CRIME NOT LINKED TO PEACE PROCESS, SAY

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BOUGAINVILLE REBELS

By Philip Kepson

RABAUL, Papua New Guinea (The National/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)--- Bougainville rebel spokesman Andrew Muriki has said much of the latest upsurge in criminal activities on Bougainville should not be taken as moves by any of the main parties involved in the Bougainville conflict to destabilize the current peace process, the National reports.

Mr. Muriki said yesterday, from the rebel stronghold in Lehu near Kongara in Central Bougainville, that cooperation and close working relationship with constant consultation was required of parties involved in peace process, in the light of the latest incidents, particularly those involving stealing of personal and public property by Bougainvilleans.

"We cannot say the crimes are directly related to the peace process or that they are being instigated by people with motives to destabilize the peace process, without establishing those involved in the crimes and their motives," he said.

"What is required is understanding and close working relationship among parties because we are bound to face criminal activities in the process of restoring peace," said Mr. Muriki.

Mr. Muriki expressed doubt over the roles of a combined working committee comprising members of the different rebel factions, resistance, and local police that was formed recently to monitor and protect the demilitarized zones in parts of Arawa and Loloho in Central Bougainville.

"This combined committee was formed mainly to monitor and ensure that the militarized zones were free from crime. However, since the formation of the committee, we haven't heard anything on the progress of their duties," he said.

Mr. Muriki made the statement following an incident on Tuesday last, in which a group of armed men held up overseas Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) personnel at their headquarters in Arawa, Central Bougainville, and robbed them of water containers.

Six months back, three boats belonging to the major overseas contributor to the Bougainville peace process, AusAID, were reportedly taken by force by North Bougainville rebel commander Eddie Mohin and his group. They have not been returned yet despite numerous appeals by PMG officials and North Bougainville Peace Monitoring Committee members.

Provincial education assistant secretary Tony Tsora's boat, which was also stolen by rebels at about the same time as the AusAID boats, also was not returned to the owner.

PMG Brigadier Bruce Osborn told The National last month that several properties belonging to his men, including boots and clothes, were stolen by unidentified thugs in Arawa.

Provincial police chief Joel Kean said most of these criminal activities were related to a high rate of consumption of the illegal home-brew and other alcohol smuggled from the Solomon Islands.

Title -- 1515 BOUGAINVILLE: Crime 'not linked to peace process' Date -- 29 June 1998 Byline -- Philip Kepson Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- The National (PNG), 29/6/98 Copyright - The National Status – Unabridged

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