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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 21, 2002 – Post-Courier)---The Defense Force headquarters is hopeful that the standoff at the Moem Barracks will be resolved by this weekend.

Chief of Staff Colonel Tom Ur, accompanied by Colonels Joe Kewa and Ben Norrie, said they were confident of restoring normalcy at Moem by the weekend.

The three men gave this assurance while launching a program using the media to carry out an awareness program on the retrenchment and repatriation exercises for the soldiers yesterday.

They said the benefits were good and those soldiers who received their handshake were satisfied and have no complaints.

He also revealed that K 3.4 million (US$ 943,160) was paid to 46 retrenched soldiers and the minimum average was K 30,000 (US$ 8,322) and a sergeant by rank received about K 70,000 (US$ 19,418).

Col. Ur said the cost of repatriation of these soldiers and their families also came from the K 3.4 million (US$ 943,160).

The three senior officers also told reporters that Col. Kewa will travel to Wewak next Monday to present checks to 10 retrenched soldiers.

Col. Ur said in no uncertain terms that Col. Kewa would also make it known that those who had served less than 20 years and who would want to remain in the force can do so by forfeiting the fat handshake.

Col. Ur said Col. Kewa would start using the media to tell the soldiers throughout the country on the retrenchment program.

Meanwhile, Col. Ur said there were only 15 soldiers who were now involved in the Moem mutiny and other soldiers wanted to have nothing to do with the standoff. He also assured the people of Wewak and the business community that as soon as matters were resolved, the Defense Force would do community work to make up for it.

Col. Ur said the reported mounting of guns on a vehicle and driving around Wewak town was a sign of lacking confidence.

He also confirmed that the soldiers arrested and charged by the Wewak police are serving soldiers. The soldiers were arrested last Friday and charged with selling a military weapon.

Col. Ur said, as part of the awareness program, Col. Kewa with some senior officers will be on the ‘Talk-back’ program on FM 100 today.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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