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Autonomy? Bougainville political pace quickens

BY KEITH JACKSON

AT A CEREMONY at Anganai village near Kieta on Friday, Bougainville president James Tanis said there was “no doubt” the Autonomous Province will become an independent nation.

Mr Tanis expressed confidence that the people of Bougainville will vote ‘yes’ to independence whenever a referendum is held. Not before 2015 is the agreed timeframe.

The reconciliation ceremony was one of many being held throughout the island right now to expunge the enmities resulting from a civil war in which 20,000 Bougainvilleans died.

Bougainville faces an election for a new parliament and president in March, and Mr Tanis knows what many of his people want to hear - a call for autonomy.

And, conscious that he became president by default – his predecessor Joseph Kabui died in office in June 2008, Mr Tanis emphasised the importance of continuity in government and said his leadership should be judged by how much he has accomplished in a short time.

A week ago, an opposition party, the New Bougainville Party, was reconstituted in Buka. It will be led by PNG’s ambassador to China, John Momis.

“Ambassador Momis will definitely contest the presidency, with the party contesting all seats in Bougainville,” NBP official Linus Sahoto said.

“The Party, under the leadership of John Momis, if elected to power will pursue the development of Bougainville bringing about changes to the current stagnation,” he said.

Bougainville must move forward and be counted amongst the developed regions of the Pacific.

“We have no reason to remain divided and underdeveloped, for we have the capacity and resources to develop Bougainville the way we want at our own pace,” he said.

Meanwhile, a prominent Bougainvillean, Patrick Heromate, has said Bougainville’s journey towards autonomy is unclear and that there are big questions for people and government to answer.

Mr Heromate says funds worth millions of kina pumped into Bougainville’s economy have disappeared, leaving many development projects incomplete.

“Millions have been lost and Bougainville must change its dealings with the spending of funds,” he said.

“We have just turned the page into another new year and if our leaders continue to spend money and resources like this, the people will suffer.”

Mr Eromate said public order issues were on the rise and that law enforcement officers needed to step up their efforts in fighting crime.

He also called on leaders to address weapons disposal, saying guns are still being used in some parts of Bougainville.

He said the people and leaders must not turn a blind eye on the problems and that Bougainville has a long way to go before it is ready for any referendum on independence.

Comments

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Benward Rowa

Who told you that we will still pursue for independent Bougainville. We are tired of PNG.

Samson Maiha

Bougainville has many challenges but presents an opportunity for PNG to trial new ways of doing things.

For instance the current idea of having women representatives was first initiated in Bougainville.

Also, the current structure of decentralised local level government was introduced by Tsiamalili in Bougainville and is being employed in every province in PNG.

I am a Bougainvillean but believe that Bougainville's best hope of sustainable development is as an autonomous region of PNG.

Morobean Meri

Bougainville does not need to be independent from PNG but to be more autonomous as other provinces will like to follow suit.

Simbu Konda

James Tanis is a former ex-combatant and can not be trusted here. He is trying to stir up the very delicate balance of power here to get the village people's support for the planned referendum this year.

I do not think the people will support the call for independence as Bougainville is still not better off in her present autonomy state. People like James Tanis is promoting the same arguments as the late Joseph Kabui, the rebel who started the whole Bougainville problem in the first place.

James Tanis has no real credibility to do the same here again. The PNG Government should not give him Bougainville's Independence freely as it is always being a part of PNG's sovereignty. He will have to convince the people (who are tired of waiting for development)to fight for it again. The Government will not give Bougainville its Independence because the whole referendum will be rigged by corrupt officials. It will split PNG as a country as it will also encourage other provinces to break away.

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