BOUGAINVILLE’S FRANCIS ONA ASKS FOR HELP REOPENING SCHOOLS

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BOUGAINVILLE’S FRANCIS ONA ASKS FOR HELP REOPENING SCHOOLS

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 21, 2001 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---The rebel "Mekamui" government of Bougainville Revolutionary Army hardliner Francis Ona has asked for schools in Panguna and surrounding areas to be reopened.

The provincial education board approved the request. It plans to re-open the Panguna, Diomori, Tapera and Sipatako community schools.

They are in the area declared by Mr. Ona as a "no-go zone" for government officers, Peace Monitoring Group members, and aid organizations, despite the end of the 10-year conflict on Bougainville.

Assistant Secretary for Education Tony Tsora said yesterday the board had agreed to the request. This was because it was a significant move by Mr. Ona, since his rejection of any government service in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army-controlled area.

But having approved the request, the board now has to find the money to make good its promise to re-open the schools because this was not something planned for and therefore is not in the budget for this year.

"I’m hoping that international donors will come in on this one. Some were sitting on this one because of movement restrictions.

"We have teachers and materials we can send up immediately, and they have identified a number of teachers from the area who are teaching elsewhere in Bougainville and PNG.

"They have requested those teachers to be posted to their schools, and we are going to look at that," Mr. Tsora said.

The "Mekamui" government’s request was made in a letter to Community Services Assistant Secretary Andrew Pisi and was relayed to the provincial education board.

This is the first time that the "Mekamui" government, headed by Mr. Ona, has asked for help from a government agency.

It has raised hope in the Bougainville administration that a compromise can still be reached with Mr. Ona’s faction of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

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

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

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