Upaya internasionalisasi Papua: ‘Negara-negara anggota PBB lebih banyak dengar suara pemerintah Indonesia’

Rohmatin Bonasir
Wartawan BBC News Indonesia

Kampanye mengangkat isu Papua di luar Indonesia tampak mendapat amunisi setelah insiden ‘rasisme’ yang dialami mahasiswa Papua di Surabaya pada Agustus 2019 dan kemudian menyulut kerusuhan di sejumlah kota baik di Provinsi Papua maupun Provinsi Papua Barat.

Buntut dari kerusuhan tersebut, puluhan orang ditangkap, sebagian dikenai pasal makar. Upaya untuk membebaskan mereka sekarang menjadi perhatian utama kampanye isu Papua, kata pengacara HAM yang fokus pada isu Papua, Veronica Koman.

“Fokus kampanye saat ini di pembebasan 22 tapol yang dikenakan pasal makar, September kemarin. Kampanye di nasional dan internasional fokusnya di situ,” jelas Veronica yang berada di Australia dalam wawancara melalui telepon.

“Apabila kita tarik ke belakang, sebetulnya rekor 22 tapol Papua ini adalah cermin iktikad buruk pemerintah pusat dalam upaya menyelesaikan konflik di Papua. Katanya kemarin suruh damai, tapi kok tajam satu arah? Tindakan seperti ini kan sebetulnya menimbulkan luka lagi,”

imbuhnya.

Kerusuhan di Papua ‘membuat khawatir’ warga pendatang

Aksi pembakaran dan penjarahan di Jayapura, Papua, Wiranto: ‘Ada yang mau mengacaukan Papua’
Unjuk Rasa Papua di Jakarta : ‘Tangkap dan adili aktor intelektual pengepungan asrama’

Tahanan politik (tapol) yang dimaksud Veronica di antaranya meliputi juru bicara Front Rakyat Indonesia untuk West Papua, Surya Anta, aktivis Charles Kossay, Dano Tabuni, Isay Wenda, Ambrosius Mulait, dan Arina Elopere.

Mereka dituduh melakukan makar setelah mengibarkan bendera Bintang Kejora saat aksi unjuk rasa di depan Istana di Jakarta beberapa waktu lalu. Di samping itu ada juga sejumlah tahanan yang diciduk di Papua dan kemudian dipindahkan ke provinsi lain.

Nama mantan Presiden SBY masih terpampang di poster sebagai pemimpin Indonesia yang diserukan untuk ditangkap, padahal presiden RI sudah berganti.
Nama mantan Presiden SBY masih terpampang di poster sebagai pemimpin Indonesia yang diserukan untuk ditangkap, padahal presiden RI sudah berganti.

Persoalan tahanan politik tersebut kerap diangkat dalam acara kelompok-kelompok pendukung gerakan Papua Merdeka di luar Indonesia.

Di Inggris, dalam suatu acara kebudayaan Indonesia di kota London, tiba-tiba seorang pemuda menggelar aksi. Lewat pengeras suara, ia meminta pengunjung untuk membantu menghentikan hal yang ia sebut penangkapan semena-mena dan pembunuhan massal di Papua.
“Tangkap presiden Indonesia!” Demikian seru pria tersebut dalam bahasa Inggris sambil mengibar-ibarkan bendera berdesain garis putih biru diagonal dan bintang berwarna putih dibalut warna merah. Bendera tersebut selama ini digunakan oleh Organisasi Papua Merdeka.

Pada salah satu poster yang dipasangnya, memang tertera gambar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, tetapi SBY sudah tidak lagi menjadi presiden sejak 2014. Ketika ditanya kota asalnya di Papua, pemuda itu mengakui ia bukan orang Papua. Ia berasal dari West Indies di kawasan Karibia dan mengaku peduli terhadap isu Papua.

“Oh, presiden Indonesia sekarang sudah ganti ya? Yang perempuan itu, bukan?”

Ketika ditanya bagaimana ia bisa mengampanyekan Papua jika tidak mengetahui fakta dasar, ia pun mengaku perlu memutakhirkan data-datanya.

Di Filipina juga kerap digelar demonstrasi untuk mengangkat masalah Papua yang dilakukan oleh sekelompok orang setempat dari kalangan gereja. Kedua contoh itu dapat dijadikan indikasi bahwa isu Papua mendapat simpati di luar Indonesia, meskipun skalanya kecil.

Perhatian internasional ‘bertolak belakang dengan asumsi’

Adapun di level lembaga dunia, United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) atau Gerakan Persatuan Pembebasan Papua Barat yang mengaku sebagai kendaraan politik seluruh rakyat Papua, telah melakukan lobi-lobi, meski sebagian justru tampak kontraproduktif.

Sebagai contoh, pemimpin ULMWP, Benny Wenda, mengaku menyerahkan petisi tentang referendum—yang diklaim diteken oleh 1,8 juta warga Papua—kepada Komite Dekolonisasi PBB di New York pada September 2017. Dua hari kemudian, Duta Besar Venezuela—yang juga menjabat ketua Komite Khusus Dekolonisasi—Rafael Ramirez mengatakan tidak pernah menerima petisi tentang Papua.

Apa yang dialami Benny Wenda merupakan cermin dari kendala utama ketika isu Papua diangkat di panggung resmi internasional.

“Kendala utama kami dipanggung internasional sementara ini terletak pada masih negara-negara merdeka resmi anggota PBB belum keseluruhan mau mendengar aspirasi murni suara orang asli Papua,” sebut juru bicara ULMWP, Jacob Rumbiak ketika berbicara dengan BBC News Indonesia melalui telepon dari tempat tinggalnya di Australia.
“Mereka lebih banyak mendengar suara negara pemerintah negara Indonesia yang sarat akan kepalsuan dan tipu daya,” sambungnya.
Pemerintah Indonesia menepis tudingan seperti itu dan menegaskan yang disampaikan ke dunia adalah apa adanya.
Image caption

Veronica Koman bersama warga Papua di Timika pada April 2019.
Veronica Koman bersama warga Papua di Timika pada April 2019.

Senada dengan Jacob Rumbiak adalah Veronica Koman. Menurutnya, perhatian masyarakat internasional terhadap isu Papua justru berbanding terbalik dengan asumsi yang berkembang selama ini bahwa banyak kepentingan asing menyangkut Papua.

“Indonesia adalah negara yang sedang sangat diperhitungkan di dunia karena potensi kepentingan dagang dan ekonomi. Negara-negara lain kalau bisa menutup mata saja atas pelanggaran HAM yang dilakukan oleh Indonesia, supaya mereka tidak perlu menyinggung Indonesia.

“Tren di komunitas internasional terutama pada dekade terakhir ini, kepentingan ekonomi berada di atas kepentingan untuk menegakkan HAM, meski urusan HAM adalah urusan universal,” jelasnya.
Pemerintah Indonesia selama ini menegaskan Papua adalah masalah dalam negeri dan tidak memerlukan campur tangan asing. Jakarta memandang status Papua sudah final karena hasil Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat (Pepera) pada tahun 1969 mendukung integrasi Irian Barat ke dalam wilayah Indonesia dan hasilnya diterima PBB.
Tetapi bagi kelompok-kelompok yang beraspirasi agar Papua pisah dari Indonesia, Pepera justru menjadi pangkal persoalan. Mereka berdalih hasil tersebut tidak dapat diterima karena tidak dilaksanakan dengan cara satu orang satu suara sehingga validitasnya dipertanyakan.
ULMWP memasang target untuk mendapat dukungan dua pertiga negara-negara anggota PBB, dan sejauh ini Vanuatu bertindak selaku negara sponsor dengan dukungan beberapa negara sahabatnya di PBB.

Image caption
Presiden Joko Widodo kerap mengunjungi Papua, termasuk pada tanggal 27 Oktober ini ketika tiba di Arfak, Papua Barat.

Menjawab pertanyaan BBC News Indonesia tentang bagaimana pemerintah menangkal upaya ‘internasionalisasi’ Papua, seperti dilakukan oleh Veronica Koman dan Benny Wenda, Wakil Menteri Luar Negeri Mahendra Siregar mengatakan: “Mengenai kemungkinan adanya pihak-pihak yang ingin melihat konteks Papua dalam perspektif yang berbeda, tentu kita, pemerintah Indonesia tidak bisa mentolerir dan menerima hal-hal tadi.

“Karena sepenuhnya persoalan yang kita hadapi adalah untuk terus fokus pada strategi dan kebijakan nasional dan tentu ada langkah-langkah yang harus disempurnakan atau diperbaiki lebih lanjut,” terang diplomat karier senior yang sebelumnya menjadi duta besar RI untuk Amerika Serikat itu.
Niat politik

Mahendra Siregar menekankan kembali pendekatan yang ditempuh oleh pemerintah, yaitu menyejahterakan masyarakat Papua, termasuk pembangunan infrastruktur yang digalakkan oleh Presiden Joko Widodo.

“Kalau kita lihat baik adanya Undang-undang Otonomi Khusus maupun kebijakan keiistimewaan dari Provinsi Papua dan Papua Barat, saya rasa dari strategi dan kebijakan nasional sudah jelas, hanya implementasinya, akuntabilitasnya dan bagaimana kita meningkatkan efektifitasnya tentu menjadi keinginan dan tujuan kita semua,” jelasnya di Jakarta pada Senin (25/11).

Image caption
Wakil Menteri Luar Negeri Mahendra Siregar mengatakan tidak ada perubahan kebijakan atau pendekatan terhadap Papua, selain yang sudah digariskan.
Akan tetapi, sebagaimana dikatakan oleh pemerhati masalah Papua dari CSIS, Vidhyandika Djati Perkasa, pendekatan ekonomi saja tidak cukup.

“Yang penting menurut saya itu ada terobosan dan niat baik, niat politik yang kuat untuk secara serius berupaya menyelesaikan itu. Kita tidak usah membicarakan tentang kasus-kasus HAM berat seperti Paniai, Wamena atau Wasior, tangani juga kasus-kasus tingkat moderat atau ringan. Yang penting kita harus memberikan kesan kepada masyarakat Papua dan dunia internasional bahwa ada sense of justice yang kita ciptakan oleh upaya itu,” jelasnya kepada BBC News Indonesia.

Tiga kasus yang ia rujuk adalah penembakan yang menyebabkan empat siswa meninggal dunia dan belasan warga sipil luka pada Desember 2014 di Kabupaten Paniai.
Dugaan pelanggaran HAM Wasior terjadi ketika aparat kepolisian melakukan penyerbuan kepada warga di Desa Wonoboi, Wasior, Manokwari. Tindakan itu diambil menyusul pembunuhan lima anggota Brimob dan satu orang sipil di perusahaan kayu. Dalam peristiwa itu, tercatat empat orang meninggal dunia.

Adapun kasus Wamena merujuk pada penyisiran terhadap 25 kampung bertepatan dengan Hari Paskah pada 4 April 2003. Laporan Komnas HAM menyebutkan sembilan orang meninggal dunia serta 38 orang luka berat.
Image caption

Demonstrasi berbuntut kerusuhan di Wamena ini terjadi pada akhir September tahun 2019.
Vidhyandika Djati Perkasa memandang masalah HAM tetap menjadi aspek yang paling disorot bagi gerakan untuk memisahkan Papua dari Indonesia. Walaupun permasalahan itu sangat sensitif bagi dunia internasional, ada keterbatasan yurisdiksi untuk berbuat sesuatu.

“Tetapi dengan mengekspos isu-isu hak asasi manusia, maka itu juga menjadi nilai buruk bagi pemerintah di mata internasional kalau permasalahan itu tidak segera diselesaikan,” jelasnya.

Merangkum apa yang dikatakan para narasumber tadi, jelas hingga kini belum ada titik temu untuk mengatasi persoalan Papua.

Pole jailed in Indonesia’s West Papua faces ‘declining health’

European diplomats step up pressure as they call on Jakarta to move Jakub Skrzypski to another facility pending appeal. by Tomasz Augustyniak29 Nov 2019

European diplomats are stepping up pressure on Indonesia to look into the case of a Polish man who has been jailed in its easternmost region for more than a year, amid reports of his declining health.

Jakub Skrzypski is the first foreigner to be found guilty of an attempt to overthrow the Indonesian government and imprisoned under Article 106 of the Indonesian criminal code.

He was sentenced to five years in prison in May. Since his arrest in West Papua in August 2018, he has been detained in the town of Wamena, one of the several places in the region that saw a wave of deadly violence in recent months.

Skrzypski has denied the allegations and is appealing his conviction.
Skrzypski has denied the allegations and is appealing his conviction.

As he awaits the result of his appeal, the European Union and the Polish government vowed to press Jakarta to resolve the issue.

Last week, EU Ambassador to Indonesia Vincent Piket met Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly. On the agenda for the meeting was the Skrzypski case.

EU Spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said European diplomats asked Indonesia earlier this month to review the case and transfer the Polish man to Bandung, where he could receive visits from a representative of the Polish consulate.

In October, the European Parliament had referred to Skrzypski as a political prisoner and expressed concern over his continued incarceration, given the unrest in West Papua. It demanded his release and deportation to Poland.

Poland’s foreign ministry has claimed there were procedural mistakes during the court proceedings, and that the case’s connection to the current political situation in West Papua adds to its complexity.

Last week, a Polish embassy official visited Skrzypski and urged the government to apply international standards to his treatment.

Fair trial promised

Jacek Czaputowicz, Poland’s minister of foreign affairs, has met his Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, three times since the arrest of Skrzypski.

Marsudi reportedly assured him that Skrzypski’s trial would be fair and the Polish consul in Jakarta would have free access to the detainee.

But Al Jazeera learned that it was not always the case, and several diplomatic notes regarding the Pole’s detention were reportedly ignored.

Skrzypski’s lawyer, Latifah Anum Siregar, told Al Jazeera that her client has long complained about conditions at the police detention centre where he is being kept instead of a prison facility.

Jakub Skrzypski - Poland - West Papua

Skrzypski, left, seen here with his Indonesian co-defendant Simon Magal, has denied the charges against him and called his trial a ‘sham’ [George Yewun/AP]

Latifah said Skrzypski has not been allowed out of his cell for walks and had not been seen by a doctor.

The lawyer, who is based in Papua’s provincial capital, Jayapura, and the Jakarta-based diplomats also have to deal with long hours of travel to reach Wamena.

While Skrzypski’s life is not under direct threat, locals who used to bring him food have left since violence erupted in the region.

In addition, there was nobody available to treat him when he suffered severe eye inflammation, as most doctors have also reportedly fled.

Caught in political turmoil

Skrzypski had been in Indonesia several times as a tourist, visiting West Papua to verify claims of human rights violations against ethnic Papuans.

In August 2018, he was travelling across the region, briefly crossing to neighbouring Papua New Guinea, when Indonesian police arrested him and accused him of joining the separatist West Papua National Liberation Army – an armed group Jakarta calls a terrorist organisation.

Initially, the police claimed to have evidence that he was involved in arms trading but the allegation was not raised during the trial.

Skrzypski rejected all the criminal charges but admitted to having met people who turned out to be the members of the National Committee for West Papua, which supports a non-violent approach to Papuan independence.

Latifah, his lawyer, said Skrzypski was merely visiting friends he met online and did not intend to join any organisation.

In May, Wamena district court found Skrzypski guilty and sentenced him to five years in prison. Local student Simon Magal, who met the Pole, was also jailed for four years.

Skrzypski rejected the verdict, saying all charges were trumped up and the trial was a sham, alleging the prosecution witnesses were bribed and that potential defence witnesses were also too frightened to testify.

Sham trial

Asked about Skrzypski’s case, Teuku Faizasyah, spokesperson for the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Al Jazeera that the ministry acted based on the notes and provided reply “when needed”.

Regarding the requested transfer, Teuku said it would only be possible when all the legal options were exhausted and the court’s decision had come into force.

“His rights have also been fulfilled and facilitated in respect of process law,” he added but did not comment on the security problems in Papua.

The Ministry of Law and Human Rights has not responded to Al Jazeera’s queries.

Authorities in Wamena have promised to provide the needed medical attention, but Febiana Wilma Sorbu, one of the prosecutors in charge of the case, refused to answer Al Jazeera’s questions on the conditions Skrzypski is being kept in.

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said he has no doubt that the treatment of Skrzypski violates human rights under international and Indonesian law.

“Jakub Skrzypski has been unfortunately entangled in Indonesia’s paranoid bureaucracy.

“The longer his imprisonment continues, the more Indonesian machinery is making him to document the rotten prison cells, something that Indigenous Papuans are very familiar with,” Harsono said.

Latifah, Skrzypski’s lawyer, added: “This is a highly political case with extremely weak evidence.”

Evidence reportedly included photos of Skrzypski at a recreational shooting range in Switzerland and unconcluded Facebook conversations.

After the Papua High Court upheld the sentence in July, Skrzypski’s advocates appealed the case before the Supreme Court, asking for him to be acquitted of all the charges.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are seeking a tougher sentence.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

WPRA: Happy National Awakening Day!

In an official letter to West Papua Army (WPA), one of the Affiliated Command of the WPA, The West Papua Revolutionary Army (WPRA) Secretary-General I, Gen. Amunggut Tabi expresses National Greeting from the Central Defense Headquarters of the WPRA and says the struggle for West Papua independence is not ONLY beneficial to Melanesians in West Papua, but for all life on this planet Earth and the planet itself as New Guinea Island contribute significant oxygen to our life system.

Gen. Tabi also encourages Melanesians to re-claim collective identities of “Melanesian Peoples” socially, culturally, economically and politically, because Melanesian people are already one socially, culturally and geographically. He says modern political, economic and legal divides made by colonial powers make us all Melanesians think in their way of thinking, and feel in their way of feeling, looking at each other as if we are different from one another.

He says “it is colonial powers and governments want to see us separated and divided” because they want to come in and do everything they want, take away all our natural resources and destroy our planet Earth.”

Melanesians should not call ourselves West Papuans, Papua New Guineans, Solomon Islanders, Fijians, Bougainvilleans, New Caledonians, ni-Vanuatu, but we are Melanesian People in West Papua, in Papua New Guinea, in Fiji, in Bougainville, in Solomon Islands, in Vanuatu and in Kanaky.

Bougainville referendum: voting begins amid scenes of jubilation

People are ‘in the mood for celebration’ as they choose whether to split from Papua New Guinea

After 20 years, the big day has finally arrived for the people of Bougainville. Large crowds gathered on Saturday at the aptly named Bel Isi (Peace) park in Buka for the first day of a two-week referendum to decide whether the archipelago should become independent from Papua New Guinea.

Amid a significant security presence, hundreds of Bougainvilleans marched through the streets as they followed the autonomous region’s president, John Momis, as he arrived at a polling booth to cast his vote.

Momis, accompanied by his minister for Bougainville affairs, Sir Puka Temu, and the referendum commissioner, Ruby Mirinka, was the first to cast his vote.

Bougainville regional president John Momis waves as he arrives at a polling station in Buka on Saturday. Photograph: Ness Kerton/AFP via Getty Images
Bougainville regional president John Momis waves as he arrives at a polling station in Buka on Saturday. Photograph: Ness Kerton/AFP via Getty Images

The jubilant crowd cheered on as groups danced to the beat of bamboo pipes, singing songs of freedom that described the crisis of the past and a peace process that started at the end of the civil war 20 years ago and which paved the way for the referendum.

As he exited the polling booth after casting his vote, Momis waved to the crowd who replied with shouts of support as they waited for their turn to vote.

“It’s obvious that the people are now in the mood for celebration and I join them as they have every right to celebrate,” Momis told a media conference. “This is a forecast or beginning of good things to come if we collaborate and work as trusted partners to implement something that both parties have contributed to.”

With tears in her eyes, Justina Panu, a voter from Arawa, said that it was thrilling to watch her president vote. “We are excited and emotional,” she said.

Janet Chigoto, from Buin, waved her large Bougainville flag and said: “I am proud and happy. The time has come for us to vote for what we’ve been waiting for. Blood has poured on our island. We want our own powers to run our country so I am going for Box Two.”

“It’s a great moment for me,” said Barnabas Matanu from Buka. “It’s been long overdue and we’ve been waiting for years. We are enthusiastic and on cloud nine.”

Over the next two weeks, everyone over the age of 18 will have the option of requesting greater autonomy within Papua New Guinea, or full independence. Voting will take place in select towns and stations around the island of Buka and mainland Bougainville.

A young voter, Tanya Okia from Kieta, hoped that her generation would see a free and independent Bougainville. “Bougainville will rise. Myself and the other 365 youths here, we are all heading for number 2 box.”

“I will be putting my ballot in box 2,” said Moses Seropa from Arawa. “I want to see Bougainville become our own country, in my lifetime. I want to see us producing our own products. We have tons of natural resources, good lands and great farmers so we need to take ownership starting with this vote.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/

Powes Parkop on Bougainville Referendum: A Historical Day for Our Country

Source: Facebook.com

Bougainville has impacted our country in so many ways. Whether it was contributing to the economy, shaping of the constitution and system of governance, or the tragic years of conflict in 1988 to 1997 and in many other ways, Bougainville remains an integral part of PNG.

Today we enter another historical day for Bougainville and the rest of PNG. Whatever happens from here on will be historical, as it will impact our country and the history we shared. Despite the outcome, let us be comfortable with the fact that this nation of a thousand tribes is strong and it’s future is stronger because of this diversity. This is our strength and not our weakness. Diversity makes us stronger and we become better people and a better nation. It is not an easy Union but it’s an opportunity for us to build a greater nation and future.

Remember without Goliath, a mere Shepard boy with no skills and knowledge other than being a sherpard, could never be the King of Israel.

This massive fusion of our diverse nation of a thousand tribes and 860 languages into one prosperous nation is a mammoth task and our own Goliath. But it is also an opportunity for us to challenge ourselves to foster a respectful, tolerant and grateful country where we can all thrive together to build a prosperous future.

How wonderful it would be when we overcome all our stereotypes and inhibitions that we have against each other. It will be like David has slain Goliath who had been tormenting the Israelites for so long. So here, we have an opportunity to show equality, to allow freedom, and show true democracy where all tribes and languages have a stake at the table. It has been painful, tragic and a long journey, but let us be confident that we will prosper after today and we will secure a greater future with Bougainville still having a strong place and role in our stride to prosperity.

Congratulations to Sir Puka Temu and all the leaders who have shaped this journey since the Peace Agreement, up to this historical day. Let us be confident about the future, as a unique rainbow nation of a thousand tribes and 860 plus languages. Together, we are stronger!

Bougainville: World’s newest nation expected to form as islands vote in independence poll

Region thought likely to break away from Papua New Guinea would be first new country since South Sudan

The Pacific islands of Bougainville are voting in a historic referendum to decide if it will become the world’s newest nation by gaining independence from Papua New Guinea.

The vote will run over two weeks and is a key part of a 2001 peace agreement that ended a civil war in which at least 15,000 people died in the cluster of islands to the east of the Papua New Guinea mainland.

Experts believe the 250,000 people of Bougainville will vote overwhelming in favour of independence ahead of the other option, which is greater autonomy, but the vote will not be the final word.

The referendum is non-binding and a vote for independence would need to be negotiated by leaders from Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. The final say would go to legislators in the Papua New Guinea parliament.

Gianluca Rampolla, the UN resident co-ordinator in Papua New Guinea, said the world body has been working hard to ensure the vote is peaceful, transparent, inclusive and credible. He said there are 40 UN staffers on the ground and more than 100 international observers.

He said it is unlikely there will be violence during voting.

“They’ve been waiting 19 years for this historic moment,” he said. “I think they will be left with joy.”

Just over 200,000 people are eligible to vote in the referendum, with the results due in mid-December. Mr Rampolla said the extended voting period of two weeks is due to the region’s rugged terrain.

“There are people coming on boats, there are people walking,” he said. “It’s the rainy season. There are rough seas. Flexibility is needed to adjust on the ground.”

Voters have two weeks in which to cast their ballot (AP)
Voters have two weeks in which to cast their ballot (AP)

John Momis, president of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, told reporters on Friday the region stood on the verge of a new socio-economic and political order.

“We are trailblazers forging a new path into the unknown with the sheer determination to face any challenge that comes our way,” he said. “We will face this together as one people and one voice to decide our ultimate political future.”

In his weekly column in the Post-Courier newspaper, Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape said complex discussions and negotiations would be needed after the referendum before a political settlement could be reached.

The violence in Bougainville began in the late 1980s, triggered by conflict over an enormous open cast copper mine at Panguna.

The mine was a huge export earner for Papua New Guinea but many in Bougainville felt they got no benefit and resented the pollution and disruption to their traditional way of living.

The mine has remained shut since the conflict. Some believe it could provide a future revenue source for Bougainville should it become independent.

The civil war lasted for a decade before the peace agreement was signed. The other key aspects of the agreement were a weapons disposal plan and greater autonomy for the region.

Mr Rampolla said the peace agreement had been one of the few in the world that had lasted so long. He said it could end as a success story if the referendum and subsequent negotiations resulted in an outcome that everybody could support.

Press Association

PNG leaders cautious ahead of Bougainville vote

Bougainvilleans will begin voting tomorrow in an historic referendum to decide if they want independence from Papua New Guinea.

Over a two week period they will be taking part in vote on whether to become independent or to settle for a greater degree of autonomy.

While it is a non-binding vote, it is seen as the culmination of the peace process that ended a bloody civil war in Bougainville.

The Post Courier reports that while the world waits in anticipation for the result national leaders have issued strong statements.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape was very apologetic about PNG not recognising the will and desire of Bougainvilleans in the past but said they now had the right to be heard.

To allow for the referendum to proceed was a commitment he made when he became prime minister, he said.

He is quoted in the newspaper saying the referendum is “the means by which the voices of the people of Bougainville will be heard. It is the basis on which the two governments will consult after the referendum has taken place.’

But Mr Marape has repeated earlier statements that political independence is meaningless without economic independence.

He said complex discussions and negotiations would take place after the referendum before any proposed political settlement is reached.

The man known as the Father of the Nation and three time prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, said he has a “heavy heart” about the referendum.

He has called for a united PNG for which he had always led and stood for as prime minister.

Sir Michael told the paper that, “as Bougainvilleans make their voices heard in the referendum, it is my hope that PNG remains ‘united and free’ in the aftermath of this historic poll.”

He said “our country has remained united for more than 40 years, which is an achievement in itself. So it with heavy hearts that the rest of our country awaits the decision that the people of Bougainville will be taking in the next couple of days.

Recent former Prime Minister Peter O’Neill described it as one of the most important public votes in the nation’s history and called for care in the decision-making by Bougainvilleans.

Peter O'Neill

Peter O’Neill Photo: Supplied

Bougainville President John Momis appealed for people to respect the rule of law.

Bougainville President John Momis

Bougainville President John Momis Photo: supplied

He said they had worked hard to abide by and effectively implement the three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement; autonomy, weapons disposal and referendum.

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Dame Meg Taylor, who is Papua New Guinean, has sent best wishes.

She said she commends both governments on their commitment to lasting peace, and all the work done to ensure a free and fair vote.

The secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor.

The secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor. Photo: RNZ / Jamie Tahana

The Forum has an observer mission in Bougainville throughout polling and vote counting.

Source: RNZ

Expectations high as Bougainville referendum gets underway

Johnny Blades, RNZ Pacific Journalistjohnny.blades@rnz.co.nz

Polling for Bougainville’s independence referendum gets underway today.

The autonomous Papua New Guinea region’s non-binding referendum is the ultimate provision of 2001’s Peace Agreement which formally ended hostilities in Bougainville’s civil war.

Bougainvilleans have entered into celebratory mode for this historic occasion. Bougainville flags are everywhere, festivities have broken out, and the mood around the region indicates that the favourite option on the ballot is number two: for independence, rather than greater autonomy within PNG.

The two week polling period starts in the main centres of Buka and Arawa as well as numerous remote locations and then will move around Bougainville progressively.

In coming days polling also gets underway in other parts of PNG and two locales in neighbouring countries – in Brisbane, Australia and Gizo in Solomon Islands.

Bad weather is threatening to delay the start of polling in Bougainville’s atolls. But at this stage nothing will dampen the spirits of a people who are clearly expectant that this is the next step towards the birth of a new nation.

A cultural group performing in Bougainville Photo: RNZ Pacific / Johnny Blades
A cultural group performing in Bougainville Photo: RNZ Pacific / Johnny Blades

Cultural groups have been performing in anticipation of the start of polling in parts such as Tinputz district.

A ward representative in Tinputz, Peter Aromet, said Bougainvilleans had been eagerly awaiting this moment since the end of the crisis about two decades ago.

According to him, the experience of going through civil war had shaped the region’s aspirations for independence.

“During the crisis people went through a lot of traumas. If we can turn those traumas into something good, from pain to something positive… I believe that all these traumas that we’ve come through, that we went through, we can use them for something positive.”

“People are very excited about what is expected especially the process between now an December,” said Theresa Jaintong, an Arawa-based social worker and reconciliation leader.

In terms of how the vote may pan out, Ms Jaintong said the ball was firmly in the court of Bougainvilleans.

“It’s up to us Bougainvilleans really to embrace the outcome and then what government will go into, and then drive it together. We have to be really united – the whole Bougainville – at all cost.”

Like many people in Bougainville, Mr Aromet is anticipating a period of transition following the outcome of the referendum, although a time frame is yet to be mapped out by the PNG and autonomous Bougainville governments.

Expectations placed in the referendum by Bougainvilleans are high, although the vote result requires ratification by PNG’s parliament before being implemented.

“If the outcome is positive or in favour of the Bougainvilleans, it might not turn out as people expect,” Mr Aromet admitted.

“But I believe it’s going to take a process. We’ll go to a transitional period – it might take five or ten years, then we’ll go to independence.”

PNG’s O’Neill sounds warning on eve of Bougainville referendum

Papua New Guinea’s former prime minister Peter O’Neill has sounded a note of warning on the eve of Bougainville’s independence referendum.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill talks to the media as he visits the international media center, set up for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, in Port Moresby on November 14, 2018. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)

Photo: AFP or licensors

People from the autonomous PNG region are this Saturday to begin a two-week polling period for a non-binding vote on whether Bougainville should be independent or have greater autonomy.

The result of the referendum is subject to ratification by PNG’s national Parliament.

Mr O’Neill, who was replaced as prime minister by James Marape in May, said people needed to make an informed decision in the vote.

Referring to the Bougainville civil war, he said PNG could not go back to the crisis and loss of life.

“We have to all work together to ensure the peace and unity of our people,” Mr O’Neill said in a statement.

“Now the vote must be undertaken in a peaceful manner, properly supported by our security forces to ensure transparency and public confidence.”

Recently, numerous past and present PNG prime ministers have been advocating togetherness and urging Bougainville to stay with the nation.

But a grandmother from Bougainville’s Guava village, atop the Panguna mine which sparked the civil war, said the overtures had come too late in the piece.

Maggie Voring said the trauma of devastated families lingered on decades after the civil war, and that Bougainvilleans had largely made up their minds.

“That is too late. Long time ago, [PNG] they step on us. I’m thinking that after this next move, we’re just going independent… because of our bloodshed.”

Source: RNZ

Former Bougainville president backs independence

Former Bougainville president James Tanis is calling for people to vote for independence from Papua New Guinea in the referendum which begins on Saturday.

Mr Tanis said he did not want people to listen to those who said Bougainville lacked the capacity to manage as an independent nation.

Bougainville is a resourceful region with resourceful people and a lack of capacity is not a permanent order in society, he said.

“But rather it is something that changes and it grows.

“The lack of capacity should not be used as an argument to discourage people from choosing independence because, from a personal level, what I know is that, yes, we do not have the capacity at the moment, but that should not stop the people from choosing independence.”

James Tanis, who was president from 2008 to 2010, has recently been working in various roles preparing Bougainville for the vote.

Souce: RNZ