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Alert ! Bougainville: Referendum Or War

15 December 2000

Kia ora,

the Bougainville peace process is falling apart. This is primarily because of the intransigence of the Papua New Guinea government - recent weeks have seen a total lack of commitment to keep the promises they have made in the past, particularly with regard to the key issue of an independence / autonomy referendum. The PNG parliament has just gone into recess until July 2001 to avoid a no confidence vote, and it is not clear if it could be recalled before then to ratify any agreement on Bougainville's future should the peace talks resume.

The lack of commitment by the Australian government to progressing the peace process has not helped the situation - their announcement in mid October of an additional Aus$15 million one-off 'aid' package to the PNG armed forces was particularly disturbing to the people of Bougainville. The Australian government justified this spending (their 'defence aid' to PNG this year will amount to nearly Aus$25 million) as being necessary to pay for soldiers' rations and unpaid allowances; and to try to get a grip on the PNG armed forces discipline, corruption and management problems. It doesn't seem to have occurred to the Australian government that the money could more usefully be spent on disbanding and retraining the PNG armed forces; and that this would be one of the greatest contributions to peace they could make in the region.

*** What you can do ***

Bougainville leaders have called in the past week for the New Zealand and Australian governments to help break the deadlock and get the peace process back on track.

Please contact the NZ politicians listed below and urge them to do all they can to get the Papua New Guinea and Australian governments moving forward positively on the peace process. Given their role in arming and supporting PNG, the Australian government has not only the power but also the moral responsibility to put pressure on the PNG government to ensure progress is made as soon as possible.

If you only have time for one letter or fax, please contact Phil Goff.

* Phone calls and faxes (all to be prefixed by 04 by those of you out of Wellington, by + 64 4 for those of you receiving this alert overseas): Helen Clark, Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9998, fax 473 3579; Jim Anderton, Deputy Prime Minister, office - tel 471 9011, fax 495 8441; Phil Goff, Minister of Foreign Affairs, office - tel 471 9370, fax 495 8444; The Cabinet (collectively), office - tel 471 9743, fax 472 6332; Matt Robson, Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, tel (04) 470 6561, fax (04) 495 8462.

Letters should be addressed to the relevant person and posted (no stamp needed) to Parliament Buildings, Wellington.

Ideally you should send a copy of your correspondence to Keith Locke, Green Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, tel 470 6709, fax 472 6003; and a copy of your correspondence and of any replies to PMA for our files.

For more information about the recent developments in the peace process, there are two articles included below. For previous alerts about Bougainville, and for updates on the current situation, check out the Bougainville index page on the PMA website at

The index page will be updated over the weekend. ______________________________________


Media Release

10 December 2000

Government 'a failure' in peace talks shambles

The eleventh round of talks in the Bougainville peace process ended in deadlock and disarray on Saturday.

Bougainville leaders Governor John Momis and President Joseph Kabui described the government's approach to negotiations as a sham.

"These people seem to want endless talks but refuse to make decisions about the key issues on referendum on Independence and autonomy".

Time and time again the Government has promised to talk about referendum on Independence - to find the words to accommodate the joint Bougainville policy for that referendum.

We started over two years ago. They acknowledged the importance of Referendum on Independence at Loloata. They agreed to it in Rabaul. They promised to take the issue to Parliament and now they have done a backflip.

There is no willingness to compromise. It seems that they just don't care about the fact that their failure is pushing Bougainville back to conflict."

“On the Bougainville side we have been prepared to compromise. From a demand for Independence we compromised and agreed to a referendum by Bougainvilleans. Then we fell back to a deferred referendum. Then we agreed that it would be no sooner than ten years. Finally we said we would accept conditions.”

“We have bent over backwards to make concessions and the Government has failed to meet the challenge.”

"The simple reality is that a deferred referendum on Independence is the key to disarmament. Without that referendum there can be no disposal of arms."

This will mean that a negotiated settlement becomes impossible. The government will fiddle at the edges to impose the existing provincial government reforms on Bougainville.

That is a recipe for renewed conflict. It is the measure of the Morauta government's failure to deal with Bougainville crisis.

It is easy for politicians and public servants to sit in Waigani and to ignore the suffering and pain of war. But the failure of these talks can have an enormous economic cost for the whole of Papua New Guinea."

If the Prime Minister is sincere in his promises to resolve the Bougainville issue then, quite frankly, he should urgently recall Cabinet to find sensible solutions including Referendum on Independence for the sake of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.

We appeal to Australia and New Zealand to play a much more active role to break the deadlock in these talks as they did when they convinced the Bougainville rebels to leave the jungles and come to the table.

Perhaps only the outside world can convince this government that stubborn intransigence will only lead back to the battlefield and the referendum on Independence opens the door to weapons disposal and lasting peace. It also holds the key to Autonomy.

Referendum on Independence is our passport to peace." _________________

Bougainville warns: referendum or war

15 December 2000

The Australian, From AAP

A renewed war of secession could erupt on Bougainville island unless the Papua New Guinea Government addresses the issue of a referendum on independence, Bougainville leaders have warned.

"The risk of renewed war will remain unless the issue is resolved, once and for all," John Momis and Joseph Kabui said in a joint statement yesterday. "The BRA (Bougainville Revolutionary Army) will not support the peace process unless there is a guaranteed referendum (on independence)."

Three weeks of projected "final" peace talks between Port Moresby and the Bougainville leaders were adjourned without resolution last Saturday night. Foreign Minister and Bougainville Affairs Minister Michael Somare said then that the talks would resume in the new year, but did not set a date.

A nine-year civil war, sparked by longstanding landowner grievances against the Australian-operated CRA copper mine at Panguna on Bougainville, ended in a ceasefire in 1997 and peace negotiations in 1998. At least 20,000 people died of gunshot wounds or preventable illness and disease during the war. In March this year, there was a seeming breakthrough in the protracted rounds of peace talks when Sir Michael agreed to the notion of a referendum on Bougainville, not only for greater autonomy within PNG, but also on the option of independence.

But cabinet later reaffirmed its opposition to an independence option, and this remained the sticking point up until last Saturday. Mr Momis, the Governor of the island province, and Mr Kabui, a former BRA leader and incumbent president of the Bougainville People's Congress, appealed yesterday for negotiations to resume before the end of this month.

"January is emerging as the date when the BRA could change their support (for the peace process)," they said. "All Bougainville groups know that the referendum is the key to peace." Panguna landowners at Guava village first opposed the mine when it was being prospected in 1964. It opened in 1972, three years before PNG's independence, when many Bougainvilleans opposed being included in PNG. "Between 1989 and 1997, many people died pursuing that (independence) goal," Mr Momis and Mr Kabui said.

"As a result, there will be no disposal of weapons if the peace process closes the door on the independence issue, without having a democratic choice on the issue."

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer will visit unarmed Australian, New Zealand, Fijian and Vanuatu peace monitors on Bougainville on Wednesday and Thursday, when he is also expected to confer with Mr Momis and Mr Kabui before talking to Sir Michael in Port Moresby on Friday.

Peace Movement Aotearoa the national networking peace group PO Box 9314, Wellington, Aotearoa / New Zealand. tel +64 4 382 8129, fax 382 8173, website Internet Peace Gateway

© Scoop Media

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