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Two Perspectives On Bougainville Referendum. . . .

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 27, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The first official steps towards a permanent peace on Bougainville Island will be taken this week, when an interim provincial government is formed.

Radio Australia Pacific correspondent Kevin McQuillan reports that the move follows the signing of an agreement on Friday.

"The agreement, known as the Loloata Understanding, came after a week of talks, which were salvaged only after Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare and the President of the Bougainville Congress, Joseph Kabui, met without their advisers.

"The Bougainville side has attained largely what it sought -- an autonomous government, with the right to hold a referendum at some time in the future.

"Later this week, Sir Michael will go to Bougainville to witness the swearing in of the interim government, which will operate until the country's constitution is changed.

"Sir Michael said that process cannot be done overnight. ‘The establishment of an autonomous government will be a cooperative process likely to extend over a number of years.’

"Kevin McQuillan for Radio Australia, Port Moresby."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.



PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 24, 2000 – Post-Courier)---The National Government remained non-committed on Bougainville's push for a binding referendum on independence after the latest round of talks ended in Port Moresby last night.

It could only say that it acknowledged the "aspirations for a binding referendum on independence as called for by the Bougainvillean leaders."

This is contained in the Loloata Understanding, a three-page document outlining broad areas of agreement reached after the National Government team led by Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare and the Bougainville delegation led by Governor John Momis and Bougainville Peoples Congress leader Joseph Kabui. The parties have been meeting since last Friday at the Loloata Island Resort until Tuesday and moved to the Islander Travelodge.

The Loloata Understanding falls short of committing the National Government to a referendum on Bougainville.

This was the most contentious issue under discussion in the past seven days.

The Bougainville delegation had been pushing for a commitment on a timetable for referendum but the National Government has been unmoved on the issue.

This has resulted in the agreement for "the parties to reaffirm their support for progressive political settlement that takes account of, among other things, the wishes of the people of Bougainville."

On the issue of autonomy, the document said an autonomous Bougainville government would be provided under the PNG Constitution and will, among others, provide:

The parties also agreed that the Bougainville Interim Government will be established under the Transitional Provisions of the organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local Level Governments. The members of that government are to be sworn in next week in Buka, Sir Michael told the signing ceremony last night.

Sir Michael described the agreement as another high point in the peace process but added, while it showed what had been achieved, there was also a lot to be done.

Mr. Momis hailed the agreement as a positive step to liberate not only the people of Bougainville but also the people of PNG.

Mr. Kabui described it as "a victory for peace." He said it was better than returning home empty handed, adding he was given a strong message before he left Buka last week - "don't come back empty handed."

Agreement will propel the peace process a few more steps forward, Mr. Kabui said.

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

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