[Documents menu]History of Papua New Guinea and occupied West PNG
Date: Wed, 12 Mar 97 17:05:16 CST
From: rich@pencil (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Unions Reject Papua New Guinea's Mercenary Plan In Bougainville
/** labr.global: 409.0 **/
** Topic: Unions Reject Papua New Guinea's Mercenary Plan In Bougainville **
** Written 5:23 PM Mar 11, 1997 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **
From: Institute for Global Communications <labornews@igc.apc.org>
Subject: Unions Reject Papua New Guinea's Mercenary Plan In Bougainville

Unions reject Papua New Guinea's decision to recruit mercenaries to end Bougainville separatist war

From International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, ICFTU OnLine...
7 March 1997

Brussels, March 7, 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): The Papua New Guinea government's decision to hire mercenaries to end an 8-year-old separatist war on the island of Bougainville was dismissed as "an outright affront to the democratic cause and to stability" by local trade unions.

A strongly-worded resolution adopted by the Papua New Guinea Trade Union Congress (PNGTUC), an ICFTU affiliate, reveals that the mercenaries hired by the government are linked with the defunct apartheid regime and were involved in repression in South Africa as well an in conflicts in Angola "where children and innocent civilians were killed." Reports suggest that the government of Prime Minister Julius Chan has hired a team of at least 40 mercenaries working for the British company Sandline International. Sandline was reportedly subcontracted by Executive Outcomes, a South African-based company whose mercenaries have fought in Angola in return for oil concessions and in Sierra Leone for diamond mine rights.

In April 1988 landowners on the island of Bougainville (800 km - 500 miles - north east of Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby) submitted compensation claims for land mined by the Australian-owned Bougainville Copper Ltd since 1972. When no payment was forthcoming, acts of sabotage were perpetrated by a newly-formed Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). The BRA's demands have increasingly favoured secession from Papua New Guinea which declared a state of emergency on the island in 1989, sent 2,000 security personnel and declared an economic blockade on the island a year later. So far efforts efforts to resolve the dispute have been hampered by violence on both sides.

On February 26, a 50-page report by the London-based Amnesty International said that Papua New Guinea's defence force should be held accountable for more than 40 deaths and "disappearances" last year in Bougainville and accused the government of failing to act on earlier promises to investigate human rights abuses on the island.

The PNGTUC said in its resolution that the military option is no solution to the conflict and that the government's decision to hire mercenaries will only escalate the current violence. It calls on the government to immediately withdraw them and to continue pursuing peaceful alternatives.

According to Australian media, the government covert plan is to use 150 Africa-based mercenaries, some of whom have already arrived in PNG, in a "surgical strike" against the BRA who have been holding five PNG soldiers hostage since last September. The operation, the cost of which has been estimated at 25 million US dollars comes at a time when Papua New Guinea, a country of four million people, is under a World Bank structural adjustment programme and the country's health and education budgets have hobbled by dwindling funds.

For details contact ICFTU Press at ++322 224 02 12.

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