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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 2, 2002 – Post-Courier)---Security during general elections on Bougainville in June remains a big concern for electoral and police officials.

But despite the concerns, the officials gave assurances that they would try their best to ensure that the elections are conducted peacefully.

Bougainville Electoral Commission manager Mathias Pihei and provincial police commander Superintendent Joseph Bemu raised the concern yesterday.

The ceasefire agreement signed in Arawa on April 30, 1998, by leaders of Bougainville, BRA, the prime ministers and representatives of the Solomon Island, Fiji, Australia, New Zealand and Vanuatu says: "As from that hour all parties will continue to refrain from all hostile acts or the carriage or possession and the use of arms, ammunition, explosives and other instruments of death, injury or destruction on Bougainville."

"Police in Bougainville, according to the ceasefire agreement, have no power to (make) arrests," Mr. Pihei said yesterday.

"It is part of the Electoral Commission Act to have a police presence — security is part of an election purpose.

"Although we can say the elections should be good provided the successful progress of the peace process, we will also be going out there with the full knowledge of the risk that may be involved," Supt. Bemu said.

"We have no way of retaliating and I can say 100 percent security is not guaranteed. We made known already that we will be going out there unarmed, but be assured we will do our very best to provide security for the Electoral Commission and the people who will exercise their freedom to vote.

"We’re handicapped because we are following the ceasefire agreement.

"We are hoping people will understand the situation."

Supt. Bemu said there were 76 policemen and 100 auxiliary police ready to be deployed to 98 polling booths on the island.

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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