Papua New Guinea. Peace negotiations between the warring
parties on the island of Bougainville in January resulted in
an agreement on a permanent ceasefire, which formally
entered into force at the end of April/May. The agreement
was concluded at negotiations in New Zealand between the
government, the rebel army at Bougainville and
representatives of the island's local government. The
nine-year civil war has claimed nearly 20,000 lives.
Countryaah, Papua New Guinea suffered a severe natural disaster in
July. Two earthquakes in the sea were followed by three huge
tidal waves, which swept across the coast in the northwest,
drowned several villages, took an estimated 5,000 lives and
left thousands of people homeless.
In April, a new political party, PNG First Party, was
formed by merging, among other things, Prime Minister Bill
Skates People's National Congress. The leader became Skate,
and the new party became the largest in parliament. Eleven
MPs surrendered their support to the government in June and
joined the opposition.
In November, the Minister of Finance announced that every
10 government employees, 7,000 people, must be laid off. The
resources should instead be used to remedy a lack of basic
health care and schooling in the country.
In December, the government failed to get support in
Parliament for constitutional amendments so that a temporary
so-called reconciliation government could be installed in
Bougainville as of the turn of the year.
In July 1992, Prime Minister Palas Wingti launched a
crusade against corruption, prompting more provincial
governors to retire. In June, a corruption lawsuit was
launched against former Prime Minister Namaliu and former
Finance Minister Paul Pora.
Wingti also suggested an increase in Papua's share in the
companies that had mixed Papua foreign ownership. That led
to a strong reaction from PJV - the
Anglo-Australian-Canadian company that controls 90% of the
gold mining in Porgera.
In 1993, the prime minister tried to reopen the copper
mine in Panguna, Bougainville. It had ceased operations
since the outbreak of separatist disputes on the island. But
the mine is located in an area under Francis Ona's
Revolutionary Army control, and although politically
weakened, they remain active.
Wingti was replaced at the presidential post in August
1994 by Julius Chan. The same year, the government regained
control of the copper mine at Bougainville, but an explosion
in the Porgera gold mine led to an interruption of
Chan strongly condemned the series of French nuclear test
blasts in the Pacific. Following the second of these blasts
(in October 1995), the Prime Minister interrupted the
negotiations between France and the South Pacific Forum
in his capacity as chairman of this regional forum.
In October 1996, the conflict on Bougainville worsened
when Theodore Miriung was murdered. He was the supreme
authority on the island and had promoted the conclusion of a
peace agreement. The prime minister was accused by a
military chief of hiring international mercenaries to crush
the separatist movement, and then representatives of the
armed forces demanded Chan's departure.
Despite support in Parliament, the Prime Minister filed
his resignation request in March 1997, and was temporarily
replaced by John Giheno. A few weeks later, Parliament
appointed Bill Skate to head the government.