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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 9) - A bipartisan committee will be set up to look into a proposal for increased autonomy for the Papua New Guinea province of East New Britain, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has announced.

Leaders in the province, led by Governor Leo Dion, have been vocal about the issue and have campaigned extensively in the province about the need for more autonomy.

They have set up a committee called the East New Britain Consultative Committee on Provincial Autonomy to spearhead this.

After extensive consultation, the committee has submitted a report on the proposal to the National Executive Council.

The Prime Minister said in a statement that the NEC has received the report and would set up a bipartisan process to assess and make recommendations on how best to respond to the proposal.

He said the report was quite comprehensive and would need to be assessed thoroughly before a decision is made.

The East New Britain province is proposing to be granted administrative, economic and financial powers from Waigani.

The province is the first, after Bougainville, to formally request Waigani to grant more autonomy to them.

Calls for increased autonomy have been fueled in recent years by the failure of the National Government to release budgetary funds and other forms on conditional and unconditional grants to provinces on time.

There will be financial and legal implications which the bipartisan committee must highlight to the National Government before a final decision is made.

No timeframe has been indicated as to when the ENB leaders can expect a response from the National Government.

May 10, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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