11 Jan 2006

Bougainville government urged to take initiative over Fijian ex-soldiers

10:48 am on 11 January 2006

A senior Papua New Guinea minister says the autonomous Bougainville government has to move first to stop five Fijian former soldiers from giving military training in a rebel-held area.

The intergovernment relations minister, Sir Peter Barter, has been in constant contact with the Me'ekamui rebels over the last month.

Sir Peter is seeking the peaceful transfer of the five men, and he says this can only be done when the provincial government takes the initiative.

"The national government's stand on this is that we have to allow the autonomous government of Bougainville who have been given the police powers, to be able to move in to do something to resolve this issue. But we're reluctant to see them go in with guns, because we know there's guns down there and we don't want any further violence on Bougainville."

According to Sir Peter, the key is the arrest and charging of the Fijians' purported employer, the money scheme operator, Noah Musingku.

The Fijians have been providing military training at Tonu in the south of Bougainville island, and Mr Musingku has reportedly offered them each a million US dollars for two years' work.