The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on March 21, 1997 · Page 12
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The Sydney Morning Herald from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia · Page 12

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Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Issue Date:
Friday, March 21, 1997
Page:
Page 12
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12 World THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD FRIDAY, MARCH 21, 1997 THE MERCENARIES Howard lays it on the line to PNG By TONY WRIGHT in Canberra and agencies Australia is demanding a commitment from Papua New Guinea to revive peace negotiations with the Bougainville rebels as part of the price of "reasonable alternatives' put yesterday to the PNG Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan. A team of three envoys from Australia's Prime Minister, Mr Howard, led by Australia's top diplomat, Mr Philip Flood, met Sir Julius for four hours in Port Moresby yesterday to make clear Australia's demands. These included that there must be no renewed military offensive on Bougainville, either by the PNG Defence Force or by mercenaries. "It's now up to Sir Julius to reflect on our position," a spokesman for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Downer, said last night Mr Howard spelt out yesterday three conditions Australia requires to be fulfilled if PNG is to receive "reasonable alternatives", designed as a form of compensation for PNG abandoning the use of mercenaries on Bougainville. These "reasonable "alternatives" are believed to include continued aid funding to PNG and assistance in brokering peace negotiations with the Bougainville rebels. Mr Howard said the three conditions were: Mercenaries not be used on Bougainville; 0 No new military of i'rnsive on Bougainville; H PNG makes a genuine commitment to resume the peace process with Bougainville, virtually abandoned since 1994. Mr Howard said mercenaries "have been a wholly sordid and unsatisfactory development in our part of the world", and agreed with a suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Beazley, to consider mounting a concerted effort in the United Nations against the use of mercenaries world-wide. The Prime Minister said he was sure all members of Parliament welcomed signs that the Sandline mercenary force was leaving PNG. The human rights group AidWatch renewed its call for Australia to cut aid to PNG, PORT MORESBY IN CRISIS Jk- -4 JW-ivemor urges schools to send students home aSFW Hw -, I - -- - - J -T Roadblocks across city Yv faaT -fatH 7 i" jti X " I SVW Main road -the Sir Hubert Murray Highway- YV ' I - Jj" -t" SPc'itr blocked at major intersection n I Arri p, I i - , iiT, .J Wards Road (leads to government sector . I i J"v lf TV'tJ " Rj? '"-.A at Walganl) blocked at northeastern end I M-. t J-Sx , A " 4 ' t : j rwo armoured personnel carriers patrolling city; U mm ' I .- 1 ia 1W1 - l l .w-' ! v Til I rlnt crniaif amuut in th miirh na nictnlc ehntfftine I II. I - " J . j and flak Jackets; dog squad mobilised ' I H&l.-L"jk 'r JjFim cZT pW JHi -tffT k i-'.:-v iHW I :. : 1 - U I 1 Top, a policeman T 'I L ' 'J'" iiMiiir !? chases a protester from the -'-iiig- ,1"-' 1 Boroko shopping area Above, jubilant rioters outside Murray Barracks -about to be dispersed by armed policemen wearing flak jackets, right saying PNG could not conduct the war on Bougainville if not for massive assistance from Australia. "Since independence in 1975, PNG has received more than $11 billion of Australian taxpayers' money under the overseas aid program," an AidWatch spokesman, Mr Liam Phelan said. "Some of this money is clearly being used to underwrite the war effort." In New Delhi, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, signalled a possible role for Commonwealth mediation. Chief Anyaoku was speaking to journalists on the first leg of an Asia-Pacific tour taking in India, Bangladesh and Australia. He is expected to raise mounting political tensions in PNG when he meets Mr Howard next week. "I am concerned about the developments in Papua New Guinea. I am concerned that they should not lead to a situation in which the demo cratically elected Government of PNG is threatened," Chief Anyaoku said. New Zealand's Prime Minister, Mr Jim Bolger, said yesterday he had assured Sir Julius of NZ's support for the Government but reiterated firm opposition to the use of mercenaries, and that NZ stood ready to help if the PNG Government committed itself to a peace plan on Bougainville. "Our hope is that the mercenaries will soon depart from Papua New Guinea and that in any event, they will play no ' operational role in Bougainville, and the Government of Sir Julius Chan will commit itself to a comprehensive peace plan for Bougainville," Mr Bolger told Parliament "In these circumstances, New Zealand stands ready to offer assistance as may be appropriate to reinforce the efforts of the Government ... in successfully pursuing a peaceful, politically negotiated settlement on Bougainville. "I told PM Howard we stand behind the efforts his Government is making to assist Papua New Guinea in developing solutions to the Bougainville issue," Mr Bolger said. Christopher Henning, the Herald's London Correspondent, writes: In an unsigned statement from its London headquarters, Sandline International said it was in close contact with Sir Julius and his staff. The PNG Cabinet had met throughout the day and was discussing the future of the Photographs by ANDREW MEARES Government's contract with Sandline, the statement said. "A statement concerning the contract will be released by the Government in due course. "Discussions are under way to effect the release of all Sandline personnel, who are being detained unlawfully by a faction of the PNG Defence Force in defiance both of their military superiors and of the democratically elected Government of the country, whose requests for their release have been consistently ignored." i in w in 7 There's no mistaking the distinctive good looks of the Nortel N91 1 digital. And it's even more attractive when you see the Telstra Shop price just S 3 1 9. However, the Nortel N9 1 1 is more than just a prettv face. That large display is easy to read when you use the interactive menu kevs and programmable hot keys. 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DDB TTI 22636Syd THE GENERAL Singirok ready to reveal contents of damning file pi "7 W7 ' 1 ' . -C:r f i-w Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok . . . claims Sir Julius Chan misled the public and the media by saying the mercenaries would not fight on the ground in Bougainville. photograph by michael bowers By CRAIG SKEHAN Foreign Affairs Correspondent in Port Moresby The ousted Papua New Guinea Defence Force Commander, Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok, is getting legal advice on how much of a file on the Government's contract for the supply of mercenaries from Sandline International could be released publicly in coming days. The Government has sought a court order to prevent release of the file on national security grounds. However, General Singirok believes that at least the SUS36 million (SA46.1 million) contract with the British-based firm could be released publicly without breaching secrecy laws. He wants THE REBELS to give the rest of the documents to a proposed Board of Inquiry. The contract included open-ended provisions for extensions of time and increased costs which could have led to the PNG Government paying more than SUS100 million, he said yesterday. Asked if secret commissions might have been involved, General Singirok said that only a proper inquiry could decide. The ousted commander said that the Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, had misled the public and the media by stating that Sandline would not have an on-ground role in fighting secessionist rebels on the island of Bougainville. "The Papua New Guinea Defence Force would not have been trained in time to operate their systems," he said. Documentation showed that sophisticated weaponry to be provided included helicopter gunships armed with rockets. Sources say the file includes details of how an initial payment of about SUS20 million was to be made secretly into an account in Hong Kong. The sources said General Singirok wants an inquiry to examine the role of a senior minister and an Australian businessman in negotiations conducted in Hong Kong about the transfer of funds. He wants it to investigate whether extensive share-buying during recent months in Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) was linked to the Sandline contract. Army has found a key role -and may want to keep it ANALYSIS LUCY PALMER Provocative action by riot squad police came close to inciting fa street battle with soldiers yesterday. The police fired over the heads of the soldiers and lobbed tear gas canisters into a tense meeting at the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) central Murray Barracks. If a battle had occurred, the political crisis confronting the Chan Government could have quickly turned into all-out conflict in the security forces, and ignited the potentially explosive rivalry between the police and the army. The PNGDF Chief of Staff, Colonel Jack Tuat, quickly appealed to a parade of about 400 men assembled soon after the police assault on the barracks not to retaliate. Some troops were reported to have tried to break into the camp armoury to obtain their weapons. Despite the appeals for calm and professionalism at the meeting, and assurances that the army was now united in its push to rid the country of Sandline International's mercenary personnel, the tense stand-off between the military command and middle-ranking officers is continuing and threatens to worsen. One senior officer, who did not wish to be named, said the new commander, Colonel Alfred Aik-ung, had not gained the confidence of the rank-and-file troops. The officer said the majority of the PNGDF still supported their sacked commander, Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok, and were calling for his reinstatement The soldiers from Murray Barracks, led by Major Walter Enuma, have formed the core of the protest group. They met early yesterday General Singirok still commands the loyalty of several hundred infantry soldiers - with whom he has fought, eaten, gone hungry and beenwounded.9 morning to present a petition to the PNG Secretary for Defence, Mr James Melegepa. The petition demanded the reinstatement of General Singirok, sacked on Monday. It also demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, by 4 pm yesterday and the scrapping of the Sandline contract, along with an inquiry into the financial aspects of the deal. In taking such a militant stand against the Government, the 4,700-strong army has now carved out for itself a potentially decisive role in PNG's political structure. Its attitude appears set to intensify while the Government stalls over the question of the mercenaries, and this, combined with internal divisions, is likely to spur soldiers to join civil protests in the next few days. Even if this crisis is quickly resolved, the defence forces have found a new role as the upholder of popular grievances against government corruption. It may be a role they do not wish to relinquish. Colonel Aikung is a relatively obscure commander with a naval background, not from the infantry like General Singirok, and he has so far been unwilling to personally confront the crisis among his troops. Although Colonel Aikung told journalists he had ordered an end to Major Enuma's "Operation Rausim Kwik" (pidgin for get them out quickly) effort to force the Sandline personnel out of PNG, his orders have been ignored. General Singirok's stand against the Government, and his promise to make public the controversial Sandline contract, will undoubtedly secure his position as a public and military hero. While accepting his dismissal, General Singirok still commands the personal loyalty of several hundred infantry soldiers with whom he has fought, eaten, gone hungry and been wounded while serving on Bougainville. So far, General Singirok still occupies his official residence overlooking the barracks, and while he claims he has no interest in directing the troops, his continued presence is undermining any ability of the new commander to gain control of the situation. BRA warns Australia over military aid By GREG ROBERTS The rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) has warned Australia not to supply Papua New Guinea with additional military aid in return for the Government dropping its mercenaries plan. The BRA's Australian representative, Mr Moses Havini, said the rebels would "view very suspiciously" any additional equipment or covert operational training offered by Australia to the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF). Mr Havini was speaking after making radio contact early yesterday with the BRA leader, Mr Francis Ona, from his jungle hideout on Bougainville. He said Mr Ona made it clear the rebels were ready to talk peace if the PNG Government agreed to send an international peace-keeping force under United Nations auspices to Bougainville. But Mr Havini said peace was an unlikely prospect while Sir Julius Chan remained Prime Minister. The BRA and its political arm, the Bougainville Interim Government, are hoping PNG will have a new leader after the June elections, if Sir Julius is not forced to resign before then. "He is not a man we could negotiate with," Mr Havini said. "The events of the past few weeks make it impossible for the BRA to talk with Chan." He said additional equipment from Australia for the PNGDF in the absence ; of a comprehensive peace plan was a "frightening prospect" and would serve only to exacerbate the eight-year conflict The BRA appreciated that ousted PNGDF Brigadier-General Jerry Singirok had done what he could to "avert what would have been and still could be a major disaster on Bougainville". - 1

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