24 Mar 2005

Australian police on Bougainville see no threat from Ona ultimatum

4:39 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 says police fully respect Mr Ona's comments, they will continue to maintain their working relationship with the PNG police in Buka and Arawa.

He says there has been no threat to the Australian police who he says always have a contingency plan to evacuate if there is a threat.

"There is no intelligence to suggest that Mr Ona wishes to harm any of the Australian police and we'll act on intelligence if we do receive intelligence to suggest that our people may be harmed we'll act accordingly."

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.

Despite the fact that there are a lot of heated debates and these sort of ultimatums that Francis Ona has given, underneath we continue to keep in touch, we continue to contact one another. The last thing that we want on Bougainville is to see the resumption of conflict on Bougainville.

Joseph Kabui