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Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has re-affirmed the National Government’s commitment to conduct the Bougainville Referendum as he urged caution in relation to speculation on the date for the Bougainville Referendum.
Responding to media reports and an editorial in the Post-Courier, the Prime Minister noted that both the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government would be discussing referendum preparations at the upcoming meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body in Port Moresby on the 1st of March 2019.
“It is premature to speculate on the final date for the referendum at this time,” the Prime Minister said.
“I have made it clear that our Government remains committed to the Bougainville peace process, and we will honour our obligations to hold a referendum on Bougainville’s long-term political future.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged that there have been challenges in establishing the Bougainville Referendum Commission, but expressed confidence that under the leadership of Commission Chair, Bertie Ahern, preparations for the referendum would now proceed with greater pace.
“I look forward to meeting with Commission Chair Ahern when he is in Port Moresby later this month, and discussing the technical challenges related to preparations for the referendum.
“Together with President Momis we can then determine what more needs to be done and at that time agree on the final date for the referendum.”
Under the terms of the Bougainville Peace Agreement a referendum on Bougainville’s long-term political status must be held by 15 June 2020.
Whilst the both the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government have agreed to 15 June 2019 as the referendum target date, this will be guided by technical advice and other considerations.
“I reiterate my commitment to ensure that the referendum is held within the window of time prescribed by the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and will do everything within my power to ensure that it is a free and fair referendum”, the Prime Minister said.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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