PNG – Australia diplomatic row:
Bougainville needs sustained and meaningful peace and happiness with everyone as well as with itself
Photo and words by Simon Pentanu :Kieta
Picture: A peace symbol on white coral sand, among black pebbles. Bougainville desires peace more than anything else. May peace and harmony prevail on Bougainville and in PNG.
“May be the choice of the words diplomatic office or mission in the Federal budget estimates is the primary source of this agitation in the context of political arrangements for Bougainville within PNG. That budget estimates are only proposals and plans pending approval is often lost, as may be the case now, when political fray momentarily takes over.
But there is no doubt that Australia must recognize sensitivities both political and cultural in a more considered and serious light to avoid stumbles and pitfalls in its otherwise long, enduring relationship with its most populous, boisterous and resource rich Melanesian neighbour.”
If there is anything at all that the ABG leadership should say on this matter it is that the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) should oblige the National Government to consult or at least inform Bougainville that it was taking such a course with Australia before banning visits by its citizens to the Region.
This incident or misunderstanding is something that was probably bound to happen along the way. That it has, has thrown up an opportunity for Australia to think through more carefully just how best Canberra should bring such and other matters in connection with Bougainville to the attention of PNG leaders. I say along the way because we read that there have been discussions at bureaucratic and political level in mooting the office on Bougainville.
PNG has made its point well and clearly about the need for consultation. Australia has responded with some caution and constraint, clearly so that the diplomatic waters are not muddied any more than they are already. Both sides need to recognize that both countries have had more bellicose diplomatic and political spars and spats in the past and that humility, time and dialogue have been the best healers. Not ironically most of the similar cataclysm in the past has had to do with something or other with Bougainville.
Bougainville will continue to be a prickly thorn on the sides of successive PNG and Australian Governments for a variety of different reasons to do with the Region’s political future. What most of us don’t want to see is politicians in PNG, including Bougainville, and Australia flexing their muscles, grandstanding and communicating in euphemisms and monologues at a distance where they are hard of hearing each other and as a consequence creating potential uncertainty and confusion among ordinary folk in Bougainville on a matter over consultative procedures and processes in dealing with matters on the Island.
A Masters thesis or a PhD dissertation or a Crocodile Prize entry or even the verses from the humongous King James version Bible will not nearly address or offer the way out towards grappling with or getting this potentially divisive matter towards an amicable resolution as would be a dialogue between affected human beings at close quarters, and face to face.
The BPA which is a joint-creation between Bougainville leaders and PNG remains a good guide, and in parts an enforceable document, to consult. If there is anything at all that the ABG leadership should say on this matter it is that the spirit of the BPA should oblige the National Government to consult or at least inform Bougainville that it was taking such a course with Australia before banning visits by its citizens to the Region.
Sensitive issues, whether it is to do with thinking aloud about a diplomatic office in Buka now or asking former Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to remove his shoes at Brisbane airport some years ago calls for more than just diplomatic or political skills to manoeuvre through and get out of. They certainly cannot be suppressed or buried because they will simply resurface elsewhere in our regional relationship.