BIPARTISAN AGREEMENT ON BOUGAINVILLE PEACE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 29, 1998 - The National)--- The Government and Opposition have hammered out a breakthrough agreement which will ensure a giant leap forward to lasting and permanent peace on Bougainville.

The four Bougainvillean MPs, Sam Akoitai (Central), Michael Ogio (North), Michael Laimo (South), and John Momis (Regional) will recommend a package of measures to Parliament to establish the Bougainville Reconciliation Government (BRG) by December 31, as provided for by the Lincoln Agreement.

Bougainville Affairs Minister Akoitai will recommend the package to Cabinet for endorsement.

The four leaders announced the breakthrough yesterday after the package was finalized at a series of meetings between Government and Opposition MPs, including Special State Negotiator Sir John Kaputin and Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi.

The proposals will see the term of the Bougainville Transitional Government end as scheduled on December 31, an interim reconciliation government to be put in place by January 1 and a fully democratically elected government to come into operation by June 1999.

The leaders agreed that both sides of the House will support the government's amendments to the Constitution and the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments in relation to Bougainville provided that further amendments are gazetted on the following:

The MPs also want all parties to the Lincoln Agreement to meet with Sir John Kaputin in October to agree to the membership of the BRG and related arrangements and the BTG to amend the provincial constitution to provide a basis for a broadly representative BRG.

In their first joint press conference since the 1997 election, the four MPs expressed their "sincere appreciation for the bipartisan approach that the Government and the Opposition are taking towards the package.

"It gives practical support to our shared commitment to give full effect to the principles and objectives of the Lincoln Agreement, including the early establishment of a democratically elected BRG," the MPs said.

"We believe very strongly that Bougainville needs a leadership that only a democratically elected BRG can provide.

"A democratic election will give all Bougainvilleans the opportunity to express and seek support for their views. It will then be able to see that the interests of all Bougainvilleans are taken into account in the progressive political settlement which is the key to consolidating peace."

They also urged Bougainvillean leaders to support the package, cooperate in promoting public awareness and understanding and assist in its implementation.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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