The peace talks between the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and
the Tamil rebel group, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) has
reached a point where number of examples of 'peace resolution
processes' as well as 'models of coexistence' have been cited as
examples that should be studied.
Most seem to be Euro-centric
given that we are a colonized people and most of the brain trust of
Sri Lanka is living abroad mostly in Western nations. Also the fact
that the facilitator and the mediator is Norway too skews us towards
looking at Western models.
There are many models that we can
refer and learn lessons from that are not of the West. The most
important one is the peace accord between the Government of Papua
New Guinea (PNG) and the rebels of Bougainville Island (BRA). It is
called the 'Bougainville Peace Agreement" (BPA) and is a
comprehensive document that is available in the net for any research
scholar or political activist to refer to.
History of the
There are many similarities between Sri Lanka
and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Both are nation states that grew of the
de colonization process of great powers except that PNG was a colony
of a colony, namely Australia. Just like Sri Lanka, PNG or parts of
it were administered by different European powers, before ending up
with their respective colonial masters.
Bougainville is a
large island that is on the northeast corner of PNG Main Island. It
culturally and politically belongs to the smaller Solomon Islands
group to the south of it. Due to the quirk of colonial history, its
custody ended up with the fledgling postcolonial government of
Postcolonial PNG government inherited not just the Island
but also a potential problem in the form of a large mining contract
awarded to Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) by the Australian
"BCL was 56 per cent owned by the Australian
subsidiary Conzinc Rio Tinto, Australia (CRA) which is a subsidiary
of the multinational mining company, RTZ" . The PNG Government
held about 20 per cent of its shares. BCL generated about A$6.2
billion in sales for the first 16 years of it existence and in doing
so, "it had become the largest single source of revenue available to
the PNG Government after Australian aid. Taxes from BCL alone
accounted for 16 per cent of PNG's budget".
The great mine
of Panguna, in the Crown Prince Ranges of central Bougainville was
administered by 'white' Australian �migr�s who lived a comfortable
live style in the provincial capital of Arawa. Compared to the
almost primitive and subsistence life style of the indigenous
people, the living standards of the �migr�s and the imported labor
force called as 'red skins' by the locals from neighboring PNG was a
study in contrast.
Further the Indigenous people, especially
those belonging to the Nasioi language group of Central Bougainville
had lost sacred and productive land to the huge open pit mine which
was growing bigger each day.
Most indigenous Bougainvilleans were matriarchal.
Mothers passed land to their children from generation to generation.
This is was the most sacred and fundamental practice that was broken
by the huge open pit mine. They were mostly organized around family
groups further isolated from each other by language
The native Melanesians had over a period of time
assimilated the Polynesian seafarers that had eventually settled in
lands as far as New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii. Polynesian
influences were still discernable in many coastal groups. Their
commercial, cultural and sometimes historic political ties were with
the other islands of the Solomon's group, which were navigable by
The pivotal moment
national consciousness as Bougainvilleans was missing at the time of
initial European contact, further interactions with American
Catholic missionaries known as the 'Marists" and others had slowly
instilled a sense of cohesiveness amongst the varied
But the huge open pit mine changed all that. It was
the single most event, that precipitated the civil war and now the
BPA. The rights to the open pit mine was granted on land to which
neither the Australian nor the PNG government paid any respect to
modes of traditional ownership. Compensation was next to nothing and
it was breaking apart the very fabric of Nasiosi nation. It made
mothers unable to pass their traditional lands to their future
generations thus breaking the spiritual connection between
generations and their sacred land.
Not jus the Nasiosi Nation
but the rest of the Bougainvilleans too viewed the vast operations
as an infringement on their fundamental rights. Further the riches
gleaned from the mine was only reaching the Australian managers:
their imported PNG workers and the coffers of the PNG budget. The
locals were completely left out of the deal.
The second most striking example of the conflict in
Bougainville and Sri Lanka is the forceful personality of Francis
Ona. Just like Vellupillai
Pirapaharan of the LTTE, he
single-handedly brought forth the grievances of his people to the
attention of the PNG government.
At first Ona had formed the
"'New Panguna Landowners Association' and delivered an ultimatum to
the company: pay up 10 billion kina (A$14.7 billion (1989 value) in
compensation for the impact of the mine, or else".
and that lead to an active program of sabotage by the Bougainville
Revolutionary Army (BRA) that eventually crippled the most
profitable mine of PNG from operating.
"In the end, there was no final burst of gunfire, no
mad rush of expatriates to the airport but through a mixture of
deception and disobedience, Bougainville, in the first half of 1990,
slipped from PNG's control. The mine was officially mothballed on 7
January 1990 but early negotiations led in March 1990 to a
cease-fire being declared. The army quit as agreed, but then a
decision by the Commissioner of Police and Controller of the State
of Emergency, Paul Tohian, to withdraw the last thin line of
ordinary officers on the ground, left Papua New Guinea without a
single government official, politician or member of the security
forces on the island. "
Not just the huge copper mine the
entire island and its entire infrastructure was with in the control
But just like in Sri Lanka,
the PNG government attempted to subdue the local population by using
a brutal blockade.
"All air and sea transport was halted. The
blockade, which was enforced by Australian-donated patrol boats,
largely succeeded. Only the water border with Solomon Islands
remained open. As medical supplies dried up and emergency
evacuations became impossible, the blockade became responsible for
the deaths of thousands of civilians - many more than died as a
result of the fighting. "
Unilateral Declaration of
Unlike in Sri Lanka,
"On 17 May 1990,
the Independent Republic of Bougainville was declared amid a day of
celebrations, marches and speeches led by the self-proclaimed
President, Francis Ona who announced that the 'longstanding wish of
the Bougainville people to become a separate nation' had finally
been granted. 'From today Bougainville shall be forever a sovereign,
democratic and independent nation.' Port Moresby cut the islands
last remaining telecommunications shortly after the announcement.
The interim government, announced by Ona, included the former
Premier Joseph Kabui as Minister of Justice and Sam Kauona as
Minister for Defence".
But unlike the LTTE in Sri Lanka, which
runs an efficient civil-military bureaucracy in regions under its
control the BRA, were not at all prepared for their new role of
maintaining law and order in the new de facto state.Opinion
and decision-makers in Sri Lanka should treasure the fact that LTTE
leadership has not done a UDI, thus keeping many options open still.
But it should be noted that the UDI is still a viable option for the
LTTE if the squabbling southern polity pushes it to that
Similar to government
controlled Tamil regions in Sri Lanka, Bougainvillean groups
sponsored by the PNG and those purportedly working for or against
the BRA indulged in mass mayhem of mass murders, assassinations,
wholesale disappearances and rapes. "Bougainvilleans, whether
resentful of a clansman's prominence or coveting another's land,
whether wishing to avenge the death of an antecedent or the
despoiling of a female relative leapt into the lawless vacuum of
civil strife, maiming and killing their own." 
Another chilling aspect of
the similarity between Sri Lanka and Bougainville was the
unrestrained use of helicopter gunshots to strafe civilians by the
PNG defense forces. Australia provided the Gun-ships free of cost.
Many people fled to the bush just to escape the strafing from air.
This was apart from the Australian supplied patrol boats used in the
brutal naval blockade.
As India has lost credibility amongst
Sri Lankans Tamils as well as some sections of the Sinhalese as a
viable peace maker in Sri Lanka, Australia too had soured its
relationship with the indigenous Bougainvilleans. This opened the
doors for others to play the role of the peacemaker namely New
Chan's "war for peace"
Just like the
Sri Lankan president Mdm. Chandrika Badaranike-Kumarantunga (CBK)
followed a dual strategy aptly called as "war for peace", the
interestingly named Julius Chan who became a Prime Minster in 1994
pursued a dual strategy of war and peace. This dual strategy only
prolonged the misery and further exposed the inability of the PNG
government to come up with a coherent policy to control Bougainville
and defeat the BRA comprehensively. All his attempts lead to defeat
and eventually a process of peace talks began in New
"In the second half of 1997, two rounds of talks
held at the Burnham Military Camp near Christchurch, New Zealand,
were to break the deadlock in the decade-long Bougainville conflict.
The Burnham talks occurred after five failed peace accords and
two-failed cease-fire agreements. Joseph Kabui, then leader of the
Bougainville Interim Government (BIG), described the outcome of
these talks saying:
'Contained in the Burnham Declaration is
the most powerful of all democratic notions, that the people
themselves will have the final say on the outcome of our work. Just
as the discussions by our officials have brought us together here,
our discussion together must get us back to Bougainville and back to
a situation which places the decision back into the hands of the
The path to the final peace agreement was
torturous and it has three pillars. They are as
"The Agreement provides for
arrangements for an autonomous Bougainville Government operating
under a home-grown Bougainville Constitution with a right to assume
increasing control over a wide range of powers, functions, personnel
and resources on the basis of guarantees contained in the National
The agreement provides
for the right, guaranteed in the National Constitution, for a
referendum among Bougainvilleans' on Bougainville's future political
The choices available in the referendum will include
a separate independence for Bougainville.
The referendum will
be held no sooner than ten years, and in any case no later than
fifteen years, after the election of the autonomous Bougainville
The actual date of the referendum will be set
taking account of standards of good governance and the
implementation of the weapons disposal plan.
The outcome of
the referendum will be subject to ratification (final decision
making authority) of the National Parliament.
The agreed weapons disposal plan will
proceed in stages, area by area around Bougainville, beginning as
soon, as is practicable.
After the constitutional amendments
implementing this Agreement have been passed by the National
Parliament and by the time they take legal effect, remaining Defense
Force and Police Mobile Unit personnel will have been withdrawn from
Bougainville and weapons will be held in secure
The containers will have two separate locks with
the key to one held by the United Nations Observer Mission on
Bougainville (UNOMB) and the other by the relevant ex-combatant
The UNOMB will verify that all parties are acting
in accordance with the agreed weapons disposal plan.
decision on the final fate of the weapons should be taken within
four and a half months of the constitutional amendments coming into
Summary of the BPA
The main aim of
the Bougainville Peace Agreement is to end conflict between PNG and
Bougainville, and conflict within Bougainville.
conflict, it is not enough just to shake hands. It is also necessary
to first try to fix up the things that cause the conflict. For us in
Bougainville, that means fixing up both:
caused the original conflict with PNG starting in 1988; and the
problems and issues that came up after that, and which caused
conflict within Bougainville.
Any political agreement should
not only deal with those issues, but must also take account of
Bougainville's ability to run its own affairs in a post-conflict
situation. In 1999 the leaders of almost all groups in Bougainville
identified the problems and issues that had contributed to conflict.
Basic grievances about land, environment and
culture; . The strong wish of many people for Bougainville
independence; . The conflict and divisions among Bougainvilleans,
including divisions about Bougainville independence; . Destruction
of or major damage to the main industries in Bougainville and to
infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, health centres);
. The weak economy in Bougainville (which means low levels of
government revenue); . The weak capacity of the Bougainville
To deal with these things, the leaders
decided that the best future political arrangements for Bougainville
should be based on two things: a guaranteed but deferred referendum
on independence; and high autonomy for Bougainville before the
referendum. The reasons for choosing these political arrangements
Autonomy gives Bougainville power to deal with
Basic Grievances - Bougainville will control land, mining, forestry,
environment, foreign investment and culture; . Deferring the
referendum keeps open the independence question, and also allows
time for reconciliation and development of consensus among people
divided on that issue; . Autonomy and deferred referendum together
allows us to build up the economy and build up administrative
capacity until a final decision on independence is made.
Bougainville Peace Agreement has been negotiated over 23 meetings
with the PNG from June 1999 to August 2001. In the Agreement, PNG
has agreed to change the National Constitution to guarantee
the following things:
1. Autonomy - a very high level of
autonomy, under which Bougainville can:
Choose its name and
government structures in its own Constitution; . Gradually take on
most powers and functions of government; . Build up its own revenue
through taxes as its economy grows, and until then get financial
support from the National Government and donors; . Establish
separate Bougainville courts, public service, police and
2. Referendum - a referendum for Bougainvilleans on
independence for Bougainville,
Deferred for at least 10 years
but for no more than 15 years after autonomy begins. The vote in the
referendum will be subject to a final decision by the PNG
Parliament. The constitutional arrangements for Bougainville will be
protected from change by the PNG Parliament - they will only be
changed if Bougainville agrees.
The Peace Agreement also
provides for disposal of weapons by the BRA and the BRF, and for
withdrawal of remaining PNGDF and Police Riot Squads. The PMG and
the United Nations have been asked to stay in Bougainville to help
with weapons disposal. These things will be part of wider
'demilitarisation' of Bougainville, which is also intended to deal
with causes of conflict. For the presence of opposing military
organisations and high-powered weapons has contributed to conflict
and insecurity in Bougainville. Demilitarisation also
Strong restrictions on future deployment to
Bougainville of the PNGDF and Police Riot Squads; . Bougainville
Police not to have anything like a heavily armed Riot Squad; .
Commitment by all groups - including BRA and BRF - to working
through the autonomous Bougainville Government.
As part of
the efforts to deal with sources of conflict, the Peace Agreement
provides both a new relationship between PNG and Bougainville, and a
new government framework that allows Bougainvilleans to develop
Bougainville in their own way. Before most things in the Peace
Agreement begin to operate, the PNG Parliament must pass the
amendments to the PNG Constitution needed to implement the
Agreement. There is an urgent need for support and pressure from
Bougainville to encourage members of Parliament to vote for the
amendments. This can be helped by quick progress in developing a
Bougainville Constitution and by quick progress in implementing the
agreed weapons disposal plan.
After the amendments are
passed, the success of the Agreement will depend on the efforts of
Bougainville to implement it properly. (Joint Bougainville
Negotiating Team, 29 August 2001)
The Bougainville Peace Agreement.
 "The origins of the
conflict" by Mary-Louise O'Callaghan - The Accord, Issue 12
"From Burnham to Buin, Sowing the seeds of peace in the
land of the snow-capped mountains" by Robert Tapi - The Accord,
Issue 12. http://www.c-r.org/accord/boug/accord12/from.shtml