22 Mar 2004

Reclusive rebel leader in PNG island of Bougainville unlikely to join peace process until independen

7:01 am on 22 March 2004

A former leader of the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army in Papua New Guinea, Sam Kauona, says his former colleague, the reclusive Francis Ona, will not join the peace process until the vote on independence.

As part of the agreed peace plan the island is to have its own autonomous Government and the opportunity for a vote on independence within 15 years.

Francis Ona has isolated himself and his supporters in the so called Republic of Mekamui in the island's interior, and has refused to buy into the peace process.

While countless overtures have been made for Mr Ona to take part, Sam Kauona says that won't happen but he won't disrupt the process either.

"But he would like to see the political, especially referendum, be addressed quickly instead of stretching it down. I don't see Francis intervening agressively, one way or another"