28 Jan 2005

New Zealand envoy in PNG says Bougainville autonomy can't be stopped

4:24 pm on 28 January 2005

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea says it will be very hard for secessionist leader Francis Ona to derail the Bougainville autonomy process that's now in high gear.

Late last year, when the constitution for an autonomous Bougainville cleared the PNG Cabinet, there were hopes in the government and on Bougainville that Mr Ona would join the peace process.

That has not yet happened, however, and Mr Ona did not leave his No Go Zone in Panguna to attend a formal ceremony at Arawa recently for the handing over of the consitution on Bougainville.

Sources on the island say Mr Ona appears on the contrary to have stepped up his campaign against the peace process over recent weeks.

High Commissioner, Laurie Markes, says nothing Mr Ona or anyone else can do will derail the peace process -- culiminating in elections before June.

"The overwhelming majority of Bougainvilleans are so strongly in favour of autonomy and the process that is in train that it would be very very hard for any individual or group of individuals to derail it. It has a very strong public support base and a great deal of momentum."

Laurie Markes, the New Zealand High Commissioner to PNG.