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Old 07-11-2002, 09:00 PM
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Govt Supports New Target For Weapons Disposal

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Fax: (675) 327-6630

E-mail: pmsmedia@pm.gov.pg.
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The Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, said today that Cabinet had received and carefully considered a detailed report on the Bougainville peace process, including progress in implementing the agreed weapons disposal plan, from the Minister for Inter-Government Relations, Sir Peter Barter.

Sir Michael said the Government was concerned both at the way weapons disposal seems to have slowed in recent months, and especially at reports of break-ins of trunks and containers and removal of guns after they have been put away.

“Cabinet supports the decision by leading ex-combatants to set 24 December for giving the people of Bougainville the long-awaited Christmas present of achieving Stage 2 of weapons disposal and making sure that guns still at large in the community or at Stage 1 are locked up in secure, central containers, behind double locks, with one of the keys held and supervised by the United Nations Observer Mission in Bougainville,” he said.

“We call on ex-combatants, leaders and communities to redouble their efforts to achieve the objective.

“The Government is prepared to play its part by formally requesting the United Nations Security Council to extend the mandate for UNOMB and the contributors to the neutral, regional Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) - Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu – into 2003 so that they can see their assignments through.

“Clearly, the initiative for giving effect to the decision lies in the hands of ex-combatants, leaders and communities around Bougainville,” Sir Michael said.

“As the Constitutional Laws implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement make clear, the date on which the autonomous Bougainville Government is set up and begins functioning depends on how soon UNOMB verifies and certifies that Stage 2 of the agreed weapons disposal plan has been achieved,” Sir Michael said.

“The target-date agreed when the Peace Process Consultative Committee (PPCC) met in Arawa last week fits in quite well with the dates set for completing the Bougainville Constitutional Commission’s report and the first draft of the autonomous Bougainville Government’s constitution.

“Christmas Eve is especially appropriate as the date for completing such an important contribution to peace as getting the guns out of the way in readiness for the day on which we will all celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

“The early achievement of Stage 2 of practical weapons disposal will be the strongest possible sign of real commitment to honouring a plan based on the work of ex-combatants and agreed with them and their leaders.

“It is also the best way of showing appreciation for the very considerable human, financial and other resources that the UN, the PMG countries and foreign aid donors have put into supporting our shared commitment to securing lasting peace by peaceful means.

“Getting the guns out of the way will make it possible for leaders and Government at every level to respond positively to the legitimate demands of people all around Bougainville for peace, normalcy and opportunities to participate in development.

“It will help to reduce widespread – and growing - frustration at the need for repair and upgrading of infrastructure, and services on the ground,” the Prime Minister said.

“Promising peace “is no longer enough. We have to help people realize the practical potential of peace – by creating conditions in which they can help themselves.

“Achieving stage two of the agreed weapons disposal plan provides a good start. It provides the basis for progress on other fronts,” he said.

Sir Michael said that the Government has made it clear that the Bougainville peace process was a national priority. “We want to get on with practical peace building. It is vital that the guns that have been removed are securely stored. It is critical that ex-combatants are re-integrated into the community.

“The Government, therefore, supports last week’s decisions by the PPCC regarding the security of guns and containers,” he said.

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