Wingti rules out negotiated settlement


By Tom Jordan and Norm Dixon

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Paias Wingti is to continue his government's push to crush the Bougainville independence movement militarily. During a brief visit to Buka Island, north of the Bougainville mainland, Wingti demanded the Bougainville Revolutionary Army surrender unconditionally and ruled out negotiations to end the war.

The prime minister's highly publicised November 19 visit was meant to prove that the PNG Defence Force was in control of Bougainville. However, what the visit showed was the opposite when Wingti was forced to abandon his original plan to fly 110 kilometres south and visit central Bougainville because the PNGDF could not guarantee his safety.

Wingti said he was confident PNG forces would secure "all of the province by the end of next year". "Secession is non-negotiable" he insisted.

Honiara spokesperson for the Bougainville Interim Government, Martin Miriori, described the visit as a cheap public relations exercise and a propaganda stunt. Miriori repeated the interim government's oft- stated call for negotiations to settle the crisis.

According Melbourne human rights lawyer Rosemarie Gillespie, at present in BRA-controlled central Bougainville, the PNGDF is escalating its war on the people of Bougainville. Mortar attacks on Arawa launched from the PNGDF camp at Tunuru Catholic Mission and from Australian-supplied patrol boats reached a new intensity on November 20, she reported via shortwave radio.

She found fragments of a white phosphorus incendiary mortar bomb, still smoking, just 200 metres from Arawa General Hospital. The shell, which is designed to start fires, is believed to have been made in Australia. "Not only Arawa, but also Sirowai village, Kieta township, Toniva, Tubiana and Rigu have all been mortared and machine-gunned in the past week."

The PNGDF also recaptured Tunuru Junction, 500 metres from Tunuru mission. BRA forces had forced PNG troops to abandon the strategic junction after a five hour fire-fight on November 12.

Meanwhile, PNG continues to enforce the blockade of the island. On November 16, a canoe carrying secondhand clothes was destroyed and its cargo stolen by PNG troops at the mouth of the Laluai River. The clothes had been donated by the United Church at Munda in the Solomon Islands. Two other canoes loaded with medical supplies were able to escape.