By Meriba Tulo – EMTV News, Port Moresby
A cross section of the community was present today for the first day of a conference focusing on the Bougainville Referendum. Hosted by the PNG National Research Institute, the conference saw presentations from several academics, as well as from people involved in the development of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
The Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and ABG President are expected to attend the conference tomorrow. More than 150 people from different government, private sector, NGO’s and the general public gathered today for the first of a three-day conference focusing on the Bougainville Referendum.
With the theme ‘Implementation of the Peace Agreement, and Implications for the Referendum’, today’s proceedings began with speakers providing an overview of the circumstances surrounding the development of the Bougainville Peace Agreement immediately after the crisis.
According to Central Bougainville MP, Sam Akoitai, the Bougainville experience was one that taught both sides of the conflict important lessons on negotiation, and how to resolve issues the Melanesian way. This, he says, is demonstrated through the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).
Senior Statesman, Sir Moi Avei, was a key figure in the development and signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
And whilst he acknowledged the BPA for being a home-grown agreement, there was also need for both sides of government to ensure that the BPA was being fully implemented.
The discussions at this conference come at a time when both the National Government and Autonomous Bougainville Government prepare to hold their next Joint Supervisory Body meeting in Arawa next week; which is set to confirm several key issues of the referendum, including the all-important question, or questions, which will be put to the people of Bougainville to vote on.
The conference continues tomorrow, with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, and ABG President Chief, Dr John Momis, expected to be present.