Bougainville rebels and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, which opposed each other during the civil war, are considering a reconciliation claims the Bougainville government
Radio New Zealand
There are plans for a reconciliation between the Papua New Guinea Defence Force and the former Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
Both armies opposed each other during the Bougainville civil war which ended nearly 20 years ago.
Now, with the region preparing for a vote on possible independence from PNG, the Bougainville parliamentary referendum committee wants the former warring groups to reconcile.
The committee chair, Joseph Watawi, says he met last week with the PNGDF commander, Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo.
Mr Watawi told Don Wiseman there has been interest in a formal reconciliation for some time.
JOSEPH WATAWI: The commander, including some of his senior officers, when they went to Bougainville during the ground opening of the Aropa airport, they also met with the senior former combatants on the BRA [Bougainville Revolutionary Army] – the former resistance, which was led by the former BRA general Sam Kauona, including some of the senior commanders at well. So I thought probably it is one of those important reconciliations that my committee might as well address. So I met with Commander Toropo on this matter.
DON WISEMAN: What is the response from the PNGDF?
JW: The response is very positive and he supports the whole idea of making sure that this reconciliation between the PNGDF, might happen between them and the BRA, and the BRA and former resistance in Bougainville. And I think it is something that both governments should immediately work on – at the parliament and executive level. So we agreed that the whole idea should also carry the sanctions of the two governments – the autonomous Bougainville Government and the PNG National Government, so that at least we will know that the activity will take place. There should be some working committee or a special task force that should be assigned to carry out the massive preparation and mapping the way forward in terms of allowing this thing to happen.
DW: There is strong support from the former rebels for such a thing?
JW: Oh yes, yes.
DW: Why is it so important that these two groups do reconcile, in your view?
JW: Well the agenda is about reconciliation. We all know that there was this conflict that happened, so as part of building the peace, strengthening the peace, and in the extra preparation for the conduct of the referendum it is a must that this reconciliation take place. And I guess it is an act ensuring that the peace will be sustained and it is also part and parcel of the spirit and the letter of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. And it also promotes, you know encourages, the need for disputing parties or conflicting parties to come to some kind of a reconciliation.