16 Dec 2004

Chiefs seek end to armed roadblock at Aropa on PNG's Bougainville island

5:36 pm on 16 December 2004

A government official on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville says chiefs at Kieta are talking to armed members of the Mekamui movement in a bid to end a roadblock at Aropa.

The Arawa district office manager, Otto Noruka, says about a dozen armed Mekamui supporters at Aropa Airport are preventing police and other provincial authorities from travelling to South Bougainville.

He says the roadblock began after an Australian and a Briton, who were on board an aircraft that landed illegally at Aropa in October, went into hiding with rebel leader Francis Ona.

Mr Noruka says the roadblock is a sensitive issue. And he says chiefs meeting in Kieta yesterday discussed how it can be dismantled peacefully.

"They are very dangerous, particularly when people on this side have got no guns, and while they are armed. They are very dangerous with their M60 rifles and other weapons."

Mr Noruka says the roadblock could destabilise efforts to reinforce law and order ahead of elections in an autonomous Bougainville.