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BOUGAINVILLE SETS ITS TERMS by Frank Senge Kolma (The National 16/5/03)

ONLY Bougainvilleans will have access to political power in the proposed autonomous province. The draft Bougainville Constitution stipulates that only a Bougainvillean may:

  • Own customary land;

  • Be a candidate in any election and any other elected body;

  • Vote in any such election; and

  • May have additional rights are provided for by a Bougainville law.

The Constitution names the province as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and adopts for the future government powers never before available to any provincial government in PNG.


The second draft of the Bougainville Constitution, currently being circulated for comment, provides for Constitutional offices such as:

  • Chief Justice and Judges;

  • Public Prosecutor;

  • Public Solicitor;

  • Public Services Commission;

  • Electoral Commission;

  • Boundaries Commission;

  • Auditor General;

  • Chief of Bougainville Police;

  • Chief of Bougainville Correctional Service;

  • Ombudsmen Commission and a Leadership Code; and

  • The Bougainville Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

The Constitution grants the autonomous government wide ranging powers over all but foreign affairs, defence, and financial matters.


Although these matters have been discussed at length at many meetings in the past, the completed draft Constitution has worried the national Government's legal brains.


Concerned that the Bougainville Constitution may seriously usurp the national Constitution, PNG constitutional lawyers are this weekend meeting at Loloata Island Resort outside Port Moresby to review the law and prepare the national Government's position.


At the meeting will be Attorney General Francis Damem and his Director of Legal Services, John Bogomberi, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on Constitutional matters, Dr Tony Deklin and State Solicitor Isikiel Mesulam among others.


The Government's legal brains are worried that the Gateway Accord which gave authority over the development of the Bougainville Constitution to the Bougainvilleans themselves has essentially given away national Government control and say in the matter.


The draft Constitution provides for an Upper House consisting of representatives of traditional chiefs and other traditional leaders, and a House of Representatives.


The House of Representatives will comprise a President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, 43 elected members, three women members representing North, Central and South Bougainville and three former combatants representing the same.


Bougainville Parliamentarians are allowed observer status in the House of Representatives but may not introduce motions; or vote on any matter or be counted towards a quorum.


The Constitution makes provision for equal recognition of Bougainville customs and traditions, making explicit provision for it in both the Legislature and in the Judiciary.


The relevant provision states: "Traditional systems of Government and the roles and responsibilities of traditional chiefs and other traditional leaders and of the clan system as custodians of custom and tradition and in matters relating to the governance of their communities shall be acknowledged, utilized, supported and developed wherever practicable by all levels of government in Bougainville."


The Constitution provides for the adoption of the human rights and freedoms contained under the PNG Constitution and the adoption of the Criminal Code.


The second draft of the Constitution is currently being taken to all parts of PNG for comment by all Bougainvilleans.

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DEFENCE MOVING (Post-Courier 12/3/03)

THE PNG Defence Force intends to withdraw from the North Solomons Province this month after almost 12 years on the island. Military chief of staff Captain (Navy) Alois Ur Tom revealed the force’s intentions yesterday. Capt Tom said the Defence Force has seven people on the island and some equipment, which will be moved out of the island on March 26. PNGDF landing crafts and an aircraft will be used, with funding assistance from the Australian Government. “We’ll use two landing crafts and one aircraft, mostly likely the Arawa, to bring out all equipment and other things that we have left on the ground in Buka,” Capt Tom said. “We are glad that the Australian government is funding the withdrawal from Bougainville.”

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BRA WARNS ONA (Post-Courier 12/3/03)

BOUGAINVILLE Revolutionary Army commander Ishmael Toroama has given secessionist rebel leader Francis Ona a two-month ultimatum to disarm or face the consequences. In a letter, Mr Toroama asked Mr Ona to direct all his Mekamui Defence Force members to disarm immediately by carrying out their own weapons containment. “I request co-operation from your Mekamui faction to remove all weapons from public eye,” Mr Toroama said. “This includes by highways . . . Your guards at the Morgan roadblocks must be routinely unarmed while performing their duties. “In addition to this, I am asking you to direct MDF personnel who were involved in breaking into containers in others part of Bougainville other than Torokina to return all stolen weapons. “I’m asking you to direct your MDF members to disarm immediately by carrying out their own weapons containment. “All MDF weapons must be kept safely at Guava or any other location designated by you. “This can be done during the period when UN will verify whether we have completely complied with our weapons containment programs. “And I wish to inform you that the incident of March 7, 2003 is indeed very unfortunate . . . I can tell you that my men were forced to defend themselves after shots were fired at us from the direction of the Morgan roadblock.” Mr Toroama said he had raised many concerns with MDF commanders about the issue but these concerns had fallen on deaf ears. “To put the core problem into its proper perspective, the incident is fundamentally the culmination of the general trend of increased tension experienced in most parts of Bougainville late last year,” he said. “Such tension has been caused directly by removal of weapons from containers in many parts of Bougainville by people with strong connection to the MDF faction. “Our own investigations conducted by former combatants in location where these weapons have been renowned, confirm the involvement of MDF in all the break-ins that have taken place to date.” Mr Toroama said copies of the letter to Mr Ona were given to UN and also to Bougainville leaders.

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SHOT MAN IDENTIFIED (Post-Courier 12/3/03)

THE Bougainvillean shot dead in a gun fight between Mekamui soldiers and joint forces has been identified. Bougainville leaders and Mekamui soldiers confirmed that the man shot dead at the Morgan Junction road block, gateway to Francis Ona’s No Go Zone, is from the Haku area in North Bougainville while the man seriously injured comes from Manetai, Central Bougainville. Reports from Arawa said the injured man was recovering in the Buka hospital and that the situation in the area had quietened despite a slight “tense problem” with the Mekamui soldiers. Police on the island said the situation was under control and things were getting back to normal in Arawa and around the island. “The joint forces (Bougainville Revolutionary Army and resistance forces) have set up their roadblock again adjacent to that of the Mekamui, just near the Morgan junction,” officials said. “The situation, we could say, is under control and both parties are not trying to negotiate to come to terms. “It is matter that all of us the leaders, Chiefs, youth, police, BRA, BRF and the Mekamui will have to settle together without the barrel of a gun.”

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PRESSURE ON ARMS DISPOSAL (Post-Courier 20/2/03)

PRESSURE on Bougainville ex-combatants to speed-up weapons disposal hit an unexpected twist over the last two days. Enroute to Bougainville on a chartered flight, Inter-Governmental Relations Minister Sir Peter Barter revealed Australia’s decision to pull out on June 30 — a move that’s likely to dismantle the whole operation. Sir Peter had invited 12 Cabinet Ministers as well as key senior officials on a two-day tour of Bougainville on Tuesday and yesterday. Sir Peter, while affirming the Somare-Marat government’s support of the autonomous arrangements for Bougainville, said further progress on this was locked into weapons disposal to be certified by the United Nations. The ministers pressed the ex-combatants to speed-up stage two and even go on to stage three of the weapons-disposal program in visits to Buka, Tinputz, Wakunai, Tonu, Buin and Arawa. But in Tinputz, when several ministers — including Mining Minister Sam Akoitai, Treasurer Bart Philemon and Sir Peter — told the chiefs “the ball was in their court”, chief Joseph Gitovea, using the games analogy, said in any game there are “undisciplined players”. Only the “captain” can deal with these, he said. He urged them to go ahead and grant them the autonomous government and they would deal with these. He commented there were also guns in the hands of criminals in PNG settlements. “The Australian contingent of the PMG will cease operations on 30 June. The PMG’s resources must be put to best use before this date.” Australia has 54 of the current 90 PMG people in Bougainville and is chief financier in the PMG operations. New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu are likely to follow Australia’s example.

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212 GUNS STOLEN FROM CONTAINERS (The National 26/11/02)

MORE than 210 guns have been stolen from containers at various locations on Bougainville in recent weeks, Minister for Inter-Government Relations, Sir Peter Barter has said. Sir Peter said the growing number of incidents in which trunks and containers have been forced open and guns removed is a worrying trend. In recent weeks, a total of six stage two containers at five different locations had been broken open and 212 guns removed to date, he said. The most serious breach occurred when a container at Piva in the Torokina district was forced open and five trunks containing guns were removed. The total number of weapons involved was 88, including 28 high-powered, factory-made guns. The incident has all the more serious overtones for having occurred in the Torokina district, where weapons disposal began. Sir Peter however said a total of 1,684 guns, including 301 high-powered factory-made rifles, had been put away in the current weapons disposal program on Bougainville, according to the Inter-Government Relations Minister, Sir Peter Barter. He said the Siwai district has shown the way by moving on to stage three and destroying 117 guns. But the over-all total by the end of last week stood at While many remained at stage one, 941 of these guns were held in stage two containers. The Bougainville peace process is an important national priority, recognised on a bipartisan basis to restore peace and normalcy on the island. And it is critical that all of the parties continue to demonstrate both the strength and the depth of our commitment for peace on the island, he said. "Weapons disposal is obviously important to building the sense of security and mutual confidence on which progress in other areas of sustainable peace-building depends." Sir Peter's remarks were contained in a ministerial statement he made to Parliament last week. Sir Peter said by agreement between the parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, progress with weapons disposal is directly linked to the establishment of an autonomous Bougainville government. The link is provided by a legal device which makes the provisions on autonomy and referendum in the new Part XIV of the National Constitution operational when, and only when, the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville (UNOMB) verifies and certifies that stage two of the agreed weapons disposal plan has been achieved. Having come so far, none of PNG's friends and supporters wants to abandon the Bougainville peace process before peace is secure, Sir Peter said. "But our partners cannot allow the PMG and the UNOMB to go on forever," he said. "I, therefore, call on ex-combatants, leaders and communities around Bougainville to demonstrate their practical commitment to peace by redoubling their efforts and completing weapons disposal." The agreed weapons disposal plan is based on a hard-won agreement among ex-combatants from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Bougainville Resistance Forces. It provides for implementation in three stages.

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A MAJOR non-government organisation involved in rehabilitation programs on Bougainville has suspended its activities indefinitely. The NGO has been the victim of vehicle theft, numerous house and office break-ins and threats against staff. Caritas Australia is the NGO group involved in reconciliation, trauma, women, youth and education programs since 1998. Caritas staff are appealing to Bougainville authorities to protect the whole community. Further notification on the future of the NGO’s rehabilitation programs would be made known by early August. Pacific program co-ordinator for Caritas Australia, Justine McMahon told the Post-Courier yesterday that many small income generating projects for people in remote villages had been disrupted because of their departure and could not say when they would re-open. “Several serious incidents against my staff and property over recent weeks have led to the indefinite suspension,” Ms McMahon said. “This also means that projects approved will be put on hold. “I feel sad that the suspension has occurred but the program cannot continue unless there is confidence in the safety of the staff and property.” She said the Caritas rehabilitation program had worked with the people of Bougainville to help rehabilitate the community for the last four years and was invited to Bougainville because of the Lincoln Agreement.

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ONA CREATES NEW FRICTION (Post-Courier 24/6/02)

EX-COMBATANTS at Bana in south Bougainville and at Ioro in central Bougainville have rearmed members to guard a road block set up at the Java Pump Station near Francis Ona’s “no-go zone”. The weapons were retrieved from trunks where they had been held under the weapons disposal program jointly supervised by the United Nations and Peace Monitoring Group on Bougainville. The move by the Bana and Ioro people is a result of Mr Ona’s extension of the “no-go zone” by erecting the reclusive leaders’ Me’ekamui nation’s sign-post within the Bana demilitarised area, limitations on movement of people from Bana and parts of central Bougainville at the Morgan roadblock, and threats of aggression including a number of intrusions by armed Me’ekamui followers into the demilitarised Bana area. The latest retaliatory actions by the Bana and Ioro people was agreed to and is among 12 resolutions passed by the ex-combatants and leaders during a meeting at Sirakatau Council of Elders area on June 17. The Bana ex-combatants and leaders said they have been offended by Mr Ona who had “illegally” set up Me’ekamui’s “No Go Zone” sign post at Moitaka within the Bana demilitarised area without the consent of the Bana leaders and people. They said Mr Ona’s action was in violation of the traditional Nasioi laws of “Sipungketa Oskaiang and Me’ekamui”. The people of Bana have pulled down the “No Go Zone” sign post. In retaliation, Mr Ona had imposed a blockade of all medical, school and store goods supplies as well as movement from other parts of Bougainville to Bana. In a counter retaliation, the ex-combatants in Bana have taken out weapons from the trunks used for weapons containment under stage one of the weapons disposal plan and have established a roadblock at the Jaba Pump Station to prevent further intrusion by Me’ekamui. The roadblock will remain until Mr Ona withdraws his threats of aggression and unfair taxing of Bana people that amounts to highway robbery, Bana leaders said.

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'NO-GO ZONE' EXTENDED (Post-Courier 13/6/02)

THE so-called “no-go-zone” in Bougainville has been extended by a further 3km south of Panguna, with the province losing about 800 eligible voters, authorities revealed yesterday. Election manager Mathias Pihei said he was yet to confirm another rumoured extension of the “no-go-zone” boundary to the north, which would also affect the access to Arawa through the 180km Buka to Kieta highway. The “no-go-zone” is enforced by members of rebel hardliner Francis Ona’s Mekamui organisation, which prohibits outsiders from entering Panguna and surrounding areas. Bougainville has 121,117 eligible voters registered for this year compared to a mere 50,000 in 1997, recorded in the Common Roll excluding, the “no-go-zone” before the latest boundary move. Mr Pihei said earlier that about 7000 eligible voters inside the “no-go-zone” in the vicinity of Panguna had opened up to allow campaign to go through and possibly polling, but “the tide has long since changed”. “The no-go-zone has been extended to another 3km south of Panguna (to Java and Sikoreva) and will now affect two of our polling boots — Sikoreva and Narenai,” Mr Pihei said. “We have about 800 eligible voters in there and we still have to confirm the extension to the northern side and on the eastern Tunuru side.”

Some other references I've found on the www in relation to Mekamui:

Mekamui ("Holy land") is the indigenous title for "Bougainville", now used by Francis Ona and others. (a snippet of information found on www.asiapac.org.fj discussion board).

"Just a few words on the matter. Bougainville is presently a part of Papau New Guinea. The meeting referred to was held to determine whether those opposed to the status of the island would split with the opposition party (Bougainville Interim Government (BIG)) and the (Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA)). I would not call this a national flag rather a sub national or flag of an aspirant people, as there is not presently a recognized nation, except through the Unrepresented Nations and People's Organization (UNPO) where the Bougainville Interim Government represents these people. According to UNPO, the Lincoln Agreement, signed early in 1998, is supposed to provide for elections for a reconciliation government. However, Papua New Guinea has steadfastly denied that Bougainville/Republic of Mekamui will be granted independence. News releases indicate the Republic of Mekamui National Chief's Assembly and Mekamui Defense Force will seek this independence peacefully. The break, led by Francis Ona, resulted in his dissatisfaction with the direction of the BRA/BIG. BIG is led by Joseph Kabui, the Republic of Mekamui by Francis Ona. When the flag is finally available in a graphic format, I suggest it be put in with the flag of BIG due to the status." Phil Nelson, 14 August 1998 (comment found on the www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/ web site).

Reference can also be found to the MEKAMUI NATIONAL CONGRESS.

Bougainville links:

ANU - Bougainville Resource Page

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