24 Mar 2005

Australian police rejects demand by Francis Ona on PNG's Bougainville island

2:22 pm on 24 March 2005

The Commander of the Australian police contingent on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville has rejected a demand that his unit should leave the province.

Commander Bill Quade was responding to secessionist leader, Francis Ona, who appeared in Arawa township this week for the first time in 16 years, to demand that both the Australian police and the PNG government leave the island

Commander Quade is quoted as saying that while the police fully respect Mr Ona's comments, they will continue to maintain their working relationship with the PNG police in Buka and Arawa.

Meanwhile, the president of the Bougainville People's Congress, Joseph Kabui, says the Bougainville leadership will now intensify its efforts to talk to Mr Ona.

Mr Kabui has ruled out any beefing up of security on Bougainville ahead of the upcoming first-ever elections there for an autonomous government.

Mr Kabui says he doesn't believe that Mr Ona poses a serious threat to the upcoming first-ever elections for an autonomous Bougainville government.

"I don't think that's going to be really serious. I know that right now there are acomplicated network of connections and dialogues that are going now to get the messages out from those persons in the peace process with those on the Mekamui side to let them know that the stopping of the autonomous election and the stopping of the autonomous government is not going to help anyone on Bougainville."

Joseph Kabui.