SIR MICHAEL SOMARE ASKED TO HONOR 1997 BOUGAINVILLE PROMISE

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By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (September 8, 1999 – The National)---Bougainville rebels want Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare to fulfill an undertaking he had made two years ago "to back them in pushing for a new political arrangement for the island."

Rebel spokesman Andrew Miriki said during the weekend that with the appointment of Sir Michael as Minister responsible for Bougainville affairs, Bougainvilleans want him to put his words into action.

"We have not forgotten the words Sir Michael spoke to us at Guava village in 1997. Now that he has been given the job by the new Government to take charge of Bougainville affairs, we want to see him turning his words into action," he said

Mr. Miriki, whose is also an elected member in the Bougainville Peoples Congress (BPC), claimed that Sir Michael had made an undertaking while he was in South Bougainville, negotiating the release of five members of the PNG security forces, that he would support the rebels in their push for more autonomy.

Sir Michael was then a member of a parliamentary bi-partisan committee trying to solve the Bougainville conflict.

"We still keep Sir Michael's words that if we release the five hostages, he would do anything in his capacity as the father of the nation to support us in our moves to negotiate for a new political arrangement for Bougainville," he said.

Meanwhile, Public Service Minister Philemon Embel arrived yesterday in Arawa to start a weeklong investigation on the situation in North Solomons province.

Mr. Embel and his delegation are in the province to establish circumstances surrounding the suspension of the North Solomons Provincial Government before reporting to Parliament on whether it would be in the best interest of the Bougainvilleans to lift the suspension.

This was because they did not want to allow Bougainville to come automatically under the reform law on provincial and local level governments in the event the suspension was lifted.

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

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