ABG President, Dr John Momis, made this statement during a recent special Parliamentary Sitting of the Bougainville House of Representatives.
“The world will be watching, and the actions of all of us in this House will be held to account. We must therefore ensure that we manage these expectations,” Momis said.
“The referendum is a milestone, but it will not lead to any immediate outcome. The day after the referendum the hard work of negotiation must begin,” Momis added.
“Our people must be made to understand that the referendum is the start of a longer-term process. They cannot expect to become independent immediately following the outcome, if that is what they choose to express.”
President Momis explained that there is a clear process defined in the respective Constitutions of PNG and Bougainville as well as the Bougainville Peace Agreement that must be followed.
Momis warned that this will take time and if leaders fail to inform their people of this process, then their expectations may not be met.
“If this occurs, there is a very real danger of conflict arising. Simply put, we must not allow this to occur,” Momis added.
After the referendum is held there will be a need for a detailed consultation process around the outcome to consider the implications that will arise from the results.
This entails building the capacity of Bougainville through its faculties in the public service and human resources as well as having fiscally sound economy.
The Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Constitution are clear on the process that must be followed.
After the consultation and negotiation process, there will be a need to seek the approval of the National Parliament – this is a ratification process, that the National Parliament will have the final vote on any future arrangements.
The referendum could never have been agreed to during the negotiations if these arrangements were not agreed upon.
Whilst it is non-binding, it has moral authority which cannot be ignored. The referendum outcome will provide the basis for negotiation, and the will of the people of Bougainville must be taken into account in this process.
(Filepic of President John Momis)