BOUGAINVILLE REBELS URGE SKATE TO DEFER SIGNING PACT

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By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (January 6, 1999 - The National)---Prime Minister Bill Skate has been urged to defer the signing of the Bougainville Basic Agreement and his proposed visit to Bougainville this week.

Instead, Bougainville based parties to the peace process have asked Bougainville Affairs Minister Sam Akoitai to take a copy of the written agreement to Bougainville for consultation with the parties before the signing, Bougainville rebels said last night.

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said the Prime Minister's Office and Mr. Akoitai were informed of the changes through the office of a United Nations representative yesterday.

Mr. Miriki said Bougainville leaders, including Joseph Kabui, Gerard Sinato and other parties, have asked for a change in the proposed date for the signing of the agreement because they have not had a chance to see the final draft of the agreement.

"The signing of the Basic Agreement and the Prime Minister's visit will not proceed as planned. Instead we will make consultation on the contents of the agreement with Mr. Akoitai before signing it," he said.

Mr. Akoitai said on Monday that the agreement was aimed at bringing the newly formed Bougainville Reconciliation Government under the ambit of the PNG Constitution.

It was approved by Cabinet last Friday after suspending the minute-old Bougainville Provincial and Local Level Government.

Mr. Akoitai said the agreement provided for an agreed framework for formal establishment of the BRG and was consistent with the views of all parties involved in the peace process and within the laws of PNG.

Mr. Miriki said, however, that the Bougainville based leaders were worried about possible changes that may have been made to the original draft of the agreement without their notice, adding that all they knew before the Government's announcement of the approval of agreement was the draft their technical officers made in Buka before Christmas.

"While welcoming the Government's decision to suspend the reform law on Bougainville to effect the formation of the BRG, we would like to know whether the Cabinet has approved the same draft of the agreement our technical officers had come up with in Buka before Christmas," he said.

If there were any changes made to the original draft, he said, then it would obviously require consultation before signing.

Mr. Miriki said other issues that they want to cross-check include their proposal on the appointment of Messers Kabui and Sinato as chairpersons of the constituent assembly while Mr. Akoitai and John Siau take charge of administrative matters during the period leading up to when a proper BRG is formed through an election.

"Otherwise, it is all to do with the consultation that parties to the peace process are required to make towards a lasting political settlement through peaceful means," said Mr. Miriki.

He said that Mr. Akoitai yesterday informed leaders in Arawa that he would travel to Bougainville tomorrow for consultation on the agreement, adding that the leaders would set a new date for the signing during the consultation.

Mr. Akoitai and the Prime Minster's office could not be reached last night for comment on the changes.

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

PNG PRIME MINISTER SKATE NOT VISITING BOUGAINVILLE

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 6, 1999 - Radio Australia)---Papua New Guinea's Prime Minister Bill Skate has indefinitely called off his planned visit to Bougainville.

Mr. Skate is travelling to Buka, in the North Solomons Province, today to witness the signing of the agreement that forms the basis for the Bougainville Reconciliation Government.

Mr. Skate says he and his government support the Bougainville peace process, and he thinks it was more important that the Bougainvilleans themselves work together for peace on the island.

The Bougainville Affairs Minister, Sam Akoitai, has also travelled from Port Moresby to Buka today for the signing ceremony, amidst calls by Bougainvilleans for the signing to be called off until the agreement has been thoroughly studied by all Bougainvillean leaders.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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