TIME MAIN FACTOR IN SUCCESS FOR BOUGAINVILLE AMENDMENTS

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By Colin Taimbari

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 3, 2002 – The National)---Time could be the biggest enemy right now for the success or failure in Parliament of the amendments to the Constitution and the Organic Law relating to highest autonomy for Bougainville.

With a special Parliament session scheduled to vote on the changes beginning on January 22, many more weapons have yet to be collected and locked up in specially sealed containers.

Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Moi Avei admits that there is not much time left to really convince the Members of Parliament but he is nonetheless "quietly confident" that the amendments will get their nod of approval.

Sir Moi, who was awarded a knighthood by the Queen in the New Year's honors list, stressed that the Bougainville Peace Agreement is a homegrown policy negotiated across the table by Papua New Guineans, but he was concerned about reports that the Resistance movement had pulled out of the process.

A Government delegation was sent to the island last week to report back on the problem, after which a statement will be released on the progress of the weapons disposal plan.

Sir Moi will also be traveling to the island later this week or early next week to witness further weapons disposal on another part of Bougainville.

"We've got to move quickly on weapons disposal. We had a successful launch at Torokina but I am very concerned about what I've been hearing about the Resistance withdrawing from the peace process,'' he said.

"Weapons disposal is fundamental to the success of the vote in Parliament, which is coming up this month; so we really have very little time. I will be going to the island to step up the weapons disposal program as a forerunner to the vote.

"I want to make it very clear, the agreement does not provide a new blueprint for decentralization. It was designed especially to accommodate the special circumstances of Bougainville to bring political settlement.

"All parties to the conflict are signatories to the agreement so I've done my part by bringing the constitutional amendments and the Organic Law to be gazetted, to be voted on Jan 22. The onus is now on the Bougainville leaders to deliver their part of the bargain in relation to weapons disposal.

"I am quietly confident but the Bougainville people, Bougainville leaders, have to help me sell the package and the only way for them to do so, is to demonstrate to the rest of Papua New Guinea that we are serious about the Bougainville Peace Agreement and that they will honor their part by disposing off weapons.

"And that will give a very powerful signal to the 109 members that Bougainville leaders are genuine in achieving the objectives of the Bougainville Peace Agreement."

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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