SYDNEY — The Papua New Guinea government and a delegation of leaders from Bougainville Island signed a peace agreement yesterday in Honiara, the Solomon Islands. The peace accord is expected to end the violent dispute that has gone on for 26 months. As part of the agreement, Bougainville leaders agreed to defer discussions on the future political status of the island of 160,000 people. They also agreed to allow relief workers to help rebuild Bougainville. Medical services, for example, had been cut off.
The peace agreement follows a truce which was signed last October on a New Zealand warship. At that point, the government agreed to return basic services to the island. However, instead it landed security forces on Buka Island and fighting resumed.
However, this time the peace might stick. ``The residents are sick and tired of the fighting,'' says an editor on the Times of Papua New Guinea.
The fighting began more than two years ago when the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) sought to become independent from the Papua New Guinea government.
BRA leaders were also unhappy with the amount of money the island received from the giant Panguna Copper Mine. Most income from the mine had gone to the government in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea. Yesterday's agreement does not mention the mine.
Melbourne-based CRA Ltd., which owns 53.6 percent of the mine, says it is too early to talk about reopening the mine. When it was operating, CRA made about $70 million from the sale of its copper. It had provided 17 percent of the revenue for the Papua New Guinea government. The mine was closed last year.