PNG troops raid Solomons


By Norm Dixon

At midnight on April 14, a force of Papua New Guinea Defence Force soldiers and members of the pro-PNG Bougainville resistance crossed into the Solomon Islands and raided the village of Kariki, according to reports reaching the pro-independence Bougainville Interim Government.

The raiders warned villagers not to report the raid or their homes would be burnt, then seized a radio, an outboard motor and a canoe.

The PNGDF has launched raids into the Solomons on several previous occasions, claiming that Solomon villagers are sympathetic to the Bougainville independence movement. PNG forces raided Kariki village about three years ago, killing a man and a woman and wounding a small baby. That incident caused a serious diplomatic rift between PNG and the Solomons. PNG was asked to pay compensation.

On March 26, PNG defence minister Mathias Ijape warned the Solomons to stop providing "refuge and haven" for Bougainville rebels, or the PNGDF would launch incursions into the Solomon Islands. Ijape said the Bougainville war was caused by the Solomons' "weak policy" on Bougainville.

Ijape's threats were repudiated by PNG Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan, but the recent raid shows that they were not idle.

There are indications that the Solomon Islands government may back down under pressure. Radio Australia reported on April 3 that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has asked countries in Europe to accept Bougainville rebel leader Martin Miriori, now resident in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara. Both Australia and New Zealand have refused to grant resident status to Miriori, who has refugee status in the Solomon Islands.

On April 17, the PNG military "reimposed" the six-year-long blockade of Bougainville, which has caused the deaths of thousands of people through shortages of essential medicines and supples. The PNGDF issued notices restricting the movement of goods, services and people to Bougainville.

The PNGDF's military pressure on the people of the Solomons is almost certainly linked to the intensification of the blockade, as this is the only alternative route for urgently needed supplies to enter Bougainville.

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