New Zealand-sponsored peace talks between Bougainville groups and at times the Papua New Guinea government were held on the New Zealand navy vessel Endeavour (1990), at Burnham military camp (July and October 1997) and Lincoln University (1998). Those involved in the fighting had had enough, and New Zealand seized the moment. The first Burnham talks included a tarout, traditional in Bougainville, in which anything and everything can be expressed as strongly as the speaker desires. One of those participating described it:
‘There were no specific procedures – we went into the room with NZDF in between our factions – we were ready to throw punches. The vomiting session [tarout] united us and from then on we stood back as one. The BRA [Bougainville Revolutionary Army] and the BIG [Bougainville Interim Government] were housed together, but separate from the Resistance [Bougainville Resistance Forces]. There was real enmity. It was really very difficult. Someone would shout to another person, “You shot my brother, you murdered my brother”. And they would jump across to do violence but the NZ military were in between. This went on until there was nothing left inside.’ (Quoted in John Braithwaite, Hilary Charlesworth, Peter Reddy and Leah Dunn, Reconciliation and architectures of commitment: sequencing peace in Bougainville.)
The peace agreement signed after the second round of Burnham talks was an important step towards resolution of the Bougainville conflict. The first of those speaking in this October 1997 news report is Robert Igara, a senior Papua New Guinean official. The second speaker is Martin Miriori, a Bougainville Interim Government leader. The third is Don McKinnon, New Zealand’s minister of foreign affairs.
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