26 May 2005

New Zealand police off Bougainville indefinitely over immunity ruling

8:01 pm on 26 May 2005

Five New Zealand police advisors, removed from the Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville last week, will not return before the immunity controversy affecting Australian police is resolved.

The officers, who were in Bougainville to support the establishment of community policing, were removed after reports that a member of the separatist Meekamui movement had threatened to kill a white police officer.

They left days after Australian police were flown out of PNG following a court ruling that they did not have immunity from prosecution under PNG law.

A spokesman for the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brad Tattersfield, says this court decision has also cast doubt on the legal position of the New Zealand officers.

"And for that reason our police contingent will not be returning to Bougainville while those issues are (being ) sorted out with the PNG Government."

Last week the PNG Foreign Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, issued, then put on hold, a request for New Zealand to send more officers to fill the gap left by the already departed Australians.