9 Feb 2005

Bougainville police, officials meet over occupation of school on PNG island

2:51 pm on 9 February 2005

Meetings are being held between police and provincial officials on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville in a bid to resolve a stand-off that has left a school occupied by protesters.

The 600-pupil Hutjena High School at Buka is being occupied by a group that goes under the name of the Hutjena Home Guard.

It's claiming 327,000 US dollars from the Bougainville provincial government towards costs the group says it incurred looking after government property during the civil war which ended in 1997.

Elly Sawa, the press secretary for Bougainville Governor John Momis, says the group has already been paid more than 32,000 dollars by the provincial government, but it is out of money.

"The administration is really facing a shortage of funding and we don't really have enough money to run our normal operations in the province, because we are starting from scratch, so we could not address these claims."

Mr Sawa says the Government has put all such claims on hold and has told the Hutjena Home Guard it will enter talks when they leave the school.

He says police have been to the school but failed to persuade the occupiers to leave.