Bougainville Police To Detain, Question Chinese Workers At Panguna

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Locals question who gave authority for foreigners to come to mine site

By Romulus Masiu

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 3, 2013) – Central Bougainville police and ex-combatants will move into Panguna today to pick up 16 Chinese nationals in the mine area.

They will be brought to Arawa Police Station for questioning and screening of their work documents.

Central Bougainville Police Commander Inspector Herman Birengka gave this undertaking yesterday when the Post-Courier asked him how the Chinese ended up in the blocked off, controversial mining area.

Police and ex-combatants will make the move as tension is brewing now from locals who are questioning those in authority how foreigners can just walk into Panguna under the eyes of authorities on the ground, including the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Bougainville Police Service.

Locals, especially ex-combatants, took a swipe at Immigration officials in Port Moresby over the arrival of the 16 Chinese nationals.

The 16 Chinese – three of them interpreters – will have all their work permits, passports and visas thoroughly screened and checked at the Arawa Police Station to see if they are genuine.

If they are found to be illegally here, they will be locked up at the Arawa Police Station cells, Insp Birengka told the Post-Courier.

According to police intelligence, the Chinese have been recruited by a group of Americans (company named) based at Panguna to come over and ‘help’ out in their operations.

By today police should have a clear indication whether the group is involved in the gold business or scrap metal operations at the Panguna mine site.

The group arrived last week from Port Moresby through Buka and then to Arawa where they went to Panguna.

Insp Birengka believes the Chinese have been recruited and employed by the Americans based in Panguna.

"Right now we have two groups of nationals up in Panguna – the Americans and the Chinese. This is a very serious issue on the ground as the legitimate authority on the ground, including ABG through its Bougainville Police Service does not have a fair idea on the arrival of these people," Insp Birengka said.

When quizzed if locals are masterminding the influx of the foreigners, Insp Birengka could not confirm this, but he said this was possible.

He warned that local organisations must go through the right channels and proper processes as stipulated under the Bougainville Constitution instead of doing things on their own.

"They must report to the legitimate authorities instead of coming into the region on their own will."

Inspector Birengka is also appealing to locals or any organisation wanting to bring in foreigners for whatever reasons that they must alert authorities on the ground, especially ABG and its police.

Central Bougainville Veterans Association spokesperson Junior Dake when giving a briefing on the presence of the 16 Chinese to former combatants in Buin, said the Chinese if processed and found to be illegally in Bougainville, will be locked up at the Arawa Police Station.

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