26 Jul 2005

PNG Bougainville assembly to hear speeches in honour of late rebel leader

3:22 pm on 26 July 2005

Papua New Guinea's autonomous Bougainville government is meeting today to hear members speak in memory of the late secessionist leader, Francis Ona.

The assembly will then be suspended until the second of August.

A week of public mourning has already begun, with flags flying at half mast.

The president, Joseph Kabui, says he and the entire population of Bougainville was shocked to hear the news of Mr Ona's death.

Mr Kabui says Mr Ona deserves recognition for the prominent role he played initiating the political moves that culminated in autonomous government.

Mr Kabui is offering to fly Mr Ona's body to the provincial capital of Buka for burial.

"If that is not going to be the case, we were thinking of going for another option, the option of flying to get the high-powered ministerial delegation, perhaps to go to Francis Ona's home village to attend a funeral."

Mr Kabui says a high-quality coffin is being prepared in Port Moresby.