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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 688


Senator LOOSLEY (7.31 p.m.) —I rise to take a few minutes of the Senate's time tonight to deal with a serious incident that occurred on Bougainville island a few days ago. This very sinister and disturbing incident has been raised by Mr Sinclair in the House of Representatives and by Senator Calvert in this chamber. I speak of the assault on Sir Paul Lapun and his family and the destruction of his home by people claimed to be associated with the Bougainville Revolutionary Army. The assault apparently took place on the mistaken assumption that Sir Paul had been given a sum of 30,000 kina by the visiting parliamentary delegation—an assumption that was of course entirely misplaced and is entirely erroneous.

  What did happen, as I think everyone in the delegation is only too well aware and the media travelling with the delegation made plain, is that Sir Paul took the time and made the effort to speak with us during our visit to the island about how the process of reconciliation might unfold, how the cycle of killing and payback could be broken and how circumstances could be taken in a better direction for the island of Bougainville and its people.

  Sir Paul is a most articulate and thoughtful individual. He is a most honourable man with a very proud record of service to his people on a number of issues that currently both Papua New Guinea and Australia are endeavouring to address. It is an absolute outrage that on the basis of Sir Paul having made contact with the Australian delegation he should be subject to this violent assault and his home should be destroyed. His family has suffered grievously as a result of his courage.

  Again, this incident serves to underline the unacceptable and utterly intolerable face of the conflict on Bougainville and the violence that is directed against people endeavouring to pursue their lives peacefully. Sometimes it is random; too often it is deliberate; and always it is the innocent who suffer most.

  The Bougainville Revolutionary Army, our delegation was told, falls into three categories: the political grouping around Messrs Ona and Kauona, the cargo cultists, and a group loosely affiliated with the BRA who can only be termed criminals or gangsters. Part of the scourge of revolutionary developments in many parts of the world are teenagers with guns; to my mind, they are simply criminals.

  There is no solution to be found for the Bougainville crisis—which has now lasted six years too long—in violence and intimidation. Secession cannot be won by force of arms. The conflict cannot be ended by the PNGDF—the Papua New Guinea military—on the basis of firepower. That is recognised on the island and I believe recognised widely in Port Moresby as well. This latest incident, this vicious assault upon Sir Paul, serves only to underscore that reality. As Senator Teague said earlier in his remarks on the Korean Peninsula, the key words are really negotiation and dialogue. That is the only way to a settlement on Bougainville, as I believe our delegation's report, when it emerges in a couple of weeks time, will make only too clear.

  A process of reconciliation on the island of Bougainville can flow successfully only on the basis of discussion, negotiation, concession, dialogue and in an intelligent approach to the vexed questions that beset the Bougainvillians, particularly that cycle of violence, killing and payback. These things are all too common and Sir Paul sought in a most reasoned way to address them in his discussions with our delegation.

  I reiterate: there was no money passed to Sir Paul or to anybody else on the island by the Australian delegation or anyone travelling with us. There was no consideration afforded to anyone who came forward to speak with us. There was no reward; there was no incentive; there was no inducement. All we were able to do in a responsible way, through AIDAB and through the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, was to look at a number of potential projects which might be funded through the Australian assistance program to Papua New Guinea—in particular, for example, I draw attention to the Mamagota wharf, which is obviously a priority for the people living in the Kiunga area.

  I think it is fair to say, as Senator Calvert made clear, that the Australian Senate—indeed, the Australian parliament—sends a message to Sir Paul and his family extending best wishes for an early recovery from his injuries and for the rebuilding of his home, and expresses also the earnest view that these criminals be brought to justice. Nothing could underline the need for a return to the rule of law on Bougainville than this kind of stupid, mindless, meaningless violence.

  Overall, there needs to be a human rights commission for Papua New Guinea itself. We were told this by leading political and judicial figures in Port Moresby. There needs to be that vehicle to enable people to have access to a tribunal that deals with human rights abuses. But, in terms of the immediate problems on Bougainville, we need to see an early, quick return to the rule of law as security situations permit—a return to the role of the police and the judiciary and to the laws of Papua New Guinea being applied equally and without favour so that criminal incidents of this kind disappear from the lifestyle of Bougainville permanently.