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CANBERRA, Australia (August 11, 2000 – The National)---North Solomons Governor John Momis told an Australian audience in Canberra yesterday that the national government is "systematically not responding" to reasonable requests from the people of Bougainville on the question of autonomy, a referendum (on independence) and disarmament."

He said, during a Bougainville Conference at the Australian National University, that the Waigani bureaucracy and the national government leadership do not understand these issues, which the Bougainville delegation had put forward for negotiation, especially through the Gateway Communiqué early last month.

"Bougainville crisis being a complex issue, you also need to address the question of efficient delivery of services and that question of disarmament with the negotiation of autonomy and the referendum.

"Those four issues must be simultaneously and adequately addressed and Waigani does not seem to understand that you can't talk about disarmament in isolation from a creative engagement in negotiations and in isolation from the efficient delivery of services," Mr. Momis said.

He said the North Solomons provincial government and the Bougainville People's Congress had been "carrying the political can for the central authority ... we can't go on doing this because they (Waigani) are systematically not responding to what I consider reasonable requests from the people of Bougainville to address the question of services, negotiation and disarmament."

He said: "I think they are mistakenly taking for granted peace on Bougainville."

Mr. Momis said destabilization, should it occur, would not be initiated by the leadership, but by the people, due to frustration and feeling of disempowerment.

He said the Bougainville issue has been at the forefront since before World War II. Many people mistake it to be a result of the Panguna mine.

"The people of Bougainville, because of their distinct historical background, because of their historical back ground, always felt separate.

"If we don't resolve it now, we will be guilty. We will be sinning by omission by allowing this instability to be regionalized in the Pacific," he warned.

Mr. Momis said the perception created by Waigani dragging its feet is that it (the Government) does not understand.

"Their reluctance to devolve or to recognize that there is a difference in Bougainville is very much regretted by the people of Bougainville because we have decided to opt for autonomy within the parameters of the PNG constitution."

Bougainville hardliners have in fact said if nothing good comes by September 15, they would take "certain measures."

However, Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare said on Thursday before flying to Switzerland for another Bougainville conference that the first reading of amendments to the Constitution to give autonomy to Bougainville would be presented to Parliament for debate next month.

Mr. Momis, however, said that there must be a demonstration of goodwill by the national government.

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

Provided by Vikki John ( VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au

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