20 Mar 2012

Owner of destroyed PNG ships blames Bougainville govt

8:52 pm on 20 March 2012

The owner of the three ships destroyed in Buka on Sunday has blamed the government of the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville.

Peter Sharp, whose company also owned the Rabaul Queen, which sank six weeks ago off Morobe, says the provincial government is terrified of the armed militants alleged to be behind the incident.

Don Wiseman has more:

"Soon after the Rabaul Queen disaster, which included several dozen Bougainvilleans among its victims, Mr Sharp's Solomon Queen, Kopra 03 and Kopra 04, were seized. Police said members of grieving families, aided by ex-combatants, had taken over the vessels in Buka port. But Mr Sharp says it was only ever ex-combatants involved. He says police couldn't do anything because they have been emasculated by the government, which appears to side with the ex-combatants. Mr Sharp says they're just criminals who'd demanded compensation, had committed not to destroy the ships and had promised they'd be released last Saturday. The Bougainville government has condemned the destruction of the vessels and set up a team to address the issue, but it says the situation is very sensitive and tense and will make no other comment."