KABUI SEEKS BOUGAINVILLE REFERENDUM

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Sept. 6, 1999 – The National)---The head of the interim political authority on Bougainville, Joseph Kabui, yesterday called on Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta to indicate whether or not he supported a referendum to determine Bougainville's political future.

As East Timorese had voted on their political future last week, Bougainvilleans were wondering if they would get the same opportunity, Mr. Kabui, the President of the Bougainville People's Congress, told AAP (Australian Associated Press).

In July this year, the Prime Minister at the time, Bill Skate, said his government was willing to consider a referendum on greater autonomy for Bougainville but ruled out independence for the war-torn island.

"What is important is that the people are given the democratic right to determine their future," Mr. Kabui said.

"We are hoping to get some sort of a commitment from the new Government."

Mr. Kabui said if Sir Mekere's government agreed to a referendum on Bougainville's political future, it would probably not be held for two to three years.

"Perhaps by the year 2001 something should be in place," Mr. Kabui said.

"By then whatever necessary constitutional and legal amendments that need to be made to accommodate the status of Bougainville can be done," he said.

Before any vote, agreement would have to be reached on what Bougainvilleans would vote for - if not independence, the highest degree of autonomy possible, Mr. Kabui said.

Mr. Kabui said Bougainville would not accept the installation of a provincial government.

A provincial government for Bougainville was supposed to be installed at the beginning of this year but was suspended by the Skate government, which cited rising tension and lawlessness on Bougainville as the reason.

Sir Mekere recently announced a national investigation committee to reconsider the suspension of the Bougainville provincial government.

Mr. Kabui said the installation of a provincial government would be unacceptable because Bougainvilleans wanted an entirely new political order and wanted the right to decide what it should be.

Mr. Kabui said Bougainvilleans believed provincial governments were not working properly.

"If the Government is thinking of bringing in the reformed provincial and local level government, this is going to be the biggest political sin in the eyes of Bougainville that the Government can make," Mr. Kabui said.

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

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