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2nd Anniversary of Peace Group on Bougainville

OPERATION BEL ISI PEACE MONITORING GROUP

MEDIA RELEASE

Friday, November 19, 1999 DPAO 336/99

Second anniversary of Peace Monitoring Group on Bougainville

Members of the unarmed, multi-national Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) will join with the people of Bougainville on Saturday, November 20, to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the arrival of the PMG's predecessor, the Truce Monitoring Group (TMG).

In true Melanesian style, feasts at the five PMG team site locations around the island will mark this important occasion. Members of the PMG will join with members representing the communities in which they live, celebrating two years of friendship and work towards peace.

The second anniversary acknowledges the commitment of about 2500 personnel from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and Vanuatu in the two-year period. Since the TMG first arrived, military and civilian personnel have worked side by side to monitor, report and facilitate the peace on the once war-torn island.

Commanded by New Zealand Army Brigadier Roger Mortlock, OBE, the TMG arrived on Bougainville in late November 1997. This followed several months of uneasy truce between the warring factions.

Following the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in the Bougainville township of Arawa in April 1998, the Truce Monitoring Group became the Peace Monitoring Group. This change signified a renewed commitment by the four participating nations to assist the government of Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville to establish lasting peace.

Current PMG Commander, Australian Army Brigadier Frank Roberts, said the second anniversary served as an important reminder of the contribution made by all members who served in both the TMG and the PMG.

"Importantly, all who have contributed have done so without weapons. In doing so, the PMG has sent an important message to all involved in the Bougainville crisis - that the solution lies in negotiation and discussion, not armed conflict," Brigadier Roberts said.

He said the anniversary also presented an opportunity for the PMG to reflect on the progress made since the multi-national force first arrived in Bougainville.

"When the TMG first arrived, the truce was a tentative and fragile concept that had barely taken hold within factions that had been fighting for a decade.

"Now that truce is peace. While all involved must continue to nurture the peace, there now is a real sense of purpose and a strong hope for the future."

Brigadier Roberts stressed that while the PMG had assisted in creating an environment where peace could take hold, the peace was as a direct result of the commitment of all parties involved.

"It is for this reason that across the island on Saturday, members of the PMG will celebrate this anniversary with representatives of communities in which they live."

The anniversary celebrations will kick off on Friday, with the presentation of a Peace Table to Arawa High School. The table will be the centerpiece of an outdoor classroom at the school and will serve as a lasting reminder of the importance of peace on Bougainville.

For further information please contact:

Operation PR Officer (Bougainville): Desk Officer (Canberra): CAPT Belinda Byrne SQDLDR Mark Quilligan (02) 6266 6853 ext:407 (02) 6265 2661 Fax: (02) 6266 6857 e-mail: offpr@army.defence.gov.au


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