History of Melanesia|
Date: Tue, 4 Mar 97 11:18:37 CST
From: Mark Graffis <email@example.com.
Subject: Mercenaries in Action in New Guinea
Secessionists in Papua New Guinea say British, South African Mercenaries in action
From Agence France-Press
3 March 1997
SYDNEY (Mar 3, 1997 07:49 a.m. EST) - South African and British
mercenaries have begun reconnaissance missions over Papua New Guinea's
war-ravaged island province of Bougainville, secessionist rebels
charged here Monday.
The Bougainville Revolutionary Army's Sydney-based spokesman Moses
Havini told reporters a dispatch had been received from the area on
Monday stating that a small party of mercenaries had been sighted on
the South Pacific island.
An Iroquois helicopter gunship was observed dropping an unidentified
object on Mount Poruka in central Bougainville on Friday and two more
helicopters had been spotted flying over the region on Saturday and
Three members of the crew were identified as mercenaries, Havini said.
His claim followed weekend reports from rebel sources that 170
"foreigners" had already landed on Bougainville and that up to 190
paid fighters had been hired by Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan's PNG
Havini said the mercenaries were on the island to conduct "surgical
operations" aimed at wiping out rebel leaders.
A number of countries have protested to PNG about the use of
mercenaries, which Australia says will not end the nine-year conflict
sparked by a dispute over royalties from the rich Panguna copper mine
owned by Australian mining giant RTZ-CRA.
"The only way you can solve that problem is by genuine negotiation,"
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said over the weekend. "We've
put that to the prime minister of PNG repeatedly."
Chan stressed Monday his nation was determined to settle the ownership
issue over the giant Panguna copper mine which has been the centre of
a civil war on the island of Bougainville.
He had earlier said his government was to approach RTZ-CRA to buy out
its 53.9 percent stake in the open cast copper mine at Panguna. Until
the conflict began 10 years ago, the mine produced nearly half of
Papua New Guinea's total export earnings.
The conflict grew out of claims by Panguna land owners for
compensation for land lost to the mine and other land damaged by mine
"This new initiative is Papua New Guinea's opportunity to address some
long held grievances by both Panguna landowners and all
Bougainvilleans," Chan said Monday.
"The mine was the root cause of the problem," he said. "This is a post
colonial legacy left to us after independence, an issue that my
government refuses to let slide any further."
If the government buyout of the mine is successful, it would enable
the government "to restructure ownership, financing and operational
aspects" allowing compensation and a reconstruction package to settle
landowner disputes over royalties, Chan said in a statement.
Bougainville's interim government president Francis Ona said in a
statement released by Havini that a peaceful settlement was impossible
"while the PNG government holds an axe in one hand and sugar in the
"Chan probably suffers from memory lapse," Ona said.
"We have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate with the PNG government
under the existing Bougainville Copper Agreement for the last 25 years
He also said the rebels were "happy" with steps taken by Australian
Prime Minister John Howard to oppose the use of mercenaries.
RTZ-CRA said it had not yet received an offer for the mine.
The nine-year conflict has continued despite accusations of human
rights abuses by both sides.
Last week Amnesty International charged that the international
community was turning a blind eye to the war.
Copyright &38; copy 1997 Agence France-Presse