10 Jan 2019

Rebel groups backing Bougainville referendum

5:00 pm on 10 January 2019

The Bougainville regional MP, Joe Lera, says former rebel groups in the south of the autonomous region in Papua New Guinea have committed to the referendum process.

Bougainville Regional MP in PNG Parliament Joe Lera

Bougainville Regional MP in PNG Parliament Joe Lera Photo: facebook

In June Bougainville is scheduled to hold a vote on whether it should be independent of PNG.

Disposing of guns is a key part of becoming 'referendum ready' as laid down in the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Mr Lera says most Bougainville constituencies have now reached this stage.

He says at ceremonies around Siwai in Bougainville's south over the Christmas break former combatants reconciled and surrendered illegal guns.

He says the groups are still holding on to some of their guns but those handed over and the reconciliations made, show support for the vote.

"They are serious because they fought for independence and if they don't [support] people will ask 'Why did you fight and why are you holding on to the guns - why can't you just comply.' So the referendum can proceed. The referendum, to many people now, they are seeing it, the referendum, is just as important as independence."