[Documents menu]History of Melanesia
Date: Mon, 24 Nov 1997 10:59:43 GMT-1000
From: "Vikki John (Bougainville Freedom Movement)" <V.john@uts.edu.au>
To: Bougainville.Updates@lexsun.law.uts.edu.au
Subject: (Fwd) Bougainville News 24/11/97

PNG rejects independent Bougainville poll

By Greg Roberts, in Sydney Morning Herald Newspaper
24 November 1997

The Papua New Guinean Government has ruled out a referendum on independence for Bougainville, despite warnings by the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) that without it a truce enforced on the island could be shattered.

Mr Robert Igara, the leader of the PNG delegation at Bougainville peace talks underway in Cairns, said Port Moresby had not changed its longstanding position that the island is an integral part of PNG. "That is the position of successive Papua New Guinean governments and this peace process does not change that at all. Bougainville will always be a part of PNG," said Mr Igara, the head of the PNG Prime Minister's Department.

Mr Igara said the details of a political solution to the nine-year conflict would be thrashed out at a meeting of leaders of the parties to be held in January.

He was responding to a warning on Friday by the BRA's military commander, General Sam Kauona, that rebels would resume the war and "crush PNG" if a referendum is not held.

General Kauona also warned that unarmed Australian troops attached to an international truce-monitoring force being deployed on Bougainville risked being fired upon by renegade elements of the PNG Defence Force seeking to undermine the peace process.

Mr Igara said the truce-monitors had nothing to fear from PNG troops, and that if there was a risk to them it would be from dissident BRA guerillas opposed to the truce.

He also made it clear that PNG expected all of the $135 million in aid for Bougainville promised by Australia over the next five years to be channelled through Port Moresby.

The office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, said on Friday that the Federal Government was prepared to discuss finance for specific aid projects with the BRA and its political wing, the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), which controls much of central and southern Bougainville.

"We are not aware that Australia has recognised the BIG as a separate legal entity" Mr Igara said.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday that although funds could be directed to the BIG, projects would first have to be cleared with Port Moresby.

[World History Archives] [Gateway to World History] [Images from World History] [Hartford Web Publishing]