10 Feb 2004

PNG Government pleas for UN's Bougainville Head of Mission to be kept on

8:22 am on 10 February 2004

Papua New Guinea's Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Sir Peter Barter, says the peace process on Bougainville is threatened by a United Nations decision to withdraw its Head of Mission

The UN representative, Noel Sinclair, who has been a key player in the effort to restore peace to the island, is due to leave on February 28th with the rest of the UN contingent leaving on June 30th.

Sir Peter says they had been hoping that the UN would agree to let Mr Sinclair stay until elections for the autonomous government are held, and the guns on the island are destroyed.

He says no one elsewhere in the UN team has the in depth knowledge and trust and respect to keep the process on track.

"Noel Sinclair has done a fine job over four and a half years and over that four and a half years, he has built up a tremendous trust with the people..if he is taken away from that job right at the moment, it could - it would, upset the whole process"