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Deferral of referendum rests with Autonomous Bougainville Government: PNG PM
5:06 pm GMT+12, 12/04/2018, Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has sent out a clear message that any deferment of referendum on Bougainville rests with the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
But the ratification solely rests with the National Parliament, and that particular clause has to be clearly explained.
PM O’Neill said there is no need to create anxiety among the people of Bougainville and PNG, as he commended the committee for a job well done, and stressed that there needs to be a serious and well strategised bipartisan approach to these issues ensuring that they are debated in the interest of stability of PNG, that is going to continue to provide the support that is needed to be given to the people of Bougainville.
Also, the National Government and ABG will hold an official meeting in Buka on April 27, followed by the Joint Supervisory Body Meeting in June in Arawa for the first time, to address all these issues contained in the Bougainville Report presented yesterday.
“And one thing that I want to make very clear is that, the peace agreement clearly states that any deferment of the referendum will have to be approved by the ABG and the people of Bougainville. But the ratification of the outcome of the referendum solely rests with the responsibility of this parliament,” he said.
“That particular clause and that particular issue has got to be explained properly to the people of Bougainville. If this Parliament does not ratify the outcomes of referendum, we don’t want to create anxiety among our people.
“We must make sure that this is a realistic outcome that will happen in our country. So, it must be discussed in a frank and open manner so that we are not going to build the hopes and aspirations of the people of Bougainville to a degree where when the Parliament does not ratify the outcome, people of Bougainville feel that they are being let down,” he said.
“So, I feel that this is a very issue that we need to make sure we debate in a sensible and by-partisan approach in the interest of our country and stability of our country.
“I want to inform Parliament that there is a good dialogue that is now going on between our officials and the leaders of ABG and Bougainville as a whole.
“We need to have a bipartisan approach in ensuring that these issues are debated in the interest of the stability of our country, in national interest that will continue to provide the support that we need to give to the people of Bougainville.
“And as I always stated, we are guided by the Peace Agreement that has been signed by our leaders some 20 plus years ago,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Bipartisan Committee on Bougainville Affairs Report was tabled in Parliament Thursday which gave specific detailed recommendations for the National Parliament and Government to implement before Referendum in June 2019.
The report details that there is still a lot of vital issues to be addressed before the end of this year, and before the referendum dates in 2019.
Parliamentary Bipartisan Committee on Bougainville Affairs chairman William Powi presented the report with specific recommendations given to the National Parliament and ABG.
Some of the issues highlighted included weapons disposal, reconciliations, illiteracy rate, slow transfer of powers and many others. Another issue raised was the slow pace by both parties in addressing issues of recommendation.
“In fact, however, preparations are already lagging behind schedule at this point. With the hosting of the APEC Summit in 2018 and other challenges before us, we have to ask ourselves whether we will be ready for the referendum. Moreover, any binding arrangement like the Bougainville Peace Agreement requires honesty, trust and respect from all of the parties concerned,” Powi said.
“Given the slowness in reconciliation processes and the uncertain road ahead to the referendum, perhaps it is understandable why some people were thinking that perhaps it was best to keep arms for deterrence purposes rather than be without them. This is not my committee’s position. I am simply reporting what I heard and inferred from the consultations, and this is what we still have to deal with.”
“And the fact that about half of Bougainville’s population is either illiterate or not educated to adequate levels, suggests that efforts to promote public awareness through verbal communication is the best way to enhance awareness. Again, these would incur great cost. Indeed, awareness is taking place, but it needs to be driven to all parts of the autonomous region in a comprehensive manner,” he said...


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