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Weapons disposal vital in Bougainville referendum preparation

Autonomous Bougainville Government Vice President Raymond Masono, warned Bougainvilleans to be cautious when making comments on the issue of weapons disposal in preparing for the referendum.

Masono said the weapons disposal was a vital element tied to the referendum.

He was responding to a statement made by former BRA leader Martin Miriori, who said the focus on weapons disposal was unnecessary and watering down the importance of the referendum.

Miriori also said there should not be any focus on mining, fiscal self-reliance, good governance “or any other issues.”

“Miriori’s view is wrong. Weapons disposal remains an important issue,” Masono said.

He said during the referendum-ready constituency consultations, which all members of the ABG parliament have been conducting, many people had expressed their real concern about the continuing presence of weapons in Bougainville.

Masono said they were insisting for the weapons to be removed, and will not feel secure until they are totally disposed.

“The full disposal of weapons was important if the referendum was to be judged by international observers as truly free and fair,” he said.

Masono said good governance was also an important consideration for determining the actual date of the referendum set for June 15, 2019.

The target date was set mainly to enable proper planning for the referendum adding the actual date must be before 15 June 2020.

He said the second review of autonomy planned for this year will assist both governments determine the actual date for the referendum.

Masono said the consultations cannot begin until it is evident that weapons have been disposed in accordance with the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which must be conducted in accordance with internationally recognised standards of good governance.

He said mining and fiscal self-reliance were important issues that need attention when considering the referendum.

“If our people are to make informed choices about the main options in the referendum, independence and autonomy, they need to think about fiscal self- reliance and how it will be achieved.

Clearly the future of mining will then be an important issue to consider, because allowing large-scale mining is one obvious important basis for pursuing the goal of fiscal self- reliance,” he said.

Masono called on Miriori to be realistic in his public comments about the referendum.

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