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Old 09-08-2003, 12:58 AM
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Statement to the United Nations Security Council on the Peace Process !


Mr President,

My Delegation appreciates and thanks the Security Council for the opportunity to open consideration of an agenda item of the greatest importance to the people and Government of Papua New Guinea – the peace process and the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

I deliberately refer to the item as one for consideration, rather than debate, as it concerns matters on which there are no significant differences among members of the United Nations, or the parties involved in the peace process on the ground.

Verification :

The United Nations Political Office in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea (UNPOB) has judged that implementation of the agreed weapons disposal plan contained in the Bougainville Peace Agreement has progressed to the point at which it can verify that stage two of the plan has been achieved (UNPOB is known on the ground as the ‘United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville’ [UNOMB]).

Stage two of the agreed weapons disposal plan is defined as the time when weapons are held in secure, double-locked containers, with the containers supervised and one of the keys held by UNPOB/UNOMB.

The Director of UNPOB/UNOMB, H.E. Ambassador Noel Sinclair, submitted his report verifying and certifying the achievement to the National Government on Tuesday last week (29 July).

The presentation took place in Parliament House, Port Moresby, in front of the Acting Prime Minister, Hon. Bart Philemon, Ministers and Members of Parliament, diplomats accredited to Papua New Guinea, senior officials, and media representatives who came to witness and report on the event.

Consistent with the requirements of the new Part XIV of the Papua New Guinea Constitution, which gives legal effect to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the responsible Minister officially then advised H.E. the Governor-General the report had been received.

The notice bringing the new Part XIV of the Constitution and the new Organic Law on Peace-Building in Bougainville into full operation is expected to appear in the next National Gazette (later this week).

The framework for the establishment, gradual assumption of increasing responsibility for the exercise of powers, functions and control over resources, and the day-to-day operations of the Autonomous Bougainville Government will then be in place.

So will the guarantee of a referendum among Bougainvilleans on Bougainville’s political future in another 10-15 years, when certain agreed conditions apply. The referendum will include a separate independence for Bougainville as an available option. The outcome will be subject to the final decision-making authority of the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea.

A significant feature of the new constitutional arrangements is that they can be changed only if a proposal for change is supported by a two-thirds absolute majority of members of the National Parliament and by the Bougainville legislature set up under these arrangements (where a simple majority vote is necessary in most cases, but a two-thirds absolute majority in relation to the referendum and the amendment procedures themselves).

As the Director of UNPOB, H.E. Ambassador Noel Sinclair, has recognised in his verification report, the changes which follow its presentation mean that – quote –
‘relations between the National Government and Bougainville become transformed for all time’ – unquote.

The readiness with which the parties involved in the Bougainville peace process agreed to make UNPOB responsible for initiating such critical constitutional changes was a mark of the faith all of them had in the neutrality, independence and integrity of the United Nations and its representatives on the ground, UNPOB and its Director, H.E. Ambassador Noel Sinclair.

The reception the parties gave the draft report when the Chairman, H.E. Ambassador Noel Sinclair, presented it to the Peace Process Consultative Committee (PPCC) on 25 July showed that they continue to have similar confidence in the United Nations, UNPOB, and its Director.

The way in which all of the parties have maintained such confidence at a critical turning-point in the peace process, when uncertainty is otherwise likely to rise, is very much to the credit of the United Nations bodies and officials involved.

It is also a product of the verification process itself. As members of the United Nations Security Council will recall, Papua New Guinea has always believed that verification should be based on the widest possible consultations.

Our position has been endorsed by all of the parties involved in the Bougainville peace process. UNPOB has applied it with energy and care. Genuine verification could not just be a matter of counting the number of guns handed in – or of comparing that number with an uncertain estimate of the weapons at large, previously or now.

As Ambassador Sinclair rightly observes in his verification report, the Bougainville Peace Agreement is intended to lay solid foundations for the creation of a society – quote –
‘characterized by genuine peace and the restoration of civil authority under a democratically elected autonomous government. The foundations of such a society can only be feelings of mutual security and confidence within and among the various communities of Bougainville. The weapons disposal plan is an essential element for promoting secure foundations for the required feelings of mutual security and confidence’ – unquote.

It was accordingly appropriate, indeed necessary, for the Director of UNPOB to proceed on the basis of consultation.

This he did by consulting widely at community level around Bougainville; with former combatants and political leaders of all major factions; with the Transitional Consultative Council, where leaders of the main political bodies representing the people of Bougainville consult with each other; and with the National Government.

He willingly provided the clarifications the Government sought.

The final step in the process before the Director of UNPOB formally submitted the final report to the National Government was the presentation to the PPCC, where the parties involved in the Bougainville peace process could receive and review it together.

The only significant absentee from the consultations was Francis Ona and his remaining supporters outside the peace process in the ‘No-Go Zone’, so-called, around Panguna. The consensus of the parties involved in the peace process and the PPCC meeting on 25 July was that the report is balanced, comprehensive and frank.

This view was reached in light of a number of considerations. They include the way in which consultations had been conducted all around Bougainville, the report’s acknowledgement of the work still to be done to rid Bougainville of the fear and threat of the gun, and UNPOB’s careful assessment of the risks involved in deciding whether and when to verify and certify that stage two has been achieved.

In basing its assessment on the evidence provided both from practical weapons disposal and through widespread, in-depth consultations, UNPOB acknowledges that it alone is responsible for making the final judgment on verification.

That is the basis on which the parties agreed that UNPOB should verify and certify at stage two of the agreed weapons disposal plan. The Government would have it no other way.

The most significant gap in practical weapons disposal and the Bougainville peace process as a whole arises from the way in which Francis Ona and his remaining supporters close to Panguna have chosen to remain outside.

But, even here, progress is being made. In practice, those who continue to remain outside the Bougainville peace process have generally respected the peace which has been achieved.
As the verification report recognises, citing a letter from Francis Ona to the director of UNPOB, H.E. Ambassador Noel Sinclair, the Me’ekamui Defence Force does not intend – quote –
‘to enter 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 into new directions and areas’ – unquote.

In such circumstances, it is indeed distressing to see various documents circulating in Bougainville, purportedly expressing the views of Francis Ona and the remaining hard core of Me’ekamui supporters, that there is a conspiracy to undermine the Bougainville peace process or undertake other unwelcome activities in Bougainville.

The alleged conspiracy is variously said to be between the Government of Papua New Guinea and others – sometimes a mining company or companies, and sometimes the United Nations. The circulation of such untrue and implausible ideas is, at best, a sign of isolation.

This is why the Government and the other parties involved in the peace process continue to call for reconciliation, and the active involvement of Francis Ona and Me’ekamui in practical peace-building.

Now is the time for them to play a direct part in shaping the future government of Bougainville. The Government continues to recognise the positive contribution they have made to the Bougainville peace process by not deliberately disrupting it on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Government continues to urge the Bougainville parties to meet and decide on the final fate of the weapons without further unnecessary delay.

I am, therefore, pleased to be able to inform the United Nations that the PPCC has agreed that the meeting will be held on Nissan Island, in the Bougainville Province, as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made – probably in a few weeks.

The Government firmly believes that destroying the guns at the earliest practicable opportunity is the only truly effective option. It is the only way in which guns will be removed not only physically but from the minds of people in Bougainville.

It is also the by far the best way of ensuring that scarce human and financial resources are not wasted on providing security for guns and containers, but used to support the economic and social recovery for which people around Bougainville and the rest of Papua New Guinea continue to work, hope and pray.

Thus, verification and certification of stage two do not mark the end of UNPOB’s role and responsibilities on the ground. In citing the initiatives UNPOB is taking to promote further practical weapons disposal, the report recognises this reality.

Not only does UNPOB remain responsible for supervising and holding one of the keys to each stage two container, it has a continuing role in relation to the making and implementation of the decision at stage three of the agreed weapons disposal plan.

If the parties do not reach a mutually acceptable agreement at stage three, then UNPOB has a further, possible role and responsibility in relation to determining whether or not elections for the Autonomous Bougainville Government should go ahead, or should be deferred – and the length of any deferral.

UNPOB’s ongoing role and responsibilities underline the urgency of holding and implementing the outcome of the stage three meeting between the parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

They mean that UNPOB will still have a great deal of very important, indeed critical, work to do in order to complete its agreed assignment under the Bougainville Peace Agreement by the end of this year.
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Old 09-08-2003, 12:59 AM
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Regional support for the peace process

Mr President,

The Bougainville peace process has benefited from the generous support not only of the United Nations but of Papua New Guinea’s friends in the region and development co-operation partners around the world.

The neutral, regional Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) came first - in late 1997. It was replaced by the similarly neutral, regional Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) when the agreement implementing the ‘permanent and irrrevocable ceasefire’ was signed on 30 April 1998.

Both the TMG and the PMG consisted of personnel from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu. The women and men who served in their ranks, both civilian and military, were unarmed.

From a peak of just of over 300 personnel at the start, the PMG was gradually reduced in size as the peace process gathered strength and become increasingly capable of sustaining itself on the ground.

As members of the United Nations Security Council will recall, all of the parties involved in the Bougainville peace process were concerned when it was announced that the PMG would cease operations on 30 June.

The gap it would leave would be experienced directly by people who gained confidence from its continuing presence. It would also be felt by UNPOB, which relied on the PMG for logistical and other forms of support.

I am, therefore, pleased to report that the contributing countries have agreed to provide a Bougainville Transition Team (BTT) to support the peace process until the end of this year. Consisting of 17 civilian personnel – from Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu – the BTT will be much smaller and have a more narrowly focused mandate than the PMG.
It will, of course, continue to be unarmed.
In view of concerns expressed when the United Nations Security Council previously considered the Bougainville peace process and UNPOB, I am pleased to advise that the Protocol establishing the BTT continues to give it the explicit function of co-operating with United Nations observers on agreed terms and conditions.

Papua New Guinea is grateful for the positive way in which the BTT contributing countries have responded to the request the National Government made on behalf of all parties for the continuing availability of a neutral, regional body to support the peace process, and assist UNPOB logistically and in other ways.
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Old 09-08-2003, 01:00 AM
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Preparations for autonomy, restoration and development

Mr President,

Weapons disposal and the full operation of new constitutional arrangements lay the foundations for progress in other areas. But they do not build peace on their own.

Experience of the challenges involved in implementing major constitutional changes of our own, together with close observation of peace processes in other countries, mean that Papua New Guinea is only too well aware of the many, diverse and often complex challenges which have to be met and overcome.

This is why the Government is working closely with leaders and officials in Bougainville to finalise immediate arrangements to improve policing, access to courts and the availability of correctional services in Bougainville.

We are also consulting over plans for the medium- and long-term. In every case, the Government is conscious of the need to maintain consistency with the letter and spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, including the consultations and co-operation which are the agreed keys to implementation.

Other steps towards creating the conditions in which the Autonomous Bougainville Government can be established and begin operating include consultations over the development of the Bougainville constitution.

In difficult economic and budgetary conditions, the Government is trying its hardest to allocate funds, personnel and other support to facilitate progress towards self-sustaining peace and the transition to autonomy in Bougainville. .

In doing so, we continue to rely on the support of our development co-operation partners. Australia, the European Union, Japan, New Zealand and others should know how much we appreciate the resources they provide.

Among members of the United Nations family of organisations, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stands out for the strong and effective support it provides for practical weapons disposal, community development, and the training of former combatants, in particular.

The UNDP-co-ordinated cocoa and coconut rehabilitation project is an especially noteworthy and successful instance of an activity which facilitates both economic and social recovery, as well as the re-integration of former combatants by providing large numbers of rural smallholders with employment, incomes and hope based on self-help.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) provides support for restoration and development across a broad range of activities, which include immunization, HIV/AIDS awareness, malaria control, education, child protection, and trauma counselling.

Other areas in which Papua New Guinea will be seeking advice and other forms of assistance include public sector reform and other preparations for the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Priorities include the provision of opportunities for training, re-training and upgrading the skills of public sector personnel, as well as potential recruits.

They also include support for capacity-building and institutional-strengthening, both in Bougainville and at the national level, so that the co-operation necessary to give full effect to the ‘joint creation’ embodied in the Bougainville Peace Agreement receives the support it requires at both ends.

As development co-operation partners work to integrate their activities in Bougainville into National projects and programmes, so the Government requests them to continue giving appropriate attention and priority to the particular character of the post-conflict situation in Bougainville.

The need to re-integrate former combatants and their communities remains a major concern.

Conclusion :

As my remarks have, I believe, made clear, the peace process in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, remains a national priority, pursued on a bipartisan basis.

Papua New Guinea is accordingly grateful for the support the international community continues to provide. The Government has accepted and acted on UNPOB’s verification report and certification as the constitutional amendment implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement requires.

As UNPOB’s host, Papua New Guinea will continue to give full support to its efforts to fulfil its agreed responsibilities under the Lincoln, Ceasefire and Bougainville Peace Agreements – and, in doing so, helps to secure lasting peace by peaceful means.

Thank you.
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