Bougainville Updates - For interested persons

Vikki John VIKKI at
Thu Oct 17 17:15:42 MDT 1996

Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October, 1996
by Craig Skehan, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

Mr Theodore Miriung, seen by many as holding out the greatest hope for peace
 on Bougainville, was shot dead on Saturday night in front of family members.

While secessionist Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) accused the
 PNG military of killing Mr Miriung, who headed the PNG Government-backed
 Bougainville Transitional Government, the Defence Force blamed the rebels.

"Theodore Miriung's killing has hit at the heart and soul of the nation of
 Papua New Guinea," the Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, said last night.

"This slaughter has been an act of madness perpetrated by ungodly cowards.
 I condemn those who have carried out this dreadful and foul deed."  Sir Julius
 did not directly accuse the BRA of Mr Miriung's murder.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, said last night that the
 Australian Government was shocked and saddened by Mr Miriung's death.

"Theodore Miriung was a courageous and influential figure who dedicated
himself to the pursuit of a peaceful solution to the eight year conflict in
Bougainville," he said.  "With his passing this will become more difficult to

A spokesman for the political wing of the BRA said Mr Miriung was killed
in front of his wife in the village of Kapana in southern
Bougainville by anti-BRA forces.

The spokesman said tensions had risen after accusations by PNG soldiers that
Mr Miriung had encouraged resistance members to defect to the BRA.

Mr Miriung was involved in political campaigning in support of autonomy for
 Bougainville more than 20 years.

He initially acted as an adviser to the BRA when secessionist strife flared in
1988, linked to a royalties dispute at the massive former Australian Panguna
 copper mine.

In recent years, some rebel groups have deteriorated into bands of bandits
 lacking discipline or any clear political direction.  The Defence Force has also
 had major discipline problems and has violated human rights.

Mr Miriung agreed to head the transitional government, but peace talks in
 Cairns last year backed by the Australian Government broke down and a
 huge Government military offensive in the middle of this year failed.

Some elements of the Defence Force and allied members of the resistance
 remained suspicious of Mr Miriung because of his past BRA links.  Elements
 of the BRA saw him as a turncoat.

But in the search for middle ground, he had support in both camps as a man
who might be able to broker peace based on greater autonomy, as opposed to
independence, for Bougainville.   END.

Sydney Morning Herald, 14 October, 1996
by Debra Jopson

Greens Senator Dee Margetts said yesterday she plans to press the Federal
Government on whether Australian aid money to Papua New Guinea has been
 used to provide landmines to government forces in Bougainville.

This follows a claim in Sydney yesterday by the head of a
Bougainville local community aid program, Mrs Ruby Mirinka, that retreating
 PNG Defence Force personnel had left landmines around Aropa international
 airport, south of the capital, Arawa.

One man had been killed and another injured in July and civilians in the area
 lived in fear of treading on landmines as they moved about their gardens,
said Mrs Mirinka, the head of the Bougainville Community Based Integrated
 Humanitarian Program.

Senator Margetts said she intended to ask how the Federal Government ensured
 that Australia's defence co-operation budget for PNG was not spent on
 landmines and chemical sprays.

She claimed Australia was "exacerbating" and "extending" the civil war on
 Bougainville with the defence co-operation budget, which amounted to
$14.8 million last year and will be $11.8 million this year.

Senator Margetts and Mrs Mirinka were speaking at the end of a women's
forum at which women from different parts of Bougainville ruled by opposing
 sides came together for the first time in eight years in Sydney at the weekend.

They discovered that in their disjointed country, where word-of-mouth carried
 village-to-village has replaced the mails and the telephone, they are struggling
 with similar anguishes - fatal childhood diseases, medicine shortages and rape.

Mrs Mirinka claimed that during a dawn massacre of 10 villagers at Simbo in
 south-eastern Bougainville by PNG Defence Force soldiers, a pregnant woman
 was cut open and her foetus left lying on her body.

In Bougainville Republican Army-held enclaves cut off by a PNG blockade,
 people use coconut oil to fuel generators to create electricity and struggle to
 keep water supplies free from faecal pollution, she said.

"Lack for immunisation programs in Bougainville has caused childhood illnesses
 to run rampant, resulting in many deaths," the women said in a statement.

"Outbreaks of diarrhoea, mumps, pneumonia and other normally preventable
 diseases have been constant.  There was an outbreak of whooping cough this

The women called on Australians to pressure the Federal Government to find
 way to bring peace to Bougainville.

Options should include finding sustainable economic alternatives to Australian
 company CRA's Panguna mine, which had sparked the conflict and was seen
 by Papua New Guinea as an important income source, Senator Margetts said.

The Australian, 15 October, 1996
by Mary-Louise O'Callaghan, South Pacific correspondent

Mystery still surrounds the death of the assassinated Bougainville
leader, Mr Theodore Miriung, who is to be given a State funeral this week by
 the Papua New Guinea Government.

Bougainville rebel leaders joined others throughout Papua New Guinea yesterday
 in deploring the killing, which took place in front of Mr Miriung's wife and five
 children as they ate dinner on Saturday evening.

Speaking via a radio link from Bougainville, a spokesman for rebel sources in
 South Bougainville, where Mr Miriung was killed, denied any involvement by
 the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in the incident, which was expected to
 set back hopes for a peaceful resolution of the Bougainville crisis.

"We strongly deny any complicity in murdering Miriung.  There were no bad
 feelings and we still considered him a friend," the spokesman said, in a reference
 to the fact that Mr Miriung had rejected the BRA's armed struggle in 1994.

Instead, the rebel spokesman claimed that witnesses had seen a team of men
 leave the scene of the assassination soon after Mr Miriung was shot.

"The men fired a flare and were later picked up by an ambulance that has been
 used by the PNGDF (Papua New Guinea Defence Force) for transport," the
 spokesman was quoted as saying.

The BRA claimed that elements within the PNGDF blamed Mr Miriung for
 recent defections of members of a government-backed resistance force.

PNG's Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, has ordered a full investigation into the
 death, which he described as a "foul deed".

But Sir Julius has so far declined to comment publicly on who might be

An autopsy has shown that Mr Miriung was shot from both behind and in
 front, suggesting at least two gunmen were involved in his death.  No one else
was injured.

The commander of the PNGDF, Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok, blamed the
 rebels, claiming the assassination was proof that the BRA was simply a
 "terrorist group".

The Catholic bishops of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands have also
 deplored Mr Miriung's death saying it was proof that "there are people
desperate to stop the peace process".

Mr Miriung, who had attempted to bridge the gap between the PNG national
 Government and the secessionists since becoming Premier, had been expecting
 to host a visit from the PNG Minister for Provincial Affairs, Mr Peter Barter,

Mr Barter said yesterday that arrangements were being made for a Sate funeral
 in Port Moresby before Mr Miriung's body was retuned to his home in

He said Mr Miriung's death was a tragedy but only intensified the Government's
 commitment to achieving peace on the island.

"We will continue with his plans to put in place a local-level government which
 can assist the traditional chiefs of Bougainville to resume control," Mr Barter
 said from Port Moresby yesterday.  END.

Sydney Morning Herald, 15 October, 1996
by Craig Skehan, Foreign Correspondent

The weekend assassination of the leader of the Bougainville Transitional
Government, Theodore Miriung, was carried out by snipers hiding in banana
trees using a high-powered rifle and a shotgun, according to a preliminary report
 to the Papua New Guinea Government.

Government officials said the use of a shotgun undermined claims by secessionist
 rebels that the PNG Defence Force was involved in the shooting because
 military members were only issued with rifles.

However, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) claimed an assassination
 team was picked up in an ambulance being used by the Defence Force shortly
 after the killing.  The BRA's southern command, in a radio message, said the
 pick-up took place on Saturday evening after the "team" fired a flare and that
 the ambulance had headed in the direction of the Defence Force's Konga base
 several kilometres away.

Mr Miriung - a former BRA supporter who took up the position of transitional
 government premier backed by the national Government in Port Moresby - had
 supporters and enemies on both sides of the Bougainville conflict.

Government sources said that while current suspicion for the killing was focused
 on the BRA, no effort would be spared to bring the murderers to justice,
whether they were BRA, Defence Force personnel or members of the
anti-BRA militia, which calls itself the Resistance.

The preliminary report to the Government stated that Mr Miriung was having
 dinner under his family's stilt house in the southern village of Kapana with his
 wife, teenage daughter, two young sons and a sister-in-law when shots were
 fired from behind nearby banana trees.

Family members were unable to identify the assassins, the report said.

Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, told Federal Parliament
 yesterday that he was shocked and saddened by Mr Miriung's killing.
"Mr Miriung was a man of compassion and of humanity who was committed
 to the pursuit of a peaceful resolution of the eight-year old conflict on
 Bougainville," Mr Downer said.

"With the loss of this courageous and influential figure, peace on Bougainville
will regrettably become all the more difficult to achieve.  Indeed, we hope that
 this death will not lead to further violence."

The message from the BRA's southern command claimed a number of incidents
 in recent months pointed to heightened tensions between Mr Miriung,
Defence Force elements and the Resistance.

It said a local PNG army commander had accused Mr Miriung of being partly
 responsible for a recent clash in which 13 Government soldiers were killed.  END.

To:  The Editor, Sydney Morning Herald - 16 October, 1996
From: Bougainville Freedom Movement

We are extremely saddened by the news of Theodore Miriung's death.
He was a man who took the middle ground to find peace on Bougainville.

We note that Mr Miriung travelled on an "unscheduled" visit to his family on
Saturday with the South-West Interim Authority chairman Nick Penia on a
 civilian-PNG helicopter.  He was visiting his family at Kaparo near Konga.
This area is controlled by the Papua New Guinea military.

We also note that Defence Force commander Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok
described the killing as "barbaric and senseless acts by a group of brutal
gangsters" and Defence Minister Mathias Ijape saying "the rebel leadership
 must take full responsibility".

The PNG police have been called in to take over investigations into the
assassination of  the Premier of Bougainville, Theodore Miriung.  This suggests
 that even the government recognises the military are unable to make an
impartial inquiry.  Can the PNG police go against its own Army?

It seems from the autopsy a shot gun and a high powered rifle were used to
 kill the Premier.  Minister Peter Barter told ABC radio that "the PNG security
 forces don't use shotguns".  The PNG allied resistance certainly does!

In a report received from South Bougainville, it appears that Miriung's killers
ran away in the direction of the PNG Security Forces camp.  Having run some
 distance, they then fired a flare into the sky and were picked up thereafter by a
 PNG Army ambulance and driven to the PNG Army Camp.

Obviously the PNG military knew Mr Miriung would be visiting his family.
 The Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander stated quite definitely that
 the BRA knew nothing of Mr Miriung's travel plans to Siwai.   END.

Contact details:
email  v.john at
Bougainville Freedom Movement
PO Box 134, Erskineville  NSW   2043  Australia. +61-2-9558.2730
Moses Havini +61-2-9804.7602 Bougainville Interim Government
Max Watts  + 61-2-9818.2343 Journalist specialising on Bougainville,
East Timor and West Papua.

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