Bougainvilleans go to polls next June to decide future

PORT MORESBY – Bougainvilleans will go to the polls in June next year to determine their future with Papua New Guinea in the long-awaited referendum.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced this last week saying there was no time for delays and reaffirmed his confidence in the preparations being completed on time.

He made the declaration when addressing the National Research Institute-sponsored conference on the Bougainville referendum in Port Moresby last week.

“I reiterate again that we are very much committed to holding the referendum,” O’Neill said.

“There is absolutely no question about it.

“There will certainly be no delays.

“We will hold it as specified in the peace agreement.

“But before we do that, we must agree to the specific wording of the question that is to be determined – we have to attend to the fundamentals of our peace agreement that we have signed.

“We have to ensure that the details that are established must be answered before we go to our people.

“These are the challenges that lie ahead for us over the next few months.

“And I am very confident that we will achieve this outcome amicably.”

He also confirmed the meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body to be held in Arawa next Thursday where all matters pertinent to the referendum will be finalised.

He said they will include questions to be asked in the referendum which will also be widely publicised for all Papua New Guineans to know and understand.

Speaking to the media with Bougainville President John Momis, O’Neill said the final wordings for the referendum will be decided during the JSB meeting.

A confident Momis expressed satisfaction at the commitment of the Prime Minister and the government in working towards the target date.

O’Neill said the government was committed in fulfilling the requirements of both the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Constitution which paved the way for peace on the island.

“The issues concerning Bougainville are quite sensitive for all parties concerned. Together we have come a long way since the Peace Agreement was signed in Arawa in August in 2001.

“I can assure you that this government is committed to honouring the spirit and the letter of this agreement.

“The National Government is fully committed to the spirit of the agreement,” he said.

O’Neill also spoke of the Bougainville Referendum Commission whose members he said would be announced in Arawa.

On weapons disposal he said this was non-negotiable in order to provide guarantee to the people to vote without duress and consciously with clearly articulated political options before them.

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