BOUGAINVILLE PEACE STILL ELUSIVE AFTER CEASE-FIRE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 25, 1998 Post-Courier/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Peace in Bougainville may be still far from being achieved following revelations yesterday that members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) will not lay down their arms, the Post-Courier reports.

Reliable sources on the mainland told the Post-Courier that there was a general feeling among BRA members who have in their possession high powered firearms that if they put their arms down, they would be set upon by members of the PNG security forces.

Immediately after these revelations were made, BRA supreme commander, Francis Ona, jumped on the issue by saying that the rebels will only lay down their arms if their self proclaimed independence has been recognized.

Government sources on mainland Bougainville said rebels were walking around freely in Bougainville fully armed with high powered guns.

They also claimed that those criminals who were responsible for the armed robbery of K 18,000 (US$ 7,920) from AusAID staff two weeks ago, followed by the theft of a vehicle belonging to the contractor company working on Tarlena High School, North Bougainville, were in fact members of the BRA.

But yesterday, Mr. Ona clarified these claims, saying those who were responsible were loyal to the BRA faction led by Joseph Kabui.

Mr. Ona said: "My armies are ruled under the Mekamui Defense Force (MDF). However, the revelation of rebel soldiers refusing to hand over their firearms was expected because the peace process in Bougainville is not a true peace. I have said before that the peace treaty signed in Arawa was an economic peace to allow for a multinational company to return to Bougainville and reopen the mine."

"BRA rebels or MDF soldiers will not lay down their arms. In fact they will only exchange their arms for the recognition of independence for Bougainville."

Mr. Ona urged the people of Bougainville not to listen to Mr. Kabui, saying the guns were not given by the Papua New Guinea Government but were obtained through the blood of Bougainvilleans.

Title -- 1741 BOUGAINVILLE: Peace still elusive after cease-fire Date -- 25 September 1998 Byline -- None Origin -- niusedita@pactok.net.au Source -- Post-Courier (PNG), 25/9/98 Copyright - PC Status - Unabridged

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