10 Dec 2004

UN downplays reports of roadblocks on PNG's Bougainville island

4:48 pm on 10 December 2004

United Nations workers on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville are downplaying reports of new roadblocks by members of the Mekamui Movement at the disused Aropa Airport.

The National newspaper has reported that Mekamui leader Francis Ona has deployed men to the Aropa Airport area to prevent members of the Australian Federal Police from entering the area.

The roadblocks are also said to be preventing groups like the United Nations Development Programme and the UN Observer Mission on Bougainville from providing social services in the area.

William Ozkaptan, the political adviser to the UN observer mission, says they do not regard the blockages at the airport as roadblocks.

"When we talk about roadblocks we talk about Morgan Junction roadblock where it is fortified, you have buildings, you have like an S kind of thing you know, where you have obstacles in the road, and you have a fixed position on the road. And there's nothing like that any place else out there."

Mr Ozkaptan says Bougainville leaders have told him the so-called Aropa roadblock involves "boys" banned from villages in the no-go zone who are hanging around at Aropa making money.

He says they have heard reports that police and UN staff will not be allowed to pass but he's not aware it's been an issue yet.