16 Jan 2003

PNG government says most Bougainville weapons now collected

6:25 pm on 16 January 2003

The Papua New Guinea government says 83 percent of all weapons on the island of Bougainville have now been collected although the deadline for their disposal passed an Christmas Eve.

Their collection is to be supervised by the United Nations and is part of an agreement between the government and Bougainvilleans for the island to be granted autonomy following a separatist war through much of the 1990's.

The inter-government relations minister, Sir Peter Barter, says village chiefs are now being used to tell those holding on to guns that they should disarm and give their weapons to the UN observer mission.

Sir Peter says the delay was in part the result of funds being released late and because weapons were stolen from storage containers.

He says a law expert, Sir James Fraser, was helping with a draft constitution for Bougainville which will be presented to the national government next week.