10 Feb 2005

Australian police head tackles Bougainville roadblocks issue

1:05 pm on 10 February 2005

The head of the Australian police force on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville says roadblocks are preventing the establishment of a post in south Bougainville.

A longstanding roadblock at Aropa has cut off south Bougainville, centred on Buka, to police from both Australia and New Zealand, operating under PNG command.

Efforts by Bougainville community leaders have failed to date to end the blockade by a breakaway faction of the Francis Ona-led Mekamui Defence Force.

The PNG Cabinet is understood to have last week considered arming a special group of ex-combatants to deal with issues such as the roadblock.

It's understood Australian police would favour the ability to carry arms on Bougainville, currently prohibited under the Peace Agreement.

The Post Courier reports that the head of the Assisting Australian Police in PNG, Barry Turner, is visiting Bougainville to discuss how to deal with the roadblock issue amicably.

Mr Turner says there's an ongoing need for assistance, but Australia will work the way Bougainville wants it to work.