BUKA, Papua New Guinea (March 31, 2000 – Post-Courier)---The people of Bougainville finally have a provincial government after more than 10 years and they came out in their hundreds to witness the swearing-in of members of the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government in Buka yesterday.

Gerard Sinato was sworn in as deputy governor under Bougainville Regional MP John Momis, while three women leaders, including Theresa Jaintong, were also sworn-in as members of the new assembly.

Governor General Sir Silas Atopare officiated at the ceremony, which was well attended by National Government Ministers, provincial governors and heads of foreign missions.

Sir Silas called on the new leadership and government to forge ahead in unity and build a better society for its people.

Other leaders also told the people of Bougainville that they have at last a "machine" that should deliver goods and services to them but that they should leave politics to the politicians and instead concentrate on growing their cocoa and copra.

The 25 members of the assembly, including the four national MPs, were also urged to work together in cooperation and unity to raise Bougainville to its one time status as the best province in PNG.

Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare said it was a day of achievement and challenge for Bougainville.

Sir Michael said the main achievement was that after a long gap, Bougainville finally has its own lawful government.

He said Bougainville leaders could now take responsibility for restoring services, rebuilding infrastructure and planning for Bougainville's future in the long term.

"The immediate challenge for Bougainville Leaders -- and officers of the administration -- is not only to make the machinery of government work, but to make sure that it produces results on the ground,'' he said.

"The long term challenge for everyone here is to keep working together -- by talking and co-operating in practical ways -- until we agree to establish and operate permanent arrangements for the government in Bougainville.''

Opposition Leader Bill Skate, who as Prime Minister was responsible for bringing Joseph Kabui to the negotiating table, said the achievement of establishing a new government must go to the people of Bougainville. Mr. Skate, who attended despite his daughter being admitted to the Port Moresby General Hospital's Intensive Care Unit with a kidney problem on Wednesday night, said his heart was always with the people of Bougainville.

Mr. Kabui, who along with his Bougainville Peoples Congress are not members of the new assembly, said while there were many mountains to climb and many rivers to cross yet, this was a positive start.

Mr. Kabui said he was confident that from here on, "there was no turning back to finding a lasting peace for Bougainville.''

He said the onus was now on the people of Bougainville to make that happen and he called on leaders, especially, to put aside competition or challenges about leadership qualities and work as one united team. Mr. Momis expressed similar sentiments saying there was no time for cynicism and destructive competition as there must only be place for cooperation.

He said at last, the people of Bougainville have a government and the prerogative to make their decisions and be responsible for those decisions.

"It is indeed a small step to creating a big thing for ourselves,'' he said.

He said Bougainville was on the threshold of striking a new deal with the national government of PNG and many of them, as leaders, are honored given the signing of the Loloata Understanding which paves the way for higher autonomy while concurrently negotiating the issue of a referendum (on independence).

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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