19 Sep 2002

Security stepped up in PNG's Southern Highlands to stop illegal gun trade

4:24 pm on 19 September 2002

Papua New Guinea's Inter-Government Relations Minister says security at Mendi airport and entry and exit points in the Southern Highlands will be stepped up to minimise the number of weapons entering the province.

The Post Courier newspaper quotes Sir Peter Barter as saying there are now more guns in the Southern Highlands than there had ever been on Bougainville during its ten-year civil war.

He says in many parts of the province, police are out-gunned and powerless to respond to critical situations.

Sir Peter warns that a gun culture is emerging in the area while large amounts of money are in circulation.

He says wealthy people are more likely to be involved in the gun trade because they are the only ones who can afford a high-powered weapon which can cost anywhere between 2 to 4 thousand US dollars.

Meanwhile, the Mendi and Tari hospitals, which closed down because of tribal clashes, have reopened following the deployment of more police mobile units.

Sir Peter also says the district administrators will return to the province this week and that a director may be appointed to oversee the lead-up to fresh elections in five electorates.

Violence and fraud led to six electorates not getting an MP in thsi year's election.

It is expected that the supplementary elections will be held within half a year.