BUKA CHIEFS PUSH FOR FRESH VIEW ON BOUGAINVILLE

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BUKA, Papua New Guinea (December 31, 1998 - Post-Courier)---A secession within a secession has developed on Bougainville with Buka declaring it would push for provincial status if Bougainville's government is unsatisfactory.

Buka leaders presented a nine-point petition to that effect to the Government yesterday in Port Moresby. It was addressed to Prime Minister Bill Skate, but presented to Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai by a 12-member delegation of chiefs.

The delegation also paid a courtesy call on Opposition Leader Bernard Narokobi to explain their stance. He also explained to them the Opposition's position on events leading to Parliament's failure to pass important legislation on Bougainville in December.

Signatories to the Buka chiefs' petition are: James Togel, who is leader of the delegation; Joel Banam, Chairman of the Lietana Council of Elders; and Joseph Sahoto, the Provincial Minister for Education.

The petition calls for a Bougainville government similar to those in the other provinces under the auspices of the 1995 provincial government reforms.

It, at the same time, calls for a totally new leadership to run that government.

Some of the points strongly question the current leadership of the province and argue that Buka has not gained through them in terms of development.

The second point reads: "We don't want to be governed by dishonest and incompetent leaders. Buka has not seen any meaningful development in the past five years except for the hospital and the airport.''

It continues: "We do not want our people to be subjected to intimidation, threats, lawlessness and poor quality services resulting from indecisiveness and remote control.

"We do not want to entertain a government that perpetuates anarchy and division.''

Instead they said the Buka people wanted a government for the next three months that operated within the legal framework of Papua New Guinea.

"To this end, we will actively support the imposition of the reform, provided that the so-called reform gives us ample room to negotiate a future political settlement for Bougainville,'' the petition states.

"We do want a change of leadership because it is our belief that the present leadership has already demonstrated their incompetence.

"We want a strong and decisive leadership to address issues such as law and order, peace and reconciliation and restoration.

"We want the government to honor and implement various agreements and accords made, such as the Malagan and Lincoln agreements.

"We want to actively pursue a disarmament program because it is our firm belief that the presence of arms will always distort the choices of our own people in a free democratic elected government.

"If none of our demands are met, we want to let it be known that Buka district will become the 20th province in Papua New Guinea. This we shall actively pursue.''

There was no immediate comment from the National Government, the Bougainville Transitional Government and other factions on the island.

This new development is certain to further complicate what is already a sensitive and contentious issue, in so far as the status of a government of Bougainville is concerned.

Following Parliament's failure to pass important legislation to empower the establishment of a compromise government on the island, leaders of sections of Bougainville have made their own move to set up a government to succeed the Bougainville Transitional Government (BTG), which will cease to exist after midnight tonight.

Parliament's failure to pass those legislation also means Bougainville's government would be similar to those of other provinces, to be headed by a governor. In this case the Regional MP, John Momis, will become Governor.

But current BTG Premier Gerard Sinato and Bougainville Interim Government (BIG) Chairman Joseph Kabui have spearheaded moves to set up the Bougainville Reconciliation Government (BRG), even without Parliament's blessing.

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

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