Weapons disposal issues confronting Bougainville

The non-disposal of all weapons on Bougainville may be the only major obstacle in the 2019 Bougainville referendum. Picture: POST-COURIER

PORT MORESBY – The non-disposal of all weapons on Bougainville may be the only major obstacle in the 2019 Bougainville referendum.

This means if all weapons are not completely destroyed or accounted for, which allegedly poses a threat, the referendum will not go ahead.

This was highlighted during the Bougainville referendum three-day conference in Port Moresby.

Serious issues confronting Bougainville’s journey to referendum on independence also took precedence at the conference organised by the National Research Institute, themed “Implementation of the Peace Agreement and Implications for the Referendum”.

Concerns were raised by ordinary Bougainvilleans, stakeholders and others about the slowness of disposing weapons on the island.

It was also queried that there is no specific database of weapons still on Bougainville.

Central Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai said the weapons disposal program was taking so long to be concluded and that it needed a whole approach both by ABG and the National Government.

The conference was told by a Bougainvillean training youths on security Albert Magoi that there were seven factions to be dealt with in order for the vote to take place in 12 months time.

He talked about the issue of Me’ekamui, who’s now split in four and Tonu’s Noah Musingku group. There are also those ordinary people that still kept their weapons at large.

Independent Bougainville woman leader Helen Yonny also questioned both governments what would happen if guns took precedence and used at the voting time and what the ABG was doing about the Me’ekamui and the self styled King of Papala.

“Are we ready for independence that we are asking for? I ask this question because of a lot of issues, one major aspect being weapons that are still within Bougianville…if independence who is going to run that nation?” she said.

Former PNGDF Commander Jerry Singirok also alluded to the number of weapons still in Bougainville. As the chair of the weapons committee on guns, he was still getting calls from Bougainville to buy guns.

But ABG’s weapons boss Dennis Kuiai assured the conference that all was under control, that they were finalising the database of all weapons still floating on Bougainville.

International presenters also spoke about weapons disposal plus good governance equaling the target date for referendum next year.

Weapons Disposal questions – presented to the conference:

* Could violence before, during or after the referendum threaten credibility of the outcome?

*Could International observers determine that the referendum has not been ‘free and fair’ and withdraw their support?

*Could the National Parliament use violent incidents as a basis to decide against independence?

Akoitai stressed that these issues were that of Bougainville leaders to deal with including the National Government

“On the issue of different factions, these are local issues that we have to address….yes we have ABG which is the legal government but we also have Mekamui, Musingku…we need to deal with these issues, they are local issues…we Bougainvilleans are own obstacles to our own economy, underpinning our own economy in Bougainville, but we will deal with it,” he said.