PNG leader launches autonomy for East New Britain

4:09 pm on 3 October 2018

The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has launched autonomy for East New Britain in Kokopo on Tuesday.

Kabaira Bay, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Kabaira Bay, East New Britain, Papua New Guinea Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

He called it a momentous and historic occasion for East New Britain and the country.

This comes as governors of four of the five provinces in PNG's islands region are meeting in East New Britain's capital this week to discuss moves to secure greater autonomy.

The leaders of East New Britain, West New Britain, New Ireland and Manus provinces are in Kokopo to develop autonomy sharing strategies.

The president of Bougainville, which has its own timetable towards an independence referendum next year, is not attending the meeting. However, the Niugini Islands provinces have been leading calls for more decentralisation of administrative powers.

Mr O'Neill said the government has heard the cry from the people for improved standards of living and service delivery.

Local media reported him saying the people and provinces were not the enemy of the government but were the strongest base on which governments build countries.

PNG PM Peter O'Neill

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

He told the people in Kokopo "the government is here today to express its own commitment to you that it will stand by you as you go through this process of decentralisation, believing in you that you can be able to manage your own affairs at the provincial level to better serve people".

Mr O'Neill said there would be more devolution of powers to other provinces. Enga and New Ireland are among other provinces seeking autonomy