29 Mar 2005

Bougainville rebel leader Francis Ona appears at second rally in PNG

1:40 pm on 29 March 2005

A political rally is currently being held by the Bougainville rebel leader, Francis Ona, in the town of Buka on the Papua New Guinea island.

It's the second time in a week that Mr Ona has appeared in public and left the No Go Zone on Bougainville, where he has stayed for sixteen years, always refusing to take part in the peace process.

The head of New Zealand police on the island, Superintendent Athol Soper, says like the last rally, there are placards calling for Australia and Papua New Guinea to leave Bougainville.

But Superintendent Soper says at this point the rally appears peaceful.

"There are 150 people formed up on the green next to the main police station in Buka for a political rally with Francis Ona. This is the first time Francis has been in Buka for at least sixteen years and 150 of his supporters are here, for what appears to be a peaceful political rally."

Superintendent Soper says there is hope that this second rally shows a willingness by Mr Ona to engage in the political process and take part in the forthcoming elections in May.