Bougainville wants PNG/Australia spat sorted quickly
Bougainville's caretaker President says the PNG visa ban on Australians entering Bougainville will hurt Bougainvilleans and needs to be sorted quickly.
The caretaker Bougainville President says the people in the autonomous region are the ones who will suffer if the spat between Papua New Guinea and Australia is not quickly resolved.
John Momis says the visa ban placed on Australians entering Bougainville after Canberra announced plans for a diplomatic mission in Buka breaches the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
Mr Momis told Don Wiseman the Australian decision has not come as a surprise given Australia's involvement in the region, and it makes sense given Bougainville's increasing needs as the window for the vote on possible independence approaches.
He wants the spat sorted quickly.
JOHN MOMIS: The people of Bougainville are going to be victimised as a result of the dis-agreement between the two governments. Both governments have given a lot to Bougainville as you know, in terms of personnel, funding and so on and so forth. It must be remembered that according to the Bougainville Peace Agreement all stakeholders must collaborate and ensure the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which I consider to be a constitutional contract between the PNG government, ABG and the people of Bougainville to work together and find a permanent peace in Bougainville.
DON WISEMAN: Australia has handled this in a very clumsy way hasn't it?
JM: Well Australia has given a lot to Bougainville, especially in the recent past, they've increased their personnel and funding to supplement and complement what the PNG government lacks in the provision of necessary funding and services to Bougainville. So it's not a surprise. They've always had an office in Buka, personnel, and I think with the imminent opening of the window of opportunity for the process of referendum, I think Australia probably feels that they must have people on the ground to manage the increase funding as well as the important process of the referendum. Australian foreign minister says they have discussed the matter with the PNG government in December last year. So I'm just calling on both governments to resolve their differences quickly so that the difficult task of managing the process of the referendum as well as the outcome of the referendum will be handled by all parties in a spirit of collaboration as per the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
DW: Do you see this as a breach of the Bougainville Peace Agreement?
JM: Well it's not explicitly stated but it is certainly a breach of the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. When you slap a ban on Australians and other foreigners according to the statement, going to Bougainville, you don't only have government personnel to work with the AGB to work with consultants, advistors. But you have businessmen, church personnel and others, who go to Bougainville who are partners of Bougainvillean businessmen and who are working with churches and the government itself. So when you put a ban on people travelling to Bougainville it will have a detrimental effect to the progress of things on the ground.
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