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BUKA, Papua New Guinea (February 22, 1999 - Post-Courier)---State Minister Sam Akoitai has been accused of being naive in playing down a call for a separate province for Buka islanders.

Buka leader James Togel said this weekend that Mr. Akoitai's negative response to the Buka leaders' call for a separate province was "vindictive'' and "a complete failure on the part of the minister and his cohorts to understand and admit that there are factions on Bougainville that do not support secession''.

"The call for a separate province is an issue. It is part and parcel of the peace process on Bougainville and if the minister believes that he can shrug this off as a non-issue, I am afraid he is in for more shocks when some other parts of Bougainville call for similar status as Buka District. If the minister did not know, we are tired of violence. We want to get on with life,'' Mr. Togel said.

Factions on Bougainville were components of the peace process, but had been ignored for the sake of pleasing one faction, the BRA/BIG leadership, he said.

Mr. Akoitai was aware of the Buka leaders stance, as he had been presented with two petitions over the Christmas and New Year period.

"We are still waiting for some comprehensive and mature response from the minister instead of being issued with threats that the mainland BRA will invade Buka.

"The minister's continuous issue of threats to the Buka leaders and its people is most irresponsible and uncalled for. At least we now know who will order the invasion or fights on Bougainville. The blame will fall squarely on the minister and his co-chairmen on Bougainville,'' Mr. Togel said.

Mr. Togel urged Mr. Akoitai to convene the Bougainville leaders summit to address issues affecting Bougainville.

"It is high time the leaders themselves deal with these issues instead of using `people' to justify their political agenda. We want leaders to discuss these issues freely instead of using mob rule and threats from a certain faction.''

In such a summit, the people would want to know from the minister if independence for Bougainville was possible, Mr. Togel, a former provincial government leader, said.

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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