SHOULD the Bougainville people wish to establish a separate political entity after the 2019 referendum on independence, the province must be totally weapons free in conformity with the Bougainville Peace Agreement, says president John Momis.
There have been concerns expressed by Bougainvilleans that weapons should be kept as an insurance policy, particularly hard-line secessionists who foresee another revolution should the Papua New Guinea government fail to ratify the outcome of the referendum.
Dr Momis has stated that, to meet the requirements of the peace agreement, Bougainvilleans people must surrender weapons still in their possession.
“Weapons disposal is one of the three pillars of the agreement,” Momis said. “The weapons still out there disqualify us from achieving this very important requirement.
“We do not need guns. What we need in Bougainville today is unity. Unity is our most important asset today.
“There has to be unity amongst the factions, the leaders and of course the people,” he said.
Momis added that Bougainville has problems such as lack of capacity and the continuous financial hiccups caused by the national government’s refusal to meet its funding commitments.
But unity remains the paramount issue.
If Bougainville fails to meet the requirement for weapons disposal it may have drastic repercussions as it will give the national government the opportunity to disallow the outcome of the referendum.
While many people have argued that weapons on Bougainville is not an issue, Momis has consistently reminded Bougainvilleans that the peace agreement is a legally binding contract that represents the very essence of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
Momis said Bougainville also seeks the support of the international community and that this needs to be impressed on the minds of Bougainvilleans.