24 Jun 2005

Bougainville minister wants Australian police back

2:07 pm on 24 June 2005

The newly sworn in Police Minister in the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Ezekiel Masatt, says he is very keen to see Australian police return to the Papua New Guinea province.

The Australian police, working under Canberra's Enhanced Co-operation Programme, were forced out of PNG last month after a court ruling that they did not have immunity cover.

Mr Masatt and the rest of the ten-person Bougainville Cabinet were sworn in yesterday.

The police, under the ECP, went to the province nearly a year ago and had been credited with restoring law and order.

Mr Masatt says he has had discussions with the National Police Minister, Bire Kimisopa, who yesterday told the National Parliament the Government was working hard to bring the Australians back.

"We intend to open up discussions on the ECP, subject to the blessing of the Executive Council, to ensure that even if the ECP package for Papua New Guinea doesn't work, we want to be able to move on negotiate the Bougainville component of the ECP package."