PNG BAN ON AUSTRALIAN’S TRAVEL TO BOUGAINVILLE – Momis says honour the Bougainville Peace Agreement

 

 

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“I call on the Foreign Minister to lift the ban immediately, and to separately take steps to resolve the PNG dispute with Australia. There is no basis for the PNG Government to be harming Bougainville as a way of dealing with its misunderstanding with Australia.

“I also call on the Foreign Minister to work with the ABG to ensure that we can use our foreign affairs powers under the Peace Agreement.

“I also seek an assurance from the Minister that in future he will not take unilateral action in relation to foreign citizen’s travel to Bougainville. Instead, he must recognise Bougainville’s autonomy, and only take any such action at the request, or with the agreement, of the ABG

Grand Chief Dr John L. Momis

President John L. Momis today made a statement on the dispute between PNG and Australia over the PNG announcement of a ban on travel to Bougainville by Australians. The ban was imposed in response to Australia’s announcement about establishing a diplomatic office in Bougainville.

The President said the ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville would only cause problems for PNG, Bougainville, and Australia.

He said: “Australia is spending K120 million per year on assistance for Bougainville. It supports development building the capacity of the public service of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG). A ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville will severely slow delivery of important assistance that is helping Bougainville in many ways.

“It is therefore vitally important that this dispute between PNG and Australia is resolved as soon as possible. The dispute can readily be resolved if both governments honour the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“Australia knows that under the Agreement, Bougainville’s leaders accepted that Bougainville is part of PNG unless the referendum process results in a change. So unless or until that happens, Australia must of course respect PNG sovereignty.

“I understand that what Australia proposes is a limited increase in the full-time office it has had in Buka since about 2007. Australia has had discussions with PNG and the ABG about doing this. But the announcement in the Australian Treasurer’s budget speech last week made it sound as if a major diplomatic office is to be established

That is not the case. Australia should publicly clarify what is little more than a misunderstanding.

“For its part, PNG should remember that the Peace Agreement provides Bougainville with high autonomy, now guaranteed by the PNG Constitution.

The travel ban has been imposed without a request from or agreement of the ABG. This is a serious breach of at least the spirit of the Peace Agreement.

“The Agreement also clearly gives the ABG control of access of foreigners to Bougainville.

Under it the ABG can propose names of foreigners to be placed on the visa warning list, to prevent their entry to PNG and Bougainville. All applications for work permits and employment visas for people wanting to go to Bougainville are required to be referred to the ABG.

“But ABG requests to the National Government to set up the necessary administrative machinery for the ABG to exercise these powers have so far been ignored. So it seriously concerns me that PNG now wants to control travel to Bougainville, when it does nothing to allow the ABG to exercise its clear powers to control foreigner’s access to Bougainville.”

The President said that he wanted to discuss the travel ban with Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs as a matter of urgency.

He said: “I call on the Foreign Minister to lift the ban immediately, and to separately take steps to resolve the PNG dispute with Australia. There is no basis for the PNG Government to be harming Bougainville as a way of dealing with its misunderstanding with Australia.

“I also call on the Foreign Minister to work with the ABG to ensure that we can use our foreign affairs powers under the Peace Agreement.

“I also seek an assurance from the Minister that in future he will not take unilateral action in relation to foreign citizen’s travel to Bougainville. Instead, he must recognise Bougainville’s autonomy, and only take any such action at the request, or with the agreement, of the ABG

Grand Chief Dr John L. Momis

 

Diplomatic row BREAKING NEWS: PNG Government Imposes Ban on Australians Travelling to Bougainville

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Rimbink Pato, Minister For Foreign Affairs and Immigration, has announced a ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville.

Minister Pato issued the notice following the announcement by Australia of its plan to establish an Open Mission in Bougainville.

The Minister said, “I have instructed the Chief Migration Officer to impose the ban with immediate effect and to notify all PNG Overseas Missions and Posts and domestic carriers of the ban.”

He said Australians residing in Bougainville on work and permanent resident visas will not be affected by the ban. The ban will apply to all Australian passport holders who intend to visit Bougainville on tourist, business and other short-term entry visa’s.

All Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials wishing to visit Bougainville must seek clearance from the Department of Foreign Affairs before travelling to Bougainville. A clearance note will be issued to the Carrier to uplift the named officail(s).

The ban will also be imposed on any foreigner who applies for a visa at an PNG Overseas Missions and Post to visit Bougainville.

PNG Migration, Customs and Police Officers on duty at PNG Ports and Entry and Provincial Airports will monitor the ban and report any non-compliance to the Chief Migration Officer.

Source: Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration 15 May 2015 [Media Release]

Bougainville Election News : Mekamui Tribal Government says Panguna 100 % behind Momis

 

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“The Mekamui Tribal Government of Unity stands behind President Momis as we see him as the person who will lead us to freedom,”

“The Mekamui faction has also started the realignment process with the Autonomous Bougainville Government that will see reintegration and unity amongst all Bougainvilleans,”

Mekamui Defence Force hard man, Moses Pipiro declared that the people in Panguna area were 100 percent behind President Momis : Picture presenting shell money

Please note the following text supplied by ABG media

The Mekamui Tribal Government of Unity have pledged their support to incumbent ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis in this year’s ABG General Elections.

Mekamui Defence Force hard man, Moses Pipiro declared that the people in Panguna area were 100 percent behind President Momis’ bid to retain the ABG Presidency in a political rally held in the heart of the Panguna Township yesterday.

“The Mekamui Tribal Government of Unity stands behind President Momis as we see him as the person who will lead us to freedom,” Mr Pipiro said.

“The Mekamui faction has also started the realignment process with the Autonomous Bougainville Government that will see reintegration and unity amongst all Bougainvilleans,” he added.

“President Momis has been with us from the very start of our struggle for self-determination and he is the only one who knows where will go,” Mr Pipiro said.

Former ABG President James Tanis was also amongst a host of leaders from North, South and Central Bougainville who endorsed President Momis’s candidacy.(file picture )

 

Mr Tanis said that his decision not to stand for this year’s elections was to allow President Momis to complete the long journey that is Bougainville’s move to self-determination and should the people choose, total independence.

“President Momis’ is on the verge of completing what he started more than 40 years ago when he took up the fight for our people’s freedom,” Mr Tanis said.

“It would be unjust for me to usurp his leadership, as a respected elder statesman he has the necessary experience and will to lead us to independence,” Mr Tanis added.

“With Bougainville’s Referendum to be held within the term of the third and final Bougainville House of Representatives, as stipulated in the PNG Constitution, Bougainvilleans must know the type of leader they want to lead them and President Momis is that leader,” Tanis said.

In attendance at the rally were ABG President, Grand Chief Dr John Momis, Mekamui Government of Unity President, Philip Miriori, former Clerk of the National Parliament and Chief Ombudsman Simon Pentanu and various ABG Members from Central and South Bougainville.

 

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Bougainville 2015 elections : United Nations kicks off training and media support

cq5dam_web_699_470“These elections are of fundamental importance to Bougainville. OBEC welcomes the UN´s support in these key components of a democratic election.”

OBEC´s acting Commissioner, George Manu

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is starting a comprehensive training programme focusing on election Scrutineers, Returning Officers, and Media in Bougainville.

The polling period will fall between May 11 and May 25. Counting will commence immediately after the polling period from May 26 to June 7 and the writs will be returned the next day, June 8, 2015

The trainings are part of UNDP´s effort to enhance the understanding of the 2015 Bougainville general elections process, due to start from 11 May. UNDP will also be supporting the coordination of election observation groups, providing training support to women candidates, and facilitating a post-elections lessons-learnt exercise.

The scrutineer training is expected to reach as many as 720 people and aims to provide scrutineers with an overview of the electoral process and their role in it so that any complaints raised during polling and counting are based on an understanding of those processes.

UNDP will also facilitate small group and one-on-one training discussions with Bougainville’s 19 Returning Officers, focusing on the Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commission´s (OBEC) process for handling complaints during the polling and counting periods. The training aims to ensure that complaints about elections are resolved in a consistent, transparent, and timely manner.

The media training will target local media houses. The main objective of the training is to equip journalists with the basic knowledge and professional skills that will enable them to cover election processes in a fair, balanced, and non-partisan way and through them enable citizens to become well-informed and active participants in the political decision processes.

“Election stakeholders, such as Scrutineers, Returning Officers, and Media, are a key component of the wider election process. By ensuring their understanding of their role and the electoral procedures, we are promoting credible elections,” said Ray Kennedy, UNDP´s electoral support team leader.

OBEC´s acting Commissioner, George Manu, stated that “These elections are of fundamental importance to Bougainville. OBEC welcomes the UN´s support in these key components of a democratic election.”

Roy Trivedy, UN Resident Coordinator/UNDP Resident Representative, said that “The UN is working closely with OBEC. This training will assist to ensure free and transparent elections.”

UNDP has tailored its election support following a request of the Government of PNG and the Autonomous Bougainville Government for a UN electoral assistance project to strengthen local capacity in the lead up to the 2015 elections.

For further requests, please contact: bougainville.elections.2015@undp.org

Media accreditation to start for 2015 general elections in Bougainville

28 Apr 2015The Office of the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner (OBEC) has today announced the start of a media accreditation process for the coverage of the 2015 elections.The accreditation process will start on 27 April and will continue through the elections to allow the media easier access to election officials, locations, and information.OBEC invites all interested media houses to request further details on the accreditation process from the election commission´s Media Relations unit.

Together with their accreditation badge, journalists will receive an election handbook containing useful information on the election process.

According to OBEC´s Acting Commissioner, George Manu, “OBEC, with the support of the United Nations Development Programme, has developed a simple media accreditation process that will enable journalists to gain access to relevant electoral events”.

“This new process of media accreditation is one further step to pave the way for credible and transparent elections, according to international election standards”, Manu added.

OBEC is the entity responsible for the administration and conduct of the Bougainville 2015 general elections, to be held from 11 May.
UNDP is providing support to the OBEC’s media accreditation process as part of its wider work on supporting the Autonomous Bougainville Government in upholding general elections scheduled to take place in May-June 2015.
Specific assistance will be provided to the areas including: the development of step-by-step prioritized electoral support plan; provision of technical guidance on implementing the support plan; coordinating the deployment of international observers; training of election scrutineers; developing training materials and providing hands-on training for female candidates and more. Project is implemented by UNDP in partnership with its sister agencies and will run from March to July 2015.

Bougainville President Press Release: Jubilee Australia demonstrates ‘shameful ignorance and arrogance

Grand Chief Momis addresses Excoms

“Your assumptions, and an apparent bias, were reflected in your choice of research partners with well-known records of vehement anti-BCL views. The PNG researchers chosen to do the interviews are also people well-known in Bougainville as holding similar views.

“My Government is on the ground in Bougainville. Elected members and government officers have for many years constantly consulted landowner communities from the former Panguna leases, with the organisations established since 2010 to represent those communities, with leaders of the various Me’ekamui organisations in the area, with Councils of Elders and Village Assemblies in the area. While there is undoubtedly a range of views on the future of mining at Panguna, the only way of getting 63 interviewees opposed to mining

The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) today released a statement about the refusal of Australian NGO, Jubilee, to respond to three letters he has sent them since October raising questions about a Jubilee report on Panguna landowner views on mining. He said their refusal to answer his questions demonstrated ‘shameful ignorance and arrogance on the part of Jubilee.

In a series of letters to the Jubilee in October, November and December 2014, President Momis questioned research methodology used, false claims made on the basis of interviews with a tiny selected group of opponents of mining, many serious factual errors in the report, and the track record of opposition to BCL and Rio Tinto on the part of Jubilee Australia’s research partners, Kristian Lasslett and the Bismarck Ramu Group.

DOWNLOAD LETTER HERE Momis – to Jubilee Board – 26 March 2015

In a letter to the Jubilee Board released with today’s statement, the President said:

“You proudly proclaim to be a scientific research organisation. But your research on Bougainville has been unethical and deeply flawed.

He went on to say that the Jubilee Report “was clearly based on false assumptions, and those same assumptions have been evident in claims made both at many points in your report, and in statements by your CEO, that there is near unanimous opposition to mining in the landowner communities in the former leases associated with the Panguna mine.

“Your assumptions, and an apparent bias, were reflected in your choice of research partners with well-known records of vehement anti-BCL views. The PNG researchers chosen to do the interviews are also people well-known in Bougainville as holding similar views.

My Government is on the ground in Bougainville. Elected members and government officers have for many years constantly consulted landowner communities from the former Panguna leases, with the organisations established since 2010 to represent those communities, with leaders of the various Me’ekamui organisations in the area, with Councils of Elders and Village Assemblies in the area. While there is undoubtedly a range of views on the future of mining at Panguna, the only way of getting 63 interviewees opposed to mining would be to carefully select them. If your report stated clearly that that was what you had done, there would be little complaint. But the report does not do that. It dissembles.

“Moreover, you compound your error by numerous absolutely false statements about the views expressed in the interviews being representative of all in the area.

“In short, there is no doubt at all that those doing the interviews in Bougainville on which the report claims to be based carefully chose a small group of opponents to the resumption of mining.

“The report was written by a person from one of your partner organisations with a clear record of a particularly unbalanced view on BCL.

“Your assumptions and bias were further demonstrated by your deliberate refusal not only to consult the ABG, but also to give it any opportunity to comment on a draft of the report before rushing to publish.

“You have also refused to respond to my questions about the ethical standards of the research, and your adherence to PNG law in the conduct of the report.

“By your refusal to answer the issues and questions raised in my three letters (above), you simply raise more doubts about your standards, your accountability and your bona fides.

“In all the circumstances, your behaviour is shameful, and your claims to be a scientific research organisation seem little more than a joke.

“I continue to request a response to the specific issues raised in those three letters.”

,

Chief John L. Momis

President, ARoB

 

Bougainville Education News: NRL League Bilong Laif program commences in Bougainville

NRL

Education is also a key priority for the people and government of Bougainville. The League Bilong Laif program will highlight the importance of education to the children of Bougainville so that they can strive to reach professions that will build a better future for Bougainville.”

NRL PNG In-Country General Manager, Mark Mom.

The League Bilong Laif program is expanding into a fourth region of Papua New Guinea, commencing its school-based rugby league activities in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville this month.

League Bilong Laif uses rugby league as a tool to support education outcomes. It is funded by the Australian Government and delivered by the National Rugby League (Australia) in partnership with the PNG National Department of Education and Bougainville’s Department of Education.

Photo : Children at Malasang Primary School at the launch of League Bilong Laif. Copyright: NRL Photos.

This month the program kicked off in Buka, where NRL development officers are working with around 950 students across two schools – Lonahan Primary School and Masalang Primary School

Each participating class receives five sessions of rugby league-related on-field and in-classroom activities that are non-contact and non-competitive and designed for girls and boys of all abilities.

Australian High Commissioner Ms Deborah Stokes said, “This program supports Australia’s strong youth focus in Bougainville. Empowering young boys and girls through sport is a powerful way to strengthen skills and community cohesion.”

The program uses a range of rugby league-themed educational and reading materials that the NRL has developed with Macmillan Education Australia that encourage healthy lifestyles and boost students’ physical, social, literacy and maths skills.

“Bougainville has been a nursery for many great rugby league players, including Kumuls representatives Bernard Wakatsi, Joe Katsi, Lauta Atoi (now the Honourable Member for North Bougainville), and Chris Siriosi (former Chief Secretary of the Autonomous Bougainville Government),” said NRL PNG In-Country General Manager, Mark Mom.

“Education is also a key priority for the people and government of Bougainville. The League Bilong Laif program will highlight the importance of education to the children of Bougainville so that they can strive to reach professions that will build a better future for Bougainville.”

Newly appointed Buka-based NRL PNG Development Officer, Stephanie Garea, said she is honoured to join the League Bilong Laif program, which employs female development officers in all its regions.

“I’m so happy to represent Buka as a woman in helping to establish this program and see female students running around with us during the sessions. I will make sure I do as much as I can as a female development officer to help my community and my region.”

The League Bilong Laif program will roll out into additional schools in Bougainville in term two.

How can you support Bougainville education ? Donate ebooks

More info and donations here BOOKGAINVILLE

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Bougainville Education News : Bougainville schools can win Laptop and Kindle in essay competition

Bougainville Education News :Essay competition is an opportunity for students to have their say about the Bougainville’s future

Please share with your schools and networks

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A new essay competition for secondary and high school students in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will provide youth with an opportunity to have their say about the future of the region.

Revised Closing date Friday 13 March 2015

The topic

“Is having a vote enough? What are citizens’ responsibilities in promoting and upholding democracy?”

aims to engage youth in discussion and what they see for their own future as Bougainvilleans.

Sponsored by the Australian High Commission in Papua New Guinea, the competition offers a laptop computer as a first prize.

The secondary and high school that the winning student attends will receive a Kindle (Can hold up to 1,400 books) from the Arawa based Bougainville E-reader Education Revolution Project that currently has 55 Kindles being distributed to 11 schools throughout Bougainville. SEE WEBSITE

Entries are open now and close on Friday 13 March 2015

The essay competition is open to all high school and secondary school students in Bougainville. Essays are to be 600 – 1000 words.

Entries can be mailed or submitted in person to the Australian High Commission Buka Office, Tsirin Motors Building, Haku Street, Buka or emailed to Public-Affairs-PortMoresby@dfat.gov.au

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Bookgainville  Project on Bougainville PNG

Bougainville Women’s News: Strengthening the participation of women in Bougainville’s development

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The Challenge: Prior to the conflict, Bougainville women played vital roles in community-level decision-making and were key agents of development. Overall, women held important positions in the family and community. Since the conflict this role has been weakened, resulting in women being marginalised from community decision-making processes. Further, during the conflict, women suffered violence as victims of torture, rape, and forced labour. The weakened capacity of women as agents of development within their communities and the low capacity of government departments working at the local level are widely viewed as significant challenges to development efforts

View the World Bank Website for more

Overview

Located at the eastern-most point of the New Guinea islands, Bougainville comprises two large and many smaller islands. It has a population of approximately 200,000 and over a dozen different languages. A province of Papua New Guinea since 1975, Bougainville is now an autonomous region within the country — the result of a nine-year revolt that left tens of thousands killed, a divided and traumatised population, degraded infrastructure, and a shattered economy brought on by the collapse of its main industry, mining.

Solution               

The Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Bougainville project will benefit women and women’s organisations across the autonomous region as well as communities where projects are implemented and the individuals and agencies who are trained under the project.

The project consists of three components:

  1. Building Capacity for Inclusive Community Development; training women’s organisations and civil society organisations to support the involvement of women in community development. Training is provided for staff in the government, district and sub-district levels.
  2. Small Grants for Inclusive Community Development; women’s groups are invited to apply the concepts and skills they have learned from training directly to the design and implementation of community-based projects through the availability of small grants.
  3. Project Management and Knowledge Sharing.

 

Results

Through component 1, training has been delivered to 450 participants, exceeding the goal of 400 in the implementation plan.  Over two thirds of the participants have been women, exceeding the target of about 40%.  There were 51 participants from the Public Service which exceeds the goal of 46 as well as 190 participants from CSOs which exceeded the goal of 152.

Through component 2, small grants have been awarded to 41 women’s groups, including at least one project in each of Bougainville’s 13 districts. People benefitting from completed grant projects are estimated at over 48,000, nearly 25% of the population.

An Independent Monitoring Group concluded that public goods from the project are reaching communities with overall sound management of funds and that women’s roles are being strengthened through their direct management, ownership and leadership in the whole process.

 

Bank contribution

The World Bank (State and Peace-building Fund) has contributed US$2.5 million for this project

 

Moving forward

With the project currently set to close in March 2015, plans are underway to secure additional financing to extend the project to March 2018. Additional financing would support the provision of two more rounds of small grants to women’s groups, one per round for each of the 41 Community Governments.  Training would continue to build the capacity of women’s groups while also engaging District officials and Community Government leaders more actively in development planning monitoring and implementation support.

Promotion/Advertising : Donate here to support www.bookgainville.com educating young girls throughout Bougainville

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Bougainville International News: USA Pacific fleet partnership to benefit Bougainville

USA
BY JENNIFER NKUI

A site survey team from the United States Pacific Fleet will be arriving in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville this week.
According to a statement from the US embassy in Port Moresby, the team hopes to survey potential areas for U.S assistance in Arawa, Central Bougainville under a programme called the Pacific Partnership.


Pacific Partnership was founded to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster resilience to the pacific nations following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami.
Its potential activities range from medical, dental, veterinarian care to construction projects and crisis response training. Papua New Guinea benefited most recently in Wewak and Vanimo in 2013 and this year’s engagement is planned for Bougainville and Rabaul.


The programme as revealed by the statement is a great opportunity to expand people to people ties with the United States and deliver benefits for the people of Bougainville.

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.”

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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.”

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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.