The combined New Ireland chiefs in Papua New Guinea led by chief Demas Kavavu and political leaders including former National Alliance strongman, Pedi Anis, have welcomed the invitation for reconciliation from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) commander, Sam Kauona, and his people of the Central Bougainville region with the former Prime Minister and now Governor of New Ireland, Sir Julius Chan.
But the move has been strongly criticised by the Bougainville Freedom Movement.
The chiefs rallied behind the Governor, Sir Julius, to support what they term as a courageous step for peace from the BRA Commander with the authority and authenticity being the first to meet with Sir Julius within three days of him assuming the Prime Ministership of Papua New Guinea in 1994 in Honiara during the height of the Bougainville conflict.
The late Bishop Gregory Singkai was with Sir Julius that made possible the face to face human dialogue between Sir Julius and Kauona, whom Sir Julius described as courteous and very respectful in the face of great adversity.
Kauona in a news release in The National newspaper last Thursday broke his long silence as a prominent figure in the 16 year-long Bougainville conflict and declared his political allegiance to the People’s Progress Party and its founder Sir Julius.
He cited his involvement in brokering peace talks that culminated in the moving reconciliation ceremony in Kavieng between the late President Joseph Kabui on behalf of the people of Bougainville and Sir Julius on behalf of New Ireland.
Kauona said Sir Julius showed the way to address issues and although he participated in reconciliations in Buka and Kavieng he and the PPP should reconcile with the people of Central Bougainville because it was the nerve center of the conflict.
New Ireland held Peace and Reconciliation consultation with President Joseph Kabui and was the only Province that sent an official government delegation to attend Kabui’s funeral and later reciprocated with the second Peace and Reconciliation with the Acting President, James Tanis, in Buka.
Responding to Kauona’s press release, Governor Sir Julius said from his home in Huris that he had kept close and friendly ties with the people of Bougainville through their President John Momis.
He was very encouraged by Kauona’s comments and awaited the opportunity to strengthen friendship with him and people of Central Bougainville.
“I have no qualms, no grudges, no ill-will against anyone in Bougainville as we are partly one heritage, one genesis and I thank Kauona for his straight talk and welcome him to visit and strengthen ties with New Ireland,” said Sir Julius.
“We need to eradicate all misunderstanding to hand a peaceful solid baton to the young generation for our two Provinces,” he said.
The Bougainville Freedom Movement said in a statement:
“Considering that Sir Julius Chan says he has no regrets over his handling of the Sandline mercenary affair, to kill, maim and murder the people of Bougainville, it is very difficult to understand why the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) Commander, Sam Kauona has declared his political allegiance to the People’s Progress Party and its founder Sir Julius Chan.
“The power of the people in Papua New Guinea (PNG), prompted Jerry Singirok, the General of the PNG Defence Forces to stop the hired killers of Sandline mercenaries by taking them hostage in 1997. This is what stopped the war on Bougainville and allowed peace to prevail.
“It also led to the downfall of Sir Julius Chan and his government.
“This year in March 2016, Sir Julius Chan released his autobiography and still says that if he had been allowed to continue with the Sandline mercenary operation to put down the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and the people of Bougainville in 1997, he would have been able to bring the island of Bougainville under control.
“So now in November 2016, it seems Sir Julius Chan has the General Commander of the BRA under control, like a wish come true.”