BOUGAINVILLE TO GIVE ONA STATE FUNERAL

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, July 25) – Bougainville secessionist leader Francis Ona, who died on Sunday after a short illness, is to be given a state funeral.

The Bougainville Autonomous Government will also declare a week of mourning, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported yesterday.

The government has sent a senior official to Mr Ona’s village near Panguna, the former mining town in the mountains, to convince his relatives to allow his body to be brought to Buka.

President Joseph Kabui said this would allow members of the government to view and pay their last respects

"It will also Mekamui supporters on Buka Island the opportunity to view the body before it is sent home for burial," he told The National.

He said if the relatives declined, the government would send a delegation to Panguna to witness the burial.

"Finer details will be worked out once information from Mr Ona’s wife and relatives was received," he said.

Bougainville Administrator Peter Tsiamalili said although Mr Ona, who was 52, refused to join the peace process with Papua New Guinea, he would be honoured in death.

"I think the principle that he stood for was something that every Bougainvillean wanted in terms of the rights for Bougainville, the freedom to choose what they want and all those things that he was fighting for," he told ABC.

"But the approach he may have taken is something that we all have different views about it."

Bougainville police chief Asst Comm Joe Bemu reported that the situation was quiet and businesses in Buka and Arawa were operating as usual.

He said he did not expect any trouble.

Meanwhile, the Australian government has announced it will not be sending a representative to the funeral.

However, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Bruce Bilson said a state funeral could provide an opportunity for the people of Bougainville to consolidate the peace process.

July 26, 2005

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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