AWARENESS OF BOUGAINVILLE PEACE EFFORTS LACKING: SOHIA

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By Thomas Kilala

BUKA, Bougainville, Papua New Guinea (October 23, 2001 – The National)---Many Bougainvilleans are totally isolated from the political developments within the province due to lack of public awareness, says the provincial peace coordinator, Peter Sohia.

"People living in most of the province still do not know the meaning of autonomy or have not seen the recently signed agreement simply because there has been no money allocated for me to conduct public awareness on issues in the province," Mr. Sohia said.

He added that his office had received over a hundred letters from community leaders throughout the province requesting money to conduct reconciliation ceremonies but this could not be done due to lack of funding.

"If the national government and the interim government are serious about total peace and normalcy in Bougainville then they have to put the money where their mouth is because my office desperately needs funds to drive the peace process forward," he said.

Mr. Sohia said his office needed about K 1 million (US$ 287,500) to accommodate reconciliation and other peace activities like public awareness to educate the people on the latest developments in the province.

Mr. Sohia stressed that the three main obstacles to implementing the weapons disposal plan were funding, lack of reconciliation and the Me‘ekamui defence force.

He said many ex-combatants and chiefs would prefer to reconcile with other communities and individuals whom they had treated as enemies during the crisis before they could freely dispose of their weapons.

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" target="_blank">(VIKKI@law.uts.edu.au

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