BOUGAINVILLE PRESIDENT, FORMER PNG LEADER RECONCILE

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‘The past is gone,’ says Bougainville’s Kabui

By Augustine Kinna

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, May 6, 2008) –Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) president, Joseph Kabui, and New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan will meet and reconcile in Kavieng this week.

[PIR editor’s note: The semi-autonomous province of Bougainville was established in 2000 following a peace agreement between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), a guerrilla movement.]

Mr Kabui, ABG health minister Gerard Sinato and two village chiefs will attend the New Guinea Islands annual governors’ conference. They will also use the occasion to make peace with the former prime minister.

Sir Julius’ relationship with Bougainville leaders deteriorated when his secret plan to hire foreign mercenaries to go after Bougainville rebels was revealed in 1997. Sir Julius was the prime minister then.

There was public outrage, and the Sandline contract was terminated, but the PNG government ended up paying PGK50 million [US$19.1 million] to Sandline for breach of contract.

Bougainville leaders have questioned why Sir Julius wanted to use force to end the conflict when peace negotiation was an option.

In a media conference at the Buka airport, Mr Kabui said this would be the first stage of reconciliation with Sir Julius.

He said Sir Julius would be invited to Bougainville for the second stage.

"The past is gone, and now the people are looking forward to a brighter future. Therefore, it is vital that peace and unity prevail between us our New Guinea Island brothers," Mr Kabui said.

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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