PNG government dragging its feet over Bougainville vote – MP

PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neil. Picture: RNZ

PORT MORESBY, 29 MAY 2108 (RNZ PACIFIC) – The Papua New Guinea government is not doing enough to support Bougainville as it prepares for a referendum on possible independence, a PNG MP says.

Last week, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill told parliament the vote was not simply about independence but embraced a number of factors.

He also said maintaining the country’s unity was all important.

But the regional MP for Bougainville, Joe Lera, said as the province prepared for the vote in June next year, the PNG government had not been honouring its commitments under the Peace Agreement.

“They have done a lot on the development side of things, like restored some big infrastructure, like airports, power and all these things, roads, but on the political side the province has not been getting the level of support that they should be giving according to the Peace Agreement.”

The autonomous region of Bougainville is to hold a vote on possible independence from PNG next year – a step that marks the culmination of a 20 year peace process.

O’Neill told parliament former leaders would not want the country divided up, saying he would not want to let Bougainville go.

He spoke of the need for unity and stability but Lera, said the Peace Agreement was about enhancing peace and did not talk about unity.

“The bottom line is the issue of independence is part of the Peace Agreement. So, for the prime minister to base his comments on unity, the unity is not in the Peace Agreement. But I understand where he is coming from because he doesn’t want the country to break up,” he said.