Bougainville independence not a ‘plaything’ for foreign media, PNG leader says

Peter O'neill. Picture: SUPPLIED

BRISBANE – Papua New Guinea’s prime minister has warned foreigners shouldn’t treat the prospects of an independent Bougainville as a “plaything”.

The autonomous region, which has a population of about 230,000 people – similar in size to that of Hobart – is due to have a referendum on whether to become independent next year.

PNG signed a peace agreement with Bougainville in 2001 after a decade-long civil war that shut down the giant Panguna copper-gold mine.

The Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, insists his government will uphold the agreement and hopes the referendum can be conducted in a peaceful manner that doesn’t disrupt business on the island.

There were prerequisites to the referendum going ahead, including the establishment of the rule of law and disposal of weapons. The question that will be put to the people still has to be developed, he said.

O’Neill hit out at foreign interference over the referendum.

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