28 Jan 2005

Aropa roadblock cuts off south Bougainville from police and aid workers

2:14 pm on 28 January 2005

A troublesome roadblock at Aropa on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville is blocking off southern Bougainville to all New Zealand and Australian police working on the island.

Sources in Bougainville say community leaders have renewed their push to get the roadblock dismantled, which is necessary as preparations for elections under the new constitution proceed.

The New Zealand High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Laurie Markes, says he understands the roadblock was set up by a group of former fighters in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

He says it's over a compensation dispute with the provincial government, and means the six New Zealand police working on Bougainville, Australian federal police, and aid workers can't reach Buin.

"Obviously there's a wish for us to extend assistance down into the southern area but the priorities in the first instance have been in Buka and Arawa and extending down to South Bougainville is in a sense the next phase of a lot of the activities that we want to do, and it has been hindered by this roadblock."

Laurie Markes.