By DAVID LORNIE
A SENIOR member of the Me’ekamui Defence Force has met with Bougainville President John Momis to discuss law and order issues.
Steven Ona (pictured), second in command to General Moses Pipiro of the Me’ekamui Defence Force in Panguna, travelled to Buka from his mountain stronghold on Tuesday to speak about setting up a region-wide civilian security force.
Such a meeting between the two leaders would have seemed an impossibility only a short time ago.
Mr Ona told this newspaper that the Prime Minister and President’s recent visit had inspired the Panguna people, including his Me’ekamui faction, to open up to the rest of Bougainville.
The historic visit also motivated his people to “clean up their backyard”. They now plan to train youths as security guards to help maintain the rule of law throughout the region. “We plan to train the youths up in Panguna first,” the commander said.”We want Albert Magoi from the United Bougainville Training Institute to conduct this training.”
Mr Magoi who has served with both the PNG military and Bougainville Revolutionary Army has been training ex-combatants and disaffected youths in Bougainville since the end of hostilities.
Mr Ona says Bougainville police are currently struggling with manpower issues.
“Nowadays there are all kinds of law and order problems coming up,” he said.
“Youths are the main ones causing problems the drunks, those who take homebrew, smoke marijuana and the police are currently not able to deal with all of these problems.
They are not as strong as they could be. That’s why we want to support them.” Mr Ona stressed that the security force be trained to work under the command of the local constabulary. “We don’t want to put the police down, put their work down.
We just want to work behind them to help them in our communities. You could say we will just boost their manpower, support them.
“So we want to set up security all through Bougainville. Have them go through proper training and go back to their places and help the police keep law and order.
“We want to support the police so if we train youths properly, change their thinking, they can look after the place properly.”
Mr Ona said the president Momis was in full agreement with the concept. “He has been thinking the same thing there must be security training.
He has talked strongly about this. He has concerns on law and order and wants security to be set up. He wants to kickstart this quickly,” Mr Ona said.
Mr Ona gave his assurance that the security force will not come under the command of the Me’ekamui.
“No, it’s a private monitoring system,” he said. “They will report to the district officer who will report to the president.”