By Netani Rika, Buka-: Bougainville
AN overwhelming vote for independence should compel Papua New Guinea to allow freedom for Bougainville.
The Autonomous Bougainville Government’s President, John Momis, said a vote for independence would mean negotiations on the territory’s future were clear.
“Only a mad parliament would reject something that two governments, representing very strong factions have resolved as the best option,” Momis said. “Some people think the (PNG) national parliament will have the final say. National parliament will rubber stamp the negotiated outcome. If we vote 80 to 90 per cent in favour of independence, the national government will have a moral obligation to deal with (that option).’’
Bougainville voters have two choices in a month-long referendum which is underway – greater autonomy from PNG or independence.
His comments came after two former PNG Prime Ministers, Sir Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill appeared to suggest that national parliament would determine the outcome of the Bougainville referendum.
Momis – who will step down as ABG President ahead of the May 2020 territorial elections – said processes after the referendum were clear and had been agreed to by all parties.
“Whatever the people decide (greater autonomy or independence) the two governments (Bougainville and PNG) must sit down to negotiate how to deal with that option,” Momis told Islands Business. “With faith we can achieve the impossible. We cast our vote and tell the national government what we want. What is important is that the two governments discuss the outcome before it gets to parliament. If the two governments agree on the outcome, parliament will merely rubber stamp.”
Momis attended Mass at Hahela Catholic Mission yesterday (24/11) in a packed church full of happy people, most of whom had cast their votes on Saturday.
One member of the congregation said the will of the people was evident in the way they turned up in large numbers to cast their votes.
“I think the outcome will be independence. It is what we have always wanted,” he said. “The challenge is how we will finance the country and how we can build the capacity of our leaders and young people but that can be worked out later. For now, we vote and gain independence. That is all.”
Voting in the Bougainville Referendum continues throughout the week with a break on Sunday.
There have been no reports of irregularities or violence and observers from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat travel daily to polling stations to observe and report on the process.
A regional police support mission is also on Bougainville to assist local law enforcement agencies.
- Netani Rika flew to Bougainville with funding from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat