1 Sep 2006

Declassified papers show Britain considered Bougainville independence

1:46 pm on 1 September 2006

Documents show Britain secretly considered supporting an independent Bougainville in the days before Papua New

Guinea became a sovereign nation in 1975.

The information is contained in recently declassified documents as Ben Lowings reports.

"The British foreign ministry documents show diplomats and ministers made serious assessments about whether Bougainville could go it alone. The British company mining copper on the main island was in secret contact with the UK government about whether to support the secessionist movement. The British government said fewer Bougainvilleans had turned out in support of the separatists' declaration of independence, than those who had supported the PNG independence day celebrations later the same month. Britain thought the rebels could harass the mine and provoke disorder, but it believed PNG's prime minister, the young Michael Somare, would act firmly to resist this."