O’Neill assures ABG on referendum

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has given his word to the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Nation that the vote for Bougainville’s referendum will go ahead as scheduled on June 15, 2019.

He made the commitment during the closing of the Joint Supervisory Body meeting in Port Moresby on Friday (Dec 15).

The conclusion of the JSB meeting began with ironing of technical agreements, which then led to a negotiation scenario.

After two hours and with both sides satisfied, binding documents were signed.

Later in a joint media conference, PM O’Neill announced that at the heart of the meeting was the referendum agenda, particularly the setting up of the referendum transitional committee.

“I’m pleased to announce that we have agreed to establish a referendum transitional committee that will manage the process and which questions that will be asked at the referendum for our people of Bougainville to answer,” said O’Neill.

He gave his guarantee that the referendum vote would go ahead as scheduled.

“I have no issues with the referendum going ahead, given our commitment to the ABG and the ministers and the people of Bougainville.

“We have set the date, we just have to agree on the questions we have to put to our people and as president stated, we have to create awareness on what referendum means,” said O’Neill.

President John Momis expressed gratitude to the National Government, stating the meeting had brought about some good decisions which were of concern to the ABG.

“I’m happy to say that we have come to some very good decisions which were thought not possible.

“We have taken some very good measures to deal with transitional issues that could become roadblocks to referendum preparations.

“We now have to embark on a massive program of raising awareness not only on Bougainville but also in PNG.”

O’Neill confirmed that releasing of government grants was factored into the joint JSB agreement.

“We have reached a conclusion about how we can resolve that issue and that is that we will tie it to key projects on Bougainville, particularly on infrastructure.

“It is certainly well over K400 million, in addition to that we are certainly committed to more projects on Bougainville, particularly the west coast road which we will be working on the design and costing over the next 6 to 12 months.”

An independent person will be selected to chair the newly formed referendum commission.

“Both ABG and the National we need to consult with these individuals first, the individual will ensure there is integrity on the referendum process that is going to take place,” said the PM.

Meredith Kuusa