INDEPENDENCE REMAINS BOUGAINVILLE TARGET: KABUI

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By Blaise Nangoi

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (January 28, 1998 - Niuswire/Post-Courier)---The best political solution to the Bougainville crisis is total independence for Bougainville, says a key rebel, the Post-Courier reports.

Joseph Kabui, the leader of the Bougainville Interim Government's delegation to the just concluded Lincoln talks, said in Honiara yesterday that the crisis had been too long and drawn out for Bougainvilleans to accept anything less than total independence from PNG.

Mr. Kabui, who is also Deputy Chairman of the BIG, said: "PNG is ready and willing to give Bougainville the highest possible autonomy.

"Perhaps at the beginning of the crisis that would have been possible, but not today,'' he said.

Mr. Kabui left for Bougainville yesterday with BRA commander Sam Kauona and the rest of their 61-man delegation.

Mr. Kabui and Kauona, provided armed security at their Honiara hotel by members of the Solomon Islands police force, said Bougainvilleans had already achieved part of the independence they had sought in the past nine years.

He explained that this was through the inventions and innovations of the people to survive.

That and the loss of about 15,000 lives had hardened their resolve to push for total independence.

The lives lost would be hard to erase from the minds of the people, adding this would make things doubly hard for Bougainville remaining a part of PNG.

"Memories will not be easy to erase. The healing will be very difficult," he said.

"The only sensible way for this process is for the two to part, to help start a real healing process. You get the purest gold when you put it through fire. We have been through that process,'' said Mr. Kabui.

He said Bougainville had a legal and genuine case to push for independence.

He said this was based on research revealing that when the Germans and the British carved up PNG under their rule in 1884, Bougainville was not taken as part of PNG, being left alone as part of the Solomon Islands.

It was not until around 1889 when Bougainville was used to trade off some Tongan interests by the British to the Germans, that it then became part of PNG. He said this demonstrated clearly that Bougainville was never part of PNG.

He also vehemently attacked the fear that independence for Bougainville would mean the disintegration of PNG as a country. At the best, he said, it would force the adoption of a regional or state system of government, and nothing more.

"These are mistakes our colonial masters made but they have to be corrected, and they will hurt,'' he said.

Mr. Kabui said the recently concluded talks in Lincoln were the best sign yet PNG was genuine in peace efforts, as was his side.

He described Prime Minister Skate as genuine and attuned to the problem on Bougainville.

He welcomed the government of reconciliation set to be formed between the BIG and BTG by the end of this year to act as the vehicle through which the political future of Bougainville will be discussed.

Sam Kauona, also transiting in Honiara, said PNG need not fear Bougainville's push for independence. He said it was a push which would in the long run establish Melanesian solidarity in the region.

He said an independent Bougainville would work very closely with Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

Title -- 1123 BOUGAINVILLE: Independence remains target, says Kabui Date -- 28 January 1998 Byline -- Blaise Nangoi Origin -- Niuswire Source -- Post-Courier (PNG), 28/1/98 Copyright -- Post-Courier Status -- Unabridged

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