ROGUE SOLDIER ATTACKS PAPUA NEW GUINEA REPORTER

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Oct. 7, 2002 - Post-Courier/PINA Nius Online)---Military police in Port Moresby hunted a soldier who attacked an investigative reporter at Papua New Guinea's main armed forces barracks.

Defence Chief of Staff Tom Ur said the man would be dealt with "in the military way".

Reporter Robyn Sela, who covers military and police reporting for the Papua New Guinea Post-Courier, was assaulted at Murray Barracks.

The clash with the reporter appears to have resulted from her reporting recently about moves to investigate activities of Fred Punangi, the Secretary of the Department of Defence.

The nation's cabinet, the National Executive Council, has suspended the Secretary and set up an investigation into allegations about conduct in office.

Miss Sela reported recently that the Defence Secretary had bought a new luxury four-wheel drive when the military lacked funds to buy basics like toilet paper.

"I could see something was about to happen when he came near me, from the look on his face," she said of the attack.

"He grabbed me by the forearm and shook me a few times, then he said 'You had better stop writing stories about Mr Punangi'."

She said the soldier then bunched his hand into a fist and held it against her temple, pointing two fingers at her head and said "If you continue, if we find you somewhere we will shoot you to dead".

A military public relations officer arrived and stepped in between the two. Other soldiers rushed to the scene.

Reporter Sela said the man walked away to a waiting vehicle, saying "Robyn Sela, we will get you."

The vehicle, with tinted glass windows, drove away.

South Pacific Post managing director Bob Howarth said the newspaper had put Miss Sela and her family in a safe house until the fugitive soldier was arrested.

Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said some serious allegations have been made and it is only fair Mr Punangi steps aside to allow for investigations.

Sir Michael said Cabinet has directed the Chief Secretary, Joshua Kalinoe, to establish a Central Agencies Investigating Team.

Deputy Secretary Steven Raphael is acting Secretary for Defence.

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

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

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