Bougainville independence movement|
Date: Sat, 16 May 1998 00:31:49 +0200
From: Norbert BRAumann <N.BRAumann@tu-bs.de>
Organization: Technical University Braunschweig (Germany)
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Subject: [BougI-xL PNG-Ind.] Terms of the BOUGAINVILLE CEASEFIRE
Terms of the Bougainville Civil War
Cry for peace answered
LAST week representatives of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and the Papua New Government signed a peace treaty ending nine years of a conflict which has claimed more than 15,000 lives. Reporter Veronica Hatutasi witnessed the signing ceremony.
EVERY face tells a story.
And so it was last Thursday in Arawa on a historic occasion which signalled a new day for the strife-torn Bougainville islanders who in the last nine-years, have endured a bitter war as rebel secessionists and PNG security forces fought, a fight which to date neither side can claim to have won.
For about 6,000 people who had gathered at the Arawa Independent Oval, April 30 was a day that they had pinned high hopes on. And from their faces one could see that there was fervent expectation whether the signing of instruments for the cease fire implementation really guaranteed them the promise of lasting peace.
The cry for peace was the message conveyed by the actions, signs and simply by the presence of the thousands who had assembled to witness an historic occasion. The call, nurture, strengthening and its (peace) prevailing on the island and people was the unifying message of the day and highlighted by the women speakers, Bougainville leaders from both sides of the conflict, international representatives and from Prime Minister Bill Skate.
The overwhelming majority wanted peace, services and freedom first in their lives, communities and the island. Many expressed that after all these are achieved, leaders can deal with the political aspect. After all, the political future of Bougainville is the crux of the whole bloody war and whichever way the tide turns, the issue will still be looming and the country will not be at rest until a political solution to the issue is reached.
Fears and misgivings aside, for the many Bougainvilleans who had made their way from south, north, west, Buka and the Atolls into Arawa a week before the event, the spirit of festivity and joy was in the air. This was highlighted by the various traditional performance groups and the effort put by all parties from the community, provincial and the national levels to make the day a success.
The presence of about 200 dignitaries representing foreign ministers of countries partaking in peace keeping duties on the island including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and the United Nations gave the event an international flavour.
The day could not have been any better - a clear day, bright blue skies, slight breeze and the scorching sun, hot and humid.
People gathered from the Arawa High school grounds past the Bovo bridge and service station where prior to the conflict sold the best of mouth-watering hot chips and Kentucky Fried Chicken and onto the Independent Oval.
As the bus transporting reporters made its way towards the ceremonial enclosure, my eyes could not miss the delicious bundles of fresh mandarins being sold nearby at a cheap price of K1 per bundle. An abundance of young coconuts and betel nuts were also being sold that day and though I did not have the chance to purchase any of them due to the tight schedule, some of my colleagues managed however and returned to Port Moresby with plastic bags of the fruits and their favourite nuts.
Reverend Samson Lowa of the Boroko United Church led the opening ceremony and while highlighting the importance of the occasion as an historic event, said this was "the beginning of a process which opened a new chapter for our children".
He praised all peacemakers with the popular Biblical verse from the beatitudes: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God".
He commended the community on Bougainville and the efforts put in by provincial, national and international leaders to bring peace, freedom and normality on Bougainville.
"Peacemakers are not biased but take a neutral stance to make peace. There is a time for everything and today is such a day. Bougainville is ready to walk that path to peace today for the sake of our children," Reverebd Lowa said.
The unifying message clearly echoed by Bougainville women speakers and other leaders is the demand for peace with the ceasure of fighting, freedom and the rights to live as other citizens of the country.
The demands and appeals were hammered loud and clear during the cease fire signing by women leaders who highlighted the hardships undergone by women, children and the civilian population who often times became victims of crossfires when fighting took place between the seccesionist rebels and the security forces.
Prominent provincial woman leaders, Theresa Jaintong, Agnes Titus and BRA combat commander Sam Kauona's wife, Josephine urged all parties not to politicise the issue and to honour what has been signed for the sake of the children and mothers who had suffered enough.
"People have had enough. We owe it to our children and appeal for leaders to work together for peace and not for some high political motives.
"It is the women and children who have suffered the full brunt of the war," Ms Jaintong said and appealed for common sense to prevail for the fighting men and leaders to stop the war.
Ms Jaintong commended BRA/BIG leaders Joseph Kabui and Sam Kauona for seeking negotiations and not guns as venues to end the fighting and bring peace to the island. She said that by doing so they have lifted the heavy burdens from mothers, children and the civilian majority.
Mrs Titus, who was the BTG womens representative, while acknowledging the assistance towards achieving peace given by peace keepers of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, said the responsibility of nurturing the peace process rested on Bougainvilleans themselves. She said it was time to look forward and not for political rhetorics.
On behalf of women in the BRA areas, Mrs Kauona said mothers and children had hoped for this day and wanted the process to continue so that the children will have a right to live on their own soil peacefully. She said women played a vital role in the peace process and they would continue to support their men on the way forward. She urged the national government to genuinely assist Bougainville in its path to achieve lasting peace and the freedom for its people.
The actual signing of the agreement took place at about 3.00 pm following speeches from the various leaders representing the BRA/BIG, the BTG, womens groups, the national government, foreign ministers the four peace keeping countries and a representative from the United Nations Secretariat.
Sir John Kaputin, the special state negotiator representing the PNG government led the signing followed by Bougainville Affairs minister and Central Bougainville MP, Sam Akoitai. The province's four national MP's including Regional MP John Momis, South and north Bougainville MPs Michael Ogio and Michael Laimo followed suit.
Premier Gerard Sinato represented the BTG while resistance leader Hilary Masiria signed on his group's behalf.
Deputy leader of the rebel-led BRA/BIG government Joseph Kabui and his combat commander Sam Kauona signed on behalf of the seccesionists while the foreign ministers of the participating peace keepers signed as witnesses to the occasion.
A North Nasioi chief stressed that the agreements signed were worth nothing but the real peace is what you have in your heart when signing.
And as echoed by speakers at the signing, the onus is up to the Bougainvilleans themselves to make the peace work and that the peace keepers, PNG and other outsiders could only provide assistance in the process.
To the lead-up to the signing, it was no easy task coming to terms with the cease fire agreements by the parties who signed the instruments.
After much negotiations which went into the early hours of Thursday morning on the Australian navy vessel HMAS Tobruk off Arawa shores, Sir John, Mr Sinato and the BRA/BIG team of negotiators led by Mr Kabui arrived at some compromise to sort out two contentious issues of concern which the BRA/BIG wanted addressed prior to the signing, only hours ahead. These include the demilitarisation of Arawa and Loloho under which the PNG Defence Force members be withdrawn immediately. The BRA leaders demanded this to ensure free movement of people and BRA leadership into the two areas for business and administration purposes.
The other issue the rebel leaders wanted is for a fact finding mission of international jurists into Bougainville in the quest of establishing a workable judiciary on the island.
Meanwhile rebel leader Francis Ona has issued threats to peace monitors on the island, saying he will shoot to kill them if they ventured into his territory. He has also waged a war of words against his senior members, Messrs Kabui and Kauona. The majority of Bougainvilleans want peace and it is ony proper for Mr Ona to heed to their cries, while the political issue could be discussed by the leaders at that level.
Terms of the cease fire
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