Aloysius Laukai | The National
THE faction outside the Bougainville peace process has joined the other two parties to foster reconciliation and peace-building in Panguna.
The Meekamui group led by Chris Uma, yesterday joined the process funded by AusAID through Strongim Pipol Strongim Nation (SPSN).
The Panguna conflict began in November 1988 when disgruntled landowners dynamited the first power pylon.
AusAID will pay K1.2 million and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) K1 million.
The ABG and the Meekamui unity government signed the Panguna communique four years ago to separate Panguna from the Kieta district.
Outgoing Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish said Australia had a long history with Bougainville and the occasion opened another chapter in the relationship.
Kemish said Australia would continue to assist wherever it could to see Bougainville come off its problems.
He said Bougainvilleans needed to unite to see it advance.
On the future of the Panguna gold and copper mine, he said Australia had no say in it and it was up to the people to decide how they wanted to address it.
He also questioned the people if they were ready to re-open the mine.
Kemish was accompanied by wife Roxanne Martens on this farewell trip to Bougainville.
Meekamui unity government president Philip Miriori called on the Panguna people to forget their differences and work together to change Panguna for the better.
He said the time was right for the people to unite and work as one people.
Chairman of the Panguna Landowners Association, Chris Damana, called on the people to realise that the only way for Bougainville to attain referendum and independence was through economic self-reliance.
Therefore, the Panguna mine must be opened to raise funds for the people and their government, he said.
Damana added if Panguna was not opened, Bougainville would not be able to raise money needed to fulfil one of the three pillars of the peace process.
Ways to fund the peace-building strategy was also signed yesterday.
The launching was witnessed by ABG ministers, Meekamui, the United Nations team on Bougainville and the people of Bougainville.