BOUGAINVILLE VOTING "SET TO EXPLODE": PIHEI

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BOUGAINVILLE, Papua New Guinea (April 14, 1999 - Post-Courier)---Officials are calling for the "illegal" provincial elections on Bougainville to be put off, for fear of trouble. Provincial returning officer Mathias Pihei said the situation was already volatile and just waiting to explode.

He was calling for postponement, with polling due to start on April 24, because of the volatility and the repeated threats to his officers and himself.

"In Buin, people are firing their guns openly, while in Siwai, Nagovis and Buka, the resistance forces are equally determined to prevent the elections from going ahead," he said.

"I am calling for the elections to be postponed until such time as leaders of all factions on Bougainville come to some agreement on how to conduct the elections."

He said if no one takes heed of his call, he would have no choice but to call off the elections because the threats were so real.

"Now to be honest the rebels are determined to see the elections to go ahead, while on the other hand the resistance is saying the elections must stop."

He said his office was still weighing up the options and would be deciding in the next few days if the elections would go ahead. The police force was not going to be involved.

"What is the rush for? Why can’t we wait and fix up everything before we conduct the election," he said.

"It is a life-threatening situation."

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