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PM O’Neill Defends Current Government Response To Bougainville Affairs

Meriba Tulo – EMTV News, Port Moresby

With just a year to go before the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville go to the polls to determine their political future, the government has defended its handling of preparations for this exercise. During question time in parliament yesterday (May 23) morning, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the government, under his leadership, has done more for the Autonomous Region during his term, than at any other time. He said the next Joint Supervisory Body meeting would be of the utmost importance for the Bougainville referendum exercise.

During question time, Member for South Bougainville Timothy Masiu asked a series of questions to the Prime Minister regarding the national government’s efforts in support of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville’s preparations for the upcoming Referendum. Of particular concern, according to Mr Masiu, the recent appointment of a Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Bougainville Affairs, which he claimed would cause challenges for the region on conducting the referendum.

In answering, the Prime Minister also emphasised the steps taken by the parties – the national government, and the ABG – to have the Chairman of the Referendum Commission in place, as well as agreeing on the all-important referendum questions. Whilst there has been some sentiments regarding possible independence for Bougainville, the Prime Minister was quick to point out that it would be difficult to let go of the Autonomous Region, especially at a time when there was need for unity in PNG.

The National Government and Autonomous Bougainville Government are due to meet in June for the Joint Supervisory Body meeting – this meeting, scheduled to take place in Arawa, is expected to iron out several issues relating to the upcoming referendum, including the all-important question, or questions which will be put to the people of Bougainville in June 2019.

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