The Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Government governments this week agreed to create a Bougainville Referendum Commission to oversee the 2019 vote on whether Bougainville should become an independent nation. Bougainville vice president Patrick Nisira issued this statement on the important milestone….
THE signing of this agreement signifies the progress of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville as we strive to find a lasting political solution that will be the ultimate political future of Bougainville.
The agreement on the administrative requirements for the conduct of the referendum on the political status of Bougainville was signed between the Government of Papua New Guinea, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the Electoral Commission of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner.
The formation of the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) will give flesh to the referendum process on Bougainville; it will be an independent commission that will oversee the referendum with the hope that the process follows stringent democratic principles and has integrity.
The signing of the agreement between the two governments signified an important step forward and I give all stakeholders the assurance of the ABG’s full support and respect of the independence of the commission.
However I must remind the parties present at the signing that the independence of the BRC does not mean the commission works alone of the two governments. The two governments will continue to play a crucial role on agreeing on the framework on important matters as the options available in the referendum, security and funding issues.
In his inauguration speech, President John Momis said the Bougainville Peace Agreement is the real basis for us all being here today. It provides us with an exclusive right to self-determination. We can choose and shape our future, a right unique in PNG and rare internationally. We should celebrate this right, as we do by being here today.
The peace agreement is a political and constitutional contract between the national government and Bougainville. It must be honoured in full.
The agreement is not a gift without any strings attached. Instead it will deliver real benefits only if we work hard to make use of the opportunities provided to us. We cannot just sit back and wait for the national government and donors to deliver us to a promised land.
Only we Bougainvilleans can build the new Bougainville we want. We must grasp our opportunities. We cannot ignore the requirements of the agreement. Without it, we would have no legitimate basis for what we do.
In the last Joint Supervisory Body meeting we agreed with the National Government on the key questions to be asked, the common roll to be used of who are eligible to vote, the body to conduct the referendum and the date for the referendum. It is very clear that time is not on our side and we need to move fast.
As the Vice President and Minister for Referendum I am proud that we have achieved the final two points – the formation of the BRC and a working date for the referendum of 15 June 2019.
The ABG has singled out unity as the key to the successful holding of the referendum and for Bougainville to achieve much progress in the way forward to self-determination and eventual independence.
The ABG’s Referendum Department is already conducting a region-wide consultation for this government to visit all districts to sit and discuss government policies and programs but more importantly to hear what our communities are saying.
Sometime our communities cry foul on us merely because we have not given them the opportunity to be heard and to participate. We need to take heed of the adage “divided we fall, united we stand”.
The greatest threat to a progressive and vibrant Bougainville is the people of Bougainville to remain polarised between different groupings such as Meekamui, Kingdom of Papala and Ex-Combatants.
My appeal is for the people of Bougainville to come under the legally constituted entity – the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
The Bougainville Referendum Commission will now help foster the responsibility of this issue and ensure that we have a successful outcome.
I now challenge Bougainvilleans to focus on weapons disposal to provide secure environment where the referendum process is free and fair.
It is time we all took responsibility of our actions and work hard to make Bougainville great again.