4 Feb 2005

PNG policitians consider special constable force for Bougainville

4:21 pm on 4 February 2005

Politicians in Papua New Guinea are understood to be considering setting up a force of armed special constables to clear a roadblock on the island of Bougainville.

A roadblock at Aropa, maintained by a breakaway faction of the Mekamui Defence Force, is preventing Bougainville, Australian and New Zealand police from reaching South Bougainville.

Sources say the armed roadblock targets Australian Federal Police, working with Bougainville police but regarded with suspicion because of Australia's role in the nine-year conflict.

No police will cross the roadblock as a sign of solidarity.

This means New Zealand police on Bougainville cannot carry out much of their work, because they cannot reach or pay 150 Bougainville community police at Buin.

New Zealand police are considering abandoning the roadblock agreement and reaching South Bougainville by boat or helicopter.

Meanwhile, Bougainville chiefs meeting police and others today are expected to pressure national politicians to arm Bougainville police to deal with the roadblock and other issues.

This is resisted by Bougainville and New Zealand police but not Australian police.

The PNG Cabinet has considered the establishment of a force of armed special constables, reporting to Assistant Commissioner Joe Bemu.

The special constables would be ex-combatants told to clear roadblocks at Aropa and Morgans Junctions ahead of elections set to begin in May.