12 Mar 2003

Bougainville's Francis Ona told he must disarm

5:00 pm on 12 March 2003

In Papua New Guinea, the commander of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army has given rebel leader Francis Ona a two month ultimatum to disarm or face the consequences.

The Post Courier quotes Ishmael Toroama, asking the leader of the so called independent state of Mekamui, in a letter, to direct his Defence Force or MDF members to disarm immediately.

Mr Toroama says this should be done during the period when the UN will verify whether or not Bougainville has complied with the weapons disposal programme.

He also demanded that the MDF return weapons stolen from UN containers last year as it is causing tension among ex-combatants in most parts of Bougainville.

UN approval of the weapons disposal programme must be given before Bougainville can begin elections for an autonomous government.

The UN envoy to Bougainville, Noel Sinclair says he hopes to complete the surrender and containment stages of the arms programme before the departure of the peace monitors at the end of June.

However, Mr Sinclair says that may not happen.