BUKA - The dates for Bougainville’s referendum on its political future cannot be set without processes agreed by both the Papua New Guinea Government and Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) says the man responsible for conducting the vote.
Chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission and former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, pictured here with President John Momis, said there must be a certainty of funding and constitutional regulations must be in place before further progress is made.
The referendum had been scheduled for 15 June but now it is unlikely this date will be achieved.
Mr Ahern he is conscious of the position of both governments and urged them to work together to achieve the referendum.
“What is needed is a pragmatic and intellectual approach that will meet the expectations of the people as well as acting within the legal aspects of the Bougainville Peace Agreement,” he said.
“The two governments must work together for a better future for Bougainville and work out the issues that pertain to the overall process.”
But Mr Ahern was optimistic outstanding issues would be resolved by the Joint Supervisory Body meeting scheduled for yesterday.
“We have to provide a referendum that satisfies the aspirations of the people of Bougainville,” he said.
So far the PNG government has not provided funding for the referendum commission to be properly established.
Furthermore, work on updating the common roll has lagged, constitutional regulations have yet to be gazetted and voting criteria are not ready for publication.
Much of the funding provided to the commission so far has come from the UN Bougainville Referendum Support Project funded by Australia and other countreis.
In a separate statement, Bougainville president John Momis has said the primary focus on Bougainville should be to bring peace and creating a just and democratic government for the people.
“We must be focused on establishing permanent peace for Bougainville and its people,” President Momis said, welcoming Mr Ahern to the province.
“Though we are frustrated by the national government’s lack of commitment to the Bougainville Peace Agreement we must be convinced that more can be done through collaboratively engaging our development partners,” he said.
He stated that Bougainvilleans are trailblazers and have the resilience to prevail and urged his government to present a united front in its dealings with the PNG government.
Many Bougainvilleans are frustrated with the national government’s failure to implement the peace agreement.
Bougainville leaders say if prime minister O’Neill wants us to remain with PNG he should implement the peace agreement and show he cares about the people.
“The further the national government tightens its stranglehold on Bougainville the further the prime minister is pushing the people away,” one leader said.