10 Jun 2008

Hundreds of mourners attend state funeral in Port Moresby for Joseph Kabui

3:44 pm on 10 June 2008

A state funeral has been held in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby, for Joseph Kabui, the first president of the autonomous Bougainville government.

Hundreds of mourners packed the capital's St Joseph's Catholic cathedral to pay their last respects to 54 year old Mr Kabui, who died in Buka hospital of a suspected heart attack on Saturday.

Tributes have poured in from around the world for the leader, who had trained to be a priest and led the Bougainville Revolutionary Army during the 1990s.

PNG Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, who attended today's funeral, said he was shocked to learn of Mr Kabui's death.

He said in a statement that it seems like only yesterday that Mr Kabui made history by being elected as the first president of PNG's first autonomous region.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also voiced his sadness at the death, saying, in a statement that President Kabui was known as a skilled mediator and peacemaker who had a genuine interest in the future of his people.

Mr Kabui's body will return to Bougainville tomorrow for a traditional burial in his Central Bougainville home.