7 May 2003

Illegal guns remain a serious problem on Bougainville

4:33 pm on 7 May 2003

The Leitana Women's Agency on Papua New Guinea's Bougainville island say the weapons disposal programme has failed to target a large number of firearms still in circulation.

The Agency's Director, Helen Hakena, says the programme's focus has been on just a small percentage of the guns on the island.

PNG's Minister of Intergovernment Affairs said that 92 percent of 18-hundred weapons registered with the UN Observer Mission on Bougainville and Peace Monitoring group have been collected.

Mrs Hakena says there's a rise in firearms trafficking from mainland PNG and Solomon Islands and also that some of the weapons previously stolen from UN storage containers are still missing.

Mrs Hakena says the concern is the growing number of young people who own firearms

"The young men who are not involved in the fighting, they are the ones who still hold on to the weapons. They are the raskols who threaten people in order to get goods and services, because of the freedom of movement now, of young men, within Bouganville and outside of Bouganville to the other provinces of PNG, and to the nearby Solomon Islands, ....guns are moving across these borders, the number of weapons still in circulation, is not known."

Helen Hakena, Director of Bougainville's Leitana Women's Agency.