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Ona is Dead

Ona is Dead

Kabui confirms his death

By Bonney Bonsella

BUKA (The National Online/Pacific Media Watch): Secessionist Bougainville and Mekamui leader Francis Ona is dead. He died at 1pm at his Guava village yesterday.

President of the Bougainville Autonomous Government Joseph Kabui confirmed the death of the reclusive rebel leader from Buka last night.

Kabui said that according to information from Arawa, Ona was sick for more than a week before succumbing yesterday. The nature of his illness is not known.

President Kabui said it was unfortunate that he was not brought to hospital to be treated earlier.

He said relatives and inner circle friends of the leader relayed news of his death to people in Arawa yesterday. Buka police also confirmed the death.

President Kabui described Ona as a man who stood up for what he believed in.

Kabui said he hoped the passing of Ona would give the opportunity for both the Bougainville Autonomous Government and the faction of Mekamui under Ona to come together for peace and reconciliation.

He said the BAG plans to have the body of Ona to taken to Buka so that respect can be accorded to him as a prominent political leader.

"Mr Ona and the Bougainville crisis had come hand in hand," said Kabui.

He said Ona played a prominent role in the crisis and its aftermath, and a funeral service is being arranged by his government.

Ona's body is still in Guava village, and Kabui said he would liaise with the United Nations representatives in Arawa to have the body flown to Buka for the funeral, but this would depend on Ona's inner circle and family.

Ona was the key man who led the secessionist movement as supreme commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in 1988. The crisis forced the closure of the giant Panguna copper mine, which remains closed today.

Thousands, including Bougainvilleans and PNG security forces, were killed during the bloody civil war, which formally ended with the signing of the Bougainville peace agreement in 2001.

Ona refused to join the peace process, and recently ventured out of reclusion to urge people to reject the autonomous government elections and to recognise him as the leader of an independent Bougainville.

Sadly, this campaign did not draw much following as Bougainvilleans ignored him and turned out in numbers to elect their new government.

Ona, in his 50s, is survived by his four children - two daughters and two sons - and his wife from Manam Island in Madang province.


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