31 Mar 2005

Bougainville leader says Francis Ona's emergence means he can enjoy freedoms won by peace process.

7:23 pm on 31 March 2005

A Bougainville leader says there are positives in the sudden re-emergence of the rebel leader, Francis Ona, who has held two rallies in the past week and is understood to be planning another in Buin next week.

In rallies in Arawa and Buka Mr Ona has criticised the acceptance of autonomy and the upcoming elections, and called for Australian and PNG Government personnel to leave.

Leaders say the comments have planted confusion among the people but they will not undermine the election preparations.

Joseph Kabui of the Bougainville People's Congress says Mr Ona, in coming out of hiding after 16 years, is able to enjoy the gains made by the peace process.

".And he is now benefitting out of the peaceful environment the peace process has created throughout Bougainville, that's on the positives, he's got all the freedom to say whatever he wants."

But Mr Kabui says the island's leaders will be making it clear that the path laid out by the peace process is the only viable option for Bougainville.