PLANE MAY HAVE LEFT WEAPONS ON BOUGAINVILLE

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By Brian Gomez

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 19) – Bougainville Governor John Momis says he believe that separatist leader Francis Ona received a shipment of weapons in the recent unauthorized landing of a private plane at Aropa Airport in Buka.

"We have a very serious situation on the ground," Momis told The National yesterday.

Momis said he believes that Ona, who has resisted peace efforts in the Papua New Guinea province, was being aided by the head of the failed U-Vistract money scheme Noah Musingku.

He said Musingku, a fujitive from PNG police, has been given refuge in Goava Village near the Panguna mine area.

Momis and the President of the Bougainville People’s Congress, Joseph Kabui, said that they were optimistic the peace process would not be derailed.

"The Bougainville and National Governments are working on the same wavelength and most of the problems are due to bureaucrats in Waigani who are dragging their feet," Kabui said.

Both provincial leaders agreed they were working well with the National Government to combat the "propaganda war" launched by Ona.

Inter-Government Relations Minister Sir Peter Barter, Momis and Kabui said significant progress has been made in the past week on the Bougainville peace process.

They said the development occurs against a background of an intensified propaganda war, which included the recent illegal flight into Bougainville with a cargo that included automatic weapons for Ona’s Meekamui Defense Force.

The owner of Citation Lear Jet, Tasman Airlines, has appealed to the National Court to release the six-seat aircraft for its Australian operations.

Momis said about 1,000 men in the No Go Zone were undergoing military training, possibly with the aim of protecting aircraft that may fly into the nearby Aropa airport.

Musingku, whose failed U-Vistract pyramid scheme had taken millions of kina from residents of PNG and the Solomon Islands, is understood to have enticed the support and protection of Ona by promising to bring in vast funds.

"He is a fugitive from the law who is exploiting the gullibility of the people," Momis said.

Clandestine efforts are being made to encourage small-scale mining at Panguna and one of the expatriates apprehended recently had documents showing an interest in business. "There is no other business in the No Go Zone except for alluvial gold," Momis said.

Momis and Kabui told The National the fourth draft of the Bougainville Constitution, now being prepared by the National Government, would be discussed at a public meeting in Buin in the first week of November.

That should pave the way for provincial elections in March or April next year and the formation of an autonomous Bougainville Government.

Sir Peter said meetings at the Governors conference in Madang had covered development of the Bougainville constitution, timetable for an election and the setting up of an autonomous government, and the implications for the 2005 national budget.

"Good progress was made in almost every area," he said.

Both Momis and Kabui agreed that a lot of progress has been made but they are concerned that inadequate budget funding was being provided for public services and maintenance of feeder roads.

Although improvements in the public sector had stagnated, they said the private sector was flourishing because of "peace dividends" with new businesses operating in many parts of Bougainville.

"There are new retail stores in Buin and Siwai, big warehouses have been built by AusAID in both places, wharves have been built in Kangu and in Buka and trunk roads have been upgraded," Kabui said.

October 20, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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