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PNG: Former Military Chief Details Sandline Crisis

PNG: Former military chief speaks out over Sandline crisis

'Political Solution, Not Barrel Of Gun'- General Singirok lashes out at Sir Julius over Sandline controversy

By Sinclaire Solomon

PORT MORESBY (The National Online/Pacific Media Watch): The Bougainville crisis of 1997 was a political crisis that needed a political solution and not the barrel of the gun, says former Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) commander Major General Jerry Singirok.

"Even to this day, I believe strongly as a professional military officer that there was no military solution to bring an end to the civil war on Bougainville," Gen Singirok told The National on Friday.

The retired general was hitting back at former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan who said last week that Lt-Col Tim Spicer and Sandline, a mercenary group, would have won the hearts and minds of the Bougainville people through psychological warfare had they not been kicked out of PNG in 1997 in Operation Rausim Kwik ordered by Gen Singirok.

Sir Julius said Col Spicer, in winning the lucrative K1.7 billion security contract in Iraq last month, showed the high respect even the US-led coalition forces had in him.

However, Gen Singirok, who was charged with sedition over Operation Rausim Kwik but cleared early this year after a seven-year court battle, said: "Sir Julius should refrain from commenting on military operations because he is not a trained soldier."

"Calling me names and making unsubstantiated claims are indicative of the irresponsible leader he was at the time he approved the engagement of Sandline for the military assaults on Bougainville rebels and the opening of Bougainville mine," the general said.

He said this was further confirmed when his own people in both Namatanai and New Ireland rejected him to represent them in Parliament on two consecutive national elections.

"These speak for itself because they no longer trusted him," Gen Singirok said.

Gen Singirok said the trail of human waste and a nation's destruction left behind by the method of operations carried throughout third world countries, particularly in Africa, by mercenaries as a result of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of military force was the same outcomes intended for Bougainville by Sandline International.

"For people who other than professional trained military personnel to say the psychological operations (psy ops) will not involve losing lives have been fooled," the general said.

"Psychological operations in fact involve relentless use of maximum military force to bear on the warring factions, targets and even the civilian population and inevitably will result in loss of many lives," he added.

He said Sir Julius claims that there would be no lives lost in Bougainville when Sandline was deployed were erroneous and unimaginable because all the secret military operational plans showed otherwise.

"This list of military arsenal and platform intended for use on Bougainville was indicative of the actual military onslaught, because thousands of lives will be lost," the general said.He stressed that Mr Tim Spicer was a smooth consultant who was out to lure and impress politicians or any person with money at the expense of the population.

"He did exactly that at that time to Sir Julius and his key ministers who were victims of his charm and destructive proposition," he added.

Gen Singirok said many readers have been impressed by the fact that Tim Spicer's new company, Aegis Defence Service, has won a multi-billion kina contract to coordinate security operations in Iraq.

However, they forget that this company's operations involves security and damage control after a massive military operation as opposed to Aegis taking over military operations replacing the coalition forces, he said.

"The nature of Aegis security operations are far remote and different from the military operations intended for Bougainville at the time and readers must not be excited by the fact that Tim Spicer is making billions in Iraq.

"I reiterate that even the best military in the world would always lose in the hands of guerrilla-type operations as the aspects of hearts and minds (psy) is least considered as they would be heavily reliant on military hardware and technology."

This has been proven in Vietnam, Iraq, East Timor and many more countries in the 20th century.

"Since 1997 the success the diplomatic and peaceful negotiation following the cessation of military operations by negotiated peaceful means in the resolution of the Bougainville crisis confirmed the correctness of my actions in forcefully removing the Sandline mercenaries from Papua New Guinea.

"Regionally and internationally Papua New Guinea has been applauded for such a feat achieved under varying and difficult circumstances," Mr Singirok said.



PACIFIC MEDIA WATCH is an independent, non-profit, non-government organisation comprising journalists, lawyers, editors and other media workers, dedicated to examining issues of ethics, accountability, censorship, media freedom and media ownership in the Pacific region. Launched in October 1996, it has links with the Journalism Program at the University of the South Pacific, Bushfire Media based in Sydney, Journalism Studies at the University of PNG (UPNG), the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ), Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, and Community Communications Online (c2o).

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