So close, yet…

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Chairman of the Oversight Committee Dr Jimmie Rodgers
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-Bougainvilleans stranded on this side of border since last year

-Government blames PNG

BY BARNABAS MANEBONA

A NUMBER of Bougainville people have been stranded at the western border since the state of public emergency began in March 2020.

And they want to return to their homes.

They have sent requests to the Government to make an arrangement where they can be transported across the border with the help of police from both countries.

The Bougainvilleans say although they are just a boat ride away, they could not travel across because the border has been secured by police from both sides.

Secretary to Prime Minister (SPM) Dr Jimmie Rodgers in response to this issue explained that the problem at this stage is PNG’s requirements.

“We sympathise with the people of Bougainville wanting to go back and our people wanting to come across,” Rodgers said.

“From the government side we have been looking for ways to help them go back,” he added.

“But the problem lies with the requirements the PNG government has imposed.

“There are two requirements.

“One is that the ‘incident controller’ at PNG must give approval before we can send someone across.

“And the second part is once approval comes, PNG requires Covid tests using PCR machines. They do not use what we have at Gizo.

“It is three days before they go. So where the Foreign Affairs now is to try and seek approval from PNG so that they can approve for their citizens to return.

“As soon as we get approval, we will sort out their testing, because the swab has to be collected, sent up to Honiara, tested here, result goes back and by the time results is done, within three days they will go.

“The process for how to do it is what they are talking about.

“Once approval comes and test is ready then we will activate our immigration and theirs, our police and their police to do the actual transfer.

“But before we can go to the operational side, this policy side must happen first. 

“We are expecting the new High Commissioner of PNG to arrive towards the end of this month.

“Once he gets here, communication with PNG might be easier so that we can quickly get approval from the other side.”

Rodgers assures the Bougainvilleans that the Government is doing its part to help them return home.


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