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Firearms worry for Bougainville police

The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is still volatile with large caches of firearms still in ex-combatants’ and thugs’ hands, the region’s police commander, assistant commissioner Francis Tokura, says.

“I can say that law and order situation here is fluid for us while preparation is under way for the referendum,” he said.

“Any slight incident can instigate the emergence of firearms to be used in public without fear of the law.
“I’m calling on Bougainville leaders to be really serious in removing firearms in their respective constituents as we prepare for the referendum.”

Tokura said the weekend’s rampage resulting in the burning down of 34 houses, discharging of firearms at the police station and the stoning of police vehicle by armed thugs should not be taken lightly.

“There is still a large number of weapons in the hands of ordinary people,” he said. “We confront many of these armed thugs and it is very intimidating because under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, we (police) are not to be armed.

“I’m appealing to the Bougainville leaders and people that if they are serious about having the referendum, they have to eradicate firearms in their respective communities because a slight incident just like the weekend rampage on Buka can see the display of firearms.”

Tokura said the much-talked about surrendering of firearms exercise that is going on throughout Bougainville is unreliable.

“Even these constituents that claimed to be ready for referendum and weapons free are still unstable,” he said.

“There are still weapons in those constituents that claim that they are now ready for the referendum.”

Tokura said that the police were facing hardship in maintaining law and order on Bougainville.

“We have about 240 officers who are under resourced, without logistic support, to provide services to about 100,000 people in this region, with people living in large, isolated and remote areas,” he said.

“For example, in Kunua (North Bougainville) only two officers living in bush material houses are stationed there.

“In Bana (South Bougainville) a lone officer is using a bicycle for transportation.

“In Arawa, the same officers work in the day shift and then they rest briefly at their houses and later return to work the night shift.

“The Beikut prison is not fit to house prisoners. It is just a rehabilitation centre, so the prisoners are being kept at the Buka and Arawa police stations together with new remandees.

“So, we are also doing the PNG Correctional Services officers’ jobs.”

Tokura said the law and order sector has to be strengthened in order to provide a conducive environment for the referendum process.” .


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