MAC: Mines and Communities

Emerging from Sandline shadow

Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

Emerging from Sandline shadow

General Jerry Singirok, the man whose actions led to the Sandline mercenaries being kicked out of Papua New Guinea, thanks God that his actions led to saving the lives of thousands of people on the island of Bougainville.

In an exclusive interview with the Post-Courier yesterday, General Singirok gave thanks to God, his family, the men behind Operation Rausim Kwik who ejected Sandline mercenaries from PNG, and all the people of PNG for their support and prayers which led to a peaceful solution to the Bougainville crisis.

General Singirok was on Tuesday this week acquitted of sedition charges by National Court judge Justice Cathy Davani.

He was stripped of his title of PNG Defence Force Commander and sacked the day after he went on air on March 17, 1997 on National Broadcasting Commission, demanding that then Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan and Defence Minister Mathias Ijape resign within 48 hours.
General Singirok said being acquitted was a load off his shoulder and he would now be able to get on with life, as well as focus on writing his book, A Matter Of Conscience: Operation Rausim Kwik.

“I just want to acknowledge that God has used us in special ways,” he said. “ I just thank God for using me as an instrument to put a stop to the killings and the suffering on Bougainville. I just thank God for the wisdom and the resilience and the humility in which I was able to have the courage and the strength to prevent a major human catastrophe on the island of Bougainville after nine or 10 years of civil war.

“I also want to thank those people very close to me who believed in what I did, particularly my wife Weni and the children, my lawyer Mr (Moses) Murray, and also those officers who put their career on the line to execute Operation Rausim Kwik.

“Particularly, I make mention of Lieutenant Colonel Walter Enuma, Lieutenant Colonel Gilbert Toropo, Captain Belden Nama, Captain Bola Renagi, Lieutenant Linus Osoba, Warrant Officer Chris Mora, Sergeant John Koraia, and members of the Special Force Unit, the Defence Force soldiers and officers, all the elements from the Air Wing, Naval Wing and the Land Element who assisted me in Operation Rausim Kwik. I also thank thousands of Papua New Guineans who have been praying for a peaceful end to the Bougainville Crisis. And I think without their prayers, we wouldn’t have come this far.

“And like I said earlier, I think God saw the cries of thousands of people who’ve suffered as a result of the Bougainville Crisis.”

General Singirok stressed that he never at one time had any seditious intentions. “I think it was only logical that I was acquitted from the charge of sedition because I had no seditious intentions,” he said. “I wanted to prevent a major criminal act which is to drop bombs on innocent civilians. There’s nothing such as ‘smart bombs’ in this world and there was no way that we could justify killings and the long — term psychological and emotional damage that we would create as a result of a major military onslaught. I think the other aspect that has not be iterated much on the Bougainville Crisis is the secret plans to infiltrate into Solomon Islands by Sandline. There were secret plans of destroying the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Commission and also knocking out a couple of Government posts of Solomon Islands Police Force.

“Such acts, although militarily can be conducted internationally, will be condemned because we delve into the sovereignty of another country. Those issues alone had a major consequence on me as Commander at that time. So I think it was only right that justice prevailed on the charge itself of sedition.”

General Singirok said he had informed then Governor-General Sir Wiwa Korowi and then Police Commissioner John Wakon before making a public address on NBC.
“I warned the Governor-General, who is Head of State, the Police Commissioner and I had to go to NBC to voice my concerns on the consequences of Sandline, because thousands of Papua New Guineans do not have access to newspapers and television, so it was only right that I speak on radio,” he said.

“My address to the nation, I believe, is not seditious. I believe that it was in good intention. And therefore, I just praise God because God has seen my heart and has exonerated me through the decision by Justice Davani.”

General Singirok said he wanted to continue to assist in the development of PNG after being on trial since September 1997.

“Like I said, the State has invested quite a lot in educating me and giving me the opportunity to travel around the world, to be educated, tertiary qualifications,” he said. “It would be unfair of me to walk away. I’d like to contribute, not necessarily in the militarily, but if the State wants to use my service or even the private sector, in the development of Papua New Guinea, I’d like to offer my service.

“Like I said, I was very young when I was appointed general, and I’d like to think that I can develop a system of developing Papua New Guinea.

“But for the more immediate run, I’d like to concentrate on writing my book of my experiences I’ve had of the Sandline Crisis.

“The title of my book is A Matter Of Conscience: Operation Rausim Kwik and I’d like to, within the next three to four months, produce my first manuscript.

“I think that’s more important because I want to tell the future generations of Papua New Guinea the lessons that I have learned, more importantly the decisions that I made to prevent a major disruption to this country.”

General Singirok said the last seven years had been very tough on him and his family. “I see the experiences as character-building, it’s made me a better person, it’s given me more wisdom, and that’s why I think it was worth the fight, it was worth the experience that I went through.”

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