MAC: Mines and Communities

Former PNG defence force commander cleared of sedition

Published by MAC on 2004-03-04

For those who aren't aware of the events surrounding the recent trial of Brigadier Singirok in Papua New Guinea, he "led" a revolt against the government of Julius Chan when it was discovered that Chan had employed the notorious British Sandline mercenary organisation to reclaim the Panguna minesite on Bougainville from the "rebels". Singirok was supported by a raft of PNG organsiations and individuals - and now he's been vindictated.

Singirok: ‘Special weapon of God’

PostCourier, Papua New Guinea

March 4 2004

Former Papua New Guinea Defence Force chief General Jerry Singirok believes he was a special weapon used by God to put a stop to the killing and suffering on Bougainville.
A delighted General Singirok said yesterday his acquittal of a sedition charge was an act of God.

“I thank God for using me as an instrument and giving me the strength to stop the atrocity,” he said.

General Singirok said he wanted to stop a major criminal act which was to drop bombs on innocent people.

“There’s nothing such as smart bombs in this world and no way we could justify killings and the long term psychological and emotional damage that we would create as a result of a major military onslaught,” he said.

He said the government of that time wanted to use heavy-handed tactics to deal with a civil conflict that given proper logistics to the disciplinary forces in the country could have been solved without hiring mercenaries. General Singirok said some of the weapons included rocket launchers, high-powered explosives, ball ammunition, mortars, recoil propelled grenades and tracer rounds.

The top secret plan at the time was to take over the Panguna mine and secure the highways around it and put the mine back into operation while they continued fighting the Bougainville Revolutionary Army around the mine.

General Singirok said his actions at that time were not seditious and the National Court, presided over by Justice Cathy Davani ruled in his favour on Tuesday.

Justice Davani ruled that although General Singirok had brought his address to the nation to the NBC studios, “he had innocent intentions that he did not wish to bring the Queen and Head of State into hatred or contempt”. The judge said General Singirok showed that he was desperate to put an end to the contract entered by the then government of PNG to kill innocent people.

General Singirok said at that time he had three choices to make: to resign from office, take leave of office and the third, which he chose to do, was to evict Sandline International.
Sandline International was a mercenary company brought in by the then (Julius) Chan government to put a speedy end to the Bougainville crisis in 1997.

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.”

Decision saved innocent

By Malum Nalu, Postcourier, Papua New Guinea

9 March 04

In 1994, General Jerry Singirok was badly wounded by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army at Guava Village, Panguna, the home of reclusive independence leader Francis Ona.

One would have thought that he would still carry grudges against the BRA and Bougainvilleans, however, on March 17, 1997, he orchestrated the now famous Operation Rausim Kwik to eject Sandline mercenaries from Papua New Guinea.

General Singirok is of mixed Madang and East Sepik parentage — his father from Karkar Island in Madang and his mother from Dagua in East Sepik.

In 1974, while in Grade 12 at Sogeri National High School outside Port Moresby, General Singirok decided to forego studying law at the University of PNG for a military career.

In 1976, after completing his military training, he joined the PNG Defence Force Infantry Corp and where he remained an infantry officer.

In 1980, General Singirok served on Bougainville, did special force training in the United States, and in 1984 was an exchange officer with the Australian army under Peter Cosgrove, now Commander of the Australian Army.

In 1988 and 1989, when the Bougainville crisis first erupted, he had his first taste of action on the troubled island.

“In 1989,” General Singirok recalls, “I was the operations officer on Bougainville.

“In 1990, while a major, I was sent down to Australia to do a degree equivalent in military science.

“I attended the Australian Army Commandant Staff College in Queenscliffe, Victoria, for one year. And after that, because I did very well, they offered me a job in Australia for another two years as a lecturer in military art, strategic battlefield and all that.

“I was lecturing at Land Warfare Centre in Canambra as a major in 1992 and 1993.

“In 1993, I was recalled back to take over as operations officer on Bougainville because the military needed a push into Central Bougainville.

“So I came back in ‘93 with my family and joined the regiment on the island. When I came back, I was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel.

“In 1994, I was commanding officer on Bougainville.

“In August of 1994, I was injured badly on Bougainville on my left wrist. I was trying to retrieve the body of a fellow officer who was killed with his ‘batman’ — late Major Keke Boge and his batman Jerry Fendu in Panguna at Guava village, Francis Ona’s village. In attempting to rescue them, the BRA shot into the helicopter and wounded me badly.

“I’ve still got shrapnel in my body which the State needs to find money to get rid of.

“In 1994, the Government was quite desperate that they needed a no–nonsense commander and I was appointed chief of intelligence.

“In 1995, I was away on a intelligence–related course in the United States when Sir Julius (Chan) rang me and asked me if I would come back as commander.

“In 1995, I was appointed general at age 38.

“I had achieved the rank of General in less than 18 years.”

Ironically, two years later, General Singirok would turn against the very man who asked if he would become commander of the PNGDF.

He said he did so to save thousands of lives on Bougainville.

General Singirok said key PNG government figures and Sandline had been negotiating the andline deal since early 1996.

“They (Sandline) were prepared to go straight into Panguna and capture Panguna because the Government gave us those limitation to go and open the mine before June of 1997,” he adds.

“Sandline was to operate between Panguna and SP Highway, down to Loloho and Arawa, and open the highway and open the mine and then let the BRA come and fight against us around the mine.

“That was the strategy that we used, and at the same time carry out exercises into Solomon Islands as a deterrent to cut off logistical supplies — the Solomon Islands was also proactive in supporting the military thrust into Central Bougainville.

“They (Sandline) were determined.

“And I had to do something before the Bulgarian Entemov — it’s a big aircraft that carries aircraft — arrived on the 19th of March (1997) with the gunships.

“I had to conduct my operation before 19th of March to prevent that aircraft from arriving. That’s why I chose 17th of March to carry out my mission of preventing the final equipment from arriving, which I successfully did.

“I had to isolate the Sandline executives on the night of the 16th of March, announce to the nation that Sandline contract is terminated on 17th of March and in doing so signal the Sandline office in London not to get the aircraft to arrive because their executives are in our custody and the contract will not be executed.

“We detained about four key executives and 87 or so mercenaries in Wewak and confined them to barracks.

“The executives were in Port Moresby while the mercenaries were doing training with our special force in Wewak. I had to act simultaneously and at the same time command troops up there in Moem Barracks to isolate the mercenaries there.”

PNG was plunged into turmoil over the next couple of days and weeks; however, General Singirok said he fully believed that the people of this country would not watch it slip into anarchy.

“The importance of me being available to the media was so critical,” he says. “I constantly had news conferences to remind people to respect the law. We had a lot of issues outstanding, as you know, UPNG students who were quite bitter about the engagement of Sandline, about Bougainville conflict, a lot of politicians, a lot of women’s groups, church groups came out openly defying the government’s decision to engage Sandline.

“And those are public issues that I had no control over. And the good thing is that it was contained and the Police and Defence did a wonderful job in containing the public.

“And I had a duty to use the media effectively, to tell the people that they had to calm down, this is not a coup, this is not a takeover, I just put a stop to a decision I believe was quite wrong. And the public reaction was expected, anyway, and that’s into damage control, which we handled.

“The resilience of the people of Papua New Guinea was incredible.

“Sandline had that commercial value on their contract. They used their modus operandi of Africa, and that is the sad thing. Because we look like Africans, they thought they could come and impose on us their commercial successes of Africa.

“And it’s good that we exposed them because the world no longer needs mercenaries. And PNG is not Africa, anyway. And I hope and pray that Sandline will not revisit us in PNG. And I hope that no Government will engage people like Sandline, and Tim Spicer.”

General Singirok admits that he received money from arms dealer, Franklin, for which he has served his three-year suspension and now wants to get on with life.

He says the PNGDF has given him the best years of his life.

“I believe that it’s been a very short but a very good career,” General Singirok reflects. I believe the Defence Force has been good to me. I’ve enjoyed the best part of my years as a soldier and as a military officer.”

This is the final part of an exclusive interview with former PNGDF commander General JERRY SINGIROK in which he talks about Sandline, Bougainville and his career as a soldier.

“...I had a duty to use the media effectively, to tell the people that they had to calm down, this is not a coup, this is not a takeover, I just put a stop to a decision I believe was quite wrong...”

And a footnote from a Singirok enthusiast!...

Congratulations, General Singirok!

Congratulations to General Jerry Singirok for allowing justice to run its course in the courts. The people of Papua New Guinea and especially of Bougainville would greatly acknowledge and celebrate your acquittal and freedom.

I salute you General Singirok and your team of lawyers. You and your trusted team of soldiers, who drove the Sandline out of PNG, will go down in history as cross-road martyrs and heroes of the Bougainville conflict and the subsequent peace and reconciliation processes and agreements.

Personal and public sacrifices for the national interest at the level you showed are rare and far between.

With God’s guidance and wisdom, you are the reason why all my nephews, nieces and liklik bubus long ples Buka and Bougainville are back in school and happily playing around again.
Bravo General Singirok! Bravo PNG! Bravo Bougainville! Bravo PNG Judiciary!

J. K. Semos, PhD
Goroka, EHP.

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