17 Feb 2005

New Zealand police regret lack of progress over Bougainville roadblock

4:52 pm on 17 February 2005

The head of New Zealand police on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville says he regrets that he cannot pay local community police at Buin for the meantime.

The New Zealand Government has come in for criticism from leaders on Bougainville for not finding a way to pay community police who are its responsibility.

At issue is an ongoing roadblock at Aropa, maintained by a faction of the rebel Mekamui Defence Force, which is barring all police from reaching south Bougainville.

The team leader for the New Zealand police on Bougainville, Superintendent Athol Soper, says it is negotiating with the provincial administration and Bougainville Police Assistant Commissioner Joe Bemu over the issue.

But Superintendent Soper says New Zealand police will not go through the roadblock or around it without approval.

He acknowledges the difficulties this places on the community police at Buin.

"It's absolutely frustrating for us that they can't be paid. We're really keen to get in there, not only to pay them but also to provide them with some more training, because that's the job that we're here to do, and there is some frustration about our inability to do that for the moment."

Superintendent Athol Soper.