BOUGAINVILLE BILLS GET SECOND CHANCE

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 2, 1998 - Post-Courier)---Parliament failed yesterday to muster the majority required to pass an important law on a future government for Bougainville.

It could only manage 65 of the 73 votes required to pass the legislation to amend the Constitution allowing for the establishment of a special government for Bougainville.

Of the 66 MPs in the chamber when the vote was taken, only Sir Pita Lus (Maprik) voted against the bill.

He was one of only 11 Opposition MPs there.

Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi and the other nine of his colleagues in the chamber -- Bart Philemon, Moi Avei, Michael Laimo, Henry Smith, Galus Yumbui, Riddler Kimave, George Wan, Titus Philemon and Sir John Kaputin -- voted with the Government.

Parliament will get another chance on the same bill today because soon after its failed passage, the Government moved to rescind that vote so it can be voted on again today.

The other related bill to be debated and voted on today is on the composition of the proposed Bougainville Reconciliation Government. It is proposed that it will initially be comprised of Bougainville's four national MPs, leaders of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, the Bougainville Interim Government, the Bougainville Transitional Government and community heads.

An election proper is proposed for June next year to elect the new government.

Debate entered some heated moments with members on both sides exchanging criticisms and abuse.

Government Minister Simon Kaumi pleaded with Members to vote for it because of its significance to peace.

"I appeal to Members on both sides of Parliament, please, give your endorsement . . . this is a bipartisan thing.''

Sir Pita Lus said PNG was a united country and the same law should apply to all provinces.

He claimed that many genuine efforts by PNG leaders were being "fouled up'' by those leading the crisis.

Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai said the amendments, when passed, would send a positive signal to Bougainvilleans of the genuineness of PNG leaders.

"I don't think we leaders here want to make the same mistakes of the past where our people experienced huge sufferings,'' he said.

"I believe each of us want to see our country stay together and the people enjoy good times and freedom as was enjoyed on Bougainville before the crisis.

"If you are serious about solving the conflict, this is the time to prove it . . . to the people of Papua New Guinea and the people of Bougainville that you are serious about addressing the problem.''

Mr. Akoitai also commended Bougainville leaders, including the BIG's Joseph Kabui, who for the first time had agreed on a compromise and for the proposed amendments.

He said it showed that there was a change in approach by these leaders and signaled an end to crisis.

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

BIPARTISAN SPIRIT OUT AS BOUGAINVILLE LEGISLATION FAILS

By Neville Togarewa and Isaac Nicholas

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 2, 1998 - The National)---The Opposition yesterday dumped Parliament's bipartisan spirit out the window when it failed to provide the Government with the numbers to pass a vital constitutional amendment to establish the Bougainville Reconciliation Government.

The House needed a two-thirds absolute majority of 73 votes but could only manage 65, with veteran Maprik MP Sir Pita Lus the only one voting against the bill in the second vote. The first vote was taken last month.

Earlier, when a motion was moved to stop debate and a division was called, 54 Government and three Opposition MPs combined to pass the motion by 57 votes to the Opposition's 14.

While most of the 60-odd Government MPs were present, more than half the Opposition's 40 Members were absent from the chamber.

Notable among them were Deputy Opposition leader and Pangu leader Chris Haiveta, East Sepik Governor and National Alliance leader Sir Michael Somare and his Central counterpart and People's Action Party leader Ted Diro. They were all present during the morning session.

Petroleum and Energy Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu, who is currently attending a mining and petroleum conference in Sydney, was among the five or six Government MPs missing.

An obviously disappointed Prime Minister Bill Skate questioned Opposition leader Bernard Narokobi and his members over the failure to pass the bill.

He questioned if the Opposition members were really genuine in their commitment to national unity and Parliament's bipartisan approach to bringing about a permanent and lasting peace after nine years of bloody conflict, suffering and destruction in Bougainville.

Mr. Skate then successfully moved a motion to rescind the vote. The bill will be put back on the floor for Parliament to again debate and try to enact it today.

What was meant to be a sober, rational and intelligent debate on a very important national issue turned into a shouting match between the Government and the Opposition.

Mover of the bill, Provincial and Local Government Affairs Minister Simon Kaumi, and Mr. Narokobi hurled abuse at each other.

The shouting match continued with MPs on both sides calling names and heaping blame on each other for previous wrongs.

Speaker John Pundari and his deputy Michael Ogio were forced to call Parliament to order on numerous occasions and ruled many points out of order.

The obvious animosity between the Government and the Opposition may have contributed to the negative vote in the end.

Even a plea for bipartisan support by Bougainville Affairs Minister and Central Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai could not get those MPs outside the chamber to come in and cast their crucial vote.

The amendments to the Constitution and the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments must be passed during this sitting of Parliament in order to set up the interim BRG on January 1, as stipulated by the Lincoln Agreement.

This is necessary for a full democratically elected reconciliation government to be put in place by June 30.

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

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