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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 8, 2002 – Post-Courier)---All members of the Papua New Guinea Defense Force who served on Bougainville are among the many who will be granted immunity and pardon for their actions during the 10-year Bougainville crisis.

The National Executive Council has given, in principle, its approval to guidelines for the implementation of a joint agreement on immunity and pardon for crisis-related activities in Bougainville.

Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta said members of the Defense Force on Bougainville were on duty in Bougainville.

He said the guidelines proposed that all involved should be given immunity and pardon, except non-citizens who illegally entered PNG during the crisis.

"Arrangements for amnesty and pardon for activities during the Bougainville crisis are a requirement of the Lincoln Agreement and the Bougainville Peace Agreement signed in Arawa last year," he said.

Sir Mekere said the implementation of a joint agreement would fulfill the obligations of all parties and would make legal what had been an unofficial amnesty since the truce in 1997.

He said it would further reassure ex-combatants that the government is serious about the continuation of the weapons disposal program, which is essential if further progress is to be made on political issues.

"There is no excuse for ex-combatants to hold onto their weapons,’’ Sir Mekere said.

He said NEC had instructed that the Attorney General -- in consultation with the Bougainville Peace and Restoration Office -- move ahead with arrangements to implement the guidelines.

Sir Mekere is to oversee the drafting of a declaration for the Head of State to make under section 344 in the constitutional amendment on peace building in Bougainville -- Autonomous Bougainville Government and Bougainville referendum. This will prepare consistent recommendations on pardons to the advisory committee on the power of mercy -- including the removal of criminal records; consult with the Bougainville Administration on the outcome of the consideration given to the joint recommendation on immunity; and oversee pardons by the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government and the Bougainville People’s Congress.

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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