Friday, 24 Mar 2023

Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles accused of veiled threats by Bougainville president

Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles accused of veiled threats by Bougainville president


Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles accused of veiled threats by Bougainville president

The president of the Autonomous Bougainville government (ABG) has accused the Australian deputy prime minister and defence minister of "veiled threats" and "intimidation" over comments made during his visit to Papua New Guinea this week.

Richard Marles was asked about Bougainville's future during a joint press conference with the PNG prime minister, James Marape, at Port Moresby on Thursday.

Marles said: "As a witness to the arrangements that were put in place in respect of Bougainville more than 20 years ago, our job is to support Papua New Guinea. And that's what we're going to do.

"It is absolutely not our role to articulate views there. Our role is to support the prime minister and the government of Papua New Guinea in the decisions that it makes in respect of the future of Bougainville, and we stand ready to do that."

He said Australia had maintained its neutrality since the cessation of the Bougainville civil war and the signing of the Bougainville peace agreement in 2001, of which Australia was a signatory. But he said these comments came as a "very clear indication" Australia would no longer remain impartial in implementing the provisions of the agreement.

"It has become clear now why our requests for resources and assistance for independence preparatory related activities such as the Bougainville Constitutional Planning Commission have been ignored," he said.

"The statements by the Australian defence minister, Richard Marles, are in my view veiled threats being issued to the government and people of Bougainville as he boasts about the military cooperation between the two countries.

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