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PORT MORESBY, PNG (PNG Post-Courier, July 29) – The man who brought on the 15-year Bougainville crisis was buried at his mountaintop home yesterday accompanied by a 21-gun volley of shots.

Post-Courier reporter Gorethy Kenneth, who had an exclusive interview with Me’ekamui leader Francis Ona only a month ago, was there to see Mr Ona’s body lowered into the ground.

Heavy rain drenched Guava village on the Panguna mountain as thousands of people from all over Bougainville gathered for the funeral.

Mr Ona, 52, died last Sunday reportedly from malaria and typhoid although rumours contradicting this have been circulating around the island.

The torrential rain knocked out communications at Guava, including the satellite phones that Mr Ona demonstrated earlier this month.

Many phones at Arawa and Buka were also out of action last night. Ms Kenneth managed to get through briefly last night and filed her report as follows.

"The day went peacefully although there was some dispute at first among relatives,’’ she said.

"In the morning, there was a march-past by the Me’ekamui army, dressed in their uniforms and bearing guns, as they saluted.

"Three Catholic priests presided over the service, one from Buka, one from Central and one from Siwai.

"The service lasted one and a half hours and was held in heavy rain, until it stopped during the burial.’’

Reporter Kenneth said the village was crammed with people from all parts of the island. It is believed she was the only reporter allowed at the occasion.

The recently created Autonomous Bougainville Government had planned for the body to be brought to Buka for a service, but that fell through when Me’ekamui leaders refused permission.

Many who wanted to attend the Guava burial were turned back at the Morgan Junction roadblock that has been manned for years by Mr Ona’s men.

Monday, August 1, 2005

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