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Bougainville: withdrawal of PNGDF from Arawa

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FA72 . 3 June 1998


I warmly welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Bill Skate, that the PNG Government has decided to withdraw the PNG Defence Force from the old provincial capital of Arawa.

This follows a decision by the PNG Government to rescind the call-out order for the PNGDF in regard to Arawa. I understand the PNGDF will withdraw from Arawa to the nearby town of Loloho beginning later this week.

This is a highly significant step in the peace process, and the Skate Government is to be congratulated on its decision. It is evidence of the PNG Government’s continuing commitment to peace on Bougainville as set out in the Arawa ceasefire implementation agreement on 30 April.

I urge the other Bougainvillean parties to respond in a similar spirit to Mr Skate’s call for assurances that they too will withdraw their fighters from Arawa.

Mr Skate has said that the withdrawal of the PNGDF from Arawa will leave the police responsible for the maintenance of law and order. The restoration of civilian policing on Bougainvilleas an important component of the ceasefire agreement.

Australia is playing an important role in assisting with the training and equipping of auxiliary police. An AusAID-funded auxiliary police trainer is currently in Arawa as part o f a $500,000 program to support efforts to re-establish civilian authority on Bougainville. The first 35 auxiliary police are due to graduate on 12 June.

Australia remains strongly committed to supporting the efforts of the parties to continue down the path of peace for Bougainville. Along with my colleagues from Fiji, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, I was honoured to have witnessed the signing of the ceasefire implementation agreement at Arawa on 30 April on behalf of the Australian Government.

The Peace Monitoring Group (PMG) is playing a vital role in creating an environment in which the often sensitive and delicate negotiations can continue. I want to acknowledge the excellent work being done by all members of the PMG, and the contribution made by their predecessors.

Media inquiries: Ministerial - Innes Willox (02) 6277 7500 or 0411 414 695 Departmental - Tony Melville (02) 6261 1555 or 0418 623 327

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