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Tuesday, 10 May 1994
Page: 548

Senator CALVERT (9.07 p.m.) —The reason I rise tonight is that some news came to my attention today that disturbed me somewhat. I was a member of a recent delegation to Bougainville that was led by Senator Loosley and included the Hon. Ian Sinclair, Senator Vicki Bourne and the honourable member for Gilmore, Peter Knott. I remember very well the first day we arrived on Buka Island. We were welcomed by a normal sing-sing and friendly greeting by the locals. We then proceeded to have public hearings in the guesthouse where we were staying. While we were having the sing-sing and a midday lunch of smoked fish in banana leaves—I believe that is the local food—I was approached by an elderly man who seemed quite sprightly for his age. He introduced himself as Sir Paul Lapun.

  It turns out that Sir Paul Lapun was a member of Somare's government. He was a member for 10 years and was a minister for mines. He was largely responsible for looking after the mineral wealth of Papua New Guinea and retaining mineral rights for the local landholders. I was told that Sir Paul Lapun is a very well-respected former member for South Bougainville. He may have been one of those people who thought that secession was the way to go in Bougainville in the early days.

  In evidence he gave us when he addressed our hearing he commented that when the Papua New Guinea defence forces withdrew from Bougainville in 1990 the BRA rebels had the opportunity to show the rest of the world just what they were about. In fact, they chose to rape, pillage, burn and destroy the beautiful paradise of which he was so proud. He made the point that they had had their chance and they blew it.

  I was very disturbed today to see a radio report from the ABC reporter Sean Dorney, who I had the pleasure of meeting when we were in PNG, that Sir Paul, his wife and daughter were bashed by 15 BRA rebels who ransacked his house in the belief that our delegation had given Sir Paul 30,000 kina, which amounts to $45,000. Why those rebels would believe this, I do not know. But, at any rate, 15 rebels raided Sir Paul's house, bashed his wife, bashed him—a man in his late 70s, I suspect—and burnt his house to the ground. Sir Paul has now had to take refuge in one of the care centres in the west of Bougainville.

  It may have been an unintended consequence of our delegation's visit there. On the other hand, it draws attention to the confidence we came back with, and the hope for the future that we have as a delegation and which those people who have contacted me since have. I have had a lot of correspondence. In fact, just today I received a very good briefing paper from the Catholic bishops on Bougainville who largely supported the views that I have. No doubt our committee report will come to the parliament in the near future through the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Gareth Evans).

  What happened a few days ago with these supposed BRA rebels—I suspect that they may have been terrorists who were acting under the umbrella of the BRA but, nevertheless, it certainly was not the PNG defence forces who perpetrated this atrocity—has not only highlighted the fragility of any peace moves that may be made in Bougainville but it also highlights the fact that it is not going to be easy to broker peace in that particular place. I put on record that I feel very sad about what has happened to Sir Paul. I found him to be a delightful character. I just hope that he recovers from his injuries quickly and that he and his family can restore their life and home as quickly as possible.

Senate adjourned at 9.11 p.m.