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Marape: Bougainville independence ‘biggest issue’

James Marape
James Marape - The question of Bougainville independence is more challenging than Covid-19, the economy or any other issue

NEWS DESK
| Radio New Zealand

AUCKLAND – Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape says the possible independence of Bougainville is the greatest challenge Papua New Guinea faces.

The sanctity of the union of PNG as one country is very important, Mr Marape said, and the Bougainville issue was bigger than Covid-19, the economy or other challenges.

He said the PNG parliament will soon need to address Bougainville’s quest for independence.

It is expected that the prime minister will brief members of parliament next week on the outcome of inter-governmental talks on Bougainvillean independence that were held in Wabag last month.

At the talks, both PNG and Bougainville governments agreed to a timetable for the transfer of many powers by 2023 with full independence possibly following in 2027.

"If we are to progress the independence of Bougainville, then the matter has to be addressed in the PNG national parliament," Mr Marape said.

In July, Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae warned that Bougainville's potential independence could cause the disintegration of PNG.

In response, the Bougainville government said it would continue to work toward independence and that the Bougainville Peace Agreement guaranteed the province's right to determine its future.

A non-binding referendum held in Bougainville in 2019 showed that 97.7% of Bougainvilleans support independence.

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