BUKA CHIEFS THREATEN TO PULL OUT OF BOUGAINVILLE PEOPLES CONGRESS

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By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Bougainville (June 10, 1999 - The National)---The Laitena Council of Chiefs yesterday petitioned the newly formed Bougainville Peoples Congress (BPC) President Joseph Kabui to include five of their nominated members in the congress, sources in Buka told The National.

The Buka chiefs, who were upset with Sinato-Kabui led faction, have reportedly asked Mr. Kabui and his 30 executive members to accept their request or they would pull their eight members out of the congress, government officials in Buka said.

The sources said they were not sure of the full content of the petition including other demands, but it was understood that the Laitena Council of Chiefs is not happy with the manner in which the BPC was formed.

More than 100 BPC members elected Mr. Kabui as president while two other Kabui friends -Thomas Anis (former Bougainville Transitional Government Premier) and South Bougainvillean James Tanis as deputies.

The Buka chiefs choice for the top post, George Lesi, was defeated in the vice-president's election by Mr Anis.

Former rebel spokesman and BPC executive member Andrew Miriki confirmed last night that Mr. Kabui left Central Bougainville yesterday for Buka to receive the petition.

Mr. Miriki also confirmed that the next BPC meeting was scheduled to convene today at Arawa's Marimari church.

"All I know is about the president's departure this morning to receive a petition from the Laitena Council of Chiefs in Buka. The other thing is that we are to have the second BPC meeting tomorrow (today)," he said.

Buka sources said if Mr. Kabui and his executive did not react favorably to their (Laitena Council of Chiefs) petition, there was a possibility that they may withdraw their eight elected members from the BPC.

The National understands that the resistance forces, who had collaborated recently in opposing the Kabui/Sinato faction were behind the petition with the aim of causing instability in newly formed BPC administration.

Attempts to contact Laitena Council of Chiefs chairman Joel Banam and Mr. Kabui in Buka were unsuccessful last night.

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

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