Bougainville News Alerts this week : Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne visits Bougainville ahead of independence referendum and amid fears #Bougainville independence will open Pacific door for China  

 “I don’t think the exercise of a democratic process in one of our nearest neighbours would be described as a huge problem for Australia.

The referendum is part of a peace agreement that has been under way for some time.

The important things that Australia is focused on is not forming a view one way or the other on the outcome of a referendum in another country, but importantly supporting that wherever we can to ensure a credible, and a peaceful and an inclusive process.”

Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the Bougainville referendum later this year, and won’t cast judgment on the result, Foreign Minister Marise Payne says.

Hear ABC Radio Coverage

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne this week visited Bougainville for a few hours amid fears an upcoming independence vote there could undermine regional stability and provide an opening for China to establish a strategic foothold in what could become the Pacific’s newest nation state.

Report from The Australian

The visit was the first by an Australian minister since a bungled 2015 attempt to open an Australian consulate led the PNG government to slap a ban on Australian officials travelling to the autonomous region.

Papua New Guinea, which fought a decade-long civil war with Bougainville rebels ending in the late 90s, is trying to convince

PNG Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Bougainville’s people needed to understand what “cutting the umbilical cord from Papua New Guinea” would mean.

“The revenue for Bougainville is only 20 million kina ($8.6m) per year,” Sir Puka said.

“They will need, according to international studies, at least 900 million kina ($390m) a year to rebuild Bougainville as an independent state.” He said independence would also mean “Papua New Guinea will not be able to be politically responsible for an independent Bougainville state”.

Bougainville’s people will vote on October 17 to either become an independent state or to have greater autonomy within PNG.

There is a widespread expectation that Bougainvilleans will vote in favour of independence in a result that would then have to be ratified by the PNG parliament, where it could face opposition from MPs who fear other provinces could follow.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape has said PNG was “stronger with Bougainville than without” but it would listen to the people of Bougainville “and then consult on options for the future”.

Lowy Institute Pacific program director Jonathan Pryke said the referendum outcome would have strategic implications “thanks to the active presence of China throughout PNG and the broader Pacific”. “Given the new strategic landscape, and not to mention the huge reserves left in Panguna (copper) mine, I would expect an independent Bougainville would have a number of potential international suitors to help them with their financial challenges,” Mr Pryke said.

Nana Buba from New Dawn Reports on visit to Bougainville

The visiting Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne this week met with the Bougainville women Peace builders at the Nazareth Rehabilitation centre, Chabai on the northern tip of mainland Bougainville.

She was very keen to know the work of these peace builders who work in their communities working tirelessly to end violence against women and children and also carry awareness on the upcoming referendum.

Presenters assisted Sister Loraine in presenting what the women peace builders have been doing silently to make the place free from violence and human right abuses in the communities.

The woman who made several comments is the former ABG member representing the women of South Bougainville, Rose Pihei who stressed the need to address traumatized people and also address mental health issues in our communities.

Mrs Pihie said that if these post conflict problems are not addressed Bougainville will be facing a big problem with these people in the future.

She said that the work Sr Loraine  is doing must be supported by donor partners. The women had representatives that came all the way from North,Central and South Bougainville for this meeting.

The team was fully informed on the work of these women peace builders at this meeting.

The Bougainville Affairs Minister, DR. Puka Temu this week  acknowledged the important tripartite relationship that the three countries, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have developed over the years.

Minister Temu made these remarks during lunch at the Reasons Guest house in Buka town . He said that this significant relationship between our three countries have grown over the years and continue strengthen our friendship.

Dr Temu also acknowledged the members of the Regional Peace Mission contributing countries like Solomon Islands Vanuatu and FIJI for their continued support for peace throughout the Pacific. He said as the Minister for Bougainville Affairs Minister it was only proper to thank these countries for their continued support especially assisting PNG on the Bougainville issue.

Dr Temu said that PNG will continue to work with Australia and New Zealand to complete the Bougainville Peace Agreement with the conduct of the referendum in October and also manage the transitional period after the vote is taken.

The Minister for Bougainville Affairs, SIR PUKA TEMU has told the visiting Australian and New Zealand delegation that since the change of the government two weeks ago, Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE has announced that the PNG Government is 100 percent behind the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Bougainville News Alert : Today we commemorate the 14th Anniversary of the Autonomous #Bougainville Government :Celebrating our past , embracing our future , #togetherwecan

 

“ The Bougainville day, for this year alone, is very special for Bougainville when the people are getting ready to vote on the future political status of the government and region as a whole.

It was the cry of our ancestors that Bougainville becomes an independent nation.

Their cries haven’t fallen on deaf ears. Leaders and powerful decision makers have all heard our cries. And now it is up to us to make the choice come the Bougainville Referendum on October 12,” he said.

“So come. Let’s celebrate our past and embrace our future. Together we can reach that destiny,”

Acting Chief Secretary Mr Thomas Raivet said that he wants the Bougainville day celebrations to be bigger and better this year.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government was inaugurated on the 15th of June 2005. Today the region will commemorate the 14th Anniversary of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.  In the 14 years of its existence, the ABG has gone through many challenges and overcome many difficulties.

Photo Ishmael Milton Palipal

The few challenges and the negatives are minor, and give us Bougainvilleans strength and make us more determined group of people. And the challenges and negatives should be humiliated by the many achievements that the ABG continues to attain and deliver to the people of Bougainville.

Commemorating the event is one way that Bougainvilleans are continued to be reminded on the achievements and instill amongst them a clear sense of patriotism and they take ownership of the entire process of finding a lasting solution to the Bougainville conflict and aspiration.

As the window period on the conduct of the referendum is coming closer to its end and with the agreement on the Question to be asked in the Referendum, it is becoming apparent that the 14th ABG day may be the last to be celebrated under the current Autonomous arrangement, ensued by the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Based on this the ABG Department of Peace Agreement Implementation (DPAI) together with other ABG agencies, intends to ensure 14th anniversary of the ABG is celebrated differently from the past and previous ABG Days.

The event must be inclusive as much as possible so that all Bougainvilleans across the different levels and organizations fully participate. Particular emphasis will be placed on the youthful population and most importantly all ABG Department must be seen to embrace the day and fully participate directly or indirectly.

Some of the underline objectives of the 14th ABG day include;

  • To celebrate on the achievements of the Autonomous Bougainville Government since its establishment and positively look forward to the challenges that are yet to come,
  • To promote the identity of Bougainville through the various forms of arts and cultures that will be showcased during the ABG Day.
  • Doing away with regionalism and factionalism and promoting peace and unification amongst all Bougainvilleans through arts and cultures and other various forms that will be showcased,
  • To promote all inclusive participation of Bougainvilleans in the event. The event as much as possible must draw full participation of all stakeholders including the youthful population, women and elderly, people living with disabilities,
  • To inform Bougainvilleans on the recent development pertaining to the Referendum preparation.

The theme for this year’s ABG Day is set as “CELEBRATING OUR PAST, EMBRACING OUR FUTURE…TOGETHER WE CAN.

This theme fits in well as it continues to remind Bougainvilleans that we have come a long way after the cessation of the Bougainville conflict. And as we are progressing, we continue to achieve many positive outcomes for the betterment of the region we all call our home.

And as we celebrate we continue to remind ourselves that we are a peaceful people that does not want to enter into any conflict again. We have proven that through the survival of the Bougainville Peace Agreement without any relapse of war. Above all, the achievements are a result of the contribution of all Bougainvilleans and together we desire to achieve many positive outcomes for the years to come.

This year the celebrations will be big. The celebration for this year is set for two days Saturday June 15 and Sunday June 16. The Program for Saturday will begin with a dawn service at the Bel Isi Park at Buka Town followed by a boat and truck floats, boat race, peace walk, tug of war, biker stunts and the main celebrations held at the Hutjena Oval.

On Sunday the celebrations takes place at the Hutjena Oval. There will be a combined church service followed by traditional dances, a panel discussion on the Bougainville Referendum; a theatre group to entertain with drama; Mr & Miss Bougainville Quest; bands to play till the afternoon and the releasing of the lanterns to remember the 20,000 lives lost during the Bougainville Crisis.