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Bougainville Wants Govt's Counter Offer Package

PORT MORESBY: The second round of the Bougainville political negotiations between the national government and Bougainville leaders is highly likely to take place on the second week of February, according to a source from the Bougainville administration office in Buka, the Independent reports.

This is to allow the national government to sort things out at its end and to also satisfy the legal requirements relating to the establishment of a government for the province, the source said.

To date, Bougainville People's Congress President Joseph Kabui has been calling on the national government to present its counter offer political package in response to the one from the people presented by Governor John Momis to Sir Michael Somare at Hutjena last December.

The talks have been set for next week in Arawa, from January 24-28 however, Bougainville leaders believe that the national government is not ready yet to present its counter offer therefore a delay must take place.

"Based on information reaching us, PNG does not seem to be ready with a counter offer to our political package presented to Sir Michael on our first round of negotiations. Therefore we believe it is wise to defer the second round of negotiations to the middle of next month.

"Agreements reached on these important issues will bail out the national government from a possible chaotic situation.

"Before we move on, the Bougainville leaders want the national government to first of all, table its counter offer on the joint Bougainville negotiating position," Mr Kabui said. He said the people of Bougainville refused to see the next round of political talks as a debriefing session by the national government.

He stressed that while negotiations is the only way forward to establish a government on Bougainville, other arrangements being worked out currently following the Supreme Court's ruling should not be seen as an obstacle to a negotiated political settlement.

He said these matters will be best left with the national government to deal with as an interim measure to facilitate services according to law.

The immediate interest for all Bougainville leaders at both the national and provincial levels was the counter offer by the government on key issues including the highest autonomy and referendum on independence, Mr Kabui said.

According to the source in Buka, the people are keen to talk about the political arrangement and not the reforms, something which the majority of people on the island are not supportive of and do not want the government to force on them.

He said at the moment, people are keeping quiet on Mr Momis carrying the province's governor's hat and therefore, have not come out to openly discuss the topic however, they are pleased to see him working closely with the BPC.

The common public conceptions is that the issue of reform is something for the government to sort out while they are more interested for negotiation on the political settlement to eventuate.

"The leaders and people are very clear."Time for analysis of issues is over and it is time for the right prescription to be applied. Reform is not the answer. The right medicine will be found at the negotiation table.

"Reform however, is on the interim and will not be here to stay. The people of Bougainville want something new and this will be achieved through the political arrangements in the up coming negotiations, " the source said.

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