Weapons Disposal Success In Bougainville
23 March 2002
Recent successes in the weapons disposal process bode well for a successful final vote on the Bougainville Peace Agreement Bill in Papua New Guinea next week, Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff said today.
The passing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement Bill will set in train the establishment of an autonomous government on the island of Bougainville, and provide for a referendum on independence in 10-15 years’ time.
Success in Tuesday’s vote is dependent on progress in the weapons disposal process.
“The real increase in momentum in the weapons disposal process in the last few weeks has been very encouraging.
“As of Thursday evening, over 720 weapons – 137 of which are high-powered - had been handed in by members of both the Bougainville Resistance Force and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.
“As key members of the Peace Monitoring Group, New Zealand and Australian defence personnel have been closely involved with weapons’ containment on the island. Over the past few weeks they have been kept very busy as more ex-combatants have demonstrated their support for the peace process by handing in their weapons.
“The New Zealand government hopes that the PNG parliament will express its widespread support for the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement next week.
“Advancing the Bougainville peace process has been one of New Zealand’s most important foreign policy engagements, and we are optimistic that the process is about to achieve a key milestone with the locking away of so many guns.
“The passing of this Bill will be an important step towards an enduring resolution to the longstanding conflict which has plagued the island of Bougainville for more than a decade,” Mr Goff said.