BUREAUCRATS FRUSTRATING PEACE TALKS, BOUGAINVILLEAN SOURCES SAY

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By Veronica Hatutasi

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (December 26, 2000 - The Independent/PINA Nius Online)---Attempts to bring lasting peace on Bougainville are allegedly being frustrated by bureaucrats on the Papua New Guinea side, according to reliable Bougainvillean sources.

The sources strongly believe this is the view of Governor John Momis’ Bougainville Interim Provincial Government, the Bougainville Peoples Congress led by Joseph Kabui, and Bougainville officials who have been in all negotiations.

According to one of the sources, Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta was made aware of the situation when early last month Mr. Kabui walked out of the Gateway talks in Port Moresby. He said he would assist in the matter, but to date it has not been looked into.

Another source expressed the same sentiments, saying the September negotiations in Kokopo, East New Britain was unable to come up with an agreement because of the way certain bureaucrats were handling the matter.

The talks are now scheduled for December 27-28 at Kokopo again following a two-week break from the last round of talks in Port Moresby, which the Bougainville team left disappointed.

They blamed consistent unpreparedness of the national government in handling the key issues of referendum and autonomy, which has dragged the deliberations to the year’s end without expected results.

Central Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai said he feared that the dominance of the Bougainville peace and political processes by bureaucrats particularly on the PNG side was frustrating the key issues.

"My fear is that since the problem on Bougainville started in 1988 until 1997, it was dominated by bureaucrats," he said. "When there was a change in government in 1997 until 1999, political domination saw the process made some positive and firm decisions but that changed with a change of government again last year."

"In my view, the bureaucrats have taken control of the process again and have thus contributed to frustrate and prolong developments on the key issues.

"Experience has shown that the Bougainville issue needs political decisions to solve it," he said.

In related news, the dismissal of Sir Michael Somare as Bougainville Affairs Minister by Sir Mekere is seen by many people in the province as a step back to the peace process. The island’s leaders and people have high regard for Sir Michael and he knows the Bougainville problem.

Non-support of the Integrity Bill on Political Parties and Candidates and party stability were the reasons that Sir Mekere cited for Sir Michael's sacking.

Roadwork on the Buka East Coast Highway will continue as the Bougainville administration finds additional money to assist with the emergency maintenance.

For the mainland highway, all roadwork has been successfully completed up to Sovele. Except for the Aropa road, work has stopped since the area was declared a no go zone.

The Bougainville Main Wharf Rehabilitation program has been approved to start next year, funded by AusAID. The main wharves of Buka and Kangu will be the first to be started on.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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