BOUGAINVILLE GOVERNMENT DENOUNCES SHIP BURNINGS

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Citizens asked to be patient while compensation talks continue

By Fabian Gatana

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 22, 2012) – Autonomous Bougainville Government President Chief John Momis has strongly condemned the burning of the three Rabaul Shipping vessels by former combatant groups in Buka last Saturday.

President Momis said that the action taken by this group will have serious long term repercussions on Bougainville’s peace and stability and the economic recovery effort and investment opportunities that his government has been promoting.

"Bougainville has lost 46 innocent lives in the MV Rabaul Queen disaster, and I share the pains of those families who have lost their loved ones, but Bougainvilleans should not take advantage of this loss to take the law into their own hands.

"Bougainville Police, the Bougainville Administration and leaders of the ABG had been mediating and negotiating with former combatant groups and the owner of Rabaul Shipping, Mr. Peter Sharp, of a possible payment of ‘belkol’ monies for the victims of the MV Rabaul Queen disaster, and there was no need at all for those involved in setting fire to the ships," said the President.

He urged all Bougainvilleans to be patient and wait for the outcome of the inquiry established by the National Government into the sinking of the vessel.

He also added that the use of weapons by former combatants to show their frustration was a clear breach of the Bougainville Peace Agreement of which they are parties to.

He also called on members of the Bougainville House of Representatives, chairmen of Bougainville Council of Elders and traditional chiefs to work closely with former combatants to uphold the rule of law at all times.

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, a decision was made to scrap the vessels and use the proceeds from the materials to provide funds "to cover loss of lives from the MV Rabaul Queen incident and other costs and security purposes." Allegedly, locals from Bougainville will be allowed to scavenge copra from the wrecks to cover "security costs" incurred while the three vessels were in port. The local government has ordered the vessels be towed to a safe location to be dismantled, and Rabaul Shipping has been prohibited the right to tow its vessels.]

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