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Bougainville leaders meet

From the Guardian (Australia)
20 September 1995

The following article was published in "The Guardian", newspaper of the Socialist Party of Australia in its issue of Wednesday, September 20th, 1995. Email: <guardian@peg.apc.org>. Republication is permitted with acknowledgement. Subscription rates on request.

Representatives of the Bougainville Transitional Government, Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), and Bougainvillean Members of PNG's Parliament concluded a five-day meeting on September 12, hosted by the Australian Government in Cairns.

The talks come at a time when the Papua New Guinea forces have suffered serious setbacks in the war on Bougainville.

The six-year-old war along with the closure of the CRA copper mine at Panguna on Bougainville have taken their toll on PNG's economy which is in crisis. The PNG Government is under pressure to implement reforms against PNG's interests, which are being dictated by the International Monetary Fund and Australian Government.

At the conclusion of the Cairns meeting a joint press statement was issued over the signatures of Martin Miriori, Secretary of the Bougainville Interim Government, and Theodore Miriung, Premier of the Bougainville Transitional Government.

"Bougainville leaders express satisfaction at the Cairns meeting outcome, and agree to have further consultations", said the press release.

"The Leaders of both sides were very much encouraged by the outcome and declared Cairns exploratory."

The statement expressed gratitude to the Australian Government for hosting and facilitating the meeting and to the PNG Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan for agreeing to have the meeting held in Australia.

Mr Miriori said that the meeting was not designed to come up with any formal resolutions at this stage.

"We have simply met to identify the problems and address those areas of common understanding which through a process of consultation and close co-operation, we would hope to find solutions that will lead to a lasting peace in Bougainville. We have agreed in principle to further develop this process through continuing dialogue in the near future. "Having made this very important and historical breakthrough, our task is now to go back to our own people on the ground and explain to them our efforts before we could be supported to take another step forward in addressing the key issues towards resolving the conflict."

Mr Miriung, leader of the Bougainville Transitional Government, said, "The talks were a gesture of goodwill and could be a start of genuine reconciliation process which is designed to encourage all people to participate fully throughout the whole process until an effective and meaningful answer can be found."

"We also encourage all those under the force of arms to refrain from any further armed conflict on Bougainville", said the two leaders.

Whether these latest talks are a sign that the Australian and PNG Governments are now prepared to pursue a political rather than military solution, and one which recognises the rights of the people of Bougainville is still to be seen.

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