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By Colin Taimbari

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 31, 2001 – The National)---Bougainville should have an autonomous government by early next year, a confident Bougainville People’s Congress president, Joseph Kabui, said yesterday.

The negotiations currently under way in Port Moresby have delayed the program slightly, with the first amendments to go before Parliament in September and not July.

Mr. Kabui told The National at Tubusereia village outside Port Moresby, that it would have been "really ideal" to complete the talks last week but the issues of police and defense had to be ironed out thoroughly.

"The first (Parliament) reading starts in September, second reading in November and we will be happy to have an autonomous government in the first quarter of 2002 before the national elections in June or July," he said.

He said the Bougainville delegation was happy with the way Bougainville Affairs Minister Moi Avei was keeping everybody on their toes to round up the comprehensive agreement.

The Bougainville delegation had accompanied Mr. Avei to his electorate where he presented K 10,000 (US$ 3,040) to the local SDA church to assist in its fundraising efforts.

Mr. Avei said Bougainville was one of Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta’s five main objectives in government and they must now get the final report ready for Cabinet’s endorsement, so that it can be tabled in July as a forerunner to the amendments in September.

"So it’s our responsibility on the side of the government to muscle the respective numbers to pass these various amendments in the interest of the nation and in the interest of the people of Bougainville," he said.

Mr. Avei said this was the final round of talks and they were dealing with the hardest issues of defense and police.

With regard to defense, the parties reached an understanding last week that would sort out the sensitive matters of the force, including its very limited role in terms of border and maritime surveillance and its role regarding the weapons disposal. So both sides are more than comfortable with defense," he added.

Mr. Avei said police was a bit tricky because it related to the day-to-day civil authority on Bougainville and the people had done a great deal in restoring civil authority so far. But because weapons are still around, fear is very much in the minds of people.

He said now that the fundamental issue of a weapons disposal plan is in place, they have to design a police force that can relate to the peculiar situation of Bougainville.

"It has to relate to the people, it has to be appropriate police, it has to be sensitive to what has happened in the past and it has to bring confidence and boost morale on the island.

"Therefore, it is important that we together design an appropriate police force," he said.

"But since Bougainville autonomy is going to be done within the framework of the National Constitution, the linkage to the national police force must be sorted out, so those are some of the more sensitive areas that we are sorting out at the moment."

Both the government and Bougainville teams presented their proposals on police on Tuesday and the Minister had directed the technical staff and all senior advisors to sit with Commissioner John Wakon and go through the proposals.

But he said he was happy with the spirit of commitment and cooperation of all parties at the talks.

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

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