Momis warns of independence for Bougainville

National, Normal

The National – Wednesday, February 9, 2011

UNLESS autonomy is made attractive by the government, the people of Bougainville will choose independence, Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) President John Momis warned yesterday.
Momis said while the “clock is ticking” away, the implementation of the Bougainville peace agreement was proceeding at a snail’s pace.
He said autonomy and independence must be made attractive for the people to make a choice, but the national government had failed to meet these requirements contained in the agreement.
“That is the legitimate way to go but the government has not given the K15 million Bougainville restoration grants for last year and this year.
“The government has not allocated money to reconstruct Bougainville.”
He also warned government that bureaucrats would be taken to court for failing to meet the requirements of the peace agreement.
He said arms disposal was slow, drawdown of powers was slow and capacity building was slow due to lack of national government funding. 
Momis said if the time came for referendum, autonomy must be attractive to the people or they would choose independence.
“The Bougainville peace agreement is very slow. We need a little bit of money to move it forward.”
He said children that were born and grew up during the crisis period were the ones who were still holding onto guns because of their lack of education.
“We need to give incentives such as the buy-back of guns or K1,000 for a gun or create opportunities for the young people to set up furniture industry, brick-making, agriculture and animal husbandry. These are subsidiary economic activities but shortage of funds is a big problem.”
In order to get away from the heavy dependence on national government, Momis was pressing for the Bougainville copper mine to be fast tracked and re-opened under a new deal.
He said the drawdown of powers was slow while the clock was ticking.
He said there was a need to improve the administration and the ABG was working hard to develop capacity.
“AusAID is helping in capacity building and we are asking AusAID and the national government to strengthen our police force.
“I am telling them – no law and order, no referendum. It is best to promote the rule of law for a fair referendum to be conducted.”
The president was also moving for policemen to be armed in order to enforce the law. Carriage of arms by police was prohibited under the terms of the Bougainville agreement.
Momis said the Bougainville agreement was a way to stop the war and entailed both parties to make certain compromise and the rebels demanded referendum to be included in the agreement.
He said between 2015 and 2020, referendum could be conducted and weapons disposal and other issues contained in the peace agreement must be met.
“In my inaugural speech, I said the people of Bougainville must have a real choice.
“Independence and autonomy must seen to be working together and must be attractive for the people to make that choice.”
Momis said the K15 million restoration grants was a legal requirement the national government must give without conditions attached.