PNG leader says Bougainville vote not just about independence

The Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O‘Neill, has told parliament that PNG‘s former leaders would not want to see the country broken up.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O‘Neill on the election campaign trail in Chimbu Province. Photo: PMO Media

In just over a year Bougainvilleans will vote on possible independence in a referendum that‘s the culmination of a peace process that began more than 20 years ago.

The Joint Supervisory Body is to meet next month in Arawa where the question that will be posed in the referendum is expected to be settled.

Mr O‘Neill told Bougainville South MP, Timothy Masiu, that it isn‘t just a matter of a question on independence.

Over 20,000 people died in the Bougainville civil war and many disappeared without being accounted for. Photo: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

EMTV reports Mr O‘Neill saying it would be difficult to let go of Bougainville when there is a need for unity in PNG.

“So Mr Speaker when we talk about these issues that are sensitive to the stability of the entire nation, it is not only Bougainville alone – we need to be careful. You are a national leader. We have to respect, as I have said, what we have agreed in the Peace Agreement, and the Peace Agreement says that we have to agree to the question that we have to put to the people of Bougainville,” said Peter O‘Neill.

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