TASK FORCE HUNTS FOR STOLEN BOUGAINVILLE ARMS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (Post-Courier) – Bougainvilleans have formed a task force to look into major weapons problems that have materialized recently.

The task force will also assist with recovering guns that have been taken from containers in Saposa, Selau/Suir and Kunua Keriaka (North Bougainville) and Torokina in Southwest Bougainville.

Peace co-coordinator Peter Sohia said the joint task force would look for more than 200 weapons missing from containers, adding that three major road blocks had been set up by the ex-combatants (members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and Bougainville Resistant Forces) in Central Bougainville to check all vehicles for home brew and weapons.

Sohia added that a similar roadblock had also been set up in Buka, North Bougainville to search people and vehicles for any home-brewed alcohol or weapons.

"These weapons came out of the connexes that belong to the peace process and have been moved to the places that are out of our control and that is the Mekamui Defense Force area," said Sohia.

Meanwhile, the establishment of the autonomous Bougainville government and elections under the Bougainville constitution would be at risk if stage two of the weapons disposal program fails.

And the implementation of the Bougainville's constitutional laws, autonomy and referendum arrangements would only become operational if the agreed weapons disposal plans are concluded and verified by the United Nations Observer Mission on Bougainville.

"UNOMB is unable to verify those weapons or the verification of those weapons is uncontrolled, which means this will affect the constitutional amendment made by Parliament coming into effect. There is no verification, no Stage 3 of the Weapons Disposal," added Sohia.

He said they had set December 24, as the target date to complete Stage 2 of the weapons disposal program and failure to adhere to the set date would delay the whole process.

"We have set up three roadblocks in Central Bougainville to try and recover the guns and alcohol and, hopefully, things will improve within the next two weeks. It's a good thing that the general response from throughout the island has been very good," concluded Sohia.

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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