20 Feb 2003

PNG minister calls on Bougainvilleans to disarm by end of March

5:20 pm on 20 February 2003

People on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville have been told that guns need to be surrendered and contained by the end of next month at the latest.

The Inter-Government Minister, Sir Peter Barter, says a high-powered ministerial delegation which visited the island this week stressed the need for the weapons disposal process to be completed.

The programme is in three stages - namely: surrender; containment and finally destruction. .

It has suffered recent setbacks with guns being stolen from the containers, while just a small percentage of the weapons have been destroyed.

Sir Peter says there is now increased pressure on the process after Australia's confirmation this week it would withdraw its peace monitors on June 30th.

"More so it means they have to do it before the end of this month, or at the latest next month, which would allow us two months for them to make a decision on how we're going to dispose of those weapons for as long as those weapons remain on the island they represent a threat to the process."