Bougainville News: Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to address concerns on Bougainville visit

 

julie Bishop2

Put simply, this vote will determine whether Bougainville pushes ahead for full independence or chooses to remain an autonomous region of PNG.

Yet the complexity of the issues in Bougainville, and as between the ABG and PNG, means that as the referendum date draws nearer, Bougainville will again inevitably feature prominently in Australia’s foreign policy considerations.

The process of negotiation between the ABG and PNG is fraught with difficulties as there appear to be deeply entrenched differences over the future of Bougainville, the possibility of reopening the Panguna mine and the direction of economic and social development.

I believe that this region should be Australia’s highest foreign policy priority and that is why I am spending as much time as I am able to do making contact, engaging with people, listening to them and talking about issues of concern.”

Julie Bishop speaking in 2012 after her trip to Bougainville : Has her views changed ?

Picture: Julie Bishop a friend of Bougainville for many years recently hosted Autonomous #Bougainville Government MPs Joan Jerome, Rose Pihei, Elizabeth Burain in her Canberra Office

Fresh from a trip to the International Climate change in Peru South America Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will today travel to Papua New Guinea and Bougainville

The Minister will co-chair the annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum, and Business Dialogue and travel to Bougainville where she will meet political and community leaders to discuss the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and visit Australian aid-funded projects in Buka and Arawa.

Speaking on Sky News Australia this morning (December 14) the Minster said she was concerned about the upcoming referendum on Bougainville independence .

Ms Bishop said Bougainville wanted a referendum on independence next year but she did not believe it or PNG would be ready for a referendum for some time. “I want to meet with the autonomous Bougainvillian government and talk to them about their expectations,” she said.

Asked if she was concerned about a resurgence of violence on Bougainville, Ms Bishop said that had always been a possibility.

“Unless the PNG government and the autonomous Bougainvillian government can sort out their differences and work closely together, I think it is going to be a challenge for Australia and New Zealand and other countries who are responsible, if you like, for this part of the world.”

photo

SEE VIDEO of her interview HERE

Included in this post below are background information on Julie Bishop and her thoughts on Bougainville’s Future  including

What was Julie Bishop saying about Bougainville in 2012 as opposition spokesperson?

Interview with Radio Australia about her Bougainville trip in 2012

Minister Bishop will be joined by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison, Minister for Defence David Johnston and Minister for Justice Michael Keenan.

“The participation of four senior members of the Coalition reflects the strength and depth of the relationship the Australian Government shares with our closest neighbour.” She said

Forum discussions will focus on key areas of bilateral cooperation, including defence and policing cooperation, the implementation of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement, how Australia is assisting PNG to host APEC in 2018, and strengthening PNG’s public service through improved education and training.

Minister Bishop said she  look forward to co-chairing the annual Ministerial Forum Business Dialogue, which enables the business community to discuss with Ministers ways to further strengthen trade and investment links between our two countries.

Following the Ministerial Forum, Minister will travel to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville – the first visit to Bougainville by an Australian Foreign Minister since 2000.

End Press Coverage

Speaking in advance of trip a Bougainville elder had this word of advice for Julie Bishop

“Tell Julie Bishop many of us can understand where she is coming from (from Canberra in Australia) where political correctness is on the lips of politicians. But there are times when politicians are best advised not to come out in public space and view about Bougainville because there are others that will not understand encrypted political messages and even others that will see her as stifling a cause for which people lost their lives.

Sensitivities and knowing what to say, how to say it, when to say it and in the company of who to say it has played a major part in rebuilding Bougainville. It’s challenging and the people of Bougainville will say they don’t need the only LNP women Minister throwing too many spanners into the works in a male dominated work-shop designed and run largely by men. Julie is a friend of Bougainville but she is also Australia’s Foreign Minister.”

images

Background

What was Julie Bishop saying about her Bougainville trip in 2012 as opposition spokesperson

See Video Link Bishop and Rudd exchange comments about Bougainville 2012

The range of complex issues surrounding Papua New Guinea’s national election have been widely commented on by Australian media and politicians – some more helpful and diplomatic than others.

In the week before Easter I visited PNG – my second extended visit to the country in the past 9 months – accompanied by Queensland federal colleagues Senator Ian Macdonald, Jane Prentice MP and Ewen Jones MP.

We held discussions with Prime Minister O’Neill, senior members of his Cabinet, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief of the PNG Defence Force, the Police Commissioner and the PNG Election Commissioner, amongst others, on the many and varied challenges associated with the election.

Papua New Guinea is a democracy and as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations is committed to regular parliamentary elections and strong democratic institutions, yet recent political events have been challenging.

Current indications are that the election will be held mid year with hopefully many of the constitutional issues surrounding the composition of the government and a dispute with the judiciary being resolved by PNG voters at the ballot box.

What is less well known is that there is another vote that will take place in the coming years in Bougainville, an autonomous region of PNG, that is potentially of far greater significance to PNG and the broader region than the general election this year.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement signed in 2001 between the PNG Government and the leaders of Bougainville brought a formal end to a civil war that had cost many lives in Bougainville over decades.

Bitter conflicts over land rights, the closure of the mainstay of the local economy in the Panguna mine in the late 1980s and a nascent secession movement has meant that Bougainville has presented a challenge to the fragile nature of PNG nationhood and its politics since PNG independence in 1975.

However, part of the 2001 Agreement, which was brokered in part by the Howard Government, provides for a referendum to be held between 2015 and 2020 on the question of Bougainville’s independence from PNG.

Various conditions must be met prior to the referendum, notably the disposal of weapons currently held in Bougainville and an acceptable standard of governance achieved by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

Put simply, this vote will determine whether Bougainville pushes ahead for full independence or chooses to remain an autonomous region of PNG.

Yet the complexity of the issues in Bougainville, and as between the ABG and PNG, means that as the referendum date draws nearer, Bougainville will again inevitably feature prominently in Australia’s foreign policy considerations.

The process of negotiation between the ABG and PNG is fraught with difficulties as there appear to be deeply entrenched differences over the future of Bougainville, the possibility of reopening the Panguna mine and the direction of economic and social development.

As Anthony Regan, a leading expert on Bougainville, has stated, the starkly different views that are held by Bougainville leaders and the PNG Government, gives rise “to possibilities of conflict over the referendum outcome”.

Aware of the challenges facing Bougainville and the importance of engaging with all relevant parties at the earliest opportunity, our trip to Papua New Guinea included a number of days in Bougainville to gain a deeper understanding of the complex web of cultural, social, economic and political issues that lie at the heart of the referendum question.

During our stay in Buka, we met with leaders of the ABG including President John Momis and Vice-President Patrick Nisira to discuss progress of the peace process, weapons disposal and economic development.

While the 2001 Agreement resulted in the destruction of many weapons used in the civil war, there are fears that a significant number of weapons are still held in the community.

Further, the military ordnance left in southern Bougainville by the United States during the Second World War in the Pacific is an ever present danger.

We made a seven hour round journey by boat and four-wheel drive to Arawa, the pre-civil war capital of Bougainville, to meet with people involved in the reconciliation process including members of the ABG Regional Administration and a representative from the Me’ekamui people, a tribe who had not taken part in the 2001 Agreement.

The reality of the civil war and the bridges that have to be crossed before the referendum can take place were brought home to me in our meeting with former members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, Sam Kauona and Ishmael Toroama.

Sam Kauona, a Bougainvillean but also an Australian Army trained former PNG Defence Force lieutenant and explosives expert, who became one of the most feared guerrilla fighters in the civil war, told me that he had been “rehabilitated” and that he was now committed to peace and reconciliation.

However he was also deeply committed to an independent Bougainville and he is not alone in his views.

We saw the work funded by Australia’s foreign aid program to improve basic infrastructure across the islands, as well as improving governance, education and health standards. However, the massive challenge of achieving an independent Bougainville should not be underestimated.

Whether the preconditions for the referendum will be met within the timeframe remains to be seen, but this will be a crucial test for the people of Bougainville and the PNG Government.

Australia must be, and be seen to be, deeply committed to the peace and reconciliation process in the lead up to 2015 and beyond.

Interview with Radio Australia 2012

JULIE BISHOP    It is my first visit to Bougainville but it is part of a trip to Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, and I have brought a number of my parliamentary colleagues with me. And we arrived in Buka in Bougainville this morning. We have met with the Vice President and with the Chief Administrator and a number of senior officials. We will be staying overnight this evening and then going to Arawa tomorrow, we will spend another night in Bougainville on Thursday and then return to Papua New Guinea on Friday.

HELENE HOFMAN    Did anything arise from the meetings that you had this morning?

JULIE BISHOP    They have been very significant meetings because I have been given an update about the post conflict challenges in Bougainville. One issue that keeps being raised with me is the weapons disposal programs and the challenges ahead for the autonomous government to try and get the weapons containment under control.

Your listeners will be aware that there is a proposed referendum on independence to be held as part of the Bougainville peace process sometime before 2020, between 2015 and 2020, and one of the issues that must be confronted before the referendum can be held is the weapons disposal. And that is an issue that is really exercised in the minds of those in leadership positions here.

HELENE HOFMAN    And you’re due to meet with President Momis tomorrow, is that something you’ll bring up with him or do you have other issues that are on the agenda?

JULIE BISHOP    I will be meeting with President Momis in the morning. As well as the issue of weapons disposal we will be talking about peace and reconciliation post conflict. I also want to discuss the effectiveness of Australia’s aid program into PNG and Bougainville. I propose discussing with him some of the challenges that Bougainville faces in terms of its budget and the revenues that Bougainville is able to derive, and also some opportunities for opening the Panguna mine again and other mining and resource projects that are being considered here. And we will also talk about other ways to expand the economy and ways that Australia can assist through AusAID and other means.

HELENE HOFMAN    President Momis has repeatedly said he would like to see more Australian aid for Bougainville, what is your stance on that?

JULIE BISHOP    Well that is one of the reasons that I have come here in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I want to understand far better the challenges facing the people of Bougainville. And that is why we are spending two and a half, nearly three days here so that we can meet people who are recipients of aid, understand whether it is having the desired impact.

We have met with the Catholic Bishop today, we are now meeting with one of the Sisters, Sister Lorraine’s organisation out here in Chabai, and trying to understand from them what more is needed in terms of support for health, education, as well as infrastructure.

HELENE HOFMAN    Have you had to field any questions about why the Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr hasn’t yet visited the region?

JULIE BISHOP    I have certainly had to field questions in Port Moresby about Senator Carr’s recent comments concerning sanctions on PNG should an election not be held and I have been reassured on many occasions by every level of government in PNG that the national elections will go ahead as constitutionally required.

And so it is unfortunate that Senator Carr made those comments but he has admitted that they were wrong and I would encourage him to visit PNG and Bougainville as soon as he is able.

There is no substitute for actually spending time here. In the last eight months I have spent a week in PNG, I have spent time on the Solomon Islands and now another week in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.

And so I believe that this region should be Australia’s highest foreign policy priority and that is why I am spending as much time as I am able to do making contact, engaging with people, listening to them and talking about issues of concern.

 

 

 

 

 

One comment on “Bougainville News: Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to address concerns on Bougainville visit

  1. Pingback: Bougainville News: Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop visits Buka and Arawa | Bougainville News

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s