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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 23, 1999 - Post-Courier)---A major breakthrough has been achieved in the quest for permanent peace on Bougainville.

Bougainville leaders yesterday signed a new deal in Rotorua, New Zealand, pledging a renewed commitment to unite and work towards peace and restoration of services on the island.

Known as the Matakana and Okataina Understanding, the agreement was signed by the province's four MPs John Momis, Michael Ogio, Michael Laimo and Sam Akoitai; co-chairmen of the Bougainville Constituent Assembly, Joseph Kabui and Gerard Sinato; Resistance Forces chairman Hillary Masiria; chairman of Leitana Council of Elders, Joe Banam; and Special State Negotiator Sir John Kaputin.

Former New Zealand Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves, who played a leading role in the talks, witnessed the signing, while Prime Minister Bill Skate praised the Bougainville leaders for their commitment to peace and pledged the Government's support.

Some of the 16 points agreed on include:

· THE immediate disposal of weapons with the help of the Peace Process Consultative Committee, New Zealand and the United Nations observer mission.

THAT all parties remain committed to securing lasting peace through implementation of both the letter and the spirit of the Lincoln Agreement.

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


PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 22, 1999 - PACNEWS/Post-Courier)---After several days of intense negotiations in New Zealand, leaders from the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville are close to signing a new agreement, paving the way for the peace process to be taken to a new level.

This development has reportedly forced PNG Prime Minister Bill Skate to delay his departure for 24 hours so he can see the agreement signed by the leaders in the New Zealand city of Rotorua.

The Post Courier reports that Skate was due to return to Port Moresby via Sydney yesterday but canceled the trip at the last minute.

He met with faction leaders all night on Tuesday (April 20) and reportedly retired after 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday (April 21), only to return to the talks a few hours later.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Don McKinnon also was with the Bougainville leaders during the night.

Skate told the leaders that they had arrived at the final chapter of their negotiations and it was important to conclude the peace talks and move on.

He said the meeting, held at the lakeside resort of Okataina Lodge, 25 kilometers (15 miles) outside Rotorua, had to be the last held outside PNG.

The Prime Minister thanked the New Zealand Government for its continued commitment in helping achieve peace on Bougainville. However, he said all future talks must be held on Bougainville or elsewhere in PNG and his Government would cover the costs.

PNG’s special state negotiator for Bougainville, Sir John Kaputin, submitted a new draft agreement to the Bougainville leaders in an effort to move the peace process forward towards reality.

Though the draft was studied and discussed yesterday, no details were made public.

By late afternoon, the leaders emerged encouraged that they could move forward with confidence, returning peace to the island.

Skate said he was encouraged by the way all leaders approached the talks and gave his commitment to work with them until the final outcome.

"I have to take a stand because I want the peace process to move forward,'' he said.

Sir John thanked Skate for showing "true leadership" and commitment. He said he was pleased and encouraged by the progress and confident that the peace process on Bougainville would further accelerate.

Leaders attending the talks include representatives of the Bougainville Constituent Assembly, (which includes the former Bougainville Transitional Government, the Bougainville Interim Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army), the Leitana Council of Elders and resistance fighters.

The meeting was chaired by the former Governor General of New Zealand, Sir Paul Reeves.


By Frank Senge Kolma

ROTORUA, New Zealand (April 22, 1999 - The National)---The Bougainville leaders meeting this week started out low key -- as a study tour.

The meeting was closing last night with a sense of euphoria and hope -- the first ever signs of a thaw were appearing in the formerly entrenched positions of all parties.

Since Burnham I, this is the first time leaders of all factions have come together to discuss an overall strategy for the political future of Bougainville.

They were late last night still discussing the strategy and the draft of a statement to be released when the meeting ends.

For a time this week it looked hopeless, many leaders in the group conceded, because almost all camps held firmly to their positions and would not give in.

But then yesterday Prime Minister Bill Skate and chief negotiator Sir John Kaputin arrived and appealed to the leaders to come to a compromise.

Sir John said: ''What has been missing so far was a starting point. I appealed to them and told them that they would be failing the people if they did not agree on anything. I also told them that the Prime Minister was allocating a lot of time to the peace process and all leaders including myself must take note of that and respect his sincerity.''

His blunt message was, in the words of one leader, ''slogging it out to the all lot of us.''

And it carried the day. A number of leaders, including the Prime Minister, had tears in their eyes and by the end of the day they were debating, adding to, and amending the rudiments of a strategy put to the meeting by Sir John.

''This is a starting point,'' Sir John said. "Although we are yet to finalize this document, the positive response by the leaders is a welcome indication. This is a significant breakthrough since the peace talks began. Next time there will be something on the table for us to discuss."

Yesterday afternoon a tired-looking but elated group boarded the Okataina Lodge motor launch for a cruise of beautiful Okataina Lake.

Mr. Skate was to have come back yesterday, but sensing that something significant was developing, he stayed back with his party.

He said: ''I will stay here the whole weekend to make sure that this process gets all the support and recognition it deserves.''

Mr. Skate commended the leaders for leaving their entrenched positions and coming together in the name of peace for the people.

His proposed meeting with the leaders of mainline churches this weekend may be deferred as a result.

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

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