9 Feb 2005

EU stands back from Bougainville school occupation

8:06 pm on 9 February 2005

The European Union says it's up to the Papua New Guinea government and provincial authorities to sort out a long-standing row involving the occupation of a school.

Meetings are being held on Bougainville in a bid to end an occupation of Hutjena High School at Buka by a group of youths.

The Hutjena Home Guard wants 327,000 US dollars for having looked after the school during the civil war that ended seven years ago.

The provincial government has already paid the group more than 32,000 dollars towards the claim but says it has no more to give.

The EU representative in PNG, Anthony Crasner, says it has spent 2.3 million US dollars upgrading the 600-pupil school with a standby generator, new dormitories, an administration block, classrooms and teachers' houses.

But Mr Crasner says it has no view on what the solution to the occupation should be.

"At this stage it is a problem for the local administration - for the Bougainville Government, for the PNG national government and for the Department of Education. In so far as the facilities that we're constructing have not been damaged and the workers and the contractors have not been interfered with, this is not an issue we would think of taking up with government at this stage. However, if that were to change then it would become a matter of serious concern for us."

Mr Crasner says it is up to the community to work out a process by which the issue may be resolved.