History of Melanesia|
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 96 12:02:45 CST
From: email@example.com (Brian Hauk)
Subject: Bougainville Premier Killed As Independence Fight Heats Up
Bougainville Premier Killed As Independence Fight Heats Up
By Bob Aiken, in the Militant
Vol. 60, no. 41 (18 November 1996)
SYDNEY, Australia - Theodore Miriung, Bougainville
Transitional Government (BTG) premier, was assassinated in
southern Bougainville October 12. Eyewitnesses saw gunmen
fleeing the scene being picked up by Papua New Guinea (PNG)
military transport and taken in the direction of the PNG army
base nearby. There have been reports of up to eight PNG
soldiers being in the vicinity of the killing, along with at
least one member of the "Resistance" militia organized by the
Miriung was one of the leaders of an independence movement
on Bougainville in 1975-76 that won a degree of autonomy as a
province within the newly independent Papua New Guinea, a
colony of Australia until 1975. He rose to become an acting
National Court judge, but returned to Bougainville in 1990
after the war for independence had begun.
Later, in 1994, he broke with the Bougainville
Revolutionary Army and the Bougainville Interim Government
(BRA/BIG) to enter negotiations with PNG and establish the
BTG. Miriung was appointed Bougainville premier in early 1995
by the PNG prime minister Sir Julius Chan. Miriung was
murdered as the independence movement, led by the BRA/BIG, has
dealt sharp blows to the PNG's military operations. Conflicts
between Miriung and the PNG authorities had also deepened.
Last June, Miriung publicly opposed a major PNG military
offensive, the largest of the seven year war. He has also
condemned conditions in the "care centers" set up by Port
Moresby, where up to 70,000 of Bougainville's population of
160,000 have been resettled. Port Moresby is the capital of
Papua New Guinea.
In August, the PNG army blocked Miriung at gun point from
addressing the opening of the Inter-Church Women's Forum held
in the Bougainville capital of Arawa. The August 25-31
gathering of 700 women from across the PNG-held part of
Bougainville demanded that they be given a role in peace
talks, and called for the closing of the care centers and the
withdrawal of PNG troops.
Following a major battle at Kangu Beach in southern
Bougainville September 8 in which 13 PNG soldiers were killed
and five captured, PNG Defense Minister Mathias Ijape ordered
Miriung be placed under "military surveillance." Ijape also
banned Miriung from traveling outside Buka Island where the
BTG administration is based. Ijape also said he was
recommending that Miriung be "removed as premier", accusing
him of "inciting BRA activities on the mainland."
BRA/BIG president Francis Ona strongly denied allegations
from PNG Defense Force commander Brigadier-General Jerry
Singirok that the BRA was involved in the assassination. "The
assassin's motive strongly points towards two factors:
Miriung's hard stand against the military solution by PNG on
Bougainville, and the stalling of the current peace process,
of which Miriung was the thin link between the BIG/BRA and the
Papua New Guinea government," Ona said in a statement released
The BRA and BIG had "fully supported Miriung's efforts,
dropping all doubts about his intentions," Ona said, pointing
to the two rounds of talks that had taken place between the
BIG and BTG in Australia in late 1995.
"Both sides in Bougainville" had been "devastated" by the
killing, Moses Havini, the BIG's Sydney-based international
representative said in a phone interview with the Militant.
"The onus is on the PNG government to let the world know if
any of their members were involved. The culprits must be
brought to justice," he said.
"Putting the peace process back on track would be our first
priority", Havini said, something that "the PNG government was
already working aggressively" against before Miriung was
"PNG relies heavily on Australia to continue" the war,
Havini said, calling for continued pressure on Canberra to
halt military aid to Port Moresby.
Bougainville is the site of a giant copper mine, closed by
the war, owned by the Anglo-Australian corporation CRA/RTZ.
There are a number of major Australian-owned enterprises in
The Australian government has supplied nearly $200 million
in military aid to Port Moresby since 1988. Despite this, the
war is a major reason for the sharp financial crisis that is
wracking the neo-colonial government in Port Moresby. In
recent years, Canberra has also sought to broker a peace
settlement short of granting Bougainville independence.
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