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Bougainville Updates

This page carries the October 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: October 2000


Talks on self-rule

HIGHEST autonomy and a referendum on independence is the least Bougainville would accept.

That was the word from co-leader of the Bougainville negotiating team and president of the Bougainville People's Congress, Joseph Kabui. Mr Kabui (pictured at left), who returned to Bougainville from the sixth round of negotiations with the National Government last weekend, said the negotiations were dragging on and taking time as there were a lot of things to discuss.

Mr Kabui said he saw the talks as the most crucial and therefore it was important to make sure that whatever agreement was reached should be completed properly.

He said: "We continue to remind ourselves and the Papua New Guinea Government that we must not repeat the same mistake of 1976, when the Bougainville Copper agreement was signed. "This agreement was very important to us, but because it wasn't handled properly we are suffering today. What we are seeing today is the cause of this."

He said after 10 years of the Bougainville crisis, people had witnessed and experienced a lot of things. And as such any agreement signed now must be good for the people of Bougainville. "It is with this conviction that the joint Bougainville leadership of Governor John Momis and myself have unequivocally declared that our position is highest autonomy and referendum for Bougainville and nothing else," Mr Kabui said.

Source: Postcourier, 27 Oct 00

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Bougainville peace talks stall over arms

Port Moresby: A dispute over the timing and arrangement for the disarmament of former secessionist rebels on Bougainville has stalled final peace talks on the island's political future.

Guerilla hardliners are urging a pull-out from negotiations here with the Papua New Guinea Government.

In Gizo, Solomon Islands, the commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), "General" Ishmael Toroama, has warned that his force will abandon the peace process unless it gains a "mutually agreed and iron-clad agreement".

In Port Moresby the former BRA operations commander, Peter Naguo, has called on Bougainville leaders locked in talks with the central government to withdraw from the negotiations and return to Bougainville.

General Toroama has also rallied against Australia's promise of $10 million to help restructure and pay off the debts of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF), saying it is a threat to "the fragile peace process".

Since 1998 more than 150 soldiers and defence personnel from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu have maintained the peace on the island. They were due to leave last December, in expectation of a political settlement.

The Acting Bougainville Affairs Minister, Moi Avei, began the expected "final" peace talks with Bougainvillean leaders in Port Moresby this week, with a formal signing of an agreement planned for the former Bougainville capital of Arawa next Tuesday.

But the talks have dragged on, with no official indication of the reasons for the delay. BRA hardliners insisted, sources said, that weapons would not be surrendered until Port Moresby legislated for a referendum giving Bougainvilleans the option of independence.

General Toroama said 30 crack Australian SAS experts would be re-training PNG soldiers, and the Howard Government's aid package was "a reopening of the former Labor government's open policy of assisting the PNGDF prosecute the war on Bougainville".

- Australian Associated Press

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, 21 October 2000

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ATTENTION: ALL MEDIA - PRIORTY - URGENT

Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) gravely concerned at the John Howard Military Package Deal between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

GIZO Solomon Islands: Thursday 19, October 2000: In a statement issued by new BRA Commander General Ishmael Toroama from Gizo Solomon Islands; Comdr. Toroama was most concerned at the new military package deal between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

" The PNGDF is still sitting on Bougainville. If this defence package deal means re-equipping and strengthening the PNGDF forces on Bougainville, then there is a real threat to the PNG/Bougainville fragile peace process", said Toroama.

Comdr. Toroama said the BRA forces have never been trained by anyone includingAustralia. But included in this package will be 30 crack Australian SAS trainers to re-train members of the Papua New Guinea Defence force.

" Fifteen million ($15M) is a lot of money that should have been given to the Aids epidemic now crippling Papua New Guinea, instead of throwing it after the bad. AIDS is PNG's No.1 "enemy" that its leaders should be concentrating on. The basis of the new military package deal is premised on the huge debt the PNGDF incurred in nine years of unsuccessfully prosecuting war against the BRA on Bougainville", advised Comdr. Toroama.

" Not only is this new package deal sending an extremely bad signal to the BRA; but it is also a re-opening of the former Australian Labour Government open policy of assisting the PNGDF prosecute the war on Bougainville", said Toroama..

The only pacific island states with "standing armies" are in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. It has been proven that small island states can not run and finance such armies in the long term. Militarisation is something that is not needed in our region and should be banned, said Comdr. Toroama from the Solomons.

Comdr. Toroama has sent this warning to the negotiating parties now in Port Moresby that unless a mutually agreed and ironclad agreement is reached on the political future of Bougainville - the BRA would pull out of the peace process.

"Do not come home with a second-rate deal. After ten years of war and 15,000 dead on Bougainville - it would be dishonouring precious lives sacrificed for the future of Bougainville", concluded Comdr. Toroama.

Source: FOR ANY FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: CELL PHONE; 0414 226 428.

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Australia to bail out PNG defence By South Pacific correspondent

AUSTRALIA is to help Papua New Guinea reform its armed forces with an aid package that includes funding for soldiers' rations and unpaid allowances.

Defence aid to Port Moresby will treble to nearly $25 million this year in support of the attempt by the Morauta Government to overhaul the country's increasingly unruly forces.

John Howard said yesterday Australia would provide a special package of immediate aid, including a financial bail-out for the PNG Defence Force, which has been collecting debts since its Bougainville deployment began 10 years ago.

Worth almost $15 million in total, the one-off package of assistance is over and above the annual $8 million provided under Australia's Defence Co-operation Program.

Up to 30 Australian defence advisers may be deployed into a PNG force increasingly beset with discipline, corruption and management problems.

The assistance, which represents a large shift in Australia's defence policy with PNG, follows a personal request to Mr Howard from his PNG counterpart Mekere Morauta during the Olympics.

Sir Mekere outlined his reform plan yesterday to the PNG parliament, saying the defence force was ill-disciplined and incapable of protecting the nation.

In March, soldiers demonstrated in Port Moresby over poor wages, accommodation, catering and unpaid service benefits.

Last month on PNG's 25th anniversary of independence, enraged soldiers burned down their barracks at Wewak.

A just-completed review of the defence force also revealed that the force could not meet its basic needs, including feeding its men, and would not be able to deploy a significant force anywhere in the country in less than 30 days. Sir Mekere's reform plans are expected to reduce the force from its current level of 4200 men to about 1500 by the middle of next year.

Sir Mekere yesterday announced plans for a commonwealth-sponsored eminent persons group to oversee the reforms. An Australian is expected to head this group, given the long history of Australian involvement in the PNG Defence Force, which was established at independence in 1975.

Source: The Australian, 19 October 2000

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News in Brief - B'ville talks delayed

THE Bougainville development summit scheduled to have started yesterday has been indefinitely postponed.

Governor John Momis' office in Buka said yesterday the summit, intended to look at development issues to help foster the peace process on Bougainville, had been put off because there was no money. Coupled with that was the fact that Bougainvillean leaders supposed to take part were busy in ongoing negotiations with the national government on the political future of the province. Mr Momis' chief of staff James Togel said participant speakers had been told of the postponement but had urged leaders and officials preparing for it to continue their preparatory work. He said the summit would be held, but the date had yet to be set.

Source: Postcourier - 17 Oct 00

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B'ville deal 'on table'

THE National Government yesterday presented a draft proposal on the issue of referendum to Bougainvillean leaders.

Bougainville Affairs minister Sir Michael Somare told a meeting with Bougainville leaders the debate on the referendum idea would continue to allow as many Members as possible to express their view. "It is vital that every Member who wants to is given the chance to speak if we are going to get the high level of bipartisan support we will need to insert a provision for the holding of referenda in the National Constitution and pass an appropriate Organic Law, " he said. He did not disclose details of the draft proposal, but said a task force of senior officials from key government agencies had been working on a draft deal on autonomy, referendum and other important aspects of the peace process. "Work has also been progressing on other fronts, including the 2001 Budget though, regrettably, not on weapons disposal, " he said. Sir Michael said peace would be won only if it was done on multiple fronts. "There is no other way; and there are no partial solutions". Peace-building involved a package of diverse measures, requiring a comprehensive and integrated approach, he said. Various measures must be in place for meaningful peace-building to occur. "The draft agreement embodies such an approach. In doing so, it is absolutely consistent with what was agreed at Lincoln, at Rabaul, and at the various meetings we have had in-between, " Sir Michael said. He said the deal covered such political issues as autonomy and referendum - as well as other aspects of peace-building, such as weapons disposal and re-establishment of civil authority, reconciliation, restoration and development. It is intended to provide a basis for drafting instructions and the drawing-up of appropriate legislation, as well as the preparation of detailed plans, and joint action to achieve lasting peace by peaceful means. He said the draft was an agenda for orderly discussion on a wide range of subjects. "Let me be clear: the National Government delegation is not putting the draft on the table on a take-all-or-nothing basis. It has been prepared for discussion, in the hope it will help us define common ground. But let me also make clear that not every issue is wide open: many are, quite emphatically, not. Just as many Bougainvilleans hold very strong views on certain questions, so do many other Papua New Guineans. We must respect views on all sides." He said the national context could not be ignored if real results were to be achieved. "The draft is, at its heart, a very practical document, intended to assist us in reaching agreements which are likely to attract sufficient support to result in legislation," he said.

Source: Postcourier - 13 Oct 00

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Wakon worried over grenades on loose

POLICE Commissioner John Wakon said there were a lot of hand grenades "on the street" in Papua New Guinea.

Mr Wakon cited several examples of grenades having been used in fights around the country, the latest at Morata in Port Moresby last weekend. Other incidents cited by Mr Wakon were in Gerehu, where a hand grenade was thrown under a police vehicle, and the attempted hold-up of the Papua New Guinea Banking Corporation downtown Port Moresby branch. An incident, which was only reported to police yesterday, happened at Bena in the Eastern Highlands Province where a grenade was used during a tribal fight between two clans on October 4. A woman, 19, and two men in their early 20s, were killed by shots from high powered weapons during the clash but no casualties were reported after the grenade blast. Defence Force acting commander Brigadier General Carl Marlpo said the grenades could have come from soldiers who had left Bougainville. He said they could not have come from the armories that were broken into a few years ago because only military firearms were held in the armories. General Marlpo said high powered explosives and ammunition such as grenades, were kept separately and so the hand grenades would not have come from the break and enter incidents. He said the only way these hand grenades could be identified was when fragments were collected and analysed. General Marlpo said the patch numbers could be identified and then established where and to who the weapons were sold. He said because the weapons were yet to be identified, he could only guess where the hand grenades came from. General Marlpo said if police asked for their help, their explosive experts could try to identify where the hand grenades came from. Mr Wakon agreed with General Marlpo that the weapons could have come from Bougainville. He said the Defence Force needed to account for the missing hand grenades on Bougainville. A proper stocktake could mean there were more hand grenades "out there" however the police could not detect them. He appealed to members of the public who had grenades to give them to police immediately. He asked that people with information on such weapons report to police. Mr Wakon said the weapons endangered a lot more lives compared to firearms. He said a bullet usually harmed an individual while a hand grenade often caused harm to more than one person and caused death.

Source: Postcourier, 12 October, 00

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Final round of Bougainville talks starts tomorrow

THE FINAL round of talks on the future political status of Bougainville is expected to start tomorrow in Port Moresby, before the signing of an agreement in Arawa, Central Bougainville.

In this round of talks the leaders will iron out the outstanding issues of greater autonomy and the referendum on political future of Bougainville. A draft agreement is expected to be finalised at the conclusion of the meeting between core leaders from both the National Government and Bougainville. This will be followed by the signing of the agreement on Oct 18 in Arawa. More details of this round of talks were unavailable. Bougainville Peoples' Congress president Joseph Kabui and his delegation are expected to arrive from Buka today, said a source in the Bougainville Affairs Office in Port Moresby.

Source: The National, 11 Oct 00

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Government planning to reduce PNGDF size

By ISAAC NICHOLAS

THE Government will seriously consider reducing the size of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta told Parliament yesterday.

"My view is that the culture of instability in the Defence Force is internalised and is a very serious problem," Sir Mekere said. "Can we afford it? Those are the kinds of questions that we will have to address in the coming months. "Otherwise we are sitting on a simmering time bomb which may explode in future." Later, in the afternoon the National Executive Council met and endorsed an interim report of the officials committee appointed by the Ministerial Task Force on Defence which is looking at ways of solving the problems in the Defence Force and the Department of Defence, and rebuilding both.

"It is imperative that we have a Defence Force that is willing and able to look after our national security interests," Sir Mekere said in a statement last night announcing the NEC endorsement. "At the moment, from our initial investigations, it does not have that capacity. So we must look at it very closely, with an open mind and with the best advice available, to see how we can provide protection for the nation that is within our capacity. What we are seeing in the Defence Force and the Defence Department today are the signs of institutional breakdown that has arisen because of years of neglect and mismanagement. "This Government will not walk away from these problems. We will address them head-on and arrive at solutions that are in the national interest." Most of yesterday's Question Time in Parliament was taken up by questions directed at Sir Mekere and Defence Minister Muki Taranupi on the recent soldiers' unrest in Port Moresby and Moem to food shortages for security forces on Bougainville and the progress on the current review of the Defence Force.

Sir Mekere said in reply to questions from Ambunti-Drekikir MP Judah Akesim on the Moem rampage: "We have to take a serious look at the size and structure of the Defence Force, the size and structure of the air element, the navy. Can we have a mixture that is geared towards cost cutting and maximum benefit to the country?" He said he met with his Australian counterpart John Howard in Sydney last week and discussed, among others, the future of the Defence Force. He plans to make major statement on the PNGDF in Parliament next week, he added. Minister Taranupi, in reply to questions from Central Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai, admitted that soldiers were on only one meal a day in Bougainville, that being dinner because the K2 million Bougainville operations funds ran out in June this year. Mr Taranupi said money was being taken from other Defence votes to feed the soldiers while villagers were also helping by supplying local garden produce. Former Defence Force Commander and Central Regional MP Ted Diro in a supplementary question said that in any organisation where there was instability, the fault must be within from the command structure. Mr Diro said the current Defence Force commander was the cause of some of the problems and should be excluded from any review which should preferably be done by a parliamentary committee or an independent outside organisation. Moresby Northeast MP and former police commander Philip Taku offered to help the troops on Bougainville with the discretionary component of his Rural Development Fund and asked Rural Development Minister William Ebenosi for permission to do so. Mr Ebenosi replied that it was "okay" because it was a national concern.

Source: The National, 11 Oct 00

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Ship still on Cairns slipway

THE Bougainville Provincial Government vessel, MV Sankamap is still on the slipway in Cairns, Australia awaiting more funds to off-set the repair bill.

Used to ferry passengers and cargo between Bougainville and other island provinces, MV Sankamap arrived in Cairns in February for a refit and service and has been there since. The boat had on board 19 crew members when it went to Cairns. The crew were repatriated after a month because of financial difficulties.

Vessel coordinator and member for atolls Pais Taehu said work on the ship should be completed next week and the boat is expected back by the end of this month.

Mr Taehu however, said that the Bougainville administration needed another $A200,000 (K309,977) to pay for the refit. He said $A500,000 (K754,944) had already been settled by the Office of Bougainville Affairs and the remaining would have to come from the provincial government.

"While waiting for the program to be completed most of the work on the ship had been covered and it is only a portion that is yet to be done," Mr Taehu said.

"Inspections have been made and the refit is just about complete. The ship is waiting for Australian marine surveyors to determine its sea worthiness. When it eventually comes to PNG our surveyors would carry out the same survey to fully verify the conditions of the vessel." He said he would be in Cairns next week to sort things out. Bougainville administration officials yesterday said they would pay the balance of the refit bill, hopefully no later then two weeks. The officials said they wanted the ship back in operation as soon as possible.

Source: Postcourier - 6 Oct 00

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Kabui accuses bureaucrats of delaying Bougainville deal

The president of the Bougainville Peoples Congress, Joseph Kabui, has accused bureaucrats in the Papua New Guinea Government of prolonging the peace process for Bougainville.

Mr Kabui says he's disappointed over the result of last week's follow-up meeting between the National Government and Bougainville technical officers. He says briefs of the meeting indicate more work needs to be done before any long-lasting solution can be reached. He says all is going well at the political level but the bureaucrats are dragging their feet. Mr Kabui says the next round of talks scheduled to be held in Arawa from next Tuesday will determine whether an agreement will be signed.

(14:14:58 AEST)

Source: Radio Australia, World News 5 October 00

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Cabinet urged to speed up talks on Bougainville autonomy

By JACK METTA
THE ceasefire Bougainville on April 30, 1998 was sufficient for the National Government to begin legislative changes in order to accommodate the two key issues of autonomy and referendum for independence on Bougainville, according to BRA secretary Robinson Asotau.

Mr Asotau, who has since taken over the responsibilities of technical officers and leadership meetings from Bougainville rebel commander Sam Kauona was part of the Bougainville team at the recent peace talks in Rabaul. He made the remarks in light of Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta's statement that before any legislation for autonomy and referendum takes effect, the question of disarmament and weapons disposal must be addressed by the leaders of Bougainville. "This stance has upset many Bougainvillean leaders involved in the peace process, including Governor John Momis, BPC President Joe Kabui and rebel leader Sam Kauona. The arms issue was a difficult one that needed leaders from both the National Government and the Bougainville side to provide a political environment that is conducive for it to happen," Mr Asotau said. "The passage of a new law to accommodate autonomy and a referendum for Bougainville in the context of arms disposal in itself is an assurance by former combatants that the political solution is in the making and that arms are no longer essential. The longer the Government takes to seriously address these two key issues, the longer it will take for the arms disposal program to begin," Mr Asotau said. "The people of this country must be made aware that all BRA weapons are not owned by the former Bougainville Interim Government as believed by the Government. In our case, the weapons are owned by individual combatants and for them to just simply give them away, is beyond any military comparison, unless of course an agreed political answer is put in place." Mr Asotau said BRA already has a weapons disposal program which he envisaged would be implemented when the autonomous Bougainville government is formed and is fairly and properly judged by the people of Bougainville.

Source: The National - 3 October 00

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Atolls hit by rising sea levels

COMMUNITIES on Bougainvillea's group of atolls threatened by the rising sea levels are calling on the provincial government to assist in resettling them.

The Small Island Developing States Network, a non government group based in the Pacific said in a bulletin the communities under threat include the outer atolls of the Carterets, Mortlock, Nuguria, Tasman and the Nissan groups. Since the 1960s, the Carterets group has suffered the effects of global warming commonly known as the greenhouse effect, it claimed. The report stated that the shorelines of the atoll islands have been washed away at an alarming rate. The islanders are in fear that the rising seas will completely flood the atolls in the next 10 years, leaving them without homes. The Bougainville provincial government at one stage had a program whereby Carteret islanders from the most affected atolls were resettled in central Bougainville. However, they returned home to the islands after the secessionist movement on the Bougainville mainland in 1990, it said. The report stated that efforts are urgently needed by the provincial government to relocate these communities on mainland Bougainville. The atolls communities affected are situated northeast of Bougainville.

Source: The National, Monday 2 Oct 00

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Buka hospital gets new facilities

By BETSY INUWAI BUKA Hospital can now cater for more patients with better facilities provided, thanks to the Bougainville Copper Foundation. BCF has given two Pulse Oximeter Novametrix 515B, two Baby Scale-Seca 725, one Suction Pump Eastern Model GS-701, and an Obstetric Unit ES-701 with cup. According to the Rio Tinto Company and BCF Secretary Paul Coleman these instruments cost K36,985. He said the instruments were requested at the beginning of this year however, BCF could not act immediately because the order had to be made overseas. Mr Coleman said the medical gear arrived a few days ago and was sent to Bougainville yesterday afternoon. BCF was formed in 1973 to help support the people of Bougainville and the services increased in 1997.

Source: The National, Monday 2 Oct 00

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Australia confident of PNG: PM

PRIME Minister Sir Mekere Morauta met his Australian counterpart John Howard in Sydney last Thursday for talks on a number of subjects of mutual interest. These included regional security and stability, the PNG-Queensland gas project and elements of Papua New Guinea's Structural Reform Program. The two Prime Ministers also discussed progress on Bougainville, the reform of the Papua New Guinea economy, the political integrity bill, rebuilding the PNG Defence Force and the removal of obstacles to investment and growth. Sir Mekere also met with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke and Vanuatu Prime Minister Barak Sope.

Further official-level talks are continuing on some of these subjects, involving a delegation led by Chief Secretary to Government Robert Igara. Sir Mekere said the meetings reflect a growing confidence by Australia in the Papua New Guinea Government's commitment to broad-based and lasting reform, reconstruction and development. "Australia has a growing understanding of the way Papua New Guinea is carrying out its Structural Reform Program and the new policies that underlie it," the Prime Minister said. "It also appreciates the efforts by the Government to reengage with the rest of the world community so that there is support for what we are doing. Australia is more aware than ever of the problems we are facing and how we are dealing with them ourselves. Papua New Guinea has developed solutions for its problems and is dealing with them through the Structural Reform Program. "Our talks show there is a growing maturity in the relationship between Papua New Guinea and Australia after a period in which there has been a gradual drifting apart." The Prime Minister said Mr Howard expressed interest in strengthening Australia's commitment to the Government's reforms. The Australian government, Sir Mekere said, would examine commercial aspects of the PNG-Queensland gas project in relation to Papua New Guinea's intention to take up to 30 per cent equity in the infrastructure component. Both Prime Ministers stressed that it is a commercial project, and although both Governments are strongly committed to it, the project must proceed on purely commercial terms. Papua New Guinea's share of the infrastructure component would cost up to US$400 million (K1.2 billion) and the Government is looking at a range of payment options. There were general discussions between the leaders on regional security and stability in advance of the South Pacific Forum meeting next month. Sir Mekere reiterated Papua New Guinea's position on West Papua, that the province remained an integral part of Indonesia. Mr Howard also expressed interest in progress on the political integrity bill and the courage Parliament had shown in the first vote, and confidence in the continuing peace on Bougainville and the development of a political settlement. Sir Mekere briefed Mr Howard on Papua New Guinea's views relating to the Defence Cooperation Program and the rebuilding of the Defence Force and the Defence Department, which is being supported by Australia.

Source: The National, Monday 2 Oct 00

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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)