4 Aug 2006

Fears of build up of guns prompted state of emergency in PNG's Southern Highlands

9:15 am on 4 August 2006

The Papua New Guinea Opposition Leader Peter O'Neill says a key aim of the state of emergency in Southern Highlands is to remove guns from the community ahead of the elections in June next year.

This week the Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, blamed the provincial administration for what he called an appalling lack of security and public order.

Mr O'Neill, who is from the province, says all except one of the province's MPs support the action because of the threat posed by the growing availability of guns and the administration's possible role in that.

"For some time now the administration of that province has been involved in a sort of cargo cult management of the province whereby large sums of money has been delivered to ordinary villagers, who in turn, are alleged to have purchased high powered firearms and guns and so forth."

The last poll in 2002 was marred by violence in Southern Highlands leading to the postponement of the vote in several of the province's electorates.