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By Aloysius Laukai

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 22) – Armed youth continue to guard the entrance into Bougainville’s "no-go zone" as roads and other infrastructure continue to deteriorate.

They are well armed and check anything suspicious that travels the road from Buka to Nagovis. They number about 20 and are all young men believed to be Bougainville Rebel Francis Ona’s boys.

They guard the roadblock day and night, despite the recent arrival of members of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) which recently came to the island.

On Oct. 12, employees of Tambolema Trading Ltd. chartered a Mitsubishi Canter truck and left Buka later that morning to travel to Nagovis on the border of central and south Bougainville.

Getting there would mean traveling through the no-go zone roadblock, where one has to come face to face with the armed youngsters.

The Mitsubishi Canter was loaded with sports equipment like soccer balls and volleyball nets and balls, whistles, printing and typing equipment including computers, a canteen facility and musical and electrical equipment.

Tambolema Trading was delivering the items as part of its sponsorship of activities to commemorate the 42nd Anniversary of the St Therese Catholic sub-parish Pope in Nagovis.

They were also going to Pope to help raise funds for a new church building, because the old building was destroyed at the height of the Bougainville conflict.

The trip to Nagovis took about four hours with the road from Buka to Panguna in reasonably good condition. However, on the other side of Guava village, the gravel road was in very bad shape.

Heavy rains and lack of maintenance had taken their toll in this part of Bougainville, mainly attributed to Francis Ona’s no-go zone restrictions.

About five minutes away from the no-go zone roadblock, the Tambolema Trading party came across two AFP vehicles obviously on a routine patrol of the area.

The driver of the Canter, Patrick Boney, and crewmember Simon Opariko regularly travel this route between Bana, Buka and Arawa.

Going through the no-go zone is shorter than traveling through Buin, which would take about 10 hours.

"We encounter a lot of problems on this road, and it is very difficult trying to operate a transport service in the area," Boney explained. "Punctured tires are a regular phenomenon."

While the road users and truck owners are concerned that one of the bridges may be washed away sooner or later, they still take the risk to travel to Buka and Arawa every day.

The Mitsubishi Canter and its passengers and cargoes arrived at Pope without incident at about 5 p.m..

The celebrations started with a sports tournament the next day, Oct 13. Six men’s teams played soccer while five others took to the volleyball courts. The womenfolk also turned up with six teams to compete in volleyball.

The games ended on Saturday afternoon. In between there were also traditional singing and dancing, bamboo band performances, drama and video shows.

This all ended with an open Mass on Sunday morning, with the presentation of prizes afterwards.

Chairman of the celebration’s organizing committee, Lawrence Tenai, also used the opportunity to call on the people of Pope in other parts of Bougainville and the country to assist by donating towards the church building project.

Mr Tenai said because the Pope sub-parish also has a school that is as old as the sub-parish, former students must assist with any improvements to both facilities.

October 25, 2004

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