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28 January 2001
Bougainville Interim Government / BRA
Former BRA General, Sam Kauona Sirivi Cautiously Welcomes the 'Agreed principles on Referendum' for Bougainville; But warns that the Lincoln Agreement must be fully adhered to by ALL Parties to the Agreement.
Palmerston North, NZ: Former BRA general Sam Kauona Sirivi cautiously welcomed the new agreement on Referendum for Bougainville agreed to between the PNG Government and the Bougainville Negotiating Team.
The agreement on “Agreed Principles on Referendum” was reached on Friday 26th January 2001 in the town of Kokopo, East New Britain PNG. What was hailed as a “major break through” by the leaders was the compromise to hold a referendum on independence within a minimum of 10 years and maximum of 15 years from the date of the election of a Bougainville government. The agreed principles are however conditional on “weapons disposal”(disarmament) by the Bougainvill Revolutionary Army (BRA) and “good governance”. Commenting from New Zealand the former Commander said; “ it’s an unfair agreement, and a vote on independence in a referendum should not be made conditional on BRA weapons disposal, only”.
“The Lincoln Agreement, provision 4, which I was a signatory to also clearly emphasises: - the “Withdrawal of Defence Force from Bougainville”, in a “phased withdrawal”, subject to the restoration of civil authority. Why wasn’t this provision also included with disarmament of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army? As Far as I am concerned all forces, PNGDF, BRA and Resistance must be all subject to the same provision of demobilization, as according to the Lincoln Agreement”.
“I cannot believe that our leaders have given too much away and therefore selling Bougainville away. You have given too much away to the dishonest government”, said the former Commander. Knowing past false promises made by the Papua New Guinea Government, the former Commander was wary about PNG’s inability to honour agreements. “ We are essentially asking an institution, the PNG Parliament, Bougainville’s the No.1 enemy to give Bougainvilleans their freedom. It’s like a pig tied to a pole. We are already negotiating on an unequal platform, said Mr. Sirivi.”
“The survival of the PNG/Bougainville peace process depends very much on honesty, fairness, and transparency. The Bougainville struggle was voiced and fought for more vigorously since pre-colonial and pre-PNG independence days. If we have not learnt from our past mistakes then, this struggle could go on for another forty years”, concluded Mr. Sirivi.