17 Jan 2006

President of PNG's Bougainville offers safe passage to Fiji 'mercenaries'

5:16 pm on 17 January 2006

There are claims in the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville that five former Fijian soldiers are training at least 30 young men in a rebel-held area.

The camp at Tonu in the Siwai district is being run by a wanted pyramid scheme operator, Noah Musingku, who has defied calls to turn over the Fijians, arguing they're security guards for his bank.

The president of the Autonomus Bougainville Government, Joseph Kabui, says peaceful means to draw out the Fijians are not yet exhausted.

Mr Kabui says the Fijians need the confidence to take up the government's offer of protection and safe passage to the provincial capital, Buka, and on to Port Moresby.

"The reason why they seem to have dug themselves deep and continue to stay in Tonu is probably just fear. Fear that something may happen to them while they are in transit from Tonu to Buka."

Mr Kabui vouches for the safety of the Fijians as long as they can voluntarily make a move to link up with the nearest government officials.

Mr Kabui has been saying that men used to handling arms during the civil war will be used to confront the Fijians in Tonu if they continue to ignore appeals for them to leave.