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Australia - arming PNG
20 October 2000
This alert is in two parts: an excerpt from yesterday's 'The Australian'; and the response from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
What hope for the peace process when the Australian (and PNG) government has these priorities ?
Australia to bail out PNG defence
Australia is to help Papua New Guinea reform its armed forces with an aid package that includes funding for soldiers' rations and unpaid allowances.
Defence aid to Port Moresby will treble to nearly $25 million this year in support of the attempt by the Morauta Government to overhaul the country's increasingly unruly forces.
John Howard said yesterday Australia would provide a special package of immediate aid, including a financial bail-out for the PNG Defence Force, which has been collecting debts since its Bougainville deployment began 10 years ago.
Worth almost $15 million in total, the one-off package of assistance is over and above the annual $8 million provided under Australia's Defence Co-operation Program.
Up to 30 Australian defence advisers may be deployed into a PNG force increasingly beset with discipline, corruption and management problems.
The assistance, which represents a large shift in Australia's defence policy with PNG, follows a personal request to Mr Howard from his PNG counterpart Mekere Morauta during the Olympics.
19 October 2000
Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) gravely concerned at the John Howard Military Package Deal between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
GIZO Solomon Islands: In a statement issued by new BRA Commander General Ishmael Toroama from Gizo Solomon Islands; Comdr.Toroama was most concerned at the new military package deal between Australia and Papua New Guinea.
“ The PNGDF is still sitting on Bougainville. If this defence package deal means re-equipping and strengthening the PNGDF forces on Bougainville, then there is a real threat to the PNG/Bougainville fragile peace process”, said Toroama.
Comdr. Toroama said the BRA forces have never been trained by anyone including Australia. But included in this package will be 30 crack Australian SAS trainers to re-train members of the Papua New Guinea Defence force.
“ Fifteen million ($15M) is a lot of money that should have been given to the Aids epidemic now crippling Papua New Guinea, instead of throwing it after the bad. AIDS is PNG’s No.1 “enemy” that its leaders should be concentrating on. The basis of the new military package deal is premised on the huge debt the PNGDF incurred in nine years of unsuccessfully prosecuting war against the BRA on Bougainville”, advised Comdr. Toroama.
“ Not only is this new package deal sending an extremely bad signal to the BRA; but it is also a re-opening of the former Australian Labour Government open policy of assisting the PNGDF prosecute the war on Bougainville”, said Toroama..
The only pacific island states with “standing armies” are in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. It has been proven that small island states can not run and finance such armies in the long term. Militarisation is something that is not needed in our region and should be banned, said Comdr. Toroama from the Solomons.
Comdr. Toroama has sent this warning to the negotiating parties now in Port Moresby that unless a mutually agreed and ironclad agreement is reached on the political future of Bougainville - the BRA would pull out of the peace process.
“Do not come home with a second-rate deal. After ten years of war and 15,000 dead on Bougainville - it would be dishonouring precious lives sacrificed for the future of Bougainville”, concluded Comdr. Toroama.