LATELY, National Research Institute (NRI) director Dr Thomas Webster presented a report on the Bougainville Referendum compiled by the NRI.
The report was conducted by independent researchers engaged by the NRI.
The report, among other things, explains various other levels of autonomies experienced in other parts of the world and makes comparisons with the current level of autonomy for Bougainville.
One would conclude, after listening to some of Dr Webster’s presentations on the Bougainville referendum that the whole intention is to get Bougainville to settle for the existing autonomous status granted to Bougainville by the Government of Papua New Guinea in 2001.
That is the whole intent of the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.
That is the message from the Government of Papau New Guinea to Bougainville.
It is not a surprise as to why the prime minister has appointed Dr Webster to become a member of the Bougainville Referendum Commission.
One needs to sit down carefully and ask whether the intention of the Papua New Guinea Government to push for Bougainville to settle with the existing autonomous arrangements, expressed through Dr Webster’s series of presentations, can actually bring a long-lasting peaceful settlement for Bougainville.
The prime minister is very explicit in view that the Papua New Guinea Constitution does not support a separate independent state for Bougainville.
That statement is quite misleading.
The PNG Constitutional amendments which captured provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, is very explicit in that it allows Bougainvilleans to
decide their own political future and one of the choices is independence.
It is therefore important that any presentations made by Dr Webster or the NRI should not only circulate within the perimeters of keeping Bougainville an autonomous region within Papua New Guinea.
It must also include sovereignty issues. It should provide the expressed wishes of the people of Bougainville to become independent from the rest of Papua New Guinea.
Long-lasting peace for Bougainville will only be achieved by looking at it from Bougainville’s perspective rather than from the perspective of Papua New Guinea.