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Interference allegations unravel Australia–Bougainville relations

Author: Bal Kama, ANU

Relations between Australia and the Borough of Bougainville are in repair mode following the visit of Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marls to Papua New Guinea (PNG) in October 2022 for negotiations on the defense treaty between Australia and PNG.

the rift is Press conference Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and James Marape and Richard Marless. In response to a question about Australia’s position on Bougainville’s pending attempt to gain independence from PNG, Marles said: And we are ready to do it.

This statement was made public in PNG’s media with “Australia supports PNG in Bougainville‘.President Ishmael Toloama of Bougainville responded In response to Mares’ statement, he said it showed support for PNG and jeopardized Australia’s neutrality on the issue. Citing it as evidence of Australia’s support, he said, “It was the Australian government and they were who trained and armed the Papua New Guinea Defense Forces to wage war on the citizens of Bougainville.” They supplied gunships to wreak havoc and mayhem in Bougainville.These responses Framed Australia intends to “destabilize Bougainville’s right to self-determination”.

Bougainville, one of the provinces of PNG, fought a civil war with the PNG Defense Forces from 1988 to 1998, killing more than 20,000 people. marked The deadliest conflict in the Pacific since World War II.of Bougainville Peace Accord The bill, signed in 2001, provides for a referendum to be held in Bougainville on the issue of independence. That referendum was held in 2019, with a 97.7% result in favor of independence for Bougainville. The peace agreement also states that “the results of the referendum are subject to ratification (the final decision power) of the National Assembly.” This means that the PNG parliament has final authority to decide Bougainville’s future, regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

Bougainville leaders are navigating the country’s political environment to ensure there is sufficient political support in the PNG parliament for Bougainville’s independence, consistent with the referendum. resultWhile some parts of Papua New Guinea society strongly support Bougainville’s independence, some nationalist opponents argue that Bougainville should be given special autonomy rather than full independence. In addition to this division, we need the position of PNG Prime Minister James Marape. Nationwide consultation Before Congress decides — a position strongly held by the Bougainville government disapproval of.

Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister’s statement was perceived through this dynamic and uncertain political environment in which the actions of outside actors are closely linked. scrutinized Ensure there is no direct or implied interference or influence on ongoing negotiations.

Richard Marls attempted to clarify his statement by arguing that Australia’s position would not change. support for “a political solution ultimately reached by all parties to the agreement”.But president of Troama maintained Marles’ press conference was “a pre-emptive action … a direct intervention by the Australian government in Papua New Guinea’s internal affairs” and “it is an action that directly affects the central government”.

These statements are Elucidate A year of cautious diplomacy and prudence on the part of Australia in handling the Bougainville incident. This increases the risk of Australia being accused of influencing a negative decision by her PNG parliament on Bougainville’s independence issue. avoid Because it might work against your interests.

Important Claims of President Troama Claim “Australia negotiates neutrality in the Bougainville peace process, conducts geopolitical maneuvers and maintains control of the Pacific region against the threat of Chinese influence in the region”.official record The two men at the press conference in question did not discuss China or regional security. But to the Bougainville government these were the driving force behind Australia’s intentions for her defense treaty with PNG, and it appeared to be valid. overshadow Bougainville ambitions.

The birth of a new nation in the Pacific will set the stage for geopolitical competition — a new theater for actors influencing national politics, including Australia and China.Australia is not well established in Bougainville . linger The civil war and resentment of its role in independent Bougainville could become a strategic blind spot for Australia.

These allegations point to the reality Australia is increasingly facing in the Pacific, and its actions are under suspicion that it serves underlying geopolitical interests. Suspicions are likely to become more widespread as the region ramps up its rhetoric and anti-China investments in military infrastructure.

It can be argued that Marles’ official statement alone does not imply that Australia is interfering in the Bougainville and PNG issues. However, there are significant strategic and political implications likely to arise from the outcome on Bougainville independence that Australia would be concerned about. Whether these concerns compelled any ‘interference’ against either party is difficult to establish, at least from Australian public action.

Bal Kama is a Visiting Scholar at ANU’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.

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