Referendum commentators urged to exercise caution

The Catholic Professionals Society PNG has urged those who are publicly commenting on the Bougainville referendum to exercise caution.

“While free speech is a guaranteed right of every citizen, including Bougainvilleans under our National Constitution, the Catholic Professionals Society is concerned with certain comments questioning the constitutional validity of the Bougainville Constitution, the referendum, and the envisaged consultation between our two governments after the declaration of results of the referendum,” said president, Paul Harricknen.

“The sequence of events from 2001 to date shows maturing relationship between our National Government and the Bougainville Government.

“In 2001, the Peace Agreement was executed. In 2002, the National Government enacted Organic Law on the Peace Agreement. The National Government, also, in 2002, enacted Constitutional Amendment to allow for Government of Bougainville and Referendum. In other words, the Peace Agreement was given both Organic Law and Constitutional law status.

“In 2004 PNG National Parliament approved the Constitution of Bougainville. In 2005, first ABG elections were held and a new ABG Government was formed.

“This year, 2019, is the 14th anniversary of the formation of the Bougainville Government. It is the sunset year for the referendum under existing law,” continued Harricknen.

“Our Society also recognises that the operational part of the peace agreement gives due recognition for the National Parliament to approve the Referendum outcome for it to take effect within a specified period of years.

“While we all want to remain united as one people, one nation, one country, we must allow constitutionally sanctioned referendum on Bougainville.

“We wish Bougainvilleans well with prayerful hearts.”

Polling started on November 23 and will end on December 7. Counting will start soon after that while results declaration and return of the writ will be on December 20th.

Petition period starts from mid-December to late January 2020.

Press release