BUKA HOSTS HISTORIC BOUGAINVILLE INAUGURATION

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, June 14) – More than 120 special guests are expected in Buka for today’s inauguration of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Last month the Papua New Guinea province elected a 40 member assembly which will have wide powers of autonomy delegated to it by the national government in Port Moresby.

The guest list includes Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon, who as New Zealand’s Foreign Minister help initiated the peace process which led to the election.

New Zealand’s official party is headed by Defence force commander, Brigadier General Jerry Mataparae, who was the first commander of the unarmed peace keepers sent to the province in late 1997.

Most of the PNG Cabinet, the Port Moresby diplomatic corps and Bougainville activists from overseas are also returning for the event. Among them is Martin Miriori, the former rebels’ international spokesman, who was given asylum in the Netherlands after his house in Honiara was fire bombed.

Accommodation is tight in Buka but many of the dignitaries are staying on the tourist trimaran, Discoverer, which is owned by the Minister responsible for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Peter Barter.

The President-elect of Bougainville, Joseph Kabui, says the newly autonomous Papua New Guinea province is united at long last.

Mr Kabui said the return of people like Mr Miriori reinforces that the province has achieved what it has been striving for - the right to govern itself.

"We can now rightly say that the times of war, when Bougauinville was in the dark ages, if I may call it that way, are in the past, and we can only look for the better positive progress of Bougainville."

June 15, 2005

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

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