BOUGAINVILLE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY CONCERNED OVER MILITARY AID BOOST TO PNG

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By Norm Dixon

SYDNEY, Australia (November 1, 2000 - Green Left Weekly)---The Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) has expressed grave concern" at the announcement by the Australian government that military aid to the Papua New Guinea Defense Force (PNGDF) will be boosted by AUS$ 10 million (US$ 5,280,660), on top of the present annual level of about AUS$ 10 million.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on October 19 that the Australian government "has agreed to supply the urgent financial assistance, which includes paying outstanding wages and allowances, because of fears in Canberra that a discontented military could become a destabilizing influence for the [Sir Mekere] Morauta Government. The Prime Minister, Mr. Howard, said yesterday that Sir Mekere had asked for help when he was visiting Australia during the Olympic Games.

"Australia stands ready to provide assistance, as necessary, for the PNG Government's efforts," he said.

In a statement issued from Gizo in the Solomon Islands, BRA commander General Ishmael Toroama said, "The PNGDF is still sitting on Bougainville. If this defense package deal means reequipping and strengthening the PNGDF forces on Bougainville, then there is a real threat to the fragile PNG-Bougainville peace process."

Toroama claimed the package will include 30 crack Australian SAS trainers to retrain members the PNGDF. The BRA chief called for the extra money to be directed instead to fighting "the AIDS epidemic now crippling Papua New Guinea... AIDS is PNG's No. 1 ‘enemy’ and its leaders should be concentrating on it."

Toroama said the military package marked the Australian government's "reopening of the former Australian Labor government's open policy of assisting the PNGDF to prosecute the war on Bougainville."

NO EXTRA MONEY FOR BOUGAINVILLE FROM AUSTRALIA

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 5, 2000 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The Australian government has reaffirmed its support for the peace process on Bougainville -- but rejected a call to devote more funds to the process.

In its response to a foreign affairs committee report tabled in Australia's Federal Parliament, the government said there was no sign funding had constrained the work of the Peace Process Steering Committee.

The government also rejected a suggestion that the peace process would be assisted by an increase in aid to Papua New Guinea.

The report made 21 recommendations, with Canberra accepting or noting all but three.

The report endorsed Australia’s commitment to the peace process, with key proposals for the government to do everything possible to help the peace process continue to move forward. But the Government backed away from calls for a greater funding commitment.

It said Papua New Guinea was already Australia’s largest aid recipient, receiving one fifth of all assistance. As well, the Government had committed AUS$ 100 million (US$ 52,806,600) aid to Bougainville over the next five years and was meeting substantial costs associated with the Peace Monitoring Group.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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