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TARAWA, Kiribati (August 12, 1997 - PACNEWS)---Kiribati's member of parliament from Southern Nikunau Island, Tiwau Awira, has died following a long illness.

The 56-year-old politician had been a member of parliament since Kiribati's independence from Great Britain 18 years ago.

The late Awira held a variety of ministerial posts during his government career, including finance minister under the Micronesian country's two former governments of President Ieremia Tabai and President Teatao Teannaki.

While a cabinet minister in the Teannaki government, Awira was accused of misusing public funds, contributing to the downfall of the government. Up until his death, however, the former finance minister refused to accept the guilty findings of a Kiribati government Commission of Inquiry.

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