25 Jul 2005

PNG Bougainville minister pays tribute to rebel leader Ona

3:54 pm on 25 July 2005

Papua New Guinea's Bougainville Affairs minister, Sir Peter Barter, has paid tribute to Bougainville secessionist leader Francis Ona who has died.

Sir Peter says Ona did his best to try and move Bougainville forward peacefully and will be remembered by the province's people.

He says Ona was a man who never deviated from what he wanted and must be respected for this.

Sir Peter, who praises Ona for not disrupting the recent process towards an autonomous Bougainville government, says he's not sure what direction the leader's Mekamui people will now take.

"It'll be interesting to see what comes out of this particular situation. Francis, although he was a hardliner and he declared independence, I think there's a lot of people in the no-go zone that want to return to normalcy, they want to see freedom for everyone in Bougainville to walk about. And they've got an autonomous government now, and they have the right eventually. They've been recognised to be able to make the choice they want within ten to fifteen years."

Sir Peter Barter