PNG parliament to have final say in Bougainville vote, says O'Neill

2:39 pm on 19 March 2018

Papua New Guinea's prime minister says his government is fully committed to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

PNG PM Peter O'Neill

PNG PM Peter O'Neill Photo: AFP / Peter Parks

Peter O'Neill made the comment in New Ireland province while presiding over the opening of the Government House in Kavieng.

In the presence of New Ireland's governor Sir Julius Chan, Mr O'Neill acknowledged the push for autonomy by this and other provinces, including East New Britain.

However, the prime minister said that PNG must be careful in managing the issue, to maintain its unity.

He cited Bougainville as an example of how a push for autonomy can plunge a country into crisis.

Under the Peace Agreement, PNG's autonomous region of Bougainville is to have an independence referendum before 2020.

The Post Courier reported Mr O'Neill as saying PNG would honour every word of the Agreement.

But he pointed out that under the Agreement, the vote's outcome would have to be endorsed by PNG's parliament before it materialises.

According to the prime minister, this also meant the people of Bougainville would have to convince the people of Papua New Guinea as well through their elected leaders.

"This is a journey that we have to work together, and I welcome the initiative and the offer of assistance to talk with the people of Bougainville from the former Prime Ministers, particularly Sir Julius Chan."

Mr O'Neill warned that PNG should not repeat past mistakes, where it introduced provincial governments and created a structure of government that it could not fund or maintain.

"Just because we have to satisfy Bougainville, whatever autonomous arrangement we have to come with it must function for the best interest of our people that is our number one priority and secondly it must be funded well so it can function in provinces," he said.

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