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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 1, 2000 – The National)---The Government is misleading the people of PNG through inaccurate and emotive statements, and it should stop doing so, says Bougainville Governor John Momis.

The governor said in a press statement yesterday that he is both surprised and disappointed by comments reportedly made by Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Michael Somare during a news conference on Tuesday.

"I am surprised by the number of factual errors and inaccuracies contained in what Sir Michael said. These do nothing but create a very misleading picture of the situation. For instance, Sir Michael says that the National Government has approved K 80 million (US$ 30 million) in funding for Bougainville. Where on earth did he get that figure? I only wish we had that kind of money. To date, we have been given less than one-tenth of that amount," he said.

"In fact, even the funding promised to us in the 2000 National Budget has not been arriving on time. Up to July, we are owed some K 4.5 million (US$ 1.7 million) in grant payment shortfalls.

"Another special appropriation of about K 4 million (US$ 1.5 million) approved by Prime Minister and Treasurer Sir Mekere Morauta in the 2000 Budget has not been released to us, despite our best efforts," Mr. Momis said.

He said the failure of the National Government to pay the budget grants on time and to release the funds promised is putting enormous pressure on the Bougainville Government to maintain even the most basic level of services.

"We are struggling to just keep our heads above the water with the meager funding we are getting. It is so frustrating to hear Sir Michael talk of K 80 million (US$ 30 million) we have never seen. More to the point, it is simply wrong," Mr. Momis said.

He also took issue with Sir Michael's criticism of the Bougainville Government.

Mr. Momis said: "Sir Michael says that it is up to us to run the government and that if we can't organize ourselves, then there must be something wrong. Of course it's up to us to run the Bougainville Government, and yes, there is something wrong -- we have no money. The National Government is holding it back."

He questioned the whereabouts of the K 80 million (US$ 30 million).

"It was all well and good to talk of the National Government approving funds, but where is it? If there is K 80 million (US$ 30 million) approved for us, then I challenge Sir Michael to give us the money and let us get on with the job," he said.

Mr. Momis said he is also disappointed because comments by Sir Michael do not advance the peace process and, indeed, put it at risk.

In particular, the governor criticized Sir Michael's suggestion that some people in Bougainville might want to start fighting again.

He said such comments are uncalled for and dangerous to the peace process.

"To in any way suggest that any one here would willingly go back to fighting is both insulting and the height of stupidity. No one who has lived through the past 10 years of horror could possibly want a repeat of that," he said.

Mr. Momis added that Bougainvilleans are united and that this has made it possible to deal with the National Government.

He said that the National Government has up to now been unable to come up with a proper and reasoned response to the Joint Bougainville Negotiating Position.

"The best way to stop the expressions of frustration is for the National Government to deal genuinely and honestly with the key issues. It must stop trying to distract us from our focus on the key issues, stop looking for excuses and stop blaming others for their own failure to deliver."

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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