SEND ARMY INTO HIGHLANDS, URGES FORMER PNG ARMY COMMANDER DIRO

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 22, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Former army commander Ted Diro says the Papua New government must send the Defense Force into the Southern Highlands to clamp down on "anarchy."

Mr. Diro’s call came as the first siege in the general elections campaign entered its fifth day with two policemen and a candidate being held hostage in a village in the Southern Highlands.

Ex-general Diro, now the leader of the Peoples Action Party, said he has a candidate in the Tari-Pore electorate in next month's elections. The candidate has had to get out of the area several times because of the vicious attacks on people, Mr. Diro said.

"My information is that three electorates, Tari-Pore, Koroba-Kopiago and Komo-Magarima, are totally out of control," he said.

The siege drama follows a shootout on Friday between police and a band of people now holding the three men hostage. A policeman was killed in the clash as well as two men from the group holding the hostages.

Koroba-Lake Kopiago MP Herowa Agiwa said he was surprised to learn of the hostage drama but admitted some of those holding the three were his supporters.

He has opted not to interfere with former Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru’s attempts to free the hostages.

Mr. Diro said: "The Defense Force must be called up straightaway."

Police Commissioner Joseph Kupo said: "I want to concentrate on the safe release of my policemen. This is the position I will adopt right now."

Mr. Diro said a call-up of the soldiers could be done under the control of the Police Force.

Villagers have blockaded parts of the main highway through the affected areas and a state of anarchy exists there. "Democracy does not exist up there any longer," Mr. Diro said.

"People are walking around with bush knives and killing people at the slightest provocation, the slightest insult, according to my sources.

"The police are being overpowered by the situation. The range of armaments is substantial. Police cannot act against them alone."

Asked about reports of disagreements within the Defense Force about getting involved in the elections, Mr. Diro said military people always know they can ignore illegal commands.

They know they could do this if they feel an officer is telling them to do something wrong, he said.

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

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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