Narrator/Intv.:

After two days of looting and rioting on the streets of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea appeared to be on the brink of political collapse.

 

 

Believing they'd be safe from police, protestors supporting rebellious Brigadier Jerry Singirok gathered inside the Army's Murray Barracks.

 

 

Without warning police opened fire with tear gas and live ammunition.

 

 

Incensed, troops loyal to their sacked commander attempted to break down the armoury door and seize their weapons. Only the actions of a few cool-headed soldiers stopped them.

 

 

Now, after years of neglect the military had mutinied. Their weapons would not be fired in anger, but the role of the Army had been irrevocably changed, and, with it, the democracy they'd sworn to uphold.

 

 

High above the Murray Barracks chaos at the commander's official residence, heavily armed troops guard the man who's triggered this revolt. Brigadier Jerry Singirok has in effect launched a two-pronged strategy. Operation Rausim Kwik to expel the mercenaries hired by Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan to end the war on Bougainville, and a second campaign using the media to capture community support by tapping into a popular cause demanding an end to political corruption.

 

Jerry Singirok:

It is therefore only logical that I cannot back down on the call for this Prime Minister and the ministers who are implicated to resign from their ministerial offices.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Sir Julius responds by sacking his military chief.

 

PM Sir Julius:

Insubordination cannot be tolerated. The government has acted. The Executive Council has decided that he should be removed. We have appointed Mr. Alfred Aikung, and he has been supported by the ranks and files of the defence force.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

But for the troops, Colonel Aikung-

 

PM Sir Julius:

I'm very pleased to say-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... symbolises-

 

PM Sir Julius:

.... that these are-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... the corruption they so despise.

 

 

He oversaw a contract awarded to a Malaysian company to build these barracks. Two days after his appointment, soldiers torched the colonel's car outside the new barracks claiming the vehicle was a gift from the Malaysian contractor.

 

 

Sir Julius gets the message. Colonel Aikung is swiftly replaced by a more acceptable officer.

 

Speaker 4:

[foreign language 00:03:34].

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Papua New Guinea was sliding into a crisis that had been slowly paralysing the military for years. Singirok's supporters seized control of the main gates to the Murray Barracks headquarters.

 

 

After nine years of battling secessionist rebels on Bougainville, they're angered by political apathy that they say has cost them so many lives. Now their anger is so intense that officers suspected of not supporting Singirok's cause are forced to reconsider their position at gunpoint.

 

Speaker 4A:

[foreign language 00:04:11]! They are officers of this place, but we don't know what they're up to.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

You have doubts about their loyalty to-

 

Speaker 4A:

That's right.

 

Speaker 4B:

That's right, yeah.

 

Speaker 4A:

That's right. Exactly, that's what it is.

 

Speaker 4B:

Exactly.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

What do you do with people who you think may not be loyal to your unit?

 

Speaker 4A:

Well, we just, we just-

 

Speaker 4B:

We have to teach them some lesson.

 

Speaker 5:

All right, gentlemen, let's get us organised into sub-unit!

 

Narrator/Intv.:

For two days, Murray Barracks is in turmoil as troops supporting Singirok continue to question the authority of their officers.

 

Speaker 5:

Unless we get ourselves organised-

 

Speaker 5A:

I am the commander!

 

Speaker 5B:

[crosstalk 00:04:59].

 

Speaker 5:

Calm down. Calm down. Calm down.

 

Speaker 5C:

It's all finished. It's over.

 

Speaker 5D:

If you operate under these senior officers, they'll fuck you up. You won't get anywhere. They are officers, but they have colonial, bloody brains. Their time's over.

 

Speaker 5E:

[inaudible 00:05:28]-

 

Speaker 5D:

Commander is a young fellow. He's got brains there. You have to fight for him, okay?

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Captain Charlie Andrews is one officer whose loyalty to Singirok is not under question. He pilots this Iroquois, one of five donated by Australia for operations on Bougainville. With masking tape covering the more serious damage, this is the last military helicopter still flying.

 

Charlie Andrews:

We only get about one or two at the most running at any one time which is below operational capability. We cannot support a battalion with one aircraft out there in Bougainville. It's suicide.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Charlie quit the service three years ago disgusted by the military's plight. He returned from a high-paid job flying commercial helicopters only after a personal plea from Brigadier Singirok. But the problems continue, and he pays for the privilege of going to war.

 

Charlie Andrews:

Moving from the base to Bougainville or from Bougainville back to the base, we have to go in and practically beg hotel managers to pay for my own accommodation and the boys. The defence force cannot meet it. I have to pay for accommodation for myself and the boys or the crew or some of the pilots also contribute to pay for our accommodation and meals. We have turned up at the airports where the refuelers, Mobil or Shell refuse to refuel us because of a large sum of money being owed to them for non-payment of bills.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

For Charlie Andrews and his colleagues, Bougainville has been a humiliation. They agree with their commander that it's time to stop the war.

 

Charlie Andrews:

Militarily, you cannot win that war. It's against your own brothers and sisters out there, so most of the soldiers, the servicemen go out there with a big heart. They're not out there to destroy or kill unnecessarily.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

The military has been traumatised by the Bougainville experience. Charlie Andrews knows this war has not only split the country but families as well.

 

Charlie Andrews:

Come [inaudible 00:07:53]. Go inside.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Charlie's wife, Veronica, is Bougainvillean. Her brother is fighting for the rebels.

 

Charlie Andrews:

[inaudible 00:08:02].

 

Veronica A.:

Should our kids go to school tomorrow? They have declared tomorrow as a public holiday.

 

Charlie Andrews:

Tomorrow, no. They-

 

Veronica A.:

... won't be working?

 

Charlie Andrews:

... they will expect some more things tomorrow, so kids stay home. Everybody stay home. [foreign language 00:08:18].

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Charlie spends 10 months a year on Bougainville. The tension of combat heightened by the prospect of one day confronting a member of Veronica's family.

 

Veronica A.:

If something happens, I say to all, he was doing that was part of his duty. I can't-

 

Charlie Andrews:

I did tell her that with a situation like this, and if he's on the other, the opposition side, and if I have to confront him, I do not have the choice, but to ... If he's really up against me, and if I have to be the one that's going to draw, well, it's only in line of my duty.

 

 

I think this was taken-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Charlie has already-

 

Charlie Andrews:

... [crosstalk 00:08:59] times when the-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... been in action near Veronica's village evacuating the wounded-

 

Charlie Andrews:

... [crosstalk 00:09:04]-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... after a rebel attack.

 

 

But the Army too has committed many atrocities, and Charlie knows that when this is finally over, he will be called to account for the excesses of his colleagues.

 

Charlie Andrews:

One day I have to go, actually, go home to her village and to her people, and how they will welcome me I don't know because of what I have done around there. Though, I might have not really caused any destruction or damage out there. But just me being a military pilot, and they have seen me operating Iroquois out there. They have their own opinions, and how they will accept me or welcome me into their society, it's something that I have to really sort it out before I get there.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Just across from Charlie's air base the military has achieved a major victory. The mercenaries from Sandline International are going home. These were the men hired by Sir Julius Chan to succeed where his Army had failed to eliminate the Bougainville rebels before this June's national election. Instead, the Army is stage managing the humiliating exit. One of the world's top mercenary outfits outmanoeuvred by what they regarded as a second-rate, third world army.

 

 

But Sandline was paid $46 million-

 

Charlie Andrews:

[crosstalk 00:10:36] these aircraft-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... angers not only-

 

Charlie Andrews:

... all still sitting-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... Jerry-

 

Charlie Andrews:

... in the hangar.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... Singirok-

 

Charlie Andrews:

Well, as you can-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... but soldiers like Charlie Andrews.

 

Charlie Andrews:

... see from the different aircraft that's sitting out here-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

For a fraction of that amount, he says he could-

 

Charlie Andrews:

... mainly, they're waiting-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... repair his grounded-

 

Charlie Andrews:

... for parts.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... squadron.

 

Charlie Andrews:

These are the two CASA-235s that the government purchased from the Spanish government brand-new out from the factory. Since they arrived here I believe they have been doing nothing in the hangar because of funds to keep them airborne, keep them flying.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Yes.

 

Charlie Andrews:

As you can see, one has been used to, cannibalised to get the other one running.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

They're next to useless sitting here like this.

 

Charlie Andrews:

It's next to useless sitting here like this.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Yes, yes. What's this aircraft here?

 

Charlie Andrews:

This one has been brought by our friends from Sandline. I don't know what they're going to do with it, but this is one of the aircraft they were going to use for the [inaudible 00:11:34] operations.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

What does it do? What's the specialty of this particular aircraft?

 

Charlie Andrews:

I was told this one was going to be used as a spotter aircraft. That's another one of the Sandline International aircraft.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

How much would something like this be worth roughly?

 

Charlie Andrews:

Oh, about 4 million.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

$4 million ... Once again, you've obviously taken over ownership of this?

 

Charlie Andrews:

I think so. I think so. If the government has paid for it, well, it belongs to the government now. What they're going to do with it, I do not know.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

What would Sandline have used this for on Bougainville? What kind of operational role would it have filled?

 

Charlie Andrews:

It's good for troop, movement of troops, parachuting. If they were going to use it for any parachute dropping, they would use this one. It's got a rear door.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

The government repeatedly claimed the mercenaries were only advisors. But when Charlie learnt they were bringing their own helicopter gunships, he knew they were going into action.

 

Charlie Andrews:

For us, we knew that if somebody said that they were here for non-combat roles, we question it, because we knew we wouldn't be able to train, we could not [inaudible 00:12:43] to take over from them to do the job. We knew they were going to go with us with the weapons. They would still be out there, because for me to operate this aircraft or a gunship within three weeks-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Just wasn't possible.

 

Charlie Andrews:

It was impossible.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

With the mercenaries expelled and Sir Julius Chan on the defensive, Brigadier Jerry Singirok descends from his hilltop to address the troops.

 

Jerry Singirok:

They are international terrorists as far as I'm concerned. [inaudible 00:13:26]. They go to third world countries and now make those third world countries become banana republics. They will make national forces become totally useless. That's what they nearly did here. This force must continue to protect the sovereignty and defend its people, right?

 

JS supporters:

Yeah!

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Gone was the chaos-

 

Jerry Singirok:

[crosstalk 00:13:55]-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... of previous days. In its place a large disciplined force united behind its sacked commander.

 

Jerry Singirok:

I am no Messiah. I am only an instrument. I humble myself. I don't intend to get this glory. But I cannot put up with corruption, with decisions that does not reflect the people's need.

 

Speaker 8:

Attention! March to the right [inaudible 00:14:21]! Right, ha!

 

Narrator/Intv.:

He's lost his command, but Jerry Singirok is still very much in control as his men form up behind him to march onto the national political stage.

 

Speaker 8A:

[inaudible 00:14:36] left, right, left, right [crosstalk 00:14:39]-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Perhaps this is what Sir Julius Chan feared when six months ago he tried to have Singirok replaced with the defence forces' first commander, Ted Diro.

 

Ted Diro:

It was offered to me by the Prime Minister and the secretary for the Prime Minister's department that I should put my uniform back and go back to command the force. They insisted that I was still on reserve, which I am, and that it would be legally not impossible for me to be back in the military.

 

Speaker 8:

[inaudible 00:15:14] fall out. [inaudible 00:15:16].

 

Narrator/Intv.:

Ted Diro says he declined the offer despite his dismay at the forces' disintegration. But if he were commander, Diro says he'd implement a radical new role for these officers-

 

Speaker 8C:

Minimum notice-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... place them in key positions-

 

Speaker 8C:

... [crosstalk 00:15:31]-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... of the civilian bureaucracy as Indonesia has done with its military.

 

Speaker 8C:

After the suspension [crosstalk 00:15:38]-

 

Ted Diro:

What I'm suggesting is that they be involved in the administration in the public service. They'd be [inaudible 00:15:43] from defence to come over to public service to try and bolster the administration, so there is some sense of involvement by the disciplined forces.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

You'd support an Indonesian-style model where there's greater integration between the military and the civilian government structure.

 

Ted Diro:

Yes, the signs seem to indicate that the national interest would be best served by having some military people participating in the administration.

 

Narrator/Intv.:

After a nine-day standoff between Singirok and Chan, Captain Charlie Andrews is back in the air.

 

 

At the gates of Parliament, protestors demand the Prime Minister's resignation. The night before MPs were besieged in the building-

 

Speaker 9:

[foreign language 00:16:40]-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

... after voting to keep Sir Julius in power.

 

 

Now the Army is out on the streets openly supporting the protestors. Overhead, Charlie Andrews makes slow, intimidating passes over the Parliament building.

 

 

Finally, Sir Julius relents.

 

PM Sir Julius:

[inaudible 00:17:01] This is both in the interest and for the good and in order to diffuse what is something that I consider to be a little bit explosive outside, I myself will step aside.

 

Jerry Singirok:

We will never, ever take over. I want Australians to understand that democracy will prevail in this part of the region. Democracy will stay. What I have done, Australia, is that I have saved democracy. I have protected the Constitution of this country.

 

Crowd:

Singirok! Singirok! Singirok! Singirok! Singirok! Singirok! Singirok! [crosstalk 00:17:54]-

 

Narrator/Intv.:

But the irony is that in attempting to defend the Constitution, Jerry Singirok may have undermined it. The military has become a political player. Will these soldiers still be cheering if the next elected government decides to mount another Bougainville offensive?

 

 

This rebellion has been relatively peaceful. But no future government can ever depend on the automatic loyalty of the military.

 

 

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