21 Jun 2002

Ex combatants re-arm themselves during polling

10:57 am on 21 June 2002

The Electoral Officer on the island of Bougainville says ex-combatants have re-armed themselves as a security measure during the elections.

Mathias Pihei says the ex-combatants broke into the firearms storage containers because the self declared state of Mekamui extended its no go zone boundary by 5 kilometres.

Mr Pihei says the ex-combatants saw the boundary extension as a threat by Francis Ona's armed Mekamui group which has stayed out of the peace process.

He says the former fighters are protecting polling booths straddling the no-go zone border.

"Those ex-combatants in those areas, they're saying the no-go zone should not increase it should remain where it is. So they've erected a sign there at the pump station telling those people out there don't come. To make sure those who erected the no-go zone policy properly they took out the arms in the containers and are now providing security around those areas."

Mathias Pihei says voting in Bougainville is peaceful despite a three day delay in polling and problems transporting ballot papers to the electorates.

He says more than 2-thousand voters in parts of Bougainville will not be able to cast their votes because of transport problems.