Papua New Guinea’s former prime minister Peter O’Neill has sounded a note of warning on the eve of Bougainville’s independence referendum.
Photo: AFP or licensors
People from the autonomous PNG region are this Saturday to begin a two-week polling period for a non-binding vote on whether Bougainville should be independent or have greater autonomy.
The result of the referendum is subject to ratification by PNG’s national Parliament.
Mr O’Neill, who was replaced as prime minister by James Marape in May, said people needed to make an informed decision in the vote.
Referring to the Bougainville civil war, he said PNG could not go back to the crisis and loss of life.
“We have to all work together to ensure the peace and unity of our people,” Mr O’Neill said in a statement.
“Now the vote must be undertaken in a peaceful manner, properly supported by our security forces to ensure transparency and public confidence.”
Recently, numerous past and present PNG prime ministers have been advocating togetherness and urging Bougainville to stay with the nation.
But a grandmother from Bougainville’s Guava village, atop the Panguna mine which sparked the civil war, said the overtures had come too late in the piece.
Maggie Voring said the trauma of devastated families lingered on decades after the civil war, and that Bougainvilleans had largely made up their minds.
“That is too late. Long time ago, [PNG] they step on us. I’m thinking that after this next move, we’re just going independent… because of our bloodshed.”