“In a series of meetings over recent months, a joint team of officials developed proposals for: establishing an independent agency to conduct the referendum; a target date of June 15th 2019 as the date for holding the referendum; a detailed work program of activities and associated funding needed to prepare for the holding of the referendum; a set of basic messages to be covered in an initial joint awareness program about the referendum. The JSB endorsed these proposals.
Chief John L. Momis President Press Release
“I’m very pleased with these decisions. Although the date for the referendum cannot yet be finally set (because of various legal steps required to be taken first), it would be impossible to plan the referendum without a target date. With that date now agreed, we can plan the steps required to hold the referendum, and the time and the funding and personnel needed to carry out each step.
“Equally pleasing is the National Government commitment to provide the funding needed to carry out the referendum preparations, beginning with the 2017 National Budget.
“The steps necessary to establish the independent agency that will conduct the referendum have been agreed. The two Governments are committed to it being established before the end of 2016. The PNG Electoral Commission and the Bougainville Electoral Commission are already cooperating closely in developing the agreement, administrative arrangements and the charter required by the Peace Agreement and the Organic Law on Peace-building in Bougainville for establishing the Independent Agency.
“The joint agreement on these and related issues is a huge step forward. It demonstrates once and for all the total commitment of the Papua New Guinea Government to full implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the associated Constitutional provisions.
“As a result, there should no longer be any doubt amongst Bougainvilleans about whether or not the referendum will be held. I know some factions and individuals have retained weapons because of suspicions that the National Government would refuse to hold the referendum. But with the historic JSB decisions on 20th May, those suspicions must end. As a result, all Bougainvillean groups must now work towards achieving complete weapons disposal.
“I now call for full disposal of weapons by the Me’ekamui Defence Force elements, the armed groups associated with Noah Musingku at Tonu, and various former BRA and BRF members and groups that have retained weapons.
“Only with full weapons disposal will Bougainville be able to be referendum-ready. The Bougainville Peace Agreement requires that the Referendum be free and fair. Without weapons disposal, there will inevitably be doubts about the referendum being free and fair. There are already Bougainvilleans saying that they will not vote if weapons remain. The legitimacy of the result will always be in doubt if weapons remain.
The President said that he was impressed by the clear commitment of the Prime Minister and other ministers to implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement. He said: “Once again, Papua New Guinea is providing a lead to other countries that have experienced violent conflict. It shows that the commitment to achieving peace by peaceful means, evident ever since the Bougainville peace process began in 1997, continues to flourish in Papua New Guinea.” He said: “I salute the Prime Minister for his very positive contribution to this historic outcome.”