28 Jul 2005

Officials are turned away from funeral of Bougainville leader Ona

1:59 pm on 28 July 2005

Some officials from the Bougainville government in Papua New Guinea have been turned away from the funeral of the Bougainville secessionist leader Francis Ona.

The funeral got underway earlier today in Guava village, despite calls for his body to be present at memorial services in Arawa and Buka.

A faction of the so-called Republic of Meekamui allowed only a select few to attend the funeral and denied permission for his body to be moved.

Those who have been turned away are thought to include Bougainville President Joseph Kabui as well as an embalmer from Port Moresby who had been flown over to assist with preserving the body in order to enable a wider funeral service to take place.

Our correspondent, Peter Niesi, says this is creating an air of mystery surrounding Mr Ona's death.

"Even if he had been allowed to be brought out for a funeral in line with his status as a leader regardless of his particular cause and stance, the fact that has been stopped now means that a few more questions remain and that has fuelled suspicion in relation to how Francis Ona actually died other than the publicised information released that he died of malaria and typhoid."

Our correspondent, Peter Niesi