12 Jun 2002

Bougainville Resistance force commanders retract threat to disrupt elections

4:54 pm on 12 June 2002

The Electoral officer for Bougainville says members of the ex-combatant Resistance Force have withdrawn a threat to disrupt elections on the Papua New Guinea island.

Mathias Pihei says the BRF Chairman, Hilary Masiria gave his verbal assurance that polling will not be disrupted during a meeting with the Bougainville provincial administration yesterday.

Several members of the BRF had threatened to disrupt the Bougainville elections if it was not paid 12 million kina worth of what it says are overdue allowances from the provincial administration.

Mr Pihei, who had earlier indicated the vote could be delayed, says the Bougainville elections will go ahead as scheduled on Saturday 15th, the opening of PNG's two week voting period.

But he says he is waiting for further confirmation from the BRF that it will not interfere with the electons and cause potential violence.

"They have lifted their threat, but I still insist they must put it in writing. I am always worried about the safety of our polling officers and if I see that the area is likely to erupt in some sort of a violence, I will not hesitate to suspend polling in that area because of the safety of the polling official."

Mathias Pihei