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Old 21-11-2002, 10:41 AM
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‘update On The Bougainville Peace Process




20 NOVEMBER 2002

Mr Speaker,

The Bougainville peace process is an important national priority, recognised as such on a bipartisan basis.

It is, therefore, appropriate to provide Parliament with regular updates on progress towards our shared objective – to secure lasting peace by peaceful means.

It is especially important I do so at the present, critical phase – when the focus is on meeting the immediate challenges of completing weapons disposal and preparing for the establishment of the autonomous Bougainville Government.

Weapons disposal and re-integration of ex-combatants

Mr Speaker,

Weapons disposal is obviously important to building the sense of security and mutual confidence on which progress in other areas of sustainable peace-building depends.

It is critical to creating the freedom required to debate and adopt the constitution for the autonomous Bougainville Government properly.

It is vital to the holding of fair and democratic elections.

By agreement between the parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, progress with weapons disposal is directly linked to the establishment of the autonomous Bougainville Government.

The link is provided by a legal device which makes the provisions on autonomy and referendum in the new Part XIV of the National Constitution operational when – and only when – the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB) verifies and certifies that stage two of the agreed weapons disposal plan has been achieved.

From then on, implementation of the new constitutional arrangements is essentially automatic.

As Honourable Members know, the agreed weapons disposal plan is based on a hard-won agreement among ex-combatants from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (the BRA) and the Bougainville Resistance Forces (BRF).

It provides for implementation in three stages.

In the lead-up to the National Parliament’s debates and votes on the new constitutional arrangements earlier this year, the then-Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Hon. Sir Moi Avei, called on leaders, ex-combatants and communities in Bougainville to show their support by doing all they could to promote practical weapons disposal.

The response was growing momentum and progress – with the result that more than 900 weapons were removed from the community, including more than 200 high-powered, factory-made guns, between December last year and the end of March.

While the process has continued to move ahead, progress since then has, unfortunately, slowed.

The Siwai District has shown the way by moving on to stage three and destroying 117 guns.

But the over-all total by the end of last week stood at 1,684 guns put away, including 301 high-powered factory-mades.

While many remained at stage one, 941 of these guns were held in stage two containers.

A worrying trend is the growing number of incidents in which trunks and containers have been forced open – and guns removed.

Factors which probably help to explain the slowdown in practical weapons disposal since March include the distractions of the national elections.

They also include the reality that progress occurred first in areas where awareness and commitment were greatest.

But the way in which practical weapons disposal has slowed is, almost certainly, among the reasons why recent setbacks have occurred.

So long as trunks and containers remain in the community, so guns remain as sources of fear or temptation in people’s minds.

They may focus frustrations.

And, the unfortunate irony, is that the longer that weapons disposal takes, so frustrations at delays in the return of normalcy and access to alternative opportunities for ex-combatants, in particular, are likely to grow too.

The result is a somewhat mixed picture.

Part of the picture shows that a number of trunks have been re-opened, containers have been forced open, and guns have been removed.

The other part shows leaders, ex-combatants and communities around Bougainville preparing to declare their districts to be finally weapons-free.

In recent weeks, a total of six stage two containers at five different locations have been broken open – and 212 guns removed.

The most serious breach occurred on the Sunday before last, when a container at Piva was forced open, and five trunks containing guns were removed.

The total number of weapons involved was 88, including 28 high-powered, factory-made guns.

The incident has all the more serious overtones for having occurred in the Torokina District, where weapons disposal began.

While the latest incident is still being investigated, the evidence regarding previous breaches suggests they were generally motivated by local factors or frustrations at the lack of alternative outlets for ex-combatants’ ambitions and energies, including perceived delays in responding to applications for assistance from the Bougainville Ex-Combatants Trust Account (BETA).

They did not arise from opposition to the Bougainville peace process as such.
In fact, senior commanders from both the BRA and the BRF have taken the initiative in investigating the incidents, advising and encouraging the offenders to return the weapons, and trying to resolve the underlying issues.

Working closely together, they also have played a key role in efforts to get weapons disposal moving again - so that stage 2 is achieved without further unnecessary delay; to improve the security of weapons containers; and to resolve remaining difficulties in implementing the BETA.

The results of their efforts can be seen in the work of the Peace Process Consultative Committee (PPCC), where all of the parties involved meet under the chairmanship of the UNOMB to manage the Bougainville peace process on the ground.

The PPCC’s current focus is clearly on weapons disposal.

Recent important decisions include the agreement to set 24 December as the target-date for achieving stage two of the agreed weapons disposal plan – with verification by UNOMB to begin immediately.

The senior BRA and BRF commanders who proposed the new target-date described it as an occasion for giving the people of Bougainville a long-awaited Christmas present.

It is, of course, even more apt as a way of welcoming the birthday of the Prince of Peace.

Other important decisions recently made by the PPCC include measures to improve the security of containers by ensuring they are placed at central locations where they can be properly supervised.

They also include planning an active programme to promote awareness, understanding and support of the weapons disposal plan, in particular, and the Bougainville Peace Agreement generally.

The PPCC has approved refinements to the procedures for disbursing the BETA which will allow the benefits to become available to ex-combatants in a mutually acceptable and orderly way, without further delay.

Mr Speaker,

Having referred to the BETA, let me now take the opportunity to make the Government’s position on the scheme quite clear.

The BETA is, of course, a one-off grant of A$5 million from the Australian Government administered by AusAID.

It is intended to facilitate the return of normalcy on the ground by providing financial support for activities which will assist ex-combatants to re-integrate into their communities.

The need to promote the re-integration of ex-combatants and their communities has always been an important objective on all sides of the Bougainville peace process.
Indeed, it was so when I was previously involved in preparing and planning the early stages of the peace process with some of the National Government’s first Bougainville partners in peace-making and peace-building led – and inspired – by the late Theodore Miriung.

The BETA is an Australian response to a request from Papua New Guinea.

The issues that have arisen have not been over the principles of the scheme but over details of its application.

The Government’s concern has always been to ensure that the BETA is perceived as fair - so that it can be administered in an orderly way, and achieve its stated objectives without being a source of further tension.

The Government has never intended or tried to withdraw or delay the scheme.

We have been concerned to ensure it works smoothly and effectively.

We recognise that the best of seeing the BETA achieves its objectives is to consult our Bougainvillean partners about the guidelines, and remain in close contact during implementation.

The parties have now consulted.

Such difficulties as may still arise can be addressed through ongoing consultation and the agreed review procedures.

Let me, therefore, take the opportunity to stress what I have already stated publicly elsewhere: it is simply not true to say that I or anyone else in the Government has wanted to stop or delay implementation.

And here let me appeal to the media to be careful to check what they report about matters as sensitive as those with which all of us involved in the Bougainville peace process have to deal on a daily basis.

A free press is, obviously, part of the democracy and other features of normalcy for which all of the parties are working in Bougainville.

I have absolutely no interest in attacking the media simply because they may disagree with me.

But I feel bound to urge the media to be sensitive to the context in which they report – and to do everything possible to ensure accuracy in what they state to be facts.

My door and my telephone-line are always open to journalists who want to know what my Ministry is doing.

Mr Speaker,

Now that the PPCC has addressed and resolved many of the most difficult, sensitive issues involved in weapons disposal, the prospects are increasingly bright for making Christmas Day a day of real peace and joy - not only in Bougainville, but for Papua New Guinea as a whole.

But a great deal of hard work will be required – to move beyond recent setbacks and on to achieve the agreed target-date.

The situation on the ground has been complicated by the tensions arising from the recent distribution of K1.2 million to certain ex-combatants and other claimants.

As I have previously made clear, the distribution was made, to say the least, without proper regard to sensitivities on the ground.

Though the money came from funds belonging to the Bougainville Provincial Government, the decision to use it for the purpose and in the way that caused to much tension was made without the knowledge or the authority of myself or my Ministry, the Bougainville Peace and Restoration Office, the Governor of Bougainville, Hon. John Momis, or the Provincial Administrators, Mr Simon Pentanu.

It not only involved what appears to have been a misuse of scarce, available funds but displayed very great carelessness towards perceptions of fairness and sensitivities on the ground.

In doing so, it added confusion, and complicated the work in which the parties involved in the peace process were then engaged in finalising the details of the BETA.

On a more positive note, let me report that the decisions made by the PPCC have been followed up in the last week - at meetings UNOMB convened with local leaders and the churches; a gathering of leading ex-combatants in Arawa; and other activities intended to promote practical weapons disposal.

I have tried to give my personal and political support to weapons disposal – and demonstrate the Government’s commitment to practical peace-building – by visiting Bougainville already five times since the Somare-Marat Government was formed.

I shall be visiting Bougainville again later this month in order to travel around for a few days encouraging people in outlying centers and rural areas to give weapons disposal and other aspects of the Bougainville peace process full support.

My message will include the strongest possible encouragement to Francis Ona and the people in the remaining ‘No-Go Zones’ to join in.

The September meeting of the PPCC was privileged to welcome the presence and participation in weapons disposal of members of the Me’ekamui Defence Force, now reconstituted as the BRA’s A Company.

AusAID has assisted the process of facilitating their involvement by arranging to provide them with hand-held, two-way radios to help them communicate with each other, and a vehicle to move around.

I have previously invited Francis Ona to pick up a telephone and renew communication.

Again, I urge him to do so.

It is only if we communicate that we can co-operate in putting an end to the unfounded rumours which are currently holding back, even creating further problems for, weapons disposal – and hope to achieve the objectives in which he and his supporters say they believe.

Preparations for establishment of the autonomous Bougainville Government

Mr Speaker,

Peace-building has many different aspects.

While weapons disposal is high on the current agenda, it is not alone.

Sustainable peace depends on finding – and then implementing – a mutually acceptable political outcome.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement provides the basis on which the parties have agreed to proceed.

The challenge now is to get past the point at which peace agreements elsewhere have often failed – and turn words into deeds.

The process depends on co-operation along several different dimensions – in which each of the parties has certain responsibilities of its own, as well as others we share.

The National Parliament has played its part in implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement by passing the new Part XIV of the Constitution and the new Organic Law on Peace-Building in Bougainville – Autonomous Bougainville Government and Bougainville Referendum.

The National Executive Council has approved and advised the Governor-General to issue the declaration granting immunity from prosecution for crisis-related activities on all sides – and decided to consider the advice it receives on applications for pardon on the same basis.

Other arms of Government are already playing their part – or gearing up so they can.

The Defence Force is doing both – by reducing its numbers as weapons disposal proceeds, while planning how best to meet its responsibilities for border and other aspects of maritime surveillance.

With the support of aid from Australian and New Zealand, the Police are recruiting and training Bougainvillean auxiliaries.

But more, much more, will be required in every aspect of policing, as well as the provision of courts and correctional services, before we can say that civil authority has been restored on a sustainable basis.

In practice, lawlessness and disorder seem to be increasing in the vacuum where peace has replaced armed conflict on the ground.

Weapons disposal means that guns can no longer be used to obtain or maintain power and position.

The situation makes the need to get on with restoration of civil authority increasingly urgent.

As my previous remarks about weapons disposal make clear, implementation of the agreed plan is among the aspects of practical peace-building where the main responsibility lies in Bougainville.

So does the work of preparing the Constitution on which the autonomous Bougainville Government will be established and then operate within the framework of the Papua New Guinea Constitution.
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Old 21-11-2002, 10:41 AM
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In fact, a 25-member Bougainville Constitutional Commission (BCC), broadly representative of the participants in the peace process – and with provision for others to join – has already been set up by the Bougainville parties, and is hard at work.

Having sent sub-committees on tour to promote public awareness and consult people all around Bougainville, the BCC is currently collating its findings and getting down to work on its recommendations.

The National Government has been pleased to find funds to support its work, and grateful for the additional support provided by AusAID.

Positive aspects of the BCC’s work so far that are especially worthy of note include the very active participation of senior ex-combatants from both the BRA and the BRF, who have re-focused their leadership and energies from conflict to constitution-making.

They also include the open and co-operative spirit in which the BCC has invited and welcomed senior National Government officials to its meetings.

It is in the spirit of partnership with which all of the parties are now working together to realise the potential of the joint creation embodied in the Bougainville Peace Agreement that I have proposed – and the Somare-Marat Government has endorsed – a number of initiatives intended to facilitate the early and smooth transition to the autonomous Bougainville Government and the arrangements within which it will work.

They include the proposal to set up the joint supervisory body on an interim basis – to facilitate preparation and implementation of the joint implementation plans for the establishment of the Bougainville Government Services (Public Service, Police and Correctional Institutional Services).

Establishing the joint supervisory body at the earliest opportunity will allow political leaders and Government agencies to begin working together in trying to get the agreed arrangements up and running - and ready to get on with the job as soon as the Bougainville Government has been elected and assumes its increased responsibilities under the law.

I have, therefore, prepared a brief outline of what I believe a short Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) might say about the basis for establishing the joint supervisory body on an interim basis.

I look forward to receiving the Bougainville leaders’ early response, and then engaging with them to finalise the MOU.

The mechanism can then be used as a way of discussing and preparing for such additional powers, functions and control of resources as the autonomous Bougainville Government will have when it is formally established, or might then seek.

It can also be used to provide an orderly way, consistent with the Bougainville Peace Agreement, for resolving such unexpected issues as may arise before the autonomous Bougainville Government becomes fully operational.

The mechanism could, for example be used to resolve issues arising from the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Value Added Tax (VAT) so far as the new constitutional arrangements for Bougainville are concerned.

Other areas in which the joint supervisory body might provide a convenient mechanism for consultation and co-operation include the need to restructure and reduce the size of the Bougainville Public Service.

The reasons why the Bougainville Public Service is of the shape and size it currently is have much to do with the history of the conflict and the peace process in Bougainville.

But, whatever the reasons, no one can afford to allow a situation to continue in which more than ninety-seven percent (97%) of the Bougainville Budget is spent on salaries. Not on goods or services, but salaries alone!

The process of restructuring and reducing the public sector in Bougainville will require sensitivity and skilled management, combined with strong will, the resources for implementation, and an active programme of capacity-building, including education and training, to follow.

The joint supervisory body will provide a means for progressing the issue, using a recent AusAID-sponsored study as a factual basis.

Together with the initiative the Government has proposed regarding the early establishment of the planning mechanism provided under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the proposal to set up the joint supervisory body on an interim basis also provides a means for making sure that the new budgetary arrangements for Bougainville are properly phased in.

The same combination would also be helpful when it comes to defining the purposes for which the National Government is to mobilise funds, both at home and abroad, for the one-off Establishment Grant to help set up the autonomous Bougainville Government under the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Mr Speaker,

On my most recent five visits to Bougainville, I heard people from different areas pleading – and, as a result of growing frustration, even demanding – that Government policies and activities at every level should be directed beyond peace in the short-term to development in the long-term.

People around Bougainville need infrastructure.

They are entitled to services.

Above all, they want to have access to adequate opportunities so they can help themselves.

They have the right to be heard, and to receive proper responses.

Preparation and implementation of a properly prioritized plan is the key.

Planning is especially critical when finances are as short – and capacity is as stretched – as they are now in Bougainville, and as they are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

Bougainville needs a plan for the sake of responding to the legitimate demands of the people in an orderly way.

The National Government needs one in order to allocate grants and mobilise foreign aid funds rationally and effectively.

Foreign aid donors need to see a plan, too, for similar, obvious reasons.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement provides for a Bougainville-controlled planning mechanism, with National Government participation.

Again, I encourage Bougainville leaders to take the initiative by setting the agreed mechanism up on an interim basis – so that it can get down to work and produce a plan to show where and how restoration and development in Bougainville are headed.

While practical peace building may involve cost, peace itself is beyond price.

Peace is priceless, as I have often said.
It is, therefore, dismaying to find how much money has become a central, even dominant, issue in Bougainville.

It is especially so when one recalls how strongly committed most Bougainvilleans have always been to self-help as the best way of achieving and maintaining the widely shared goal of self-reliance.

Instituting the agreed planning mechanism – and preparing a plan – are the most effective ways of harnessing resources to opportunities, or proceeding by way of self-help to sustainable self-reliance.

The two measures I have proposed to facilitate progress towards autonomy and other aspects of normalcy – establishing the joint supervisory body and the agreed planning mechanism on an interim basis – are, therefore, pressing priorities for all of the partners engaged in practical peace-building in Bougainville.

They are also the best available means of securing the foreign aid funds we will all need to promote further restoration and development in Bougainville – and removing the blockages to actual disbursement of which I have heard people around Bougainville complain.

In making the last point, let me stress how important it is for leaders and officials in relevant agencies at every level of Government to acquaint themselves with the carefully crafted provisions on foreign aid in the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and follow their specifications.

We must also encourage other stakeholders – including official aid donors, lenders and non-governmental organisations - to do the same.


Mr Speaker,

As I have mentioned before, I have already made five short visits to Bougainville since the Somare-Marat Government was formed.

With the Prime Minister’s agreement, I will be a paying a further, longer visit later this month in order to meet and talk with people in rural areas.

My aim is to show that we mean what we say when we describe the challenge of securing – and realizing the benefits of – peace by peaceful means as a national priority.

This statement is intended to update the National Parliament on the progress being made – and the challenges lying ahead – in practical peace-building.

It shows how the parties are co-operating both by working together and in trying to meet their respective responsibilities.

The current focus is, in many respects, on weapons disposal.

Progress on other fronts will owe a great deal to progress in ridding communities around Bougainville of the threat of the gun.
So will the orderly progress of the Bougainville peace process as a whole.

As Honourable Members will be aware, a number of Ministers, including myself, met with a team of Australian Ministers led by the Australian Foreign Minister, Hon. Alexander Downer, last week.

Their message as far as the Bougainville peace process was quite clear.

The Australian contribution to the neutral, regional Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) is not only costly - currently, at least A$15 million a year.

In an increasingly difficult international environment – made worse by the terrible bomb outrages in Bali - pressures for alternative deployments of scarce resources, both funds and personnel, are growing.

The implications for the Bougainville peace process, especially weapons disposal, are clear: we cannot expect even our closest friends to keep supporting the keep the PMG indefinitely.

The parties have to show real, deep commitment to achieving the target-dates to which we have agreed and the self-reliance on which lasting peace depends.

The recently-agreed target-date of 24 December for completing stage 2 of the weapons disposal plan, therefore, goes to the heart of the credibility of the Bougainville peace process as a whole and the international support it receives.

It is critical that all of the parties continue to demonstrate both the strength and the depth of our commitment.

For the Bougainville parties, in particular, it means showing real progress towards completing stage two of the agreed weapons disposal plan – and then on to the point at which peace becomes self-sustaining.

With the United Nations Security Council due to review UNOMB’s future later this week, similar issues are relevant to UNOMB too.

The National Government is firmly committed to doing all we can to encourage our friends among the countries which contribute to the PMG and at the United Nations to support our request for the PMG and UNOMB to remain to complete their assignments.

We will need them both help provide and promote mutual security through to stage three of the agreed weapons disposal plan, when the final fate of the weapons will be decided.

Reality dictates that that must be as early as practicable in 2003.

Ministers and diplomats have been hard at work for quite some time impressing the international community with the parties’ shared commitment – and hope for continuing international support.

Having come so far, none of Papua New Guinea’s friends and supporters wants to abandon the Bougainville peace process before peace is secure.

But our partners cannot allow the PMG and the UNOMB to go on forever.

I, therefore, call on ex-combatants, leaders and communities around Bougainville to demonstrate their practical commitment to peace by redoubling their efforts – and completing stage two of the agreed weapons disposal plan by Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, the PPCC should decide on the best way of ensuring a process of verification that recognizes the need for mutual confidence and community interests in security.

However crowded our schedules might be, all of the parties must also continue to co-operate in fulfilling our shared commitment to other aspects of practical peace-building – and development in the long-term.

Thank you.
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