3 Jun 2005

Uncertainty over New Zealand police in PNG after Bougainville withdrawal

3:34 pm on 3 June 2005

Uncertainty surrounds the role of five New Zealand police who are in the Papua New Guinea capital after they were withdrawn from Bougainville over a security scare.

The threat to them is reportedly resolved but they are still in Port Moresby.

They left Bougainville just days after the withdrawal by Australia of its 19 police from Bougainville because a PNG court ruled the Australians' immunity from prosecution in PNG was unconstitutional.

New Zealand officials -- who originally said the ruling did not affect New Zealanders on Bougainville -- have since said another reason for the pullout was doubt raised by the ruling.

Immunity under the Enhanced Cooperation Programme between Australia and PNG is the subject of high-level talks.

Sources say New Zealand Police will not go back to Bougainville until it's resolved, which may be done by expanding the ECP to include all foreign police.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Brad Tattersfield, says this is possible, and New Zealand's also having talks with PNG about the immunity issue.

He says it's up to the police when they go back and he's no idea when this might happen.