24 Dec 2004

PNG government welcomes UN mission extension on Bougainville

4:35 pm on 24 December 2004

The Papua New Guinea Intergovernment Relations Minister, Sir Peter Barter, has welcomed the extension of the United Nations Observer Mission to Bougainville.

The mission, which was to have ended this month, has been extended by the UN for six months, until June 2005.

Sir Peter says the Government worked hard to get the constitution for an autonomous Bougainville passed by the Cabinet, signed by the Governor-General and gazetted in time for UN approval.

This was not accepted as automatic but, along with the constitution had given Bougainvilleans everything they need.

"Bougainville people have been given everything they have asked for. The national government has honoured their commitment to the last dot. Now it's up to the Bougainville people to make certain they can utilise the efforts of others to move ahead."

Sir Peter says efforts to locate and destroy the final 100 or so weapons will now move into high gear, as well as efforts to contact secessionist rebel leader Francis Ona.

He says he wants elections to be held in April, and the timing will be tight.

In the meantime, he says, a major celebration is planned on Bougainville on January the 13th.