ONA CALLS FOR BOUGAINVILLE INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM

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CANBERRA, Australia (May 4, 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---The President of the Bougainville Interim Government, Francis Ona, has challenged his critics to organize an all-Bougainvillean referendum on independence for the troubled island. He said long lasting peace on Bougainville would only be achieved if and when the people's right to self determination, including independence, was fully addressed.

The hard-line secessionist leader has been told by his deputy, Joseph Kabui, and Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander, Sam Kauona, to join the peace process or face a no confidence motion. They are angry at Ona's threat to kill unarmed Australian, Fijian, New Zealand and Ni-Vanuatu peace keepers who enter his territory.

In a statement released in Canberra Sunday, Ona said Kabui's challenge to his leadership was made out of self pity and jealousy. He said the silent majority of Bougainvilleans had supported him (Ona) during the 10-year conflict.

Ona said the cease fire agreement signed last Thursday was not a pure Bougainvillean initiative, but the work of consultants who served the interests of foreign governments and multinational corporations.

"Kabui had no authorization from me or my government to negotiate with the Papua New Guinea government and compromise the issue of independence," Ona said. "Kabui has allowed himself to be manipulated by outside influences to forget about the sacrifices Bougainvilleans have made over the past 25 years in their struggle for self determination and independence."

(SEE ADDITIONAL THURSDAY, May 5, 1998 ITEM: Bougainville Rebel Leader Ona Sidelined.)

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