Bougainville independence issue a ‘unity test’ for PNG, says Marape

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PNG Prime Minister James Marape
PNG Prime Minister James Marape ... "Bougainvilleans, fear not, Papua New Guineans fear not. Let’s take this journey together." Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Gorethy Kenneth of the PNG Post-Courier in Port Moresby

Prime Minister James Marape says Papua New Guineans will be consulted on key constitutional questions relating to Bougainville’s 97.7 percent vote for independence.

In his maiden speech after being voted in as the country’s 9th Prime Minister, he said the issue infringed on PNG’s national unity and it touched on sovereignty, which was a huge constitutional burden for the government and the people.

He said the Autonomous Region of Bougainville was an important agenda for his government and that by 2024 the referendum vote issue would be brought to Parliament.

“This question for Bougainville is a test to our national union. We will consult with the rest of the country because our people must have a say,” Marape said in his speech.

“This year and first half of next year we will consult the country on some of the key constitutional questions and we will work to the plan that we set out in Wabag, in that by 2024 we bring the matter to Parliament.

“It is a political question so a political solution must be found.

“I have and continue to have one vote. But the question on altering our national boundary is a constitutional matter, and the entire nation must be consulted. The result of the referendum stands as high as Mt Wilhelm. It cannot be diluted.

“We will deliver on that political commitment to find that political solution that is mutually acceptable to Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.

“The journey is still a long way ahead … when our union is in question, it infringes on our national unity, it touches on our sovereignty which is a huge constitutional burden on us.

“Our union together was placed together by the constitutional definition in 1975, it will only take a constitutional amendment to unbundle this union.

“I want to ask Bougainvilleans, fear not, Papua New Guineans fear not. Let’s take this journey together and we find a political solution to this political question to our people in Bougainville.”

Gorethy Kenneth is a PNG Post-Courier senior journalist. Republished with permission.

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