9 Jun 2008

Bougainville's President Kabui leaves a very positive leagacy - leading Bougainville businessman

6:23 pm on 9 June 2008

A long time friend of Joseph Kabui says he died trying to get the best for his people.

Joseph Kabui was a rebel leader who later became the first elected President when the Papua New Guinea province became autonomous in 2005.

He died in hospital in Buka of a suspected heart attack at the weekend

The chair of the Bogenvil Resource Development Corporation, Robert Atsir, says he was friendly, down to earth, and genuinely interested in the affairs of his people.

He says he tried to ensure the people of Bougainville got a fair deal but also to emancipate people from foreign dominance.

"He leaves a very very positive legacy in the sense that he was able to achieve peace for Bougainville, after achieving his vision that the islands would be back in the hands of the people of Bougainville, which he won through the armed combat he has now tried to bring the best to his people through what you might call an economic battle."

The former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, says he was very saddened to hear of Mr Kabui's death.

Mr McKinnon was closely involved with Mr Kabui as New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs, during the peace process that followed the conflict from 1989 to 1997.

Mr McKinnon says it was a privilege to work with Joseph Kabui, first when he was in exile, through to his ultimate election as the first president of an autonomous Bougainville, and since.

Mr McKinnon says Mr Kabui was a natural leader, committed to the cause in which he so firmly believed, and always carried people with him.

He was always calm but always very determined.

Joseph Kabui is also godfather to Mr McKinnon and wife Clare's son James.


New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, says Joseph Kabui's Presidency was an affirmation of the decade-long peace process and he presided over a crucial period of stabilisation on Bougainville.

He says Mr Kabui's strong leadership helped Bougainville emerge from the devastation of civil war, and set it on the path to recovery and progress.

He says Mr Kabui's strength of character and unwavering commitment to his people will be sorely missed.