History of Papua New Guinea and occupied West PNG|
Date: Thu, 3 Jul 97 19:26:36 CDT
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Robert Malecki)
Subject: COCKROACH! A NEW LEFT EMERGES IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
A new left emergest in PNG; Bougainville enters a new - perhaps
"post-war" - phase
By Max Watts, in Cockroach!
30 June 1997 and update 1 July 1997
At the time of writing we can note a series of almost contradictory,
conflicting, developments in both Papua New Guinea and on
Although this is still less clear than in highly capitalised countries,
it seems that a real LEFT/RIGHT political separation has developed in
at least parts of Papua New Guinea.
This development may soon greatly affect PNG's long highly
"personalised" political landscape. In the past, in the absence of firm
political allignements, it has been easy for foreign based Capital -
particularly in the mining, forestry and fishing sectors, to "buy up" -
to openly corrupt - PNG politicians, unrestrained by any real party
allegeances or clear-cut ideology.
Although still in its infancy, it seems that the new POLITICAL LEFT now
emerging in PNG may have a chance of obtaining power in Port Moresby.
At the same time there are indications that some sectors of Australian
Capital have recognised the unwelcome, but now considered inevitable,
victory of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army BRA and its Bougainville
Interim Government BIG.
These capitalists and their representatives in the Canberra government
are now manoeuvering to limit the consequences of the Australian
defeat, and are already planning for a "Post War"epoch on
TEN SHAKING DAYS
The emergence of a nation-wide LEFT in Papua New Guinea was certainly
advanced - unwittingly - by (then) Prime Minister Chan's "last chance"
most counter-productive attempt to win the Bougainville war" by
importing Sandline - Executive Outcome mercenaries.
The tensions created by the arrival of these mercenaries drove the
Chan-appointed Army Chief Brig.Gen. Jerry Singirok into a "partial
revolt". Singirok's main aim was the disarming, arrest and expulsion
of the feared mercenaries, but he also attacked government corruption
and demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Chan, his deputy,
Treasurer Chris Haveita and Defense Minister Matthias Ijape, the "Three
Stooges" who had organised the Mercenary contract.
Singirok also called for an end to the war on Bougainville...
A de facto LEFT WING ALLIANCE quickly emerged in Port Moresby during
the hectic "10 Days that shook this world" between 16th and 26th March
The military"spark-plugs" - General Singirok, the middle and lower
ranking officers led by Major Walter Enuma, and the great majority of
the rank and file soldiers - were quickly joined by thousands of
These civilians were loosely organised and led by ad hoc groups of
"NGOs" (Non Governmental Organisations) - in particular
MELSOL (Melanesian Solidarity) PNG WATCHHOUSE and ICRAF (spell out)
Singirok at all times maintained that he was not conducting a coup
against the civilian government. Thus he accepted Chan's order
dismissing him as Commander of the PNG "Defence Force" - and on
Tuesday, the second of the "ten days", Chan trumpeted in the
complaisant media in Port Moresby and Australia, that the entire
"revolt" had ended and that he, Chan, was again in complete control of
the situation. Chan announced that the mercenaries would
immediately be freed, re-armed and soon sent to Bougainville as
For a days the civilians activist leaders of Melsol and Watchhouse, who
were mobilising "civil society" against the mercenaries, against Chan
and against the war, felt betrayed by what they considered Singirok's
indecision, his "half-heartedness". They saw themselves facing the
heavily armed police alone, without any support from the soldiers.
Police commander Bob Nenta had rejoined the Chan camp after a brief
flirt with the revolt.
But whatever Singirok's initial intentions had been, he had started
mass movements, both inside the military and in the streets, movements
over which he no longer had any control.
The rank and file soldiers refused to obey the orders of the new, Chan
appointed, army commander, Colonel Aikung. They burned the car Aikung
had been given by a Malaysian timber company for his "assistance" at a
previous date and chased him out of the barracks.
On Wednesday, the third day, when Nenta's police fired on civilian
demonstrators in front of Murray barracks, the soldiers on guard duty
returned fire and drove the police away.
Armed soldiers joined anti-Chan demonstrators at the University,
cheered wildly by the students.
In the meantime other soldiers, under the orders of Major Walter Enuma,
completed operation "Rausim Quik", deposing the disarmed and rather
frightened "frightful" mercenaries at Port Moresby's Jackson airport -
whence they were very glad to leave soonest for Hong Kong and South
Africa. Their commander, the retired British Lieutnant Colonel Tim
Spicer, was kept behind for several more days and relieved of U$
400.000 in cash, which he had stacked in his room and which the PNG tax
department now claims for unpaid back income taxes...
Civilian demonstrations continued after the mercenaries had left. They
now called for the resignation of the Chan government, for an
investigation of government corruption, and - for peace in
BY ANY DEFINITION, THESE WERE LEFT-WING, POPULAR DEMONSTRATIONS.
Chan clung to power. On 25 March he - somewhat surprisingly - won a
vote of confidence in Parliament by a large margin - (it is widely
believed he paid many representatives much for their support). But this
turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. The thousands of demonstrators,
joined by several hundred soldiers, camping outside the building now
peacefully but firmly blocked all exits and asked the parliamentarians
to reconsider their vote.
The crisis point came in the early hours of 26 March, the "tenth day."
Although even the "left-wing" Major Enuma had come to the parliament
and had "asked" his men to return to the barracks, several hundred
soldiers replied: "That would leave our friends, our comrades, the
civilian protesters, to face the police alone. No, we are staying. We
are the Defence Force, and we will defend them".
Although Chan, disguised as a policeman, had been able to escape on the
previous evening, he realised that now he was - at least for the time
being - beaten.
He returned to Parliament and agreed "to step aside" while a (very
limited) investigation into corruption linked to the mercenary
contracts was conducted.
THE RIGHT COUNTER-ATTACKS
But though Chan in theory had ceded executive power to an acting Prime
Minister, John Giheno, he, and his allies in the Police and the
Military, were preparing their counter-attack.
In the first week of May Nenta's police raided the offices of the
anti-Chan civilian groups, Melsol, Watchhouse, ICRAF... Four leading
activists, in particular Jonathan O'ata, who had organised the
anti-mercenary movement and the marches on parliament, were arrested
and charged with "Illegal Assembling". They saw documents which listed
another 150 people "to be arrested" as soon as possible.
Soldiers, called to help, again drove the police away, but the
"Leftists" were now between a rock and a hard place. Their analysis was
that Chan, teleguiding these attacks from behind the scenes, hoped for
an armed confrontation, and then would use this to declare a "State of
Emergency" and cancel the national elections, scheduled for June 14 to
28. (PNG elections run over many days, as the "electoral commissioners"
travel from one area to another, organising the elections as they go.)
Thus the Left refused to respond to what they felt were Chan's
(Right-wing) provocations. When Chan - pre-empting the Acting Prime
Minister Giheno's attempt to retain his position until he had analysed
the "Sandline corruption" report - simply declared himself back in
office, there were no major protests.
Chan immediately named a new commander, Leo Nuia, freshly promoted from
Colonel to Brig. General, head of the PNG army. Nuia had commanded
operations on Bougainville during the first years of the war, and had
earned the title "Butcher of Bougainville" after proudly admitting on
Australian Television that yes, he had dropped (previously tortured and
killed) Bougainvillians into the sea from Australian Iroquois
helicopters, "but only when the Morgue in Arawa was full".
Nuia had, already at that time, developed an active hostility to his
then subordinate, Major Singirok, a hostility which has not decreased.
General Nuia has been attempting, with the help of a group of pro-Chan,
or at least definitely anti-Singirok, Colonels, to destroy all traces,
indeed all memory, of the March "Soldiers Revolt".
Above all he wants to eliminate what he calls "Buddy-Buddying"- close
relations between officers and soldiers, enlisted men.
In the name of "professionalism" he has condemned "politisation" of the
armed forces. And, just as Chan, Nuia does not want any more mention of
the mercenary episode, although Chan sometimes murmurs that the
Mercenaries could perhaps still return and ... recapture Panguna,
destroy the BRA. `
The left, both in the streets and in the barracks, did not respond to
The elections took place thruout PNG with only localised disturbances.
Even on Bougainville, where the BRA/BIG had initially planned to
prevent or at least disturb voting, there was a change of position
after John Momis, was "kidnapped" and brought to meet Francis Ona, the
BIG President, in Guava. After lengthy discussion between politician
Momis and revolutionary Ona, the BIG/BRA agreed that they would no
longer oppose voting on Bougainville, although some of the BRA units
did not receive their new orders immediately.
As we write this on 30.6.97,(see update below) voting in all 109 PNG
electorates has ended and many results are known. The decison of the
Left - to actively participate in, and support the electoral process -
now seems largely justified.
Whereas in the past voting had been dominated by local issues, and it
had been impossible to organise on a real national program, this time
voters - even when confronted with numerous "Independents", have
widely supported "anti-Chan", anti-mercenary, anti-corruption,
pro-Landrights candidates, and have rejected many well-established
parliamentarians who were associated with the mercenary operation, with
the war against Bougainville.
Many who can be called "Right Wing" politicians, particularly those
associated with Julius Chan, have been defeated or are trailing
in partial results.
It seems as if even Chan himself, who had been considered a shoo-in,
may lose his seat.
MELSOL leader and protest organiser Peti Lafanama, whose decision to
stand as an Independent for a parliamentary seat in Goroka seemed like
a "propaganda" move to many, is well ahead on incomplete results
and may well become a leader of a left wing caucus in the Moresby
IN THE MEANTIME ON BOUGAINVILLE...
In the meantime the war on Bougainville has - for the moment - almost
died. If we can speak of wars dying !
The Bougainville Interim Government (BIG) and its Revolutionary Army,
the BRA - have quietly extended their control over most of the
Although the PNG military is, theoretically, once again under the
nominal command of "Butcher" (and fire-eater) Brigadier General Leo
Nuia, the rank and file soldiers on Bougainville show little enthusiasm
for offensive warfare. The Mercenary debacle showed that the PNG DF can
indeed still act decisively when it believes in a cause, but after 8
years of killing and dying for Rio Tinto to recapture the Panguna mine,
many soldiers have lost their enthusiasm for this battle.
Also, as the armament of the BRA has greatly improved and now includes
many captured automatic weapons, the possibility for the PNG "Defence
Force" to run "search and destroy" patrols outside their coastal bases
has disappeared. These patrols had long been directed against the
infrastructure of the Bougainvillians, above all against their food
production. In the past - gardens - where the BRA could not defend
them, were regularly destroyed; the women gardeners forced further up
into the colder, less productive mountains.
Today the BRA controls much of the coastal plains and the food
situation has enormously improved. Many villages - destroyed during the
past eight years - have been rebuilt; schools and medical centers,
though still greatly handicapped by lack of material which must transit
the still existant, though much less effective, blockade, have been
opened at many points.
BRA units operate over almost the entire mainland of Bougainville.
They can even enter Arawa when - as during the early phase of the
elections - their command deems it necessary.
Only the small northern island Buka and small areas in the South West
remain completely under the military domination of the PNG military,
but even there semi-clandestine supporters of the BIG/BRA are now more
The Bougainville Transitional Government BTG, established on Buka in
April 1995 by Chan to counter the Bougainville Interim Government, is
openly negotiating with the BIG and is hoping soon to hold a joint
conference with the revolutionaries in New Zealand.
After eight years of war, no one seriously believes the BRA can be
defeated. The Panguna mine remains firmly in their hand.
Australian capital, which so long pushed PNG to continue the war
against "the rebels", now seeks alternative solutions.
The Labor government, in particular Gareth Evans, was "married to the
war". The Conservatives, less committed, realistically told Chan to
start negotiations, to save what could be saved, as soon as they won
the March 1996 elections. But Chan, sorcerers' apprentice, no longer
listened to Canberra and again tried, from March 21 '96 onwards, "to
win the war". His June-July '96 offensives failed decisively, and
further demoralised the PNG army.
Only some local "Resistance" groups, armed and financed by Port
Moresby, continue local offensive operations.
Now "neutral Australian Negotiators" approach the BIG/BRA, who were
long ignored, and propose "training in the most modern negotiations
techniques". Stock exchange heavies explain to BIG delegations in the
Solomons that Panguna could be reopened under Bougainvillian control,
with the strictest environmental safe-guards.
"If the Company fails to observe these, you can always close them down
or throw them out then - just as the Nigerians have done with Shell" -
an Australian financeer has been reported telling the BIG.
This obvious falsehood - Shell in fact remains firmly entrenched in
Nigeria - may well illustrate the new tactics which the Bougainvillians
will have to face in the up-coming Post-War period.
Further, though still incomplete, election results confirm the above
analysis. The biggest surprise has been the entirely unexpected defeat
of CHAN himself.
MELSOL leader Peti LAFANAMA continues to maintain a commanding lead.
Father Robert LAK, who defeated Paias Wingti in the Western Highlands,
will probably join Lafanama in Parliament as the nucleus of a clear
left wing caucus.
The Right has, however, not disarmed. Chan's Army Commander Brig Gen
NUIA had placed Singarok's right hand man Major Walter ENUMA under
arrest, but according to the latest available information Enuma has
"disappeared"; other groups of left-wing soldiers have been arrested in
the Highlands, were they have been accused by Nenta's police of
"illegally participating" in the elections.
Singirok still remains in the Murray Barracks Headquarters "Flag
House", "which I will vacate immediately I have been given alternative
housing". He has also filed a law suit against his dismissal by Chan.
As no new government will be formed in Port Moresby for several weeks,
there may be a power-struggle in Port Moresby between the Lame-Duck
Chan administration, using the Police and the Nuia segment of the
military, and the incoming new parliamentarians.
For further information please contact
Max Watts 61-2-9818.2343
Bougainville Freedom Movement 61-2-9558.2730
PO Box 134, Erskineville NSW 2043 Australia
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