27 Jan 2005

Bougainville authorities prepare for elections

4:52 pm on 27 January 2005

Leaders on the Papua New Guinea Island of Bougainville are meeting today to make key decisions ahead of the first elections for an autonomous Bougainville government.

The Transitional Consultative Committee, led by Bougainville People's Congress president, Joseph Kabui, and Bougainville Governor, John Momis, is expected to set an election date.

Sources say May the 20th is the date favoured by the acting election commissioner, Bougainvillean Mathias Pihei.

Other issues to be decided include security arrangements, international election monitors, and the appointment of election and boundaries commissioners and a political party registrar.

The newly approved constitution for the autonomous government, which cleared the PNG Cabinet late last year, was presented to Bougainville by Intergovernment Relations Minister, Sir Peter Barter, at a ceremony in Arawa two weeks ago.

But, as election preparations go into high gear, weapons collection and destruction is being held up, sources say, by an ex-combatant in Buin district who will not destroy the last 50 guns.

Under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, weapons disposal must be complete before elections.

And, South Bougainville is still off-limits to Australian and New Zealand police on Bougainville because of a roadblock at Aropa.