23 May 2005

PNG police blame Bougainville roadblock on rebels

3:29 pm on 23 May 2005

Police in the Papua New Guinea Island of Bougainville have confirmed that armed rebels are behind roadblocks which forced officials to airlift hundreds of ballot boxes to the south of the province in time for polling to start.

Bougainvilleans are taking part in polls to elect their first autonomous government within Papua New Guinea.

Polling began on Friday to elect a president and a 39-seat assembly for the province of 175,000 people.

The head of police in the province, Joseph Bemu, says the roadblocks were set up by the rebel Meekamui movement, in the Konou district, near Buin.

"Ballot boxes for south Bougainville has been airlifted from Arawa to Buin because of a roadblock that has been set up by some factional elements of Meekamui. We believe that the roadblock was set up to confiscate the ballot boxes and so for safety reasons it has been flown to Buin."

Assistant Commissioner Bemu says the the majority of polling booths have been trouble free.