17 Jan 2019

Bougainville president says lack of funding making situation desperate

7:52 am on 17 January 2019

The president of Bougainville, John Momis, says the lack of funding from the Papua New Guinea government for referendum preparations is becoming desperate.

ABG President Grand Chief Dr John Momis addresses the Bougainville Public Service during their dedication mass at the Hahela Parish in Buka Town. The Mass was celebrated by Bougainville Diocese Bishop Bernard Unabali.

John Momis Photo: Supplied/ Anthony Kaybing

Bougainville is due to hold a referendum on independence from PNG in June.

The national government is a co-signatory of the Bougainville Peace Agreement of which the referendum is the ultimate step, and Mr Momis said Port Moresby must meet its funding obligations.

He said he had written to Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, passing on the concerns raised by the independent head of Bougainville's Referendum Commission, former Irish leader Bertie Ahearn.

"And I am still awaiting his response. Time is running out, things are very critical. Unless we have funds dispersed right now we will really be facing difficulties in meeting the target date for the referendum."

Mr Momis also dismissed Bougainville's regional MP in the national parliament as a "glorified flowerpot"

He said Joe Lera, who is part of the O'Neill Government and a former minister of Bougainville Affairs, claimed the national government was not meeting its funding commitment because Bougainville had not acquitted previous allocations as agreed.

But Mr Momis said Mr Lera's claims were totally wrong.

He said Bougainville could decide to spend its funding as it saw fit.

"The powers given to Bougainville are quite different, quite independent of the national government. We don't have to follow their priorities. We spend the money given to us, as per the Peace Agreement, in accordance with our own priorities.

"And we have been doing that. We have submitted acquittals. It is the national government that has dismally failed to meet its commitments under the Peace Agreement."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs