Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk
A Bougainvillean leader has accused Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of “undermining” the island’s 17-year-old peace agreement and the independence vote due next year.
Martin Miriori also condemned O’Nell for lacking sensitivity over Bougainville that struck a New Zealand-brokered peace agreement which ended a 10-year civil war and included a referendum vote on independence.
Miriori, a Panguna landowner and pro-independence leader, was reacting to a statement by O’Neill at the Business Forum in Brisbane last week and repeated in PNG’s The Nationalnewspaper that the vote was not about independence, but what was best for the people of Bougainville.
“When the prime minister comes out openly making such a statement in public, my view is that he is already undermining the good intentions and the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement which, among other issues, clearly states that the issue of independence for Bougainville will be also among the options for a referendum vote to be taken by the people [in] June next year,” he said today in a statement.
“This is also the common understanding of the international community as well [as] including the United Nations,” Miriori said.
“For the prime minister to water down the main focus on the independence issue at this time is simply a big slap on the face [of] the people of Bougainville.”
Miriori said Bougainvilleans would not have “fully committed themselves” to the joint partnership with Papua New Guinea in the peace process if they knew that they were “going to be tricked”.
“We must not lose the trust and confidence of the people at all cost, and in doing so try to confuse them by making such statements, which could easily undermine all our good work and tireless efforts being invested in this very delicate and sensitive process since we first fully committed ourselves at Burnham [New Zealand] in July 1997 towards achieving lasting peace by peaceful means,”
RNZ Pacific reports that O’Neill told the Business Forum in Brisbane that when the outcome of the referendum was tabled in the national Parliament, he was sure every MP would vote in the interests of a unified and harmonious country.
Guitars instead of guns
Meanwhile, the film maker of a forthcoming documentary about the Bougainville peace process, Soldiers Without Guns, has released a trailer.
In a social media message message to supporters last week, Will Watson said: “We were celebrating the 20th anniversary of lasting peace for Bougainville yesterday.
“Yes, the 30 April 1998 was the signing of the peace accord.
“The other big news is that I completed the trailer for the upcoming movie, Soldiers Without Guns. It took lots of work but I think it describes the Pacific’s worst civil war and peacekeeping with guitars instead of guns.
“Still lots of work to do to complete the film. I hope you like the trailer.
“I have been inspired to tell this story for the last 12 years. I am now very close to completing the feature length film.”
Watson won the 2017 Cannes Film Festival peace feature for his documentary Haka and Guitars.
He has appealed for support in a funding campaign to complete the Bougainville project.