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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 14, 2001 – Post-Courier)---Central Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai yesterday decried the lack of progress made since the well-publicized signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

"Drafting of legislation, including constitutional amendments, was going to commence even before the signing," Mr. Akoitai said yesterday.

His concern arose from indications that drafting of the constitutional amendments and other legislation to legalize the agreement for an autonomous government for Bougainville had not begun two weeks after the signing.

He also expressed concern that the Peace Process Consultation Committee had not met to activate the Weapons Disposal Plan and the necessary reconciliation that was an important prerequisite to voluntary disarmament of ex-combatants had not been held.

But Bougainville Affairs Secretary Bill Dihm, who was meeting with Leader of Bougainville Technical Officers Kapeatu Puaria yesterday, said he had already received communication on follow-up work that must be done.

Mr. Dihm said Bougainville Affairs Minister Moi Avei would be responding to this letter from Bougainville Governor John Momis and Bougainville Peoples Congress President Joseph Kabui in the next few days.

Mr. Avei is currently overseas, engaged in the last round of talks on the PNG-Queensland Gas Pipeline.

"Negotiations are something that he (Avei) has total responsibility over. When it comes to legislation, he's got to depend on others," said Mr. Dihm.

The UN Observer Mission on Bougainville leader, Ambassador Noel Sinclair, has suggested a tentative date of September 20 as the first meeting on weapons disposal.

"We do want to have these meetings as soon as possible, especially the weapons disposal one," said Mr. Dihm.

Mr. Akoitai said he was concerned about the time factor, especially when Parliament attendance by MPs has not been that good. He said that the closer it got to the 2002 national elections the more pathetic MPs' attendance is likely to be as they intensify their efforts at being re-elected.

On the weapons disposal, Mr. Akoitai said reconciliation was a key prerequisite to that.

He said that some of the reconciliation ceremonies that need to take place include that between the Central BRA and the Buin BRA with BRA commanders Ishmael Toroama and Thomas Tarii. Also to be reconciled are those involved in the Siwai crisis involving resistance turned political leader Nick Peniai's faction and the BRA's Jonathan Ngati's. Then there is the Inus BRA, Central Bougainville and the Ieta people of Buka over the burning of Ieta village.

"These are three of the five main ones that need to be dealt with now. To deal with these, we need money," said Mr. Akoitai.

"The Governor (John Momis) must find the money as soon as possible to fund the reconciliation process, which will then pave the way for the weapons disposal plan to be activated."

On the drafting of legislation, the reconciliation process and the weapons disposal meeting, Mr. Akoitai said: "These are the main fronts that we need to address at the same time. The key is not to delay any more.

"Now that the agreement has been signed, we have to address reconciliation and disarmament issues but with the National Government's support in terms of funding."

Mr. Dihm said Mr. Avei has consulted with the Legislative Draftsman, Sir James Frazer, and was aware of what assistance in personnel they required. He said PNG is to make representations to Australia and New Zealand for help with the expertise needed to put the legislation in place.

"The short answer is yes. There are things being done,'' Mr. Dihm said.

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

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