OPERATION BEL ISI

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AUSTRALIAN DEFENSE FORCE

Bel Isi is the combined Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Ni Vanuatu Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) Operation on Bougainville.

MANDATE OF THE PMG

Monitor and report on compliance on all aspects of the ceasefire.

Promote and instill confidence in the peace process through its presence, good offices and interaction with the people of Bougainville.

Provide such assistance in the implementation of the Lincoln Agreement as the parties to the Lincoln Agreement and the States contributing to the PMG may be agreed and available resources allow.

Cooperate by agreement in ways that assist in democratic resolution of the situation.

PEACE MONITORING GROUP

On April 30 1998 following the signing of the Ceasefire agreement in Arawa township, earlier that day, marked the transition from the Truce Monitoring Force (TMG) to the Peace Monitoring Force (PMG). The PMG currently consists of about 325 people from Australia, NZ, Fiji and Vanuatu.

Currently the break down is:

Out of the 19 civilians, 16 are Australians, one New Zealanders and two Ni Vanuatuans. These numbers fluctuate slightly due to rotations, etc.

Most of the PMG is based at Arawa and Loloho which are about eight kilometers apart. The remainder are located at team sites around the Island - Loloho and HQ PMG Arawa, most of the PMG live at Loloho under a giant A-frame building that used to be a copper storage facility on the wharf. The building is now called the "Opera House." PMG personnel there live in 11x11 tents during their tour. The Headquarters PMG is located at Arawa and members of the HQ staff live in a house in Arawa.

THE TEAM SITES

The Team Sites are located at Arawa, Buin, Tonu and Wakunai. They are made up of military and civilian personnel and spend a great deal of time dealing with the local population. The teams are the front line troops of Operation Bel Isi and their work is vital to the Peace Process. Teams are usually made up of about 20-22 people, with the exception of Buka where there are only 10 personnel. Team members live in houses and other buildings in the communities they serve and are also responsible for all of their day to day chose such as cooking and cleaning. The teams usually conduct Ceasefire awareness patrols. This is where they set out on foot, Land Cruiser or sometimes helicopter to visit villages and communities. On these patrols they deliver Nius Blong Peace which is the only source of outside information to reach much of Bougainville.

The teams also conduct lifestyle patrols where they bring medical, dental and women’s issues specialists into communities to conduct checks on the population. Many of the villages have received no medical care since the crisis began nine years ago. Personnel on the PMG usually complete a four month tour of duty on Bougainville. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and specialties including, cooks, drivers, medics, mechanics, communicators, infantrymen, foreign affairs personnel just to name a few. The PMG are unarmed and wear a non-aggressive uniform which comes in the form of a yellow armband with the PMG logo on it. A yellow t-shirt and a yellow hat. The PMG is simply tasked with monitoring and facilitating the peace. (See mandate).

NIUS BILONG PEACE

For ten years, Bougainvilleans have been without a regular and reliable written source of news. Rugged terrain and the "crisis" have prevented the delivery of newspapers and magazines to the island, which has relied on word of mouth for reporting of all local, regional and international events.

There exists a hunger for information on the island of Bougainville. Nius Blong Peace is a weekly newspaper produced by the PMG to inform Bougainvilleans of the latest developments in the peace process. Peace meetings, reconciliation ceremonies, women’s groups, religious groups and sporting clubs are frequently reported on regarding initiatives for a self sustaining peace. Nius Blong Peace also answers frequently asked questions about the PMG and has also provided notices on safety and health issues.

All issues must be dealt with accurately and in a neutral manner to reflect the stance of the PMG. Nius Blong Peace is written primarily for a Bougainvillean audience. Approximately 16000 copies are printed in Arawa each week, 15,000 Pidgin and 1,000 English. Copies are distributed by the PMG Monitoring Teams around the island and readership is estimated to be about 60,000 people per week.

PAST COMMANDERS

Brigadier Bruce Osborn

THE AUSTRALIAN CONTINGENT

There are currently about 250 Australians serving on Bougainville. The Australians come from the Army, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and civilians. Australia took the leading role in Operation Bel Isi after the signing of the Ceasefire agreement on 30 April 1998. Before that, the peace effort was lead by New Zealand. Australians fill most of the key appointments on Operation Bel Isi including that of Commander and Group Sergeant Major (GSM). Australia also provides all of the logistical support for the operation including transportation which consists of four UH 1H helicopters, two Army LCM-8 Landing Craft and one RAN LCH Landing Craft. There are also 63 ground vehicles including Uni-Mog trucks, Land Rovers, Land Cruisers and water transportation vehicles.

AusAID

AusAID’s role in Bougainville is to assist the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the people of Bougainville to rebuild their province. During the nine year crisis, Bougainville was completely isolated from the outside world. There was no education, no consumer products, no medical or dental assistance there was no infrastructure

what so ever. This also led to a rapid deterioration in roads, buildings, bridges, airstrips, health and education facilities and housing. The vast majority of skilled professionals also left the province during the crisis.

Australia has committed $100 million over five years to Bougainville and will concentrate on health, education and infrastructure. To date AusAid has spent $37.1 million in Bougainville. This has included construction of an 84 bed hospital on Buka, re-building of three High Schools, upgrading the Buka Airport Runway, provision of $3.1 million to the Red Cross for aid post resupplies including medicines. They have also provided emergency assistance to families and tools to enable people to rebuild their homes. AusAID has also allocated $3.8 million for peace related transport and funded training of auxiliary police in Arawa. Also 2.5 million worth of materials for aid posts and community schools which are built by local communities. Funding has also been provided for road rehabilitation and grass cutting.

http://www.dod.gov.au/belisi/history.html

DEFENSE MISSION

To Promote the Security of Australia, and to Protect its People and its Interests

OPERATION BEL ISI

GENERAL

Bougainville Island, together with Buka Island and a few outlying atolls, constitute the Bougainville Province of Papua New Guinea.

Bougainville and Buka Islands, with a combined area of some 9000 square kilometers, lie between latitudes 5 and 7 degrees south and form the northern extremities of the Solomon Islands archipelago.

Bougainville Island, the largest island in Bougainville Province, is 204 kilometers long and up to 65 kilometers wide. Arawa is the provincial capital. Buka Island is 56 kilometers long and up to 16 kilometers wide. Together these two islands form a long narrow land mass lying on a north-west/south-east axis. Bougainville Island is separated from Buka by Buka Passage, a deep narrow channel, at one point only 500 meters wide.

HISTORY

Bougainville Island was named after French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville who sailed along the North coast of Bougainville in 1768. In the mid 1800’s a Catholic mission station was established at Kieta. The Islands of Bougainville were part of the Solomons group and under British control until 1898. At this point in time the Islands of Bougainville and Buka were traded to the Germans and joined with the German colony of New Guinea. The Islands of Bougainville and Buka along with the rest of New Guinea were captured by Australia at the beginning of World War 1 and by the end of 1942 most of Bougainville was under Japanese control. In the post World War 2 period Bougainville and Buka reverted back to being under Australian control. In 1964 the discovery of a significant copper deposit at Panguna led to the development of a mining presence on the Island.

At the time of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) independence from Australia, an initial drive for independence for Bougainville commenced, based upon the traditional cultural differences between Bougainvilleans and other cultural groups across the remainder of PNG. This drive for independence was short lived. In the mid 1970’s, however, a strong succession movement emerged on Bougainville leading to the formation of a Provincial government on Bougainville in an attempt to provide the people of the province greater autonomy and control over regional and provincial affairs.

Over the period of the 1970s and 1980s dissatisfaction with the presence and operation of the Panguna mine surfaced, with many local Bougainvilleans feeling cheated and exploited by the mine, with concern over environmental and land damage and unequal distribution of mineral royalties to local communities. This discontentment led to the formation, in 1987, of the Panguna Landowners Association. This group under the leadership of Pepetua Sereo and her first cousin Francis Ona demanded environmental protection, compensation and a share of the profits from the mines owners.

In 1988, following a breakdown of negotiations between local land owners and mine operators, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) was formed and began a campaign of sabotage and attacks against the mine and its supporting infrastructure. In May 1989 the mine was forced to close altogether and a state of emergency was declared for the Island. Since this time PNG security forces have maintained a presence within the province in attempts to curtail BRA activity and restore normality to the islands. Although initially sparked by frustration and dissatisfaction over the Panguna mine, the campaign by Bougainvilleans for compensation soon turned to the issue of greater autonomy and independence for Bougainville. Events since 1990 have included:

In January 1990 the PNG Government withdrew its military forces and civil servants from Bougainville and put in place a blockade, with military forces gradually returning to Bougainville during 1991 to 1992.

In February 1990 the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG) was formed, as political representative organization for the Bougainvillean people, to negotiate with the PNG government.

On 17 May 1990 Francis Ona declared Mekamui (Bougainville) independent from Papua New Guinea.

In October 1994 a Bougainville Peace Conference was held in Arawa following the establishment of a cease-fire, and involved deployment of a South Pacific Peacekeeping Force as a neutral body to provide protection for the Conference. As a result of the Peace Conference the North Nasioi Agreement was signed, but unfortunately without the support of the hard-core leaders of the BIG/BRA.

As a follow on of the Peace Conference the Charter of Mirigini was signed on 25 November 1994. This allowed for the formation of the Bougainville Transitional Government (BTG). The BTG was given full power as a provincial government for the restoration of services.

In July 1997, after a significant period of little to no negotiation, delegates from various factions and political and governmental bodies met in Burnham, New Zealand, to discuss the increasingly desire for peace and restoration of normal lives for the Bougainvillean people.

Following a successful round of talks in July, in September 1997 delegates (Figure 3) met again in Burnham and signed a truce to cease hostilities within the province. Under the terms of this agreement all signatories agreed in November 1997 to the deployment of a Truce Monitoring Group, drawn from various regional nations, to oversee and assist with the implementation of peace within the province.

http://www.dod.gov.au/belisi/kiwi.html

KIWIS WOKABAUT ROT I GO LONG PEACE LONG BOGENVIL

Midnight on 30 April 1998, following the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement in Arawa township earlier that day, marked the end of Operation Bel Isi and the beginning of Operation Bel Isi II, and the official transition from the Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) to the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG).

Comprised of military and civilian personnel from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Vanuatu, the TMG commenced deployment to Bougainville in late November 1997 to monitor the Burnham Truce agreement and remained in place until the signing of the Ceasefire Agreement.

As lead nation New Zealand was responsible for the provision of operational, administrative and logistic support for the combined force. New Zealand’s contribution to the TMG between November 1997 and April 1998 included: two roulements of 214 New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) military and civilian personnel, a detachment of RNZAF Iroquois helicopters, RNZAF C-130 Hercules air transport support and short deployments by HMNZS Canterbury, Endeavour and Manawanui.

With the establishment of the PMG, Australia assumed the role of lead nation and took over the support functions previously provided by New Zealand and the NZDF contribution to the force was reduced to 30 personnel. The New Zealand Force PMG (NZFORPMG) contingent includes NZ Army, RNZAF, RNZN and one NZDF civilian personnel; the majority of whom are employed in the Monitoring Teams (MT) based at Arawa, Buin, Tonu and Wakunai. The remaining NZFORPMG personnel hold appointments within Headquarters PMG at Arawa and the Logistics Support Team (LST) at Loloho.

Representatives from each of the countries contributing to the PMG hold command and supporting appointments within the MT and MT Patrols. There are between four and six New Zealanders in the Arawa, Buin, Tonu and Wakunai MT. In addition to the New Zealand Patrol Commander, Patrol Second-in-command and medical assistant at each MT; the MT Commanders at Buin and Tonu, the Team Sergeant-majors at Arawa and Buin, the Operations Officer at Wakunai and second medical assistants at Buin and Wakunai, proudly wear the Kiwi on their yellow PMG brassard.

Recognized across Bougainville, the wearer of the kiwi is a ‘gutpela blong Niu Silan.’ In the north ‘bigman’ Brigadier Mortlock, the first commander of the TMG, is remembered for setting the people of Bougainville on the road to peace. In the south, especially around Tonu, the kiwi often prompts the shout of ‘ka mate, ka mate,’ including actions, from children, and the occasional kia ora. Here, as in many of New Zealand’s overseas missions, haka and song have bridged language barriers and opened the doors for communication and understanding.

http://www.dod.gov.au/belisi/vana.html

NI VANUATU PEACEKEEPERS ON BOUGAINVILLE

Vanuatu’s first contingent of paramilitary and civilian personnel joined those of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji to form the Truce Monitoring Group (TMG) and deployed to Bougainville in late November 1997 to monitor the Burnham Truce agreement. Vanuatu maintained a contribution to the TMG between November 1997 and April 1998 and continues to provide personnel to the Peace Monitoring Group (PMG).

The first Ni Vanuatu contingent to the TMG included six paramilitary personnel and a civilian pastor. This contingent was replaced in early February 1998 with a second contingent of eight personnel; six men and a woman paramilitary and a civilian pastor. In mid-May 1998 the second contingent, which had remained during the transition from the TMG to the PMG, was replaced by an increased third contingent of 15 personnel who are currently completing a three-month tour of duty with the PMG.

The current Ni Vanuatu contingent includes 13 officers of the Vanuatu Police Force, one civilian female from the Department of Women’s Affairs and civilian representative of the Vanuatu Christian Council, Pastor Willie Saul, who served with the first contingent to the TMG.

Most of the contingent are employed in the Monitoring Teams (MT) based in Arawa, Buin, Buka, Tonu and Wakunai. Three personnel are attached to Headquarters PMG and hold appointments as a Military Negotiator, Council of Chiefs Liaison Officer and Padre. There are two to three Ni Vanuatu employed in each of the MT as Patrol members, and the Senior National Officer (SNO) Vanuatu is the MT Commander at Arawa.

Operations with the PMG, and previously the TMG, provide the opportunity for the Vanuatu Police Force to gain invaluable experience from working in a combined regional peacekeeping force and gaining greater understanding of their South West Pacific neighbors. Equally, the Ni Vanuatu members make a significant contribution to the experiences of their PMG wantok and the peace process; their Melanesian culture, heritage and fluency in tok pisin, greatly assist the PMG to understand the issues confronting the people of Bougainville and to communicate with them on matters relevant to the peace process and rebuilding their lives.

http://www.dod.gov.au/belisi/

This public article was forwarded by NOBBY N.BRAumann@tu-bs.de

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Comments

HELLO, I would like to know any history of village disturbances during that time noted above. By disturbance I mean any acts of violence at any of the bases during the time stated above. Regards Bob Bak Veterans Advocate

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