BUKA - The integrity of the referendum to enable the people of the province to vote on Bougainville’s ultimate political future is an essential part of the self-determination process for the autonomous region.
“The world will be watching, and the actions of all of us in this House will be held to account,” Bougainville president John Momis told parliament this week. “We must therefore ensure that we manage these expectations.
“The referendum is a milestone, but it will not lead to any immediate outcome,” Dr Momis said. “The day after the referendum the hard work of negotiation must begin.
“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, if that is what they choose to express.”
He explained that people must understand there is a clear process in the respective constitutions of PNG and Bougainville, as well as the Bougainville Peace Agreement, that must be followed.
Dr Momis warned that unrealistic expectations may not be met. “If this occurs, there is a very real danger of conflict. Simply put, we must not allow this to occur,” he said.
After the referendum there will be a detailed consultation about the outcome to consider the implications arising from the result.
Then there will be a need to seek the approval of the PNG parliament, as it will have a final vote and ratify future arrangements.
Dr Momis said while the referendum is non-binding, it will have a moral authority which cannot be ignored.
Its outcome will provide the basis for negotiation and the will of the people of Bougainville must be taken into account in this process.