His later years were marked by signs of paranoia and megalomania. However, Francis Ona initiated thePublished by MAC on 2005-07-25
His later years were marked by signs of paranoia and megalomania. However, Francis Ona initiated the rebellion in 1988 against Rio Tinto's vastly damaging Panguna mine on Bougainville, a process which, seventeen tortuous years later, led to an autononmous state.
Once, when asked by an Australian interviewer at the height of the bloody conflict, how the struggle would develop, Ona replied: "Papua New Guinea we can beat in a week. Australia, Rio Tinto that will take a little longer "
Ona is dead - Kabui confirms his death
The National, 25 July 2005
By Bonney Bonsella
SECCESSIONIST Bougainville and Mekamui leader Francis Ona is dead. Mr Ona died at 1pm at his Guava village yesterday.
President of the Bougainville Autonomous Government Joseph Kabui confirmed the death of the reclusive rebel leader from Buka last night.
Mr Kabui said according to information from Arawa, Mr Ona was sick for over a week before succumbing yesterday. The nature of his illness is not known.
President Kabui said it was unfortunate that he was not brought to hospital to be treated earlier.
He said relatives and inner circle friends of the leader relayed news of his death to people in Arawa yesterday. Buka Police also confirmed the death.
President Kabui described Mr Ona as a man who stood up for what he believed in.Mr Kabui said he hoped the passing of Mr Ona would give the opportunity for both the Bougainville Autonomous Government and the faction of the Mekamui under Mr Ona to come together for peace and reconciliation.
He said the BAG plans to have the body of Mr Ona to taken to Buka so that respect can be accorded to him as a prominent political leader.
Mr Ona and the Bougainville crisis had come hand in hand, said Mr Kabui.
He said Mr Ona played a prominent role in the crisis and its aftermath, and a funeral service is being arranged by his government.
Mr Onas body is still in Guava village, and Mr Kabui said he would liaise with the United Nations representatives in Arawa to have Mr Onas body flown to Buka for the funeral, but this would depend on Mr Onas inner circle and family.
Mr Ona was the key man who led the secessionist movement as supreme commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army in 1988. The crisis forced the closure of the giant Panguna copper mine, which remain closed today.
Thousands, including Bougainvilleans and PNG security forces, were killed during the bloody civil war, which formally ended with the signing of the Bougainville peace agreement in 2001.Mr Ona refused to join the peace process, and recently ventured out of his recluse to urge people to reject the autonomous government elections and to recognise him as the leader of an independent Bougainville.
Sadly, this campaign did not draw much following as Bougainvilleans ignored him and turned out in numbers to elect their new government.
Mr Ona, in his 50s, is survived by his four children - two daughters and two sons - and his wife from Manam Island in Madang province.