PNG Post-Courier

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Mar. 30) – The reemergence of rebel leader Francis Ona is sending mixed signals to the people of Bougainville about his intentions and the implications for the autonomy elections.

Following a march in Arawa last week, during which he called on both Australia and Papua New Guinea to leave Bougainville, Mr Ona and his supporters yesterday converged on Buka to expand their claim that Bougainville is already an independent nation under the name Mee’kamui.

Mr Ona is alone in this claim.

All leaders of Bougainville and people who have worked hard to restore peace in Bougainville want the elections to proceed as planned and the new autonomous government to take control of running the island.

Mr Ona should discuss his plans with the other Bougainville leaders in the interest of peace. Bougainvilleans have suffered enough pain and all want a normal life. They want their children to go to school and government services to be restored to normal levels. They also want to restart business activities to improve living standards.

The tone of Mr Ona’s marches rings contrary to the spirit of peace and harmony.

That cannot continue. He is entitled to contest the elections but neither he nor any of his supporters should disrupt the peace process or the elections. So far they have not done that and that is a welcome sign. They are entitled to express their views but they should not take any action that will be seen as being contrary to the spirit of peace.

Bougainville people have won their peace through peaceful negotiations. They have achieved what they want and that is the constitutional right to determine the future destiny of their province. They should be allowed to do so without hindrance.

The road ahead is tough. The autonomous government has a heavy agenda and this will require the co-operation of all the island leaders. This cannot be done by noisy slogans and expression of secessionist sentiments.

March 31, 2005

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