Former Combatant: Weapons In Bougainville ‘Not A Threat To Peace Process’

Government wants all weapons disposed of before the referendum

By Anthony Kaybing

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 22, 2016) – Robert Akowa, a former combatant from Bana district in South Bougainville claims that the weapons currently in the hands of people are not a threat to the political aspirations of Bougainville.

However, the Autonomous Bougainville Government wants all weapons disposed of before the referendum on self-rule is held.

Mr Akowa said that the Regional Government and Waigani should realise that the weapons were not causing disharmony or harm to the peace process even though there were the usual law and order problems when gun-related violence have resulted in people getting hurt or killed.

"Maybe sometime in the future these weapons could be stored in a museum or memorial to remind the future generations of our struggle for freedom," Mr Akowa said.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement on the other hand states quite clearly that weapons disposal must be achieved before the Bougainville referendum is conducted to ensure that the people are free from intimidation during the vote.

Weapons Disposal is the third pillar of the peace agreement and is the basis of the historic agreement that led to the formal ending of hostilities between the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the National Government.

While the Bougainville Peace Agreement is explicit in conditions on weapons disposal, the sentiments expressed by Mr Akowa has been known to be shared by many other former combatant commanders and leaders.

Some have reportedly said that the weapons in their hands were an insurance policy for Bougainville should the National Government renege on its commitment to ratify the intention of the majority of Bougainvilleans who chose to be independent in the referendum.

Mr Akowa also stressed that Bougainville stands at the threshold of deciding its political future with only three years left and to achieve total weapons disposal will be an almost near impossible task due to the time factor.

PNG Post-Courier
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