24 Oct 2003

PNG attorney general's comments on draft constitution anger Bougainvilleans

11:32 am on 24 October 2003

Bougainvilleans, angry at statements from Papua New Guinea's Attorney General that their draft constitution is flawed, have handed the Government a petition in protest.

Attorney General Frances Damem told a law conference in Melbourne that the constitution requires substantial changes.

His comments have also angered PNG's Inter-Government Minister, Sir Peter Barter, who was on Bougainville when the news broke.

Sir Peter says Mr Damem's remarks were untimely and dangerous, and the level of anger on Bougainville is conveyed in the petition he has been given.

"This type of thing is the type of thing that can derail a peace process and we are not going to allow it to derail the process. We have signed a joint communique between us that there is no way we will allow the situation to interfere with the future of Bougainville or the future of the mutual understanding which is contained and enscribed within the Bougainville Peace Agreement."

Sir Peter Barter.

Meanwhile both the Minister and the Bougainville leaders have asked why Mr Damem, who has had the draft for six months, has failed to give either party any feedback on the document.