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Momis urges more urgency for Bougainville referendum readiness

Momis sbs
John Momis - struggling to create pan-Bougainville unity as an independence referendum looms

ANTHONY KAYBING

BUKA - Meeting the commitments and expectations of the Bougainville Peace Agreement remains an uphill battle with the referendum on Bougainville’s political future less than 18 months away.

And the question of how ready the Bougainville people are for their referendum plagues the Autonomous Bougainville Government as the home stretch looms.

President John Momis says that, although many Bougainvilleans will opt for independence, being ready for the referendum is another matter.

“We are not prepared simply because we are too lazy, we are too individualistic,” he said.

“We are not prepared to work in unity to create a conducive environment for us to be independent if we so choose.”

Efforts to create a financially self-reliant Bougainville through developing primary and extractive industries have met opposition, especially from landowners around the Panguna minesite.

Dr Momis said landowners are resistant to working with the Bougainville government, opting instead to bring in developers that are unwilling to operate under the government’s rules.

Although financial self-reliance is not a pillar of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, Dr Momis has stressed it is a precautionary move to ensure that, when Bougainville reaches the ratification stage for self-government, its people will be ready for it if they so choose.

The three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement - autonomy, the referendum and weapons disposal - set a clear target Bougainville must work towards.

The current administration under Dr Momis has encouraged unification, improving the welfare of Bougainvilleans through economic development, securing Bougainville’s future by fully implementing the peace agreement, promoting good governance and the rule of law, and raising awareness.

But the vexing question of referendum preparedness remains, driving the government to reassert itself to make sure the people are ready.

Dr Momis said despite the seemingly bleak future Bougainville faces, its people must unite with one voice and ensure Bougainville is ready for 15 June 2019. The peace agreement expires the following year.

“We must stamp out corruption, get rid of weapons and ensure the rule of law prevails in our communities,” he said.

“The time for doing things on our own is over, we must work together as one people.”

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