The Papua New Guinea and Bougainville Governments have moved a step closer to a referendum on the autonomous region’s independence by creating a commission to oversee the vote.
The Bougainville Referendum Commission will be in charge of preparing for and conducting the referendum in 2019 on whether Bougainville should secede from Papua New Guinea (PNG).
The referendum is a key requirement of the 2001 peace agreement that ended a decade-long armed conflict between Bougainville and PNG.
Vice-President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Patrick Nisira, said the creation of the commission showed both Governments were working together to honour the peace agreement.
“It is a significant step forward,” he said.
“It gives confidence to the people of Bougainville, to the people of Papua New Guinea, that the process is alive and well.”
Chief Secretary to the PNG Government, Isaac Lupari, said the commission had important responsibilities in the lead-up to the vote.
“It will be tasked to oversee the planning and preparation of the referendum plan that’s going to be put in place,” he said.
Mr Lupari said there were still two important conditions of the peace agreement that needed to be met before the referendum — the creation of good governance structures and the disposal of any remaining weapons.
“The referendum is conditional on those two key conditions, we have to make sure those are fully complied [with] to the letter of the law,” he said.
Mr Lupari said there would also be a review of Bougainville’s autonomous government arrangement.