28 Dec 2005

Deadline passes for ex-Fiji soldiers to leave PNG's Bougainville

2:12 pm on 28 December 2005

Officials closest to the rebel-held zone in Bougainville province in Papua New Guinea say they're in the dark about the fate of five Fijians accused of working there as mercenaries.

The Bougainville government is threatening to use force to remove the former commandos from the main island after the deadline for them to leave passed at midnight.

The men have been giving military training to supporters of the money scheme operator, Noah Musingku, in the southern area of Siwai, controlled by Me'ekamui rebels.

Meanwhile, the district officer at Arawa, Otto Naruka, says anger is being directed at Mr Musingku for failing to pay back local investors...

"...and in the situation in Bougainville people are so desperate of money. That came out of the crisis. And this is very powerful, when people talk about money. They have been promised last Christmas they would be paid, and probably next Christmas they'll be promised again for this. There's a lot of disappointment."

Local police are forbidden from entering the Me'ekamui no-go zone and they're not armed, in accordance with the provincial peace agreement.