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By Clifford Faiparik

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 16) – Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare said yesterday that Bougainville will continue to be part of Papua New Guinea until Bougainvilleans decide to become independent, by 2015.

"However, the decision to become independent will be subjected to the final authority of the national parliament. In the meantime, they will still be represented on the same basis as every other part of PNG," Sir Michael said.

He was speaking during the inauguration of the Bougainville Autonomous Government and the swearing in of the 40-member cabinet at Hahela in Bougainville yesterday.

Deputy Prime Minister Sir Moi Avei and other senior ministers and bureaucrats also attended the ceremony.

Sir Michael said that Bougainville Autonomous Government has been established under the PNG Constitution and has been democratically elected.

"The international community also recognised this system of government as the ultimate source of governmental authority throughout the country. No other body in PNG enjoys similar recognition," he said.

Sir Michael said that under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, there is a grant system to ensure that Bougainville will continue to have access to grants from the National Government.

"Thus The National Government has already allocated K10 million to Bougainville to show its commitment to the Bougainville people to help kick start development in Bougainville.

"However, this grant is not to be used as particular individuals or groups may prefer. It has been budgeted for use in the ways specified in the Bougainville Peace Agreement," he said.

Sir Michael also urged the Bougainville leaders to be transparent in the use of the money as other Papua New Guineans also have pressing needs. "People in remote areas throughout the country need access to improved health and education services for their children. They also want roads, wharves and airfields in order to get their goods to markets to help themselves," he said.

Sir Michael also called on Francis Ona to come out from hiding and contribute to Bougainville's development under the Autonomous Government.

"He and his supporters must respect the wishes of the majority of the Bougainville people and work within the mandate of the United Nation for the greater good of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea," he said.

June 16, 2005

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