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Old 26-09-2003, 12:56 PM
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An overview of the Bougainville situation

By Veronica Hatutasi of Wantok

Current Situation

BOUGAINVILLEANS could be proud that at last, they are assured of an autonomous government of which they will be masters of their own affairs.

But by the same token, more work still needs to be done which will require concerted efforts, hard work, trust, understanding and patience towards achieving their goals of autonomy and finally, a referendum on independence.

As of August 11, 2003 the laws on implementing the autonomous government and referred referendum became operational following the presentation of the verification report on Stage Two completion of the weapons disposal program by Ambassador Noel Sinclair, the head of the United Nations Mission on Bougainville and the gazettal of the legal and organic amendments to accommodate the changes on Bougainville by the Governor General.

The state of affairs in which things are at, to date on Bougainville, is the preparations on the autonomous government as well as pursuing the completion of the disarmament process.

Two female members of the peace monitoring group from New Zealand. THe PMG played a huge role in the restoration of peace in Bougainville
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  #2  
Old 26-09-2003, 01:02 PM
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Priority on this is the completion of the second draft of the Bougainville Constitution and the response by the bipartisan committee team from the national government whose delay has caused concern to Bougainville leaders.

The latest update on this is that the new constitution should be ready soon as stated by the Justice Minister Mark Maipakai during Question Time in Parliament last week. But he said there were still sovereignty issues to be addressed and the government would be giving its position on this within a week.

Following the completion of the draft constitution, the election of the autonomous government will be given focus, but again, this will depend on the progress on disarmament.

Other issues of concern by the joint Bougainville leaders are, the failure of the bipartisan committee's visit to the island and the failure of the of the interim supervisory body to convene to transfer police powers under the transitional provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
On this issue, Inter Government Relations and Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Peter Barter recently said that the second draft of the Bougainville constitution was in the hands of the Attorney General's office and they will get back to the Bougainvilleans as soon as things were sorted out between the office and the government.

On the restoration of civil authority on Bougainville, Sir Peter said that police and judicial powers needed to be strengthened and with funding available from the New Zealand and Australian governments, it will be a matter of executing the plans and set up the auxiliary Bougainville police.

He said that what most Bougainvilleans want now is economic independence and in this light, they want their roads maintained and upgraded so that they will have access to market outlets for their produce in Buka.

Women and children of the province also want lasting peace
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Old 26-09-2003, 01:09 PM
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On the disarmament scene, Sir Peter stated that to date, 921 guns have been collected and contained. But he wants the third and final fate of the weapons to be decided soon as "they pose a threat" on the island as long as they remain in containers and in the communities.
He made the national government's stand known and this is, destruction of the weapons.

Another concern which Sir Peter raised is the involvement of the Bougainville conflict's patriarch, Francis Ona and his group.
He is appealing to them to come out and join in the peace process which the rest of Bougainville, PNG and other stake holders to the peace process are involved in.

"I am pleading with him (Ona) to join in the peace process. One direct word from him will make an enormous difference and everything will fall into place if he joins in," Sir Peter said.

He stated that Mr Ona is not against the peace process but he wants immediate independence, something which the rest of Bougainville have agreed to go to in stages before it could be achieved.
Law and order, the judicial system, the civil services such as courts, police and services must be restored first and must be seen flowing into communities on the island, he said.

But as Bougainville moves on this important stage of establishing the autonomous government, it is vital that Mr Ona is involved. To achieve this, Bougainville leaders should seriously look at reconciliation between the key players in the conflict, with priority given between Mr Ona's and Mr Kabui's groups for starters and then move on to the others.
Mr Ona has to date taken his stance on Bougainville's immediate independence.

According to a recent statement from Mr Ona to the media, " Bougainville must be allowed its own independence for we have won the war and it is our right and land. Autonomous government is not the answer to the cry, death and destruction of property on Bougainville," it said.


An elementary school class and a teacher - strengthening of peace
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Old 26-09-2003, 01:13 PM
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Disarmament
The Weapons Disposal Program (WDP) verification report presented recently by the head of the United Nations Observer Mission on Bougainville (UNOMB) Ambassador Sinclair, means that this stage of the disarmament program is completed, with the blessing of the man at the helm of this task, and one who had the close scrutiny of this vital, risky, challenging, delicate and sensitive task.

The completion of Stage 2 which involved the containment of weapons in locked and sealed containers with a key each to be held by the area commanders and the UNOMB means that Bougainvilleans could now move forward towards establishing the autonomous government. However, one more task needs to be completed on disarmament and this is the final fate of the weapons still to be decided at the coming Peace Process Consultative meeting sometime this month.

Many Bougainvilleans who have had enough of living under the threat of guns want a "gun free" island and the guns destroyed for good. The national government's view on the issue that the weapons must be destroyed was also made known at the presentation of the verification report by the Inter Government and Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Peter Barter who stated "destruction is the only way of ensuring that guns are not only out of sight but out of mind”. This stance has also been iterated several times by Sir Peter, the latest only last week in his briefing to the media on the update of events on Bougainville.

Ambassador Sinclair when presenting the report said that it was a proud moment for him as four years when WDP was the subject of debate with no plans at the start had now come into fruition, "not only do we have a plan but we have put it into execution," Mr Sinclair said
He said that this was the achievement of a very significant landmark of the Bougainville Agreement, arrived at only after verification by the UNOMB.

The verification process required the UNOMB to determine that the weapons are in secure, double-locked containers under its supervision.

Mr Barter looked in briefly on a Grade 3 class at Monoitu Community School and had a chat with teacher Magareth Parakai. Movoitu Community School is in siwai South Bougainville
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Old 26-09-2003, 01:22 PM
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Not only that but it had to go out into the communities on the island and consult with the community at large including district managers, chiefs, women, church and youth leaders to ensure that the people felt genuinely safe, secure and confident.

This exercise took place in May this year with the assistance of the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) whose official peace keeping duties on Bougainville ended recently, on June 30 and their final exit from the island was at the end of August.

Mr Sinclair while expressing his congratulations to the people of Bougainville for their high level of cooperation, the PMG for their extensive assistance as well as the Bougainville Transitional Council, said that the UNOMB believed that the WDP has served its purpose.

"The people feel free, normality has come and they are anxious to move on from disarmament into the autonomous government. We are mindful that all weapons have been collected but felt that this should not delay the completion of the WDP. We also are aware of the attitudes of some people who are not so supportive, and recognised some risks involved but felt also this should not be a hindrance as the majority of the people are anxious to move on and see new realities.

"I was always mindful of the task delegated to me and after a sober, careful and thoughtful manner of consultation and scrutiny on the matter, the UNOMB found that Stage 2 of the disarmament process has come to completion and the people feel ready to move on," Ambassador Sinclair said as he presented the verification report to Sir Peter Barter.

He however said that the Bougainville people are adamant that their new government, when established will give top priority to putting a regime of law and order in place in which context, a mechanism would be established for dealing with outstanding weapons, general anti-social behaviour and monitoring the movement of weapons on the island.
Those who are sceptical about Francis Ona could well rest their minds at ease for as long as Bougainville is guaranteed independence, there won't be any two ways about it.

Minister Moi Avei examine one of the war weapons surrended by the youth from Selau
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Old 26-09-2003, 01:28 PM
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He also commended Francis Ona for keeping his promise that while not being a party to the peace process he has not at anytime disrupted it.
Mr Sinclair quoted from an August 29,2000 letter from Ona :"Though we are not a party to those negotiations and have never supported them at anytime, threats of renewed violence are worrying. I am even more concerned that my name has been linked to talks of war by some Bougainville leaders. Unless it is to defend our people, my government and the Me'ekamui defence force into any unnecessary conflict or war.

The war is well and truly behind us as our military objectives have been achieved and our struggle must, as it has, progressively move on to new directions and areas," Mr Ona said.

Ambassador Sinclair said that Ona has remained generally faithful to the commitments at that time.
The verification report has now enabled the provisions of the new Part XIV of the PNG Constitution- "Peace Building in Bougainville, Autonomous Bougainville Government and Bougainville Referendum" which guarantees that the autonomous government and the deferred conditional referendum on Bougainville's political future become operational immediately.

It took until 1997 or 10 years for the actual combat by the warring parties on Bougainville to end.

The last incident was in 1997, prior to the intervention of the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG), a 300 contingent of unarmed strong peace keepers from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu who were deployed on a peace mission since mid 1997 and whose mission has just recently ended and also, the concerted efforts by the national and Bougainville leaders, Church, women and NGO groups and the Bougainville communities themselves.

With combat incidences over, the efforts then have been towards peace, reconciliation, restoration of services and the political solution which is part and parcel of this whole Bougainville issue.

Ambassodor Noel Sinclair is the head of the United Nations Observer Mission on Bougainville and dignitaries look on as an ex- comabatant leader places a gun in the trunk during the first launch of weapons disposal implemented at Torokina last December.[/b]
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Old 26-09-2003, 01:34 PM
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Core issues-autonomy and independence
There has been much progress in the peace process, despite the many hiccups and hurdles on the way and over the years, between the various factions on Bougainville and the national government and Bougainville leaders.

Once very sensitive and feared issues which governments of the day felt reluctant to discuss or even touch on, autonomy and independence for Bougainville, is now the in issues and is becoming realities.
These are core issues of the Bougainville conflict and have been paid for dearly by the blood of thousands who died during the more than a decade long uprising which started in 1988 and only now, after many years of dialogues, negotiations, pacts and peace agreements, have among others, these two issues being tackled and for starters, autonomy for the province is being implemented.

As of August 7, 2003 when the relevant notice from the Governor General of PNG came of the gazettal of the new Part XIV of the Constitution and the new organic Law on Peace Building in Bougainville, the laws implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the Organic law on Peace Building on Bougainville and the Autonomous Government and a referred referendum became fully operational.

These became effective following the verification and certification report by Ambassador Noel Sinclair, the head of the United Nations Observer Mission on Bougainville (UNOMB) on July 31 which he presented to the national government, advising on the completion of Stage 2 of the weapons disposal program (WDP).

The crux of the matter at this point in time is that Bougainville now has been given the green light to actually establish its autonomous government with the referendum vote on independence to happen between 10-15 years from then onwards.

With almost all of what it has fought and shed blood for in the 10 years of the bloody conflict achieved, Bougainvilleans should be more than happy and concentrate on the issues at hand.

The focus is now on implementing the autonomous government, the very thing which all Bougainvilleans want and is only one step more towards realising their long-hoped for dream of independence.
New Zealand brokered the peace process in 1997 when, for the very first time, and with due assistance from Australia, Bougainville and ex-combatant leaders from the various factions, as well as leaders from the PNG national government were brought together at the Burnham and Lincoln meetings.

These were historic moments as the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which has set the guiding foundations for the whole peace process and finally towards shaping autonomy and referendum for the island province, was formulated.

Ladies sellling produce and the Buka Town Market
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Old 26-09-2003, 01:44 PM
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Peace through dialogue and negotiations
The path to peace has not been easy. Negotiations after negotiations, both offshore in New Zealand and Australia and within PNG in both Port Moresby and Bougainville, have tested the stamina and gray matter of those at the head of the governments of the day since the conflict erupted in 1988. PNG has since gone through five prime ministers who have all left their mark and contributions in trying to quell the worst ever uprising in what is envisaged as the tranquil and peaceful paradise Pacific region.

Sir Michael Somare is the sixth. Starting with Sir Rabbie Namaliu, who took the helm as prime minister at a very difficult stage just at the turn for the worst of it all in 1988, we've had Paias Wingti, Sir Julius Chan, Bill Skate, Sir Mekere Morauta and the current leadership of Sir Michael. Though all six leaders have had their own distinct styles and ways of handling PNG's number one problem which has shattered to tatters of the once most prosperous province and indeed, the nose dive of the PNG economy and life in general, their main aim has been to put an end to the war, destruction and suffering and bring lasting peace and normality on Bougainville and her people.

Dialogue and negotiations in the Melanesian way have been the catchwords and the way to go towards resolving issues when the going got tough and leaders from the national government, Bougainville and from the warring factions sometimes came to loggerheads and in the process, putting at risk the fragile peace process.
But so much has been achieved since the very first peace conference initiated by the then Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan was staged in Arawa in October 1994.

The stage was all set. A combined peace mission was established where a neutral military force comprising of personnel from Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga was engaged at Arawa to provide security during the week-long conference, courtesy with funding from the Australian government. All hopes were pinned on the attendance of the crisis patriarch, Francis Ona. When he failed to turn up some deemed the conference as a failed mission, however, it was not. It broke the deadlock and gradually established dialogue between the national government and Bougainville factional leaders and in the long term, initiated and set the pace for future negotiations from which landmark pacts which have taken the peace process from strength to strength have been reached including the Burnham (1997), Lincoln, (1998) Cease fire (1998), Loloata (1999) and the Bougainville Peace Agreements (2001).

The costs are it in loss to human lives, financial, social, emotional and psychological are enormous. Even more again are the costs of rebuilding, restoration and rehabilitation as the Bougainville case has and is proving. But with the help of concerned international aid groups such the European Union (EU) block, The United Nations through the involvement of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Observer Mission on Bougainville (UNOMB) and friendly neighbours such as Australia and New Zealand whose peace keepers along with Fiji and Vanuatu have provided substantial support and on Bougainville's path to recovery and peace.

To end wars and bring about lasting peace takes many years and in fact some of the conflicts in other parts of the world have been waging for decades with seemingly no compromise reached. And if reached, violated time and again due to the enmity and deep feeling of hatred between the warring parties. Such was the case on Bougainville, however, against all odds and for the sake of peace, services, normality and freedom for themselves and their children, the warring parties on the island have sacrificed their pride and differences and come together to give peace a chance.

The signing of the Cease fire Agreement in April 1998 sealed the ending of all combat between all groups on Bougainville, including the secessionist BRA, the Bougainville Resistance fighters (BRF) and the PNG Defence Force. This also saw the gradual start of disarmament on the island with the BRF in some areas taking the lead.

This Nasios chief is dressed in full traditional regalia and stands amid leaders - former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta, Sir Moi Avei, Bougainville Peopl's Congress leader Joseph Kabui and other dignitaries during the signing of the Bougainville peace agreement in 2001
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Old 26-09-2003, 01:53 PM
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Progress over the years
The peace process has progressed extensively since 1997 and boosted by the involvement of the neutral unarmed peace monitors called the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) from the contributing countries of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu.

As the peace process progressed positively, the PMG have now exited from the island as of last month, having officially ceased operation on June 30. But in over five years of their engagement, they were tasked under the Lincoln Agreement with the mission to observe, monitor, see the implementation of the Lincoln Agreement and note the violations of any of the pacts under the agreement. More than 300 PMG members were initially deployed but as the peace process progressed, their numbers were decreased to a mere 85 personnel until they ceased duties in June. However this is not to say that they have all gone as a small team of 17 civilian officers called the Bougainville Transitional Team (BTT) were selected from the four contributing countries and they remain on the island to assist in the peaceful transition towards establishing the autonomous government and also, the completion of the disarmament process.

Simultaneously, the UN sent a small team of officers in late 1998, headed by Ambassador Noel Sinclair to monitor the overall progress of the peace process, as stipulated under the (Lincoln) agreement.
So much has been done to restore Bougainville in all facets of life towards restoration, reconciliation, rehabilitation and economic development. UNDP, EU, AusAID, Oxfam New Zealand, churches, NGO's and the national government have all contributed to their capacity in restoring the main infrastructure such as the main highway and ring roads on the island, health centres and school building projects, disarmament and the general peace building. The churches and NGOs are involved in the reconciliation, rehabilitation and integral human development phases.

All these developments also compliment the pursuit of peace and a political settlement for Bougainville, the latter being the only alternative towards reaching an amicable solution to the troubles on Bougainville.
It has been a slow and painstaking road to tackling the political side due to the sensitiveness of the issue. Hard especially on the prime minister of the day since there was no provision in the PNG constitution for autonomy or independence and maintaining unity in diversity has always been the unique strengthening point of this country.

Ultimately nature wins as it has, over the most of the former twonships and sides in Panguna, Kieta, Toniva, Arawa and Loloho. Shown here is a recetn photo of parts of the site of the concentrator at the former Panguna mine site.
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