RUCKUS OVER VENUE DELAYS BOUGAINVILLE MEETING

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By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (February 9, 1999 - The National)---A Bougainville leaders' meeting has been deferred to later this month as rebel and resistance commanders gathered last week in Arawa to discuss the issue of disarmament on the island, according to Bougainville rebels.

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said the deferral of the proposed leaders' meeting was to give enough time to the parties in the peace process to make further consultation to select an adequate venue for the meeting.

Mr. Miriki said yesterday, from Buin in South Bougainville, choosing an adequate venue was necessary as regional MP John Momis wanted the meeting to be held outside Bougainville and PNG while others say it was not necessary to have it out of the country.

He said selected members from the recently established Bougainville Constituent Assembly were undergoing consultative talks with other Bougainville leaders, including Mr. Momis, on the time and venue for the meeting.

Mr. Miriki pointed out that his faction was not happy with information reaching Bougainville; that Mr. Momis was in favor of having the meeting outside PNG and Bougainville.

"There is really no need for us to have meetings outside Bougainville and PNG. We don't know why Mr. Momis would like us to have the meeting outside the country," he said.

Mr. Miriki said the question of funding the meeting was another pressing issue that needed to be considered seriously when talking about taking the meeting to other places.

"If the meeting is to be held outside the country, we want to know about the sources of funding," he said.

The proposed leaders' meeting was resolved at the recent Constituent Assembly meeting in Arawa with the purpose of settling differences that Bougainville leaders had towards promoting the peace process.

Mr. Miriki said the next Constituent Assembly meeting this month will finalize the date and the venue for the meeting, adding that the Bougainville based leaders would like to see Mr. Momis and the other three MPs cooperate and make the proposed meeting fruitful for the sake of restoring lasting peace on the crisis torn island.

In other developments:

He said the issue of disarmament and the redrawing of constitutional boundaries would be two important agendas that were expected to be discussed at length during the next Constituent Assembly meeting.

According to NBC Buka, chiefs Thomas Sogae and Latu Labanama were urging people in Buka to accept the reform law on provincial and local level governments.

The two leaders and their colleagues were also reportedly telling people that Buka would become the 20th province if leaders from mainland Bougainville did not want to accept the reform.

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