Bougainville awareness week

Issue 

Bougainville awareness week

By Mara Ochea

SYDNEY — A picket organised by the Bougainville Freedom movement was held on July 23 outside the Australian Regional Defence building in Liverpool St.

About 30 people distributed leaflets and passed around a petition which called on the Australian government to end military aid to the Papua New Guinea government, demanding the withdrawal of the PNG Defence Force from Bougainville and an end to the blockade.

Speakers included Moses Havini (pictured), international representative of the Bougainville Interim Government, human rights lawyer Rosemarie Gillespie (who was due on July 26 to face a traffic summons which has the appearance of harassment similar to the charges laid in May and then dropped relating to possession of medicines for shipment to Bougainville) and Dennis Doherty from the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign.

The speakers highlighted Australia's military involvement through supplying guns, bullets and helicopter gunships to PNG.

Moses Havini said, "Over 5000 Bougainville people have been killed during the four-year conflict. We have been shot with Australian bullets. We have been hounded from our homes by Australian helicopter gunships. Our villages have been destroyed by Australian mortars. The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has been doing the killing under the direction of Australian military advisers and trainers. Australian military aid to Bougainville must stop."

On July 25, another rally was held at Circular Quay and drew about 60 people.

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Kylie Bockman reports from Adelaide that two separate rallies were organised by the Bougainville Action Group on July 19 and 22, to protest against the role of the Australian mining company Conzinc Rio

Tinto (CRA) and of the Australian government in the Bougainville crisis.

A highlight of the rallies was the reading of a letter by Chief Ivomari Siririka of a Bougainville tribe pleading for the Papua New Guinea Defence Force to leave Bougainville. He concluded by writing, "I do not want this settled by the barrel of a gun — I want it settled peacefully".

The July 19 rally concluded with a performance by the Ambush Street Theatre Company. At the July 22 rally, candles and crosses were placed on a map of the Pacific region, as symbols of the crowd's support to the Bougainville people in their quest for independence and basic human rights.

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In Brisbane, Bougainville awareness week was marked by pickets on July 21 and July 23. The latter, at the Papua New Guinea consulate, was broadcast on radio 4ZZZ. That evening a speak-out on Bougainville was held in the Queen Street Mall as part of the ongoing campaign for free expression there.