played an active role in the demise of the Bougainville's environment and people, as surely as if they'd pulled the trigger themselves," said Paul Luvera, co-counsel for the plaintiffs. "This case seeks justice for those who are still struggling to recover a life for themselves on their own land."

Headquartered in London, Rio Tinto operates more than 60 mines and processing plants in 40 countries. Claiming consolidated assets of US$12.8 billion in 1999, the company employs more than 34,000 workers worldwide.

Steve Berman is managing partner of Hagens Berman in Seattle. Recently cited as one of the nation's top litigation attornies by The National Law Journal, Berman is a nationally recognized expert in class action litigation. Berman represented 13 states in lawsuits against the tobacco industry. He was the prime architect of the groundbreaking Liggett Tobacco settlement, which resulted in the release of thousands of previously privileged tobacco industry documents. Berman also served as lead or co-lead counsel in several other high-profile cases including the Washington Public Power Supply litigation, which resulted in a settlement exceeding $850 million. Other cases include litigation involving the Exxon Valdez oil spill; Louisiana Pacific Siding; The Boeing Company; Morrison Knudsen; Piper Jaffray; Nordstrom; Boston Chicken; and Noah's Bagels.

Paul N. Luvera, partner at Luvera, Barnett, Brindley, Beninger and Cunningham in Seattle, is a leading trial lawyer in the United States. Luvera served as co-trial counsel in the State of Washington's trial against the tobacco industry. Luvera is a member of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Peter Gordon, managing partner of Slater & Gordon in Australia, is also working on the case. Gordon is one of Australia's leading litigation lawyers. Gordon has conducted major class actions both within Australia and oversees on behalf of Australian consumers.

EDITORS NOTE: Accredited media may request copies of the complaint, background material or the video news release by contacting Mark Firmani at 206-443-9357 or

CONTACT: Steve Berman, 206-623-7292,
Media Inquiries Only, Mark Firmani, 206-443-9357,

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For immediate release, The Hague, Wednesday September 6, 2000.


In the latest development, the BRA intelligence network has just uncovered another most disturbing news which could again very easily further jeopardize and derail the Bougainville peace process, especially when the current political negotiations are at the very critical stage.

Reliable sources have informed the BRA intelligence that the ex-Sandline military hardware which was purchased by the former Chan/Haiveta Government and later impounded by the Australian authorities in Queensland more than three (3) years ago amidst the Sandline crisis, was released and delivered to Bougainville through Honiara about two (2) weeks ago.

The sources confirmed that the supplies of high power fire arms were loaded ex-Brisbane and arrived in Honiara on 24 August on the vessel identified as MV Captaine Fearn Voyage No. 33 in seven (7), what may appear to be falsely labeled large sea containers addressed to Aust Depart. of Defence/Honiara (with no transit address to Bougainville or PNG). The vessel berth at Honiara wharf on the 25 August before the containers were transferred/reloaded again to another Australian chartered ship identified as MV Neptune Gale at Honiara wharf on 26 August which departed to Bougainville at 1730 hours.

An eyewitness account on the MV Neptune Gale who claim to have accompanied the huge consignment further revealed to BRA intelligence that the vessel arrived Loloho at 1730 hours on 28 August 2000. The same eyewitness account has also confirmed that the containers were actually seen unloaded by the PNGDF personnel at Loloho Port on the 29 August 2000 at 0800 hours. MV Neptune Gale then departed Loloho at 1300 hours and arrived back in Honiara last Saturday, September 2, 2000. The related documents which confirm all these details are now already in possession of the BRA intelligence.

According to the sources, the cargo is believed to have both the personal knowledge and the authorization for clearance and trans-shipment of the PNG Foreign Minister Sir John Kaputin and the former PNGDF Commander Col. Leo Nuia when they were recently in Honiara about two (2) weeks ago, whilst under the pretext of the consulting with the Solomon Islands Government to address the current ethnic conflict between the Malaitans and Guadalcanal people.

The BRA intelligence is therefore of the very strong view that the recent report on the military build-up, particularly in Central Bougainville must obviously have some direct link to these military hardware supplies. If the report is true, then BRA would like to question these three regional countries about their sincerity to support the resolution of the Bougainville conflict through peaceful means.

BRA demands proper investigation and some honest answers from the countries being implicated by this new revelation/allegation as to How, When, Why and Who was responsible for releasing the cargo from Australia in the first place, secondly the motive for trans-shipping the supplies through Solomon Islands, and thirdly the reason for bringing in the hardware especially at this time of the very important political negotiations just before the 25th Anniversary of PNG's independence.

For further information, please contact Mr Martin R Miriori on telephone Number 31 70 4277027


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Progress on B'ville talks

THE Bougainville delegation has welcomed some aspects of the National Government's proposal on autonomy and referendum on independence for Bougainville.

But the current negotiations were adjourned to today on the insistence of the Bougainville delegation to give them time to discuss the areas of the proposal which the two parties differ. A document stating the Bougainville delegation's position said they welcomed the agreement of the National Government to many aspects of the proposal. These are constitutional guarantee of autonomy and organic law on autonomy for Bougainville, provision for Bougainville to adopt its own constitution and increased powers and functions for Bougainville (many of the powers suggested as final powers for Bougainville). On the issue of referendum, Bougainville welcomed many aspects of the government proposal but said it was essential that the National Government now go further and open the door to the right to hold a referendum on independence at some future time. The delegation demanded that Bougainville have the guaranteed future right to hold a referendum on independence. On autonomy, the delegation said Bougainville was open to discuss with the National Government the wider range of powers that the Government wished to retain, adding there was room for compromise. But they said that once agreement was reached on these powers the balance of powers should be available to Bougainville which included guaranteed control of funding sources and personnel.

Source: POSTCOURIER - 6 September 00

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Leaders unaware of starvation reports

OFFICIALS from both the National Government and the Bougainville Administration yesterday denied being told of problems including starvation on South Bougainville.

This is despite media reports this week that outlined various problems affecting villagers around that area and requests for immediate food assistance from non-government organisations. Early this week, a World Vision worker based in Bougainville, Marcia Dwonczyk, said that there was high risk of starvation in parts of Siwai, Telei and Buin in South Bougainville. Ms Dwonczyk also spoke of the urgent need for food supplies from the Government for the next four months. Yesterday, officials from the Office of Bougainville Affairs (OBA) and the Bougainville Administration said they were not aware of the issue and attempts to obtain comments from Vice OBA Minister and South Bougainville MP Michael Laimo was unsuccessful. An official from the OBA (who did not wish to be named) told the Post-Courier yesterday that he worked in South Bougainville but he was not aware of the high risk of starvation there.

Source: POSTCOURIER - 6 September 00

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Peace hopes founder after PM throws water on Bougainville referendum

Port Moresby: Bougainville leaders preparing for yesterday's "final" peace talks in the secessionist province said they were "bitterly disappointed" by the opposition of the Prime Minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, to a referendum on independence.

The Governor of North Solomons Province (Bougainville), Mr John Momis, said: "If the Government holds to this line there is a real risk that the peace process will fail."

A government delegation led by the Bougainville Affairs Minister, Sir Michael Somare, yesterday began what was to be a final peace negotiation meeting with Mr Momis, Mr Joseph Kabui, the president of the Bougainville People's Congress and a former Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) leader, and other island leaders.

In March, after 15 months of negotiations, Sir Michael agreed to take to Cabinet a plan for greater autonomy on Bougainville - one of PNG's 19 provinces - and an eventual referendum on total independence.

However, in an address to the nation last Friday, the Prime Minister said his Government was firmly against secession or a referendum on independence, and that Bougainville would not be given greater autonomy unless BRA guerillas surrendered their arms.

The PNG Defence Force and the BRA fought a war on the island for nine years until a ceasefire was signed three years ago.

As the national government and Bougainvillean leaders prepared for their meeting in the town of Rabaul, East New Britain Province, yesterday Mr Momis said Bougainville rebels would not dispose of their weapons until the political issues were resolved.

He said "the issue of referendum on independence is fundamental to any resolution of the Bougainville crisis".

"The Government set the date of September 15 [as a deadline for final political resolution] and now has delivered an approach that gives little hope for an early outcome."


Source: Sydney Morning Herald, World News, 5 September 00

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Bougainville leaders to present petition today

A PETITION calling for a vote for higher autonomy and referendum on independence for Bougainville will be presented to Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare and his team in Rabaul today.

The petition was delivered to Governor John Momis and Bougainville People's Congress president Joseph Kabui during a peaceful march in Arawa last week. The petition is signed by the leaders who organised the march. The leaders' names are listed at the back of the petition. They want the United Nation Observer Mission on Bougainville to supervise the vote by the people on the highest autonomy and a referendum on independence if the political negotiations with the National Government fail. They gave Sept 15 as the deadline for the National Government to favourably address the issues of greatest autonomy and a referendum on independence for the island. The petition will be handed over to the National Government's negotiating team led by Sir Michael in a fifth round of peace talks, which is expected to begin today in Rabaul. The petition reads: "We people of South, Central, and North Bougainville are fully committed to the Burnham Truce that led to the ceasefire agreement and call on the PNG and Bougainville leaders to demonstrate real serious commitments on the question of highest autonomy and a binding referendum on independence." Signed by the representatives of various groups on the island, including the BRA, the petition said: "We fully support our leaders and call on them to maintain a lasting political solution to the 10 years conflict." "We reaffirm our commitment to the Buin Declaration that talks about an independent homeland for Bougainville and the resolution passed by the joint executives of the BPC and Bougainville Interim Provincial Government on July 28, 2000." A separate petition signed by the BRA commanders and delivered to Mr Momis and Mr Kabui, read in part: "We will no longer entertain their (National Government) treatment ... and we have already seen that there is a lot of ceasefire and peace violations (involving) the PNG security forces."

Source: The National, 4 September 00

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Momis says rebels will keep weapons until issues are resolved


BOUGAINVILLE rebel elements will not dispose of their weapons until the political issues are settled, North Solomons Governor John Momis declared yesterday.

Speaking on the eve of the leaders' talks in Rabaul, he also said the Bougainville delegation is upset at the Government's stand against the promised referendum on independence. Mr Momis said the Bougainville leaders will attend the Rabaul talks today but rebel elements have told him that they will not agree to the arms disposal plan outlined in Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta's statement in Parliament last

Friday. "On weapons disposal, it is important to note that all parties to the Bougainville conflict have weapons. At least the parties have already agreed in principle to the process of disposal," he said. "Weapons disposal is now (contingent) upon the resolution of the political issues. Once they are agreed, then weapons disposal will occur." Mr Momis said in a joint statement with Bougainville People's Congress vice-president James Tanis that the Bougainvillean leaders' position called for greater autonomy and the referendum for independence, which took the Government 15 months to respond to. "The concept outlined by the Prime Minister rejects the Bougainville position on the referendum on independence ... it appears designed to delay the implementation of autonomy and fails the people of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea," Mr Momis said. "The Government has been using the media to suggest that it would agree to the Bougainville proposal of referendum on independence. In fact, all they have raised is a referendum on autonomy," he said. "At face value it appears that after all of the work that Bougainvilleans have put into developing a negotiating position for the Bougainville parties, the Government has now decided to ignore the work and attempt to impose its own political will on Bougainville regardless of the views of the people themselves." Mr Momis and Mr Tanis said a referendum on independence is fundamental to the resolution of any Bougainville crisis, and that the Government must genuinely deal with the issue. Such issues like addressing the weapons disposal go hand-in-hand with the referendum, they said.

Source: The National, 4 September 00

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Secession not an option for Bougainville, says PM

PRIME Minister Sir Mekere on Friday reaffirmed the National Government's stand that secession for North Solomons province is not an option.

At the same time Sir Mekere announced that:

The National Committee on Bougainville has adopted a "flexible approach" towards autonomy which Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare will present to Bougainville leaders in Rabaul this week; A weapons disposal plan must be in place before any legislation on autonomy takes effect; and A nationwide debate on constitutional changes to allow for referenda will begin on the eve of Papua New Guinea's 25th Anniversary this month.

In a major statement on the Bougainville peace process, autonomy and referendum to Parliament, Sir Mekere downgraded a promised eventual referendum on independence - agreed under pressure by Sir Michael with the Bougainvilleans in Port Moresby on March 23 - to referenda on the acceptance or otherwise of greater autonomy that might be given to the islanders. He said, "although the word 'referendum' has come to be used in some circles as a form of short-hand for a binding referendum on independence for Bougainville, let me make clear that the Government's (and, I believe, the entire Parliament's) position for national sovereignty, unity and independence - and against secession - remains".

"But the question of a possible referendum, say, on the continuing suitability and acceptability of the arrangements for autonomy in Bougainville is still on the table," said Sir Mekere. He quoted the signatories to the March 23 Loloata Understanding that the holding of a referendum "may be deferred until after the autonomy has been implemented and can be fairly and properly judged". "We believe that the appropriate context for sounding out public opinion is, say, after three or so five-yearly joint reviews of a functioning system of arrangements for autonomy," he said. He said Sir Michael had promised Bougainville leaders he would bring their proposals, including the referendum question, before Cabinet for consideration and decision. "He has now honoured his commitment, with my active support," the Prime Minister said. Sir Mekere noted that the major sticking-point in the political talks had been the Bougainville delegation's proposal of a constitutional guarantee for a binding referendum on independence. "The difficulties it poses begin with the longstanding and unshakeable determination of every Papua New Guinea Government since independence - and every significant shade of current political opinion - to ensure that Papua New Guinea remains a single, united and sovereign nation," he said.

Bougainvillean leaders had earlier set a Sept 15 deadline for Waigani to finalise legislative proposals for greater autonomy and an eventual referendum on independence. The planned meeting between Government and Bougainville leaders in Rabaul starting today would be an important opportunity for parties to discuss details of options for Bougainville's political status. On the question of a national debate on referenda, Sir Mekere said the Constitution did not provide for people to be consulted directly on matters of national importance through referenda. "Perhaps, it is time that it should," he added. "So I am taking the initiative on the question by proposing that Parliament should consider the option, and express its views on how best to proceed. I am moving a motion intended to open discussion of the important national issues involved by asking the Parliament to endorse the idea that the national Constitution should be amended to provide a proper, lawful framework for referenda. I believe that the motion should then be adjourned so that Members can consult their constituents - and work through the issues - before Parliament resumes in a few weeks, and continues the debate. My purpose in proposing such a procedure is to promote public awareness, understanding and support of the issues involved - it is, emphatically, not delay."

Sir Mekere said that the very idea that the Constitution should make formal provision for referenda raised important questions of constitutional principle and practice. The founding fathers did not simply overlook the possibility of including such a provision, they decided against it, he said, adding that whether or not to establish such a mechanism was an important national question.

Source: The National, 4 September 00

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PM to outline autonomy stand

PRIME Minister Sir Mekere Morauta will make a statement in Parliament today in relation to the Bougainville political talks.

Sir Mekere said yesterday the statement comes after detailed bipartisan discussions over a long period about the Government's policy on the maintenance of peace by peaceful means, the restoration of essential and basic services on Bougainville, the highest possible autonomy for the province and requests by Bougainville leaders for a referendum. Sir Mekere said the statement would cover these basic matters adding that the Bougainville delegation in Port Moresby and foreign missions are being briefed on the statement. In another development, a Bougainville rebel faction led Ishmael Toroama has indicated it will refuse to discuss weapons disposal, a pre-requisite to the referendum-autonomy talks next week, because of the increasing presence of PNG Defence Force personnel in parts of Bougainville. Although Defence Minister Muki Taranupi told Parliament he was not aware of an increase in personnel, Mr Toroama insists that the latest increase put the number of soldiers in Buka to 120 from the original 80; in Loloho to 75 from 3); Wakunai - 60 (24); and Buin 76 (37). Mr Toroama's claims are contained in a July 31 letter to the head of the United Nations Observer Mission on Bougainville, Noel Sinclair. He told Mr Sinclair that the PNGDF had also issued the "Military Order 281834z for re-arming of the resistance." He said that because of this his group will not take part in further talks of the peace process consultative committee (PPCC) which allows former fighting factions to meet with National Government agencies to discuss important issues including disposal of weapons. The latest talks were held in Arawa on Aug 23 following the first one on July 26.

Source: The National, 1 September 00

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Just stick to the facts, Momis tells Somare

THE NATIONAL Government is misleading the people of PNG through inaccurate and emotive statements, and it should stop doing so, says Bougainville Governor John Momis.

The governor said in a press statement yesterday that he is both surprised and disappointed by comments reportedly made by Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare during a news conference on Tuesday. "I am surprised by the number of factual errors and inaccuracies contained in what Sir Michael said. These do nothing but create a very misleading picture of the situation. For instance, Sir Michael says that the National Government has approved K80m in funding for Bougainville. Where on earth did he get that figure? I only wish we had that kind of money. To date, we have been given less than one-tenth of that amount. In fact, even the funding promised to us in the 2000 National Budget has not been arriving on time. Up to July, we are owed some K4.5m in grant payment shortfalls. Another special appropriation of about K4m approved by Prime Minister and Treasurer Sir Mekere Morauta in the 2000 Budget has not been released to us, despite our best efforts," Mr Momis said.

He said the failure of the National Government to pay the budget grants on time and to release the funds promised is putting enormous pressure on the Bougainville Government to maintain even the most basic level of services. "We are struggling to just keep our heads above the water with the meagre funding we are getting. It is so frustrating to hear Sir Michael talk of K80m we have never seen. More to the point, it is simply wrong," Mr Momis said. He also took issue with Sir Michael's criticism of the Bougainville Government. Mr Momis said: "Sir Michael says that it is up to us to run the government and that if we can't organise ourselves, then there must be something wrong. Of course it's up to us to run the Bougainville government, and yes, there is something wrong - we have no money. The National Government is holding it back." He questioned the whereabouts of the K80m. "It was all well and good to talk of National Government approving funds, but where is it? If there is K80m approved for us, then I challenge Sir Michael to give us the money and let us get on with the job," he said.

Mr Momis said he is also disappointed because comments by Sir Michael do not advance the peace process and, indeed, put it at risk. In particular, the governor criticised Sir Michael's suggestion that some people in Bougainville might want to start fighting again. He said such comments are uncalled for and dangerous to the peace process. "To in any way we suggest that any one here would willingly go back to fighting is both insulting and the height of stupidity. No one who has lived through the past 10 years of horror could possibly want a repeat of that." Mr Momis added that Bougainvilleans are united and that this has made it possible to deal with the National Government on the key issues of highest autonomy and referendum. He said that the National Government has up to now been unable to come up with a proper and reasoned response to the Joint Bougainville Negotiating position. "The best way to stop the expressions of frustration is for the National Government to deal genuinely and honestly with the key issues. It must stop trying to distract us from our focus on the key issues, stop looking for excuses and stop blaming others for their own failure to deliver."

Source: The National, 1 September 00

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Contact Details:

BFM - Bougainville Freedom Movement (Coordination in Australia):
VIKKI JOHN - e-mail:
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
Phone/Fax +61-2-9804-7632 , Mobile +61-(0)414-226-428

MARTIN MIRIORI (International BIG Secretary in Europe, NL)
e-mail: (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Org.)
Phone +31-55-577-99-60 , Fax +31-55-577-99-39

MAX WATTS - (specialised Journalist) email:
P.O. Box 98, Annandale NSW 2038, Australia
Phone +61-2-9564-1147 , Phone/Fax +61-2-9818-2343 (work)