Minister confident in awareness of B’villeans

Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, is confident that a majority of Bougainvilleans understand the two referendum questions of greater autonomy and independence.

However, a lesser percentage does not fully understand the overarching role of the National Parliament in the referendum process.

The history and identity of Bougainville has been shaped by a 10-year civil conflict caused by disputes over the Panguna mine. To resolve the conflict and ensure lasting peace, the Bougainville Peace Agreement was created in 2001.

The Agreement allows for a referendum to be held between 2015 and 2020, to determine the political status of Bougainville.

Sir Puka clarified that results from the referendum will be non-binding, meaning the final decision-making authority will be the National Parliament.

“And so negotiation must take place after the referendum result is announced. And it is a negotiated outcome that will come to the floor of Parliament for Parliament to ratify,” he stated.

“And our challenge is, we must maintain peace throughout the entire process, including the announcement of the ratified position of the National Parliament. So all of us, all the leaders on the ground, us here in mainland PNG, the media, all of us need to carry that awareness out.”

Awareness is yet to be carried out in two key locations in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville; the atolls and Wakunai. The Bougainville Affairs Minister and his delegation will be in Bougainville on the 11th of September while the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit the island on the 13th.

Carmella Gware