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By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (December 22, 1998 - The National)---East New Britain's popular Rabaul market which was destroyed by the 1994 volcano disaster will return to operation early next year.

This was following a funding of K216,000 (US$ 101,313) for the reconstruction of the old market facility by East New Britain provincial and local level governments.

Rabaul town authority officials said East New Britain provincial government, Rabaul town council and Rabaul joint district planning and budget priorities committee had made the funding available for the reconstruction of this facility.

Rabaul Mayor Ephraim Jubilee has applauded the provincial government during a ground-breaking ceremony for the reconstruction of the facility last Tuesday for allocating K116,000 (US$ 54,434 of the K216,000) in its 1998 budget.

He said it was a sensible move, considering the wishes of the people, instead of listening to consultants who did not want Rabaul to be rebuilt.

Mr. Jubilee made the remark when attacking the Gazelle Restoration Authority (GRA) and its consultants for ignoring the rebuilding of the town and using the issue as a political plank in the last four years.

"GRA was against the inclusion of the reconstruction of Rabaul town as the administrative and commercial center of the district and its authorities have put the issue into politics," he said.

"In phase two of the GRA's program, GRA's stand was completely against the wishes of the legitimate government of the day and its people."

Mr. Jubilee told a crowd of more than 200 people, including business house representatives, that it was hard to understand the GRA's motive behind ignoring Rabaul in terms of funding for restoration of basic services and infrastructure while the national and the provincial governments had relaxed their positions on rebuilding the volcanic town.

"Because of GRA's negative attitude towards construction of Rabaul town, my people have been denied proper facilities and services in the areas of health, education, sports and recreation for the last four years," he said.

Mr. Jubilee said 27,000 people from Rabaul district that fled the town and surrounding villages had returned and he was prepared to move forward in terms of fighting for what they deserved from respective governments.

He said following the completion of the reconstruction work on the market facility, which is expected to be opened early next year, his administration and joint district planning and budget priorities committee were planning on clearing the old Queen's Park for a temporary sports field until a permanent field is constructed.

Mr. Jubilee said the purpose of clearing Queen's Park, a magnificent sports facility that also suffered total destruction in the 1994 volcano disaster, was to engage people in the Gazelle Peninsula in sports on a central field.

"Since the 1994 volcano disaster, our ability to contribute towards sports development in the country has dropped drastically. We need a central place like Queen's Park to bring back sports to our people," he said.

Mr. Jubilee also requested the endorsement of the provincial government and other authorities for funding of reconstruction and the use of the facility as a temporary field.

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

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