I have come from 50,000 years
So they think.
Others say I was born on 16 September, 1975.
Let my arrows fly another 50,000 years.

PNG poet Kumalau Tawali1


1. Bougainville was named by a Frenchman and claimed by many nations over the years. It has been riddled by invasions, civil war and instability. Yet, the stability of Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a vital national security concern for Australia. This is due both to its close proximity as well as the more than A$2 billion annual trade conducted between Australia and PNG. Australia granted formal independence to the nation state of PNG on 16 September 1975 but continued to give high levels of foreign aid. Independence did not solve the problems that more than a century of foreign domination by European rulers had created. The most volatile situation left behind in PNG was found on the island of Bougainville.

2. The 1997 Bougainville crisis started when reports revealed that the PNG Government had hired Sandline International to provide mercenary soldiers from South Africa-based Executive Outcomes. On 18 March 1997, the PNGDF Commander Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok was dismissed as head of the armed forces because of his demand that the Prime Minister resign over the Government's hiring of mercenaries. Eight days later, Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan stood down over the Sandline affair.

3. The aim of this essay is to evaluate the potential impact of the 1997 Bougainville crisis on Australia's national security. First, the history of Bougainville with a focus on the secession movement will be presented. The colonial background of Bougainville and the historical ties to the Solomon Islands have been important factors in the years of conflict. Next, the recent 1997 Bougainville crisis will be analysed. This crisis brought to a head the frustration experienced by the PNG Government and the desire to solve the problems at any cost. Finally, the potential impact on Australia's national security of possible Bougainville and PNG outcomes will be assessed. These outcomes will include possible roles that Australia could play in bringing an end to the situation.


4. The island was named after the French explorer Louis de Bougainville who sighted and named the island in 1768. Bougainville is located at the northern end of the Solomon Islands chain and is physically separated from the rest of PNG by more than 200 kms. As a result of an 1899 agreement between Britain and Germany, the region was split into British New Guinea and German New Guinea. The island of Bougainville arbitrarily became part of the distant German New Guinea and was severed from the sister Solomon Islands without thought or consideration for the indigenous people. The current international border curves around the southern end of Bougainville and cuts between islands connected by trade and marriage. It was an arbitrary colonial balancing of spoils that defies geography.2

5. Australia's involvement in PNG as colonial rulers began in 1906 when formal responsibility was reluctantly3 accepted for the British Protectorate that was renamed Papua. At the outbreak of WW I in 1914, Australian troops invaded the former German colony of New Guinea. Following the war, formal responsibility to administer New Guinea was granted by the League of Nations. Australia assumed responsibility for PNG defence during WW II and in January 1942, Australia consolidated PNG into a single administrative unit. The fighting that took place in PNG during 1942 and 1943 made most Australians aware of the strategic importance of PNG.

Copper Discovery at Panguna

6. The 1964 discovery of a large copper reserve at Panguna on Bougainville Island was a major source of the current problems. Agreements were made between the Australian-controlled mining company that became Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL), and the Australian administration in Port Moresby. These agreements caused a split within the Bougainvillian population not only as to how the profits should be allocated, but if mining should even be conducted. Even though it was their land, many of the local people did not feel that they had been permitted to have any input.

7. The Bougainville and Solomon Islander Melanesians have a distinctive skin colour and are the purest black people on earth. They refer to blacks from other parts of PNG as 'redskins'.4 When the copper mine was being built, the Bougainvillians instantly recognised and resented the PNG workers brought in from another land with a very different culture. The Bougainvillians felt that these people intended to exploit their land just as the Europeans had done in the past. While the mine was being built, strong desires for self government were expressed by some on the island. Thoughts of rejoining the Solomon Islands or gaining full political independence like other Melanesian former colonies began to surface.

8. In 1967, the landowners displaced by the mine were granted five percent of government receipts. Many landowners felt this was not adequate, and the first conflict between the landowners and police occurred in August 1969 at the BCL copper mine construction site. Following this confrontation, the Australian Government, against the advice of the Australian administration in Port Moresby, was able to obtain a better deal for the landowners. 5 However, there still remained fundamental problems with how the compensation was to be implemented.

9. Historically, the land ownership system on Bougainville was matrilineal. This meant that land would pass to the oldest daughter within a family. The residents in the area of the copper mine that were deemed eligible for compensation were broken down into 850 land title holders or 5000 or more beneficiaries. The payments of mine royalties and compensation went first to the title holder who was instructed to distribute the funds to the beneficiaries.6 In the 1960's, the Australian patrol officers did not always recognise the family elder sisters when they were determining who should be title holders. Many of the people who felt disenfranchised claimed to have been wronged by the Australian patrol officers.

Declaration of Independence and the BRA

10. On 1 September 1975, two of the Bougainville leaders, Alexis Serei, the District Commissioner and Leo Hannett, the provincial planner declared the island to be the Independent Republic of North Solomons. Their declaration was not recognised by PNG, and two weeks later, North Solomons Province (NSP) became part of the new PNG nation state. The secessionist sentiment gained popular support in 1987 when Pepetua Serero and Francis Ona called a meeting of the landowners at Panguna. They named their group the new Panguna Landowners' Association and started making demands of BCL. Frustrated by a lack of results, Ona disappeared into the jungle and formed the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA). The BRA's main objectives were to defend the rights of Bougainvillians, to protect their rich resources from foreign exploitation, and to further advance their quest for self-determination.7 Within days, the BRA held up the mine's magazine and stole explosives.8 Sabotage and attacks against the vital points such as power lines were professionally conducted. The person supervising the sabotage was Sam Kauona, a former lieutenant in the PNGDF.

11. As in any civil war, one of the difficult issues is that the soldiers on both sides have very close connections. This was particularly true for Sam Kauona who was to become the military commander of the BRA. He had joined the military in 1984 and had received both his basic army cadet and Ammunitions Technical Officer (ATO) training in Australia. Shortly after the completion of his ATO course in 1988, he deserted the PNGDF and returned to Bougainville. Kauona returned because a close relative was killed during a confrontation with police. The loyalty of a typical Papua New Guinean is to his parents, then immediate relatives, his clan, his village, his tribe, his region and finally to the PNG nation state.9 He chose to fight the PNGDF not because he disliked them, but because his loyalty was to his people.

12. By now, the BRA championed secessionist movement was being fuelled by verbal battles between BCL and the landowners over inconvenience payments. BCL went to National Court for a decision on the proper recipients for the 1988 payments. Francis Ona declared in a letter dated 10 February 1989 that "the whiteman's tricks were part of a 'worldwide setup' and that the only way to save Bougainville was to break away from PNG".10 BCL decided to close the mine on 15 May 1989 following continued BRA attacks and acts of sabotage.

Implications of the Mine Closure for Bougainville and PNG

In the middle of Operation Tampara (June 1989), our new Operations Officer, Major Jerry Singirok arrived. ... I felt that there was a lack of purpose, mission tempo, and very low morale in the contingent, a potentially dangerous situation as we commenced our operations against the BRA. If there was an officer that could remedy the position, I knew it was Major Singirok.

Captain (PNGDF) Yauka Aluambo Liria11

13. From 1972 to 1985, BCL paid a yearly average of K55 million to the PNG Government in royalties and taxes. It was the nation's single largest employer and provided almost half of PNG's export earnings.12 In 1988, the workforce at the BCL mine was over 3,500 out of about 200,000 residents of NSP. Not only was the closure a financial disaster for the people of Bougainville, it also caused severe fiscal problems for all of PNG. On 21 June 1989, the PNG Cabinet announced a state of emergency on Bougainville. The Catholic Bishop of Bougainville, Gregory Singkai, was appointed as an independent intermediary to reach a negotiated solution for reopening the mine. Attempts were made to resolve the issues, but Francis Ona's demands of K10 billion and a referendum on separation were judged unreasonable by PNG Prime Minister Namaliu.13 The PNG Government decided to launch Operation Tampara and use the military to solve the crisis. Within six months, the PNG troops withdrew at PNG Government direction forcing BCL to evacuate their employees and mothball the mine. This PNGDF withdrawal left the BRA in control of the entire province including the copper mine.

14. Soon after the withdrawal, negotiations were held with PNG offers made to give Bougainville greater political autonomy and increased revenue.14 These negotiations were with the newly formed Bougainville Interim Government (BIG) which was a political arm established to shape the future of Bougainville. These PNG offers were rejected, and on 17 May 1990, the BIG declared NSP the Republic of Meekamui. Even though this declaration was not recognised by the PNG Government or any other nation, further negotiations were held in August 1990 onboard HMNZS Endeavour provided by the New Zealand Government. The resulting Endeavour Accord was signed by both parties, but broke down when the PNG Government used troops to deliver food and medical supplies to Bougainvillians against the wishes of the BRA.15

PNGDF Attempts to Regain Bougainville

15. In January 1991, the Australian Government withdrew helicopter support given to the PNGDF to assist with operations in Bougainville. This came as a result of Colonel Leo Nuia admitting to ABC television that his soldiers had dumped the bodies of rebel suspects from their Australian-donated Iroquois helicopters in late 1989.16 The fact Australia had donated these helicopters in the first place had alienated the Bougainvillian people, and to date, Australia is considered by many of them to be an enemy. The restrictions placed on the helicopter employment by the Australians and the 1991 withdrawal of the helicopter support further alienated the PNGDF which may have led to the consideration of 'contracting out' airpower in the future. The ill feelings generated by both PNG and Bougainvillian people over the helicopter donation have made it difficult for Australians to play the role of conciliator.

16. In April 1991, the PNGDF set up a military stronghold on north Bougainville using about 300 soldiers. Shortly after the redeployment, the Task Force Commander, Colonel Nuia, agreed to allow surrendering BRA members to keep their weapons. This decision caused concern within the PNGDF as it represented an official recognition of the BRA. Prime Minister Namaliu replaced Colonel Nuia shortly thereafter as the Task Force Commander. The Prime Minister cited conduct as the reason and referred to the comments made by Colonel Nuia during an ABC TV interview regarding human rights.17 Southern Bougainville chiefs, supporting PNG Government views, requested that the PNGDF deploy to their area. This request was turned down by the PNG Cabinet. A year later, the PNGDF did deploy to south Bougainville which resulted in more BRA rebels surrendering.

17. Late in 1992, New Zealand High Commissioner to PNG John Hayes, who had been instrumental in providing HMNZS Endeavour for the 1990 negotiations, visited NSP to call on Bougainvillians to give peace a chance.18 His plea was successful, and by June 1993, most of the airstrips were reopened with Australia committing K1.4 million for the NSP Restoration and Rehabilitation Program.19 Peace was finally declared on 13 September 1994 with the Honiara Agreement signed by Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan representing PNG and General Sam Kauona, Commander of the BRA. Unfortunately, the Honiara Agreement was never really honoured. Within a year, the PNGDF again attempted to take Bougainville by assaulting central and south Bougainville in July 1996, but were driven back to their tactical base by the BRA.20

18. Theodore Miriung, former BRA advisor and mediator, became the first Premier of the Bougainville Transitional Government until he was assassinated in Siwai during October 1996. While Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan called it an "act of madness", a Sri Lankan judge who headed an independent inquiry concluded that the killing had indeed been carried out by PNGDF soldiers. 21 The Bougainvillians waited for those responsible for the assassination to be brought to justice, but believed that Prime Minister Chan only called the inquiry to relieve himself of international pressure. The Bougainvillians came to the conclusion that the whole incident was simply swept under the carpet.22

Results of Continued Conflict

19. By the end of 1996, the basic infrastructure that supported education and medical care had become almost nonexistent. The Bougainvillian people claimed this was the result of incursions by the PNGDF and the systematic burning of villages, schools, hospitals and clinics. The PNG Government claimed that the BRA had burned and looted schools in the areas that were friendly to the federal troops. The net effect of this destruction was that the cost to rebuild basic infrastructure would be high.

20. Many Bougainvillians believe that their relationship with PNG has completely broken down. They see other Melanesian people on Nauru, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands where former European rulers have implemented political self-determination, and Bougainvillians ask why they are different. The BRA blames Australia for including NSP with the rest of PNG at the time of independence. All the conflict of the past eight years had not brought peace to Bougainville.


21. The PNG Government, recognising that past efforts to unify the country were unsuccessful, decided on drastic measures without enlisting Australian support. The seeds that produced the 1997 crisis were sewn when the PNG Government, represented by Deputy Prime Minister Chris Haiveta, signed a contract with Tim Spicer representing Sandline International on 31 January 1997.23 The PNG Government acknowledged that 40 military advisors employed by the South Africa-based Executive Outcomes under subcontract to the UK-based Sandline International arrived in PNG in early February 1997.24 The mercenary's first task was to conduct training at the PNGDF's Urimo training area in East Sepik province. When the existence of the mercenaries initially became public knowledge, PNG Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan denied Australian reports that the Executive Outcomes combatants had been hired to strike against the BRA. Chan insisted that their role would be to train the existing PNGDF and only to guide operations rather than to participate.25 This position was questioned when reports surfaced in the Australian media that Sandline had been approaching Queensland hospitals seeking facilities to treat their possible causalities.

22. After the contract was signed, Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, visited PNG to announce a A$4 million humanitarian package for Bougainville. Alexander Downer's aircraft landed between two Russian-built transport aircraft delivering equipment and supplies for Sandline. In private, Downer made clear the Australian Government position on the use of mercenaries to solve the problems in Bougainville.26 Prime Minister Chan then came to Sydney on 9 March 1997 to hold talks with Australian Prime Minister, John Howard on the Bougainville situation. Once the issue became public, the Australian Prime Minister told Parliament that the use of mercenaries in Bougainville was "absolutely and completely unacceptable" to Australia.27 Unfortunately, the mercenaries had already arrived in Port Moresby and the training phase of the operation was underway. Sir Julius Chan rejected John Howard's demands and announced the mercenaries would be used in Bougainville.

Brigadier-General Singirok Dismissed

23. Once Sir Julius Chan made the declaration, the 1997 Bougainville crisis came to a head. On 17 March, PNGDF Commander Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok and Police Commissioner Nenta called on Governor-General Sir Wiwa Korrowi. They requested Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, Deputy Prime Minister Chris Haiveta, and Defence Minister Mathias Ijape resign within 48 hours. Police Commissioner Nenta backed out at the last moment and left Singirok on his own. The PNG Cabinet met, and later that day, Sir Julius Chan dismissed Brigadier-General Singirok for insubordination. Chan stated that the revolt by the PNGDF Commander was unconstitutional and could not be tolerated by the Government. Commissioner Nenta stood with Sir Julius Chan at the news conference as the Prime Minister assured the people of PNG that the police were standing by to put down any insurrection.

24. Australia did not support mercenaries, nor did it condone Singirok's actions. A spokesman for Prime Minister John Howard stated "the Government opposes any unconstitutional moves against the PNG Government".28 In Port Moresby, this Australian response was taken as support for Sir Julius Chan. The PNG Cabinet replaced Brigadier-General Singirok as PNGDF Commander with Colonel Fred Aikung. As a result, Port Moresby erupted into civil violence for several days due to the PNGDF support for Singirok and their distaste for Aikung. Aikung fled after two days and was replaced by Colonel Jack Tuot. The volatile situation was calmed down by Chan's offer to cancel the Sandline contract.

25. A major question that remained unanswered is why it took so long for Singirok to come forward with his concerns. As the Commander of the PNGDF, he must have been aware of the details of the contract signed with Sandline International. He may have believed the mercenaries would be responsive to the wishes of the PNGDF, and that he would remain in overall command. Perhaps, after Tim Spicer was in place, it became apparent to Singirok that there would be very little operational control by the PNGDF over the mercenaries. It is also possible that morale problems began to surface within the PNGDF because of the large amount of money spent on Sandline. Singirok said "It is wrong to hire Sandline at a price which could re-equip and boost the morale of our security forces who, for the past nine years, have managed to contain the uprising given the depleted resources, personal sacrifices and lack of funding...".29

26. There is little doubt that the A$40 million spent on the contract could have provided better value for money if it had been spent on the existing PNGDF soldiers. Also, there may have been friction within the PNGDF over the salaries paid to the mercenaries. The average PNG soldier is paid K200 (US$124) per month, while the mercenaries were paid US$100,000 for the three-month contract. Whatever reason that Singirok chose to stand up when he did, he took a calculated risk. He claimed that "I do not want people to see me as a hero ... I saw what the Government was trying to do as a major, major disaster in the history of our nation".30 It is also possible that he foresaw it taking more than the planned three months to take Bougainville, and that the continued costs of a mercenary-led operation would be a drain on the national purse.

27. Singirok's actions created a problem for the PNGDF in the future. While his demand to have the Prime Minister step down may seem to have been morally correct, it was against the law. He politicised the PNGDF, and his actions have meant that the PNGDF may not be seen as a reliable arm of the PNG Government in the future.

Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan Steps Down

28. While Sir Julius Chan continued to argue that he had done the right thing and had the good of the country at heart, his countrymen were not convinced.31 On 26 March 1997, he agreed to step down as Prime Minister while an independent inquiry chaired by National Court judge Andrew Warwick conducted an investigation of the 'Sandline affair'. The reason that Chan chose to sign a contract with Sandline International to conduct the operation in Bougainville remains subject to speculation and considerable second guessing. It was apparent that his PNGDF Commander Singirok was not in favour of the plan. As it was Chan who promoted Singirok and installed him into the position of Commander, he must have been aware that Singirok had loyal support both within the PNGDF and among the PNG people. Perhaps, Chan was intent on finding a permanent solution to the Bougainville situation. He may have wanted to be seen as a 'big man' which is very important in the PNG culture. He had been frustrated by the lack of support from Australia and by previous unsuccessful attempts by the PNGDF. He had been told by Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer that the hiring of mercenaries would be unpalatable to the Australian Government and that it would put the entire Australian aid plan at risk.

29. Chan expected the inquiry to wrap up quickly, to be cleared of any wrongdoing, and to resume his role as Prime Minister long before the 14 June 1997 PNG election. The inquiry dragged on for more than two months and Chan was exonerated of conducting corrupt practices. He returned himself to power only one week before the election. Unfortunately for Sir Julius Chan, he lost his seat in parliament in the 1997 election so the findings from the inquiry became politically irrelevant. Also defeated in the 1997 election was the Defence Minister at the time of the Sandline affair, Mathias Ijape. Spokesmen for the new PNG Government have said they will reopen the inquiry with new terms of reference.


Assuring National Security

30. The most important factor in assuring security for Australia is for there to be security in the immediate neighbourhood. The geographical location of PNG, combined with its historic relationship with Australia, has meant that regional affairs in PNG are very important to Australia. The course of PNG's development requires a sustained and sensitive Australian policy response.32 PNG itself does not represent a current or future military threat to Australia, but the economic and cultural pressures faced by the individual islands cause internal conflicts. These individual islands, if they declared independence from PNG, may not be stable.

31. When considering military contingencies that may involve Australia, a sustained major assault against the Australian heartland could only be conducted by a world superpower even in the long-term future.33 That form of assault is unlikely. What is more likely to involve Australia is some form of low level regional conflict. Ross Babbage states in A Coast Too Long that the matters at stake in low level contingencies are unlikely to be the ownership of a significant slice of Australian territory or any other issue critical to national security. He sees it far more likely to involve a dispute over elements of another country's policies (such as PNG's) over some broad political difference or over an offshore issue of peripheral importance to Australia.34

32. Instability in PNG may cause other nations hostile to Australian interests to get involved. Even though the BCL copper mine is not producing, there is still significant Australian investment in PNG. There are high numbers of Australian expatriates living in PNG overseeing the A$2 billion trade. The possible incursion of other nations means that, from both an economic and military viewpoint, Australian interests remain vulnerable if the instability continues.

Australian Aid to PNG

33. On 24 May 1989, nine days after the BCL closure of the Panguna mine, the Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke and the PNG Prime Minister Rabbie Namaliu signed the Treaty on Development Co-operation. The treaty committed Australia to provide A$1.5 billion in assistance, but the ratio of funds would be increasing for project support funding over budget funding.35 An exchange of letters attached to this treaty signed in September 1992 agreed to phase out budget support completely by the year 2000. The intention was to maintain Australian aid at the level of A$300 million per year. The main reason for this change of direction was to allow aid to be earmarked for specific uses. While budget aid was a mark of respect for PNG independence and was acceptable to the Australian people in 1975, the Australian Government wished to have more say on how the aid money was spent.

34. By 1994, the Australian contribution to the PNG Government revenue had fallen from the nearly 30 per cent during the 1980's to less than 20 per cent.36 The PNG Department of Finance and Planning's 1990 economic strategy document called for the use of revenue from petroleum and mineral projects to complete the unfinished agenda of providing and maintaining PNG's basic infrastructure.37 This meant that the PNG Government was to be even more dependent on resource revenues at a time when oil prices had declined and the large copper mine remained closed. Due to problems funding the PNG Government, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer's 1997 refusal to rule out cancelling Australia's entire A$320 million aid allocation would have been seriously listened to in Port Moresby. Since the early 1990's, Australia's position has been that PNG cannot impose a military solution upon Bougainville, and that the only way forward would be through peace talks.38

Mediating the Bougainville Peace Talks

35. It is in Australia's national interest to help bring the Bougainville crisis to a close. Australia, as the major power in the South Pacific, would be a willing but unlikely peace broker. Australia's history as the colonial master, and the fact that the Panguna copper mine agreements were signed between an Australian administration in Port Moresby and an Australian-controlled mining company means that there is too much self-interest and history. Also, Australian support to the PNGDF over the years has meant that they are not seen as independent by the BIG/BRA. The focal point of Australian involvement has been the helicopters and their use in subsequent atrocities committed against the BRA rebels.

36. Of the Bougainville peace talks held to date, the New Zealand sponsored Endeavour accord had the most promise to resolve the crisis. In July 1997, New Zealand Foreign Minister Don McKinnon offered to broker preparatory Bougainville peace talks at Burnham Camp near Christchurch. Australia must do everything in its power to support the objectives of the peace talks until the major issues are resolved.

37. The initial response from Australia's Foreign Minister represented the old colonial thinking. He said "There have been a number of conversations between Prime Ministers Howard and Bolger about the Bougainville situation and PNG, and we have encouraged New Zealand to be active on this issue as well". He also said "We thought that on this occasion, it was an opportunity that New Zealand could take" suggesting that it was offered by Australia to New Zealand.39 However, Francis Ona, when contacted about the peace talks stated "Australia is not neutral and is fighting side by side with the PNG Government and only a neutral party such as New Zealand could host future talks".40

38. One problem for these peace talks was that they have occurred so soon after the 1997 election that the new PNG Government was not in place. The fact that Sir Julius Chan is no longer in power is viewed as a positive sign from the BIG/BRA perspective. Also, the PNG Government was represented by some newly elected members. The people of Bougainville were represented by several groups ranging from the pro-PNG Bougainville Transitional Government to the secessionist BRA/BIG. Unfortunately, the talks did not have a great beginning when, on 4 July 1997, gunfire brought down the helicopter sent to take some of the rebels to the Solomon Islands to join a New Zealand Air Force flight. The rebels eventually did make it to Burnham Camp on 9 July after travelling part of the way by canoe.41

39. There is a role for Australia in any Bougainville peace talks, but it is not as the peace broker. New Zealand, with no past history in the colony of PNG, is the ideal peace broker for the Bougainville situation. Australia should show clear support for the mediator and should not try to pretend that New Zealand is just acting for Australia or is a proxy for Australia. Australia must be willing to assist with the conducting of all-party peace talks if assistance is desired by both sides. The type of assistance desired could range from physically bringing in participants to providing conciliators trained in the art of conflict resolution. Following talks, Australia will need to be willing to conduct whatever peacekeeping tasks are required to implement a lasting peace. It will be a difficult position for the ex-colonial master because it will need to provide a required service, but not set the agenda.

Possible Outcomes for Bougainville

40. There are three possible outcomes that could result from a successful peace process. The first would be a return to the former relationship with PNG in control as the national leader and NSP having the same rights as all other provinces within the nation. The second would have NSP remain within PNG, but have some form of special rights for self-determination. The third would be for NSP to follow the course to political independence.

41. With representatives like Francis Ona and Sam Kauona of BIG/BRA representing the people of Bougainville, it does not seem likely that they would agree to the former relationship. From an Australian national security point of view, the second option with NSP remaining within PNG would be the most attractive. Even if NSP is responsible for self-determination from an economic perspective, they would most likely maintain certain PNG national ties such as the PNGDF. From the PNG point of view, any increase in provincial economic control could also be used as a model by other provinces seeking control of their own natural resources. Complete independence for Bougainville may or may not bring stability in the longer term, and could leave Bougainville open to the influence other nations in the future. However, from Australia's point of view, independence may be more stable than the situation that has existed in NSP between 1989 and 1997. What cannot be foreseen is if the departure of NSP from PNG would set a precedent for other resource-rich provinces to follow.


42. The people of Bougainville have had a troubled history since the European colonialists implemented national borders that separated them from their Solomon Island people and forced political alignment with a foreign country. In addition, they saw their homeland being ecologically devastated by foreign mining interests and did not think they were being adequately compensated. The PNG Government saw the revenues from the Panguna copper mine as part of the overall plan to ensure PNG self-sufficiency into the future. They also saw that the way the Bougainville situation played itself out could influence the federal-provincial relationship of some of the other potentially resource-rich provinces. After eight years of fighting, it has become obvious to both parties that a lasting agreement is required to ensure regional stability.

43. The secessionists from Bougainville have been frustrated at not receiving Australian support in their quest for independence. They point to Nauru, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands and see former colonial holdings where Melanesian people have gained political autonomy. They believe that the resulting stability would be in Australia's national interest.

44. The Bougainville crisis can only be solved by negotiation. Australia's position since the early 1990's that there could not be a military solution imposed on Bougainville has so far proved correct. The 1997 peace talks brokered by New Zealand represent the best hope yet for a negotiated solution. There will have to be flexibility on both Bougainville and PNG sides. Australia should stand back during the process, yet be supportive of any positive outcomes.

45. No matter what outcomes result from the 1997 peace negotiations, it will be costly for Bougainville to rebuild basic social infrastructure. It is in Australia's national interest to have political and economic stability in the nearest neighbour. When Australia became the PNG colonial ruler in the early years of this century, it assumed responsibility for the territories along its north shore. With that responsibility, it also assumed financial and moral liability. How Australia handles these sensitive diplomatic responsibilities will directly effect the outcomes. Australia does indeed have a long coast, perhaps too long.


1. Tawali, K., from a mural at the University of Papua New Guinea, 1994.

2. Nelson, F., Bougainville and PNG: Historical Perspectives, in Armed Neutrality Review, No 5, July 1990, p. 3.

3. Waiko, J.D., A Short History of Papua New Guinea, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, 1993, p. 57.

4 . Dorney, S., Papua New Guinea, Random House Australia, Sydney, 1993, p. 118.

5. Waiko, op cit, p. 158.

6 . Dorney, op cit, p. 122.

7. Kauona, S., Bougainville - A Brief Summary - The Quest for Freedom, June 1997, p. 4.

8. Dorney, op cit, p. 119.

9. Liria, Y.A., Bougainville Campaign Diary, Indra Publishing, Eltham North Victoria, 1993, pp. 181-182.

10. Dorney, op cit, p. 124.

11. Liria, op cit, p. 52.

12. Waiko, op cit, p. 206.

13. Dorney, op cit, p. 140.

14. Waiko, op cit, p. 240.

15. ibid, p. 241.

16. Dorney, op cit, p. 329.

17. Liria, op cit, pp. 190-191.

18. ibid, p. 196.

19. ibid, p. 199.

20. McPhedran, I., Road to the Bougainville Confrontation, in Canberra Times, 20 March 1997, p. 6.

21. loc cit.

22. Kauona, op cit, p. 11.

23. Vulum, S., The Sandline Saga, in Pacific Islands Monthly, May 1997, pp. 18-19.

24. Karniol, R., New Force 'not just for Bougainville', says PNG?, in Jane's Defence Weekly, 5 March 1997, p. 13.

25. loc cit.

26. Garrett, J., Mercenaries, PNG and Aussie aid, in Pacific Islands Monthly, April 1997, p. 55.

27. loc cit.

28. McPhedran, I., PNG Showdown: PM Acts, in Canberra Times, 18 March 1997, p. 1.

29. Vulum, S., Singirok - I'm no hero, in Pacific Islands Monthly, May 1997, p. 16.

30. ibid, p. 17.

31. Vulum, S., Sir Julius - just where did he go wrong?, in Pacific Islands Monthly, May 1997, p. 15.

32. Evans, G. and Grant, B., Australia's Foreign Relations, Melbourne University Press, Carlton Victoria, 1995, p. 109.

33. Babbage, R., A Coast Too Long: Defending Australia Beyond the 1990's, Allen and Unwin, Sydney NSW, 1990, p. 118.

34. ibid, p. 92.

35. Evans, op cit, p. 184.

36. loc cit.

37. Dorney, op cit, p. 116.

38. Garret, op cit, p. 55.

39. McPhedran, I., Bougainville's leaders lose trust in Australia, in Canberra Times, 5 July 1997, p. 14.

40. loc cit.

41. Field, M., PNG rebels finally make it to talks, in Canberra Times, 9 July 1997, p. 8.


Babbage, R., A Coast Too Long: Defending Australia Beyond the 1990's, Allen and Unwin, Sydney NSW, 1990.

Dorney, S., Papua New Guinea, Random House Australia, Sydney, 1993.

Evans, G. and Grant, B., Australia's Foreign Relations, Melbourne University Press, Carlton Victoria, 1995.

Field, M., PNG rebels finally make it to talks, in Canberra Times, 9 July 1997.

Garrett, J., Mercenaries, PNG and Aussie aid, in Pacific Islands Monthly, April 1997.

Karniol, R., New Force 'not just for Bougainville', says PNG?, in Jane's Defence Weekly, 5 March 1997.

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