12 May 2010

Bougainville's Tanis claims Meekamui support for election

1:28 pm on 12 May 2010

The president of the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville, James Tanis, says in the election now underway he has the support of the armed group, known as the Meekamui Defence Force.

The Meekamui, which is based around the now defunct Panguna mine, has stayed away from the process which culminated in a 2001 peace deal to end the separatist conflict of the 1990s.

Mr Tanis has told the AAP news agency that one of the most difficult things he has delivered as president is to get the Meekamui leader, Chris Uma, on to the peace process and to convince him that Meekamui must support the Bougainville government.

For the elections, which will run until May the 21st, the group has lifted the armed no-go zone around Panguna.

Three years ago, Meekamui leaders had undertaken to restore services, destroy illegal weapons and assess a possible return to mining.