Peter O’Neill apologises to Bougainvilleans for deadly civil war
30 January 2014
PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND BOUGAINVILLE have moved closer to reconciliation after the Pacific island nation's prime minister, Peter O’Neill, made an historic visit.
Mr O'Neill also performed a reconciliation ceremony with the autonomous region's president, John Momis, and visited the site of the Panguna copper mine which sparked the civil war.
"Following custom, I'd like to say we are truly sorry for all the bad things that happened in your communities in Bougainville and our country Papua New Guinea," the Post Courier reported Mr O'Neill as saying on Tuesday.
Mr O'Neill made the comments at Bel Isi Park in Buka, where he and Mr Momis broke an arrow in a symbolic gesture of peace.
Mr Momis told a crowd of hundreds Mr O'Neill's visit meant a new beginning for PNG and Bougainville.
"This means a new beginning and cooperation and collaboration to continue the work for development," he said.
Mr O'Neill unveiled K1.5 million in development funds for Bougainville.
His visit marks the second by a PNG prime minister since Bill Skate in 1998, when both sides of the conflict brokered a peace deal.
Mr O'Neill brought with him the PNG government's chief secretary and Ministers Ben Micah and Byron Chan.
Mr Chan is the son of fformer prime minister Sir Julius Chan, who along with Mr Momis is considered one of PNG's founding fathers.
Bougainville is due to hold a referendum to decide if it will become an independent country between 2015 and 2020.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Karl Claxton said there is a wide expectation Bougainville will vote to become independent.
"(Mr O'Neill's) visit is definitely a welcome increase in focus and it's exactly what's needed, dialogue between the national government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
"I would call it a very significant step indeed."
Mr O'Neill on Wednesday is expected to visit the site of the Panguna copper mine near Bougainville's capital, Arawa.
At the time of its closure due to the civil war in 1989 the mine was the largest open cut copper mine in the world.
The reopening of the mine is still a hot issue in Bougainville.
However some argue it is a vital potential revenue stream for an independent Bougainville.
Mr Claxton said there is room for Mr Momis to stretch out the independence vote until 2020.
"To build consensus," he said.
"There is very little understanding of what autonomy means and how much is needed to make either of those things (autonomy or staying with PNG) work.
"Independence will need a big income stream."
Yes, get real. Bougainville is divided. Some of us want peace, while others don't want anything from PNG. And Noah Misingku is running his own dream country in Tonu. Bougainvilleans were long divided, there is no oneness. Forgiveness from PNG is a step forward for me, but others are suspicious.
Posted by: Marlene Dee Potoura | 31 January 2014 at 10:32 PM
Oh come on people, get real.
God save us all.
I think I'm going to puke!
Posted by: Michael Dom | 31 January 2014 at 02:45 PM
I would like to see Leonard Fong Roka's take on that issue.
Posted by: Bernard Yegiora | 31 January 2014 at 01:56 PM
Saying sorry for the many lives lost and the widespread misery brought about by the conflict is the way forward for AROB and PNG.
Saying real sorry to the people of AROB by the PM is a real manifestation of humility and humbleness, these are fruits of a humble heart.
May we all progress and move forward hand in hand. God bless the PM, the People of AROB and PNG.
Posted by: Peter Pirape Anage | 31 January 2014 at 01:42 PM
It brings me to tears every time I hear leaders (church, government, business, civic) say sorry to others. Thank you, PM O'Neill. Godspeed restoration to Bougainville!
Posted by: Corney Korokan Alone | 30 January 2014 at 07:06 AM