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By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (May 5, 1999 - The National)---Bougainville rebels have threatened to withdraw from the peace process, claiming that the governments of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand have tricked them into signing the recent Matakana and Okataina Understanding in New Zealand.

Rebel supreme commander Sam Kauona's private secretary, Robinson Asitau, said in a statement that the rebels have now lost confidence in the New Zealand Government as a result of the role it had played in the recent Bougainville leaders study tour to New Zealand.

He said what appeared to be a study tour organized by the New Zealand Government got cleverly revised into a major negotiation session with PNG's Special State Negotiator Sir John Kaputin and Prime Minister Bill Skate, who manipulated the talks in the absence of the rebels' technical officers, including their lawyers.

Mr. Asitau added that as a result of the signing of the understanding, the present BRG elections have now been undermined, implying that they are no longer proper, and seriously undermining the powers of the people under their own Bougainville Constitution.

"The BRA is now seriously rethinking its position within the entire peace process. Underhand tactics and moves as recently orchestrated by New Zealand and PNG under the so called study tour only go to undermine the credibility of the peace process," he said.

He said Mr. Kauona's decision against putting his signature to the understanding was a clear demonstration of the rebels’ disappointment about the manner in which the New Zealand and Governments had manipulated the sessions in New Zealand.

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki confirmed this position yesterday.

Mr. Miriki said their political leader, Joseph Kabui, who signed the Makatana and Okataina Understanding, also endorsed this view.


PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 5, 1999 - The National)---Special state negotiator for Bougainville Sir John Kaputin has briefed the Director of the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville, Ambassador Noel Sinclair, on the national delegation's participation in the meeting with Bougainville leaders in New Zealand.

The purpose of the briefing was to highlight the contents, significance and implications of the meeting's main outcome, the Matakana and Okataina Understanding, including the steps which will have to be taken so that it makes a real difference on the ground.

Sir John said that the understanding was important not because it contained new agreements but because of the way in which Bougainvillean leaders came together and renewed their commitment to cooperate in consolidating and advancing the commitments contained the Lincoln and cease fire agreements.

"The United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville is a good friend, a strong supporter and, in fact, a key element in the Bougainville peace process," Sir John said.

"With the support of all parties, the Director chairs the Peace Process Consultative Committee. The Observer Mission facilitates peaceful exchanges between the parties, while the official United Nations presence provides reassurance and helps to build mutual confidence on the ground.

"The United Nations Observer Mission's role in monitoring compliance with the Lincoln Agreement plays an important part in consolidating and furthering peace.

"It is, therefore, vital that it is provided with full information about developments as they occur.

"As Special State Negotiator for Bougainville, I am pleased at the way in which Ambassador Sinclair responded so promptly and allowed me to bring him up-to-date."


By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (May 4, 1999 - The National)---Buka Island will select its representatives to the Bougainville Peoples Congress (BPC) instead of allowing a proper election to take place as originally scheduled.

This follows an agreement reached between the members of the Bougainville Constituent Assembly (BCA) and the Laitena Council of Chiefs, which represents Buka Island and is chaired by Joel Banam.

Mr. Banam said that the decision to allow Buka to proceed with selecting its leaders to the BPC was in line with the BCA and its constitution.

He added that there was no need to commit public resources in conducting an election when the Matakana and Okataina Understanding, signed two weeks ago in New Zealand, allowed for a proper election take place in the middle of this year.

Central Bougainville chiefs selected their representatives for the 14 constituencies, including rebel leader Joseph Kabui, a month ago.

South Bougainville resistance forces commander Jacob Naisy said other parts of Bougainville, including Wakunai, Tinpurtz, Buin, Siwai, Nagovis, and Tonu, should also follow Buka and Central Bougainville by selecting their leaders.

"After the signing of the understanding in New Zealand, I cannot see any reason why we should be serious about holding any election for the BPC," Mr. Naisy said.

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said chiefs in Wakunai and parts of South Bougainville were still undergoing consultative talks on whether to follow Buka and Central Bougainville on selecting their representatives.

According to provincial electoral officer Mathias Pehei, it would cost K400,000 (US$ 1 = K 2.421 on May 5, 1999) to conduct the election.

Meanwhile, Mr. Banam left Buka last Friday to pay a personal visit to the Prime Minister, Bill Skate.

He told The National the visit had "nothing to do with discussing the peace process behind closed-doors".

"I am planning to go there because he (Mr. Skate) had invited me for a personal visit," Mr. Banam.

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