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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 30, 1998 - The National)---Chiefs and leaders are concerned about what appears to be increased Bougainville separatist rebel activity which could be counter-productive to the peace process on the island, according to defense intelligence reports.

Rebel elements have stepped up intimidation of soldiers and policemen, especially in central Bougainville and Buin, according to a three-day intelligence assessment done over the Christmas weekend.

Factions in the Buin area are reported to be involved in criminal activities like selling high-powered weapons to businessmen in Rabaul and as far away as Lae.

Rebel leader Francis Ona, who has so far disassociated himself from the peace negotiations, has surrounded himself with a 110-strong "Mekamui" or "Motherland" defense force in central Bougainville.

According to the report, the Mekamui faction is responsible for policing a self-imposed "no-fly zone", shooting at both military and civilian aircraft in their area.

The intelligence report also cites one case of a stolen Government vehicle and two instances of Government vehicles being damaged in Arawa recently.

The report also claims that rebel leaders Sam Kauona, Ishmael Toroama and Steven Topesi have lost control of their men in central Bougainville.

It also notes that rebel commanders and their men had met at Kongara last week and discussed what they could do to "intimidate Defense Force personnel on the ground" with a goal of provoking counter-attacks or retaliation.

In the Buin area, the rebels are reported to be drinking home-brew alcohol and firing at soldiers and policemen in Buin town.

The report said that the troops were "keeping their cool", in line with the cease-fire agreement.

These incidents have been reported to members of the neutral Peace Monitoring Group in Arawa, Loloho and Buka but nothing has been done about it.

The intelligence report also says that chiefs and leaders were concerned that rebel elements throughout the island may have lost trust and confidence in those leaders now engaged in negotiating a political settlement after the 10 year conflict.

There also appears to be infighting among the rebel factions.

The report claims that rebel commander Joku Bobby and his faction are going after another commander, Thomas Tarry and his faction, whom they suspect in the killing of another rebel commander, Paul Bobby, earlier this year.

On criminal activities, the report said: "There are also criminal elements or activities in South-West Bougainville, in Bana district. They are engaged in buying and selling high-powered weapons to businessmen in Rabaul and Lae.

"For example, a M16-A2 grenade launcher (rifle) was recently sold to a businessman in Lae for K38,000. Items also include radio equipment," the report said, adding that the rebels were approaching soldiers and businessmen.

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




RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (December 31, 1998 - The National)---Bougainville rebels last night claimed that a group of Bougainvilleans led by regional MP John Momis were in Waigani to urge the Government to allow Bougainville to fall under the reform law when the transitional government's term expires today.

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said from Buin that sources in Buka and Port Moresby had told him that Mr. Momis and his supporters including former provincial government member James Togel, certain Melanesian Alliance members, and some Buka based council of elders left Buka on Tuesday for Port Moresby to pursue their agenda with the Government.

"Mr. Momis and his group are trying to make him the Governor when the BTG term expires," he said.

Attempts last night by The National last night for comments from Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai and Mr. Momis were unsuccessful.

"If Mr. Momis and his Melanesian Alliance cohorts are truly doing this, they are promoting personal interest and party politics to spoil the peace process," he said.

"According to the Lincoln Agreement which is the basis for the current peace process, the important principles of understanding, transparency, and consultation are required to be observed for the purpose of seeking a lasting political settlement for Bougainville."

Mr. Miriki said that if the peace process was destabilized as a result of some leaders' attempts to take advantage of any weakness in the process, they must be prepared to face the people who want a lasting solution through peaceful means.

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

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