|A short history of conflict and the mandate of the PMG|
|Since 1989 Bougainville, the PNG administered North Solomon Islands Province in the South Pacific, has endured the hardships of death and destruction.
There were several factors that drove some factions of the normally peace loving people against each other. The CRA owned Bougainville Copper Mine at Panguna and the associated problems that it caused, bought about the formation of Panguna Landowners' Association (PLA). The mine was financially significant to the PNG government with 40 % of its export revenue (17% of its government revenue), the Land owners' Association disputed that more compensation should be payed and that environmental degredation should be addressed. The increased number of mainland squatters attracted to Bougainville for work that was not available also became another factor that exacerbated indiginous Bougainvillian resent towards the mine. Following these disputes, a splinter faction of the PLA escalated the situation by initiating a series of attacks against the mine in 1988.
The civil powers unable to quell the unrest sought the assistance of the Papua New Guinea Defence force (PNGDF). In 1989, Francis Ona, a local folk hero and the leader of the sepratist landowner group, joined with local cargo cultists and attracted rascol elements announced the independence of the "Republic of Bougainville". The mine was forced to close (although it re-opened briefly) after the first security force casualties in 1989.
In 1989 and 1990 there were several attempts to negotiate a peace deal, but division between the Bougainvillians themselves and the "hawks" and "doves" within the PNG government made the negotiations difficult. In May 1990, PNG's acting Prime Minister announced a 'blockade' of Bougainville after a withdrawl of the security forces and a ceasefire.The rebels announced the formation of the Bougainville Interim Goverment (BIG), that was headed by Francis Ona. The military wing, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) was unable to restore order and the island fell into a period of economic and political collapse. The people of Bougainville described this as a period of violent anarchy.
During the period between mid-1990 to early 1991, peace initiatives were persued by the "Prime Minister" of the BIG Joseph Kabui leading to the "Honiara Declaration" which seemed to pave the way for peace. Meanwhile in Sept 1990, the Buka Liberation Front (BLF) raised opposition to the BRA and requested the return of the security forces. Peace initiative continued, but in Mar 1991 an apparently unauthorised descision by a PNGDF commander, undermined negotiations by attacking a strategic bridge and BRA base near Kieta. (The commander was removed after public revelations of the use of two UH-1H gun-ships that were supplied by Australia on the understanding that they were to be used for transport, surveillance ad medivac purposes). Little more was achieved in peace talks over the next 12 months except for the creation of a number of regionally-based interim governing authorities to help restore government services.
In late 1991 leaders in south Bougainville started negotiations for the restoration of government services, and in May 1992 received security forces who were supported by resistance forces opposing the BRA. Around mid 1992, the Buka Interim Authority formed a peace commitee and initiated negotiations with the BIG and traditional leaders of central Bougainville,they formulated a plan to hold a Bougainville Peace Conference in Honiara (Solomon Islands) in Sept 1992, but a border violation in Sept 1992 scuttled the meeting.
In 1993, national MPs and about 50 traditional leaders considered a BIG peace plan and carried on negotiations. A North Solomons Peace Negotiating and Monitoring Committee was established which produced a "Peace and Ceasefire Agreement" in Honiara in July 1993.
A visit by an Australian Parliamentary delegation in Apr 1994 prompted the PNG Prime Minister to issue a statement calling on the BRA/BIG to work together and settle the crisis. A multinational South Pacific peace keeping force was proposed by Deputy PM/Foriegn Minister Sir Julius Chan, who would assist in the peace process. (The BIG had been requesting a multinational force since 1991). June 1994 bought a series of talks between representatives of the BIG and PNG Government in Honiara. There were now seven interim authorities operating in Bougainville who all agreed in a prepatory meeting to formulate arrangements to hold a Pan-Bougainville Peace Conference. The meeting between BIG and PNG Government again broke down, and in August the security forces retook Panguna.
Another round of talks was held in Honiara after Chan replaced Wingti as Prime Minister. A ceasefire was agreed to and a peace conference was organised to be held in the provincial capital of Arawa in October. A South Pacific Peace Keeping Force (SPPKF) was established comprising of forces from Fiji, Tonga, Venuatu, New Zealand and Australia. Although several BIG leaders failed to attend there were representations from Bougainvillian womens groups and other Bougainvillians who agreed to a commitment to peace and reconstruction. The following weeks saw peace ceremonies through out Bougainville and a significant freeing up of movement over the island.
A series of meetings of Bougainville leaders were held to follow up the resolutions of the peace conference. Later, in mid November the PNG Prime Minister announced a "New Deal for Bougainville" and then the "Mirigini Charter for a New Bougainville", this lead to the formation of a Bougainville Transitional Government (BTG). By Jan 1995 they had produced a draft bill to amend the North Solomons provincial constitution. The BLF meanwhile travelled the island seeking reconcilliation with the BRA commanders.
Between May and August 1995, the Miriung lead BTG held a series of consultations with PNG. The "Waigani Communique" addressed issues such as amnesty for BRA fighters, rehabilitation of the Bougainville economy, administrative arrangements for restoration, the future of the resistance and the structure of Bougainville. The bounties on Kabui, Ona and Kauona were lifted.
In September and December 1995, the BIG and BTG met in Cairns for formal consultations with representatives of the Secretariate General of the UN and the Commonwealth facilitated by the Australian Government. On their return to Bouganville via the Solomons the leaders were fired upon by the security forces of PNG. The recriminations lead Chang to announce that there would be no more talks outside PNG. BRA activity increased and Chan called off the ceasfire negotiated in 1994 after the killing of 11 security members of the security forces in Buka.
In June 1996, a peace plan produced by the BTG was discussed in Port Moresby. This lead to an understanding signed by Chan and Miriung on the extension of the BTG beyond 1997 and the possibility of some autonomy for Bougainville, however it seems that there were plans being made for a major military assault on BRA strongholds whilst these talks were taking place. 'Operation High Speed II' was to include the use of two PNGDF infantry Battalions (1400 troops) to excecute a surgical strike against the BRA leaders. The PNGDF gained little ground and withdrew conceding victory to the BRA in July. In September, BRA fighters followed up with an attack on a PNGDF outpost at Kangu Beach killing 12 and capturing several others. Some sources claimed that civilians assisted with the attack, angered by the behavior of security forces towards them.
In July 1997 leaders of Bouganville factions, without the presence of the PNG Government, met in New Zealand to discuss issues of a possible peace keeping force on the island. This meeting, instiling trust in each other, became known as the 'Burnham I Agreement'. A further meeting, that lead to the 'Burnham II Agreement', was held in October 1997, this included all of the factions including the PNG Government. This meeting further instilled trust in each other and concentrated on the withdrawl of the PNG troops, reconcilliation, and the formation of a truce monitoring group.
In April 1998, the 'Lincoln Agreement' was signed by all of the major parties involved in the conflicts. It addressed concerns such as the amnesty of BRA fighters, the change over from TMG to the PMG, UN observers and the withdrawl of PNG troops.
The formal mandate of the PMG was finally signed at the April 30 1998 Ceasfire Agreement at Arawa.
|No official views are depicted in this document|