PNG Supreme Court Decision Sparks Talk of War In Bougainville

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December 6, 1999 Letter to the Editor:

The Supreme Court of PNG couldn't do anything else but find that the suspension, by the former Skate government, of the provincial government status of Bougainville was a nullity -- for the reasons it stated. Although past decisions of the court have reflected its sensitivity to the Bougainville Question preferring that issues be settled politically, it could not avoid giving judgment on the issue before it: the legality of the suspension.

Mindful of the need to solve the Bougainville issues politically, the former Skate Government chose the most sensible road: to suspend the former "Bougainville Transitional Government" (BTG) so that a negotiated political settlement could be reached outside of the PNG's current Reforms on Provincial and Local level Government. This was also the only road acceptable to Bougainvilleans and to over 70% of Bougainville under the control of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and the Bougainville Interim Government (BIG).

The crux of the problem is the stalling and stonewalling and politicking by the Morauta Government to the reality of Bougainville's history over the past ten years.

That reality includes the recent democratic election of a local governing institution: the Bougainville People's Congress (BPC), elected under a Transitional constitution, which was drafted and adopted by way of a general leadership consensus.

Since coming into power in July of this year, the Morauta Government (in a vote by the "politicians" and not the people) essentially sought to immediately unravel the previous three years of hard work by the Skate Government and the Bougainvillean parties. Although, in September, the politicians confirmed the suspension of the Bougainville Provincial Government, it is clear now that a backroom deal had been done to challenge this suspension in the Supreme Court.

Further evidence of the Morauta government's inability to face that reality in a transparent and honest fashion is amply evidenced by the petty political machinations being played out with the aid programs on Bougainville.

Here, the PNG bureaucrats who are controlling aid dollars are directing the bulk of the restoration program dollars to areas which are known to be populated by integrationist supporters - mainly those who had financially benefited from the distorted resource economy which existed before the war.

When aid dollars are measured on a per capita basis and on the basis of where the most destruction took place, the spending pattern is skewed towards known and perceived sympathizers to PNG integration. Thus Buka Island is receiving a disproportionate amount of restoration funding, as are select areas on the main island.

Those areas of the main island receiving favored treatment are those targeted by PNG intelligence during the war as anti-BRA. It was from these areas that "contra-militia" were recruited and it was these "contra-militia" who, during the war, carried out some of the most dirty work in conjunction with and on behalf of the PNG defense forces such as, inter alia, the murder of late Theodore Miriung.

By these means, the Morauta government hopes to buy and cajole rejection for an independence referendum and acceptance of an autonomy package, which ensures Bougainville's continued integration with PNG.

This inability to face the reality of political change is further evidenced by the growing gulf between the "old thinking" ruling class of PNG and the rising new independents seeking and gaining control of the parliamentary process. No longer is there strict congruence between the parliamentary politicians and big money from big projects, which has so distorted PNG's economy and led to such devastation of its environment.

The narrow political agendas of the straight right Chan's and fake left Wingti's (Pais considered himself a Marxist in the 70s) have been revealed as stale, more or less predictable, and ignorant of real complexity (consider the sheer stupidity of the Sandline era). These agendas, the politics of the personal, are no longer able to hold geographically and ethnically disparate peoples together in this age of globalization with its economic atomization.

The new Millennium imperialism demands that current world communities be more greatly divided into disparate economic enclaves which are united by enforceable trade relations. Current nation state borders must, are, and will continue, to be redrawn.

In many instances, this means only that once self-contained communities are merely winning back the independence stolen from them by "old thinking" style colonialism.

John Momis has led the attack against Bougainville's self-determined transitional autonomy by bringing the "suspension" issue before the Supreme Court. He is playing "old thinking" Governor style politics. Both he and Sir Michael Somare (Minister for Bougainville Affairs) are either lost in their fatherhood status or are playing political games in an era when games are generally understood to be the stuff of childish moments or a medical condition known as regression.

Momis' attempt to mitigate the impact of the decision which he produced: "I want to emphasis that this decision of the Supreme Court is not a victory to me but rather it's important that it imposes on all of us the duty to ensure we abide by the law in reaching whatever permanent political solution we may reach over Bougainville" is reminiscent of the "old thinking" acceptance of colonial law which denies the reality of new thinking social practice which asks: "Whose law?"

It has taken the leadership of the PNG Supreme court to point the way to an immediate political direction which PNG must take now if it is to show that it can wake up to the reality of a call for a return to arms and war on Bougainville.

As reported in the Australian (November 30, 1999) one of the judges in the case said: "An interim government (could be established) while the search continues for a lasting solution to the crisis."

The machinery of that interim government already exists in the Bougainville Peoples Congress (BPC) -- a more lasting solution is to consent to the Bougainvillean leadership decision to have their say on independence by way of a referendum.

Vikki John National Coordinator Bougainville Freedom Movement (Australia) Email: 

Ph: +61 2 9558 2730

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