Bougainville News : Nisira’s Australian Lecture ” Leadership challenges for the Autonomous Bougainville Government

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” In summary then, the key leadership roles of the ABG include reconciliation and unification of Bougainville, using its powers and resources to make and implement policies and laws that deal with the problems and realise the aspirations of Bougainvilleans, speak for them in dealings with the PNG National Government and the international community, and act in their interests in preparing for their act of self-determination, in the form of the referendum.

While undoubtedly the ABG faces many complex and difficult leadership challenges, we are facing them honestly. We constantly explore our best options for dealing with them. Although our resources are extremely limited, we work hard to change that situation, and to face our challenges head on.”

PUBLIC LECTURE by PATRICK NISIRA, VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE

AUTONOMOUS REGION OF BOUGAINVILLE

” LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES FOR THE

AUTONOMOUS BOUGAINVILLE GOVERNMENT”

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA, 28th APRIL 2016

Picture above

In Canberra this week to speak at the ANU with Senator the Hon. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Minister for International Development and the Pacific

I am pleased, and honoured, to be here in Australia, and in Canberra in particular. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to contribute to the ongoing development of positive personal relationships between the leaders and people of Bougainville and the leaders and people of Australia.

So I must express my sincere thanks to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for facilitating my visit. Thank you, too, to the SSGM Program, here at the ANU, for inviting me to make my presentation here today.

The subject that I have been asked to discuss – that is, LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES FOR THE AUTONOMOUS BOUGAINVILLE GOVERNMENT – is, I think, an important one. It raises key issues about the central roles for the Autonomous Bougainville Government (or the ABG) envisaged by the Bougainville Peace Agreement (or the BPA).

Many of the ABG’s leadership challenges are inherent in the general situation of Bougainville in 2016. In a real sense it is a “post-conflict” situation – in that Bougainville’s violent, destructive, and deeply divisive nine year civil war ended almost 19 years ago now, in mid-1997. But of course, divisions, tensions and various forms of conflict (sometimes localised violence) continue. This complex ongoing and endlessly changing situation presents constant challenges for leadership at all levels, including the ABG.

There are, however, some critically important ABG leadership roles intended by the BPA. The reasons for, and the nature and significance of these roles are best understood by reference to the deeply divided conflict situation in Bougainville in the mid-1990s, in the several years before the peace process began.

CONTEXT – THE ABG & RECONCILIATION & UNIFICATION

The ‘moderate’ leadership on both sides of the main divide within Bougainville had by then become increasingly conscious of the long-term dangers for Bougainville if violent conflict between Bougainvilleans continued. Any dreams of self-determination for Bougainville would be under grave threat.

Against that background, it should be no surprise that from the very beginning of the peace process, the focus amongst the Bougainville leaders committed to the process was on unification of Bougainville. It was for that reason that the first step in the process was the extended meeting of opposing Bougainvillean leaders in the Burnham One talks in New Zealand. And of course, those talks were in fact a resumption of the previous talks between the divided Bougainville leadership held in Cairns, Australia, in September and December 1995, initiated largely by Theodore Miriung (then Premier of the Bougainville Transitional Government).

The deep drive for unification was always in large part directed to replacing the parallel and opposing Bougainville government structures generated by the conflict. The Bougainville Revolutionary Army had its associated ‘civilian’ government, the Bougainville Interim Government (or BIG), headed by Francis Ona. The BIG had its own system of local-level government – a three tier system of Councils of Chiefs. Opposing them were the Bougainville Resistance Forces (or BRF), and, from 1995, the Bougainville Transitional Government (or BTG). The BTG began establishing its own system of local-level government in 1996, the Councils of Elders. There were even separate women’s organisations associated with the BIG/BRA, and the BTG/BRF, respectively.

So it’s not surprising, perhaps, that once the Burnham One talks saw the opposing leadership agree to work together for peace, that in the January 1998 Lincoln Agreement they agreed with the Papua New Guinea Government on the need for “free and democratic elections on Bougainville to elect a Bougainville Reconciliation Government before the end of 1998”.

Through 1998 and 1999 a great deal of effort went into achieving the much sought after Bougainville Reconciliation Government. Indeed, the pursuit of that goal itself became divisive. In late 1998 efforts were being made to not only continue the operation of the PNG’s 1977 Organic Law on Provincial Government in Bougainville but also amend that Law to provide a basis for the Reconciliation Government. When those efforts unexpectedly failed, the 1995 Organic Law on Provincial Governments and Local-level Governments began operating in Bougainville from 1st January 1999. That should have resulted in establishing of a new Bougainville Interim Provincial Government headed by then Bougainville regional MP, John Momis, as Governor. BIG/BRA leaders, and others, saw this as contrary to the Lincoln Agreement commitment to establishing a Bougainville Reconciliation Government. As a result, the National Government was persuaded to suspend the interim Provincial Government from the instant that the 1995 Organic Law came into operation in Bougainville on 1 January 1999.

That allowed the establishing in the first half of 1999 of an elected Bougainville People’s Congress (or BPC), without a basis in legislation. The intention was that the BPC would be the Bougainville Reconciliation Government. But of course, those who’d hoped Momis would become governor were upset by the suspension action, and the establishing of the BPC, especially when former senior BIG leader, Joseph Kabui, was elected BPC President.

These problems in implementing the Lincoln Agreement provisions for a Bougainville Reconciliation Government, meant that far from unifying and reconciling, the process was itself divisive. As a result, when the negotiations for a ‘comprehensive political agreement’ (also required by the Lincoln Agreement) began on 30 June 1999, those supporting Momis and the establishing of the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government refused to participate.

It was a combination of a range of efforts from mid-1999 to achieve a reconciliation amongst the divided leadership, and a PNG Supreme Court decision late in 1999 that saw a remarkable compromise agreed. The Bougainville Interim Provincial Government would operate as the legal government for Bougainville, but would make all decisions in consultation with the ‘extra-legal’ BPC.

So from late 1999, leadership was shared, between Governor Momis and President Kabui. Though the term used in the Lincoln Agreement – the Bougainville Reconciliation Government – was never applied to this unique, ad hoc arrangement, it was truly a ‘reconciliation government’. It brought together previously opposing factions and opposing leaders in creative, flexible and highly inclusive arrangements that worked.

It was this set of arrangements for the ‘reconciliation government’ that provided leadership and government for Bougainville until the ABG was elected in June 2005. Momis and Kabui jointly led the combined Bougainville negotiating team that from December 1999 negotiated for the BPA, signed on 30 August 2001.

The successful operation of these ‘reconciliation government’ arrangements undoubtedly provided the firm foundations necessary for the ABG to become the true, long-term ‘reconciliation government’ for Bougainville.

These ad hoc arrangements were actually far more inclusive, and reconciliatory, than the single elected Bougainville Reconciliation Government envisaged by the Lincoln Agreement could ever have hoped to be. The flexible arrangements were expensive and unwieldy. They involve the elected BPC of more than 100 members, and the appointed Bougainville Interim Provincial Government of more than 30.

But the result was direct involvement of many people from multiple previously opposing groups, and a long period during which they learned to work together and to trust one another. Together they oversaw the negotiations for the BPA. They jointly took ownership of that Agreement once it was signed, and they oversaw its implementation. They worked together to establish the ABG.

THE ABG’S WIDER LEADERSHIP ROLES

Of course the BPA intends the ABG to be far more than just a symbol of reconciliation and unification. It is also intended unify Bougainvilleans and work to meet the special needs of Bougainville through the way in which it governs Bougainville, under the complex constitutional arrangements for the autonomy promised by the BPA, implemented through the changes to the PNG Constitution, and given an institutional basis in the Bougainville Constitution.

The BPA states that autonomy (amongst other things) is intended to:

“(a) facilitate the expression and development of Bougainville identity and the relationship between Bougainville and the rest of Papua New Guinea;

(b) empower Bougainvilleans to solve their own problems, manage their own affairs and work to realize their own aspirations …

(d) provide for a democratic and accountable system of government for Bougainville that meets internationally accepted standards of good governance, including protection of human rights;”

Under the BPA, the ABG has extensive powers and resources made available to it, intended to enable it to not only develop the policies and laws needed to solve the problems and realise the aspirations of all Bougainvilleans, but also implement those policies and laws so as to make real differences in the lives of all Bougainvilleans.

In addition, under the BPA and the constitutional laws that give effect to it, it is the ABG which speaks on behalf of all Bougainvilleans in dealing with the PNG government, and also with the international community. For the ABG has a range of little known ‘international affairs related powers’ and functions. For example, it has various rights to:

  • deal direct with foreign donor governments,
  • take part in regional meetings and organisations of clear special interest to Bougainville,
  • be represented in negotiation of border agreements between PNG and Solomon Islands,
  • participate in international cultural exchanges, trade and tourism promotion, and sport.

Finally, it is the ABG that has authority, on behalf of all Bougainvilleans, to oversee the preparations for a most significant act of self-determination – the referendum on the future political status of Bougainville (which must include a choice of independence), which must be held before mid-2020.

Under the BPA and the constitutional laws giving effect to it, the ABG and the National Government must cooperate in ensuring that the referendum is conducted. Further, it is the two governments that must consult and agree on the key aspects of the referendum arrangements that the BPA leaves to be decided as the referendum date approaches. These aspects include:

  • deciding on and establishing the agency with responsibility to conduct the referendum;
  • the criteria for enrolment of non-resident Bougainvilleans as voters in the referendum;
  • the date of the referendum;
  • the question or questions to be asked in the referendum.

You may be interested to note that, in my capacity as the ABG Minister responsible for referendum preparations, in the last week I have been deeply involved in discussions with the National Government over these and related matters. Significant progress has been made.

In summary then, the key leadership roles of the ABG include reconciliation and unification of Bougainville, using its powers and resources to make and implement policies and laws that deal with the problems and realise the aspirations of Bougainvilleans, speak for them in dealings with the PNG National Government and the international community, and act in their interests in preparing for their act of self-determination, in the form of the referendum.

Finally, the Bougainville Constitution spells out these and other leadership roles of the ABG, often in detail. The draft Bougainville Constitution was developed between October 2002 and July 2004 through a highly participatory process conducted by the 24 member Bougainville Constitutional Commission. It involved several rounds of public consultation, about successive drafts of the Constitution. The final draft was then submitted – together with a more than 300 page explanatory report – to the Bougainville Constituent Assembly. It comprised the almost 150 members of the BPC and the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government, sitting as a joint body. The Constituent Assembly made very limited changes to the draft before adopting it in November 2004, and it was endorsed by the National Executive Council a few weeks later.

The Bougainville Constitution clearly reflects the views and aspirations of the Bougainville Constitution in setting significant goals for the ABG. For example, the Preamble commits the ABG to:

  • work to ‘provide for self-determination … through both autonomy arrangements and the referendum on independence;
  • ‘recognize the sovereignty of the People’;
  • ‘recognize the autonomy of family and clan lineages and other customary communities;
  • ‘govern through democracy, accountability, equality, and social justice’;
  • ‘protect the land, the sea, our environment and our cultural identity for present and future generations’;
  • ‘strive to eliminate universal problems in Bougainville of poverty, illiteracy, corruption, pollution, unemployment, overpopulation and other ills’.

A full reading of the Bougainville Constitution highlights other roles and goals for the ABG, seen especially in the detail of the Bougainville Objectives and Directive Principles (sections 11 to 39 of the Constitution). But I will not burden you with a detailed exposition of what is largely an elaboration of the main points that I have already highlighted.

I must, however, highlight one fundamentally important goal that the Constitution emphasises the ABG MUST pursue. It is the ‘aim to achieve fiscal self-reliance [for Bougainville] as soon as possible’ (section 153(1)(a)). The Constitution also directs that ‘the need to achieve fiscal-self reliance as soon as possible’ must be considered by the ABG when determining what functions and powers it seeks transferred from the National Government.

LEADERSHIP CHALLENGES FACING THE ABG

I turn now to the question of the leadership challenges facing the ABG in carrying out the roles given to it, and the goals it has been asked to pursue. It is to be expected that there are many challenges inherent in its remarkable range of leadership roles. I propose now to briefly survey 14 areas of particular challenge, or special importance.

  1. Factions, Divisions and Mistrust

It’s hardly surprising that, in the aftermath of such a violent, bitter and divisive conflict, that many opposing factions and divisions exist in Bougainville, and that consequentially, there is still much mistrust. Many of the issues here involve some continuity with problems that occurred during the violent conflict, 1988 to 1997. But there are also significant new development. I’ll mention just a few.

While the ‘mainstream’ former BRA and BRF elements that supported the peace process now largely work well together, at the local level there remain many unresolved divisions, where reconciliation is still required.

While the BRA and the BRF no longer exist as armed ‘militias’, since about 2010 former combatant organisations have emerged as significant political voices in Bougainville. To some extent this development reflects uncertainty for some former senior leaders about whether President Momis, elected in mid-2010, was too much a PNG nationalist, and not sufficiently committed to the holding of the referendum. While that concern has now reduced significantly, I think it contributed to a number of pressures that saw the former combatants become more politically active.

A complicating factor here is the various business and other economic interests of several key former combatant leaders. Some of them use their ex-combatant networks to advance such interests.

Of course, there are other sources or manifestations of significant division and tension. They include:

  • Several different Me’ekamui factions, none of which participated in the weapons disposal process under the Peace Agreement, and so remain in possession of numerous firearms. These factions include:
  • the Me’ekamui Government of Unity, based at Panguna, its leaders having links with several small, but high risk, mining investors;
  • the ‘original’ Me’ekamui, led by Chris Uma, based in Arawa, and controlling the Morgan Junction road block, still sometimes limiting access to the Panguna area;
  • Damien Koike’s Me’ekamui group based mainly at Sinimi and at Tonolei Harbour in the Konnou area of south-eastern Buin, who operates a semi-industrial ‘artisanal’ mining operation engaging about 300 young males mainly from Buin, but also from other areas;
  • Noah Musingku’s U-Vistract scheme, a fraudulent investment scheme that began in Port Moresby in 1998, but which since late 2004 has been based at Tonu in the Siwai area, and is ‘protected’ by about 100 young armed men, headed by a former Fijian soldier;
  • Former BRA leader, Sam Kauona, who has long had interest in establishing mining operations in association with dual Australian/Canadian citizen, Lindsay Semple, and who – whenever they fear their mining interests are not sufficiently guaranteed – attacks the ABG as being under the control of Bougainville Copper Ltd (or BCL) and its 53 per cent majority shareholder, Rio Tinto.

 

  1. Weapons Disposal

The Peace Agreement contained a plan for the BRA, BRF and Me’ekamui groups to disarm, but as we’ve seen, the Me’ekmui people did not join the process and retained their weapons. The agreed plan was implemented under UN supervision, resulting in destruction of about 2,000 weapons. BRA and BRF members were give strong incentives to dispose of weapons by provisions linking UN certification of adequate completion of particular stages in the disposal process to the coming into operation of the constitutional laws giving effect to the Peace Agreement, and the holding of the first ABG elections.

But some weapons contained by BRA commanders were not destroyed, and were later put to use in localised armed conflict in Konnou, 2006 to 2011, in which scores of people were killed. In addition, some BRA and BRF members retained weapons, due to suspicion of PNG or of one another, or for the purpose of sale, or for use in criminal activities. Further, since implementation of the weapons plan ended, in 2005, additional weapons have come into possession of some Bougainvilleans. Though exact numbers are not known, they include: some weapons brought in from Solomon Islands; probably some hundreds of refurbished WWII weapons; and possibly some weapons supplied to former BRF members by contacts of theirs in the PNGDF.

Not only have such weapons been used in localised conflict, they have also been employed in several instances of violent crime. Further, a significant commercial trade in Bougainville weapons has emerged, both an especially lucrative trade into the PNG Highlands, but also a less lucrative internal Bougainville trade.

The ongoing availability of weapons undermines security, and is a constant threat to the strengthening of law and order. We also have growing fears that the presence of weapons could undermine the prospects of a free and fair self-determination process, through the Bougainville Referendum. Paradoxically, the approach of the Referendum provides us with the opportunity to encourage disposal of weapons. Many who have retained weapons claim to have done so for fear that the National Government could not be trusted to allow the referendum to be held. Now that it is becoming clearer that this fear will not be realised, we are finding that Me’ekamui faction leaders and former BRA and BRF leaders are all engaging with the ABG about agreeing a new disposal process that will make Bougainville weapons free before the Referendum is held.

  1. Law and Order, and the Infant Bougainville Police Service

We face many difficulties in improving the law and order situation. While in general it is far and away much better than it was 19, or 10, or even 5 years ago, there is still much to be done. Contributing to the difficulties is the limited understanding and acceptance of ‘outside’ law, and also ‘outside’ law and justice institutions.

Direct colonial administration in Bougainville began only in 1905, and was imposed with violence, and in a very uneven manner. Some areas had almost no administration contact until after WWII. Even then, colonial administration was limited to occasional patrols in many areas.

So even before the conflict, in the 1970s and 1980s, in much of rural Bougainville, most of what we might classify as crime was dealt with by local clan leaders, broadly under ‘kastom’. Such matters were often seen a causes for concern because they could damage relationships, rather than because of ‘criminality’.

After the initial withdrawal from Bougainville of PNG security forces in March 1990, there were extended periods for most of Bougainville when ‘outside’ law, and law and justice institutions, ceased to operate completely. While in some areas customary leadership continued to deal with many of the same things that they had previously managed, in much of Bougainville even that leadership was severely disrupted. In those areas the situation was close to anarchy. The impacts in terms of deaths, injuries, trauma and division were horrific.

Since the early 2000s there has been a significant effort, mainly funded by Australian aid, and to a lesser extent New Zealand, to re-establish law and justice institutions. But unfortunately these changes have largely ignored the 2004 recommendations of the Bougainville Constitutional Commission. It held extensive public consultations around Bougainville from late 2002 through 2003. This established that there was strong community demand for a law and justice system quite different from that operating in the rest of PNG. Our people wants a system reflecting the needs and special circumstances of Bougainville.

I remain committed to much more effort to develop appropriate policies and law and justice institutions. However, a major obstacle here is the limited capacity in the Bougainville Public Service and the still infant Bougainville Police Service to undertake policy development work.

That leads me to the next area of leadership challenge for the ABG.

  1. Capacity of Bougainville Public Service and Bougainville Police Service

In general the ABG faces grave difficulties because of the weakness in administration and policy capacity in both Bougainville’s Public Service and Police Service. It was one of the great tragedies of the Bougainville conflict that the remarkable capacity of the North Solomons Provincial Government administration, built up over the 15 years from 1974, was almost entirely destroyed. It could not simply be re-established after the conflict.

The very much weakened administration of the Bougainville Interim Provincial Government was taken over by the ABG in mid-2005. But during the conflict, management, planning and accountability mechanisms had been severely weakened.

The capacity of the PNG Police in Bougainville had been all but destroyed during the conflict, and a tiny group of officers concentrated in just 2 or 3 urban centres, and with very low morale, was all there was in 2003.

While significant efforts to rebuild the police, in particular, have been made, particularly in terms of recruiting training new officers, many problems remain. They include orientation of the police (more towards urban-based reactive policing than community based rural policing in cooperation with customary leaders), and grossly inadequate staffing for supervisory positions.

In terms of policy development, both the Public Service and the Police Service personnel are mainly trained to deliver existing PNG public service and police programs. They have no experience or training in policy development.

It is very difficult for the ABG to meet the BPA leadership challenge inherent in the goal of solving Bougainville’s problems and meeting the aspirations of Bougainvilleans when policy development capacity is all but lacking.

We are working hard to respond to the problems here. In 2014, all public service functions and powers were transferred to the ABG, with our enactment of the Bougainville Public Service Act. We have since established our own new departmentalised structure. In the process we have raised the seniority and remuneration of most positions to make them more competitive. The PNG Departments of Finance and Personnel Management have been fully supportive in terms of funding the extra costs when calculating the annual Recurrent Unconditional Grant (which I will touch on a little more shortly).

We have since advertised all departmental head and constitutional office positions, and made a number of new appointments. The rest of those new positions should be filled soon. The next stage will be the advertising of the senior management positions in all departments. That will be followed by more junior positions. All positions are open – all current employees will have to compete. By the end of 2016, the new and much leaner structure will be complete.

Will that result in major changes in capacity and performance? While that is our goal, there are still many serious obstacles, including the difficulties in attracting experienced and competent applicants willing to come to Bougainville when they know housing, education and health services are of such low standards compared to those available in major urban centres such as Moresby and Lae.

  1. Transfer of Functions & Powers from National Government to ABG

While the BPA and the constitutional laws make a remarkably extensive range of functions and powers available to the ABG, there is a transfer process involved. It involves the ABG initiating the transfer process by request to the National Government. Negotiation is then required to develop necessary transfer plans within a year. The plans are required to take account of the need to build the necessary ABG capacity and provide it with the necessary financial resources to take over the functions and powers in question.

The transfer process for many functions and powers has become bogged down in problems, misunderstandings and inertia. In general there’s been a failure to address ABG capacity and resources needs.

There have also been some significant exceptions, including public service powers and mining.

The much slower than anticipated progress in transfer of powers has resulted in frustration, and contributed to widespread criticism of the ABG for lack of performance, and failure to meet expectations.

  1. The Bougainville Economy, and That Fiscal Self-reliance Goal

The pre-conflict economy was dominated by the Panguna mine. Post-conflict, there are limited possibilities for dramatic expansion and development. The small-holder cocoa, and to a lesser extent, copra, sectors have been re-established. But most plantations are worked only by informal settlers, with little incentive to invest in improvements.

The only major new industry is small-scale gold mining, involving perhaps 10,000 miners (some full-time, many more part-time). They generate perhaps K100 million per year for miners.

There is undoubtedly scope for expansion of agriculture – particularly through more efficient management. But despite claims to the contrary by some critics, there are also significant restrictions. Arable land is limited. We also face significant land shortages in many areas. Such shortages are a major factor in localised divisions and conflict.

If the ABG is to achieve real autonomy, or to have independence available as a real option in the future, achieving fiscal self-reliance is essential. But the challenges of achieving that goal – so strongly emphasised by the Bougainville Constitution – are immense.

It is the need to explore realistic means of achieving that goal that has been a major factor leading the ABG to consider the possibility of permitting strictly limited large-scale mining. However, any such mining must be on a dramatically different basis from the grossly unfair conditions under which BCL operated the Panguna mine – matters that I will discuss in more detail a little later.

There are critics of ABG mining policy. The main ones are a few noisy outsiders. They include the NGO, Jubilee Australia, and close associates of Jubilee that post endless ‘anonymous’ postings on the ‘PNG Mine Watch’ and ‘PNG Exposed’ blogs. They refuse to in any way recognise the grave dilemmas facing the ABG. They have no understanding of the realities of Bougainville and the complex leadership challenges facing us.

  1. Revenue Raising – and Fiscal Self-reliance (Again!)

Fiscal self-reliance is at present nowhere in sight. Instead, the ABG is almost completely dependent on grants from the National Government – and donor support. The ABG annual budget of more than K300 million per year is nowhere near enough to deliver reasonable levels of even the most basic services to our more than 300,000 people. Yet more than 90 per cent of that budget comes in the form of PNG grants and donor funds.

The ABG raises less than K10 million per year through our own taxes (liquor licensing fees, sales tax on tobacco and alcohol, motor vehicle registration fees and so on).

Part of the National Government funding is also derived from Bougainville – for we are supposed to receive all personal income tax collected in Bougainville. At present the payment is only K5 million per year, and despite many requests for information on actual collections of that tax, we have no idea of actual figures. We are also entitled to just 30 per cent of the PNG’s goods and services tax collected in Bougainville.

The main-stays of the Bougainville economy are small-holder cocoa and copra production, and small-scale gold production. Their combined income from these sources in recent years averages K250 to a maximum of K350 million per year.

We often consider possible imposition of ABG taxation on this income. But we are deeply concerned about taking too much money from the limited income available to our people.

In addition, we have to consider costs of collection, and the difficulties likely to be created by emerging incentives for black markets.

Probably our best option will be some form of indirect taxation on consumption (perhaps a sales tax additional to the GST imposed by the National Government). But we know that there would be considerable resistance to imposition of such an additional tax. Further, even an additional 10 per cent tax would be likely to generate a maximum of perhaps K50 million – nowhere near enough to bring us anywhere close to fiscal self-reliance.

Does anyone really question why each ABG since 2005, with the clear support of many, many Bougainvilleans, has been open to the possibilities of limited large-scale mining for a Bougainville that is committed to self-reliance as it seeks real autonomy, and prepares for an act of self-determination? What responsible government in our circumstances would not explore that possibility?

  1. The Funding Arrangements in Support of Autonomy

The key aims of autonomy set out in the BPA extend beyond empowering Bougainvilleans to solve their own problems and work to realise their aspirations to recognise the need for the ABG to have the resources needed to achieve those lofty ideals. So it states that the autonomy arrangements are also intended to (and I quote) ‘provide sufficient personnel and financial resources for the autonomous Bougainville Government to exercise its powers and functions effectively’.

Unfortunately, the BPA never delivered fully on that aspect of its goals. That was largely because of the severe fiscal crisis that was facing PNG in the years when the BPA was negotiated. That crisis made it very difficult for the National Government to accept Bougainville demands for generous funding.

Of much greater concern is the failure of the National Government to deliver even the inadequate levels of funding promised by the BPA and the Constitutional Laws giving effect to it. I will not go into detail here. Instead I will highlight two of the most serious sets of problems involved.

First, the main annual grant payable to the ABG is the Recurrent Unconditional Grant. It funds recurrent costs (salaries and operational costs) of ABG functions – both those inherited from the previous provincial government, and new ones taken on in the process of transfer of powers.

Amongst many problems with calculation of the grant has been lack of attention to the costing of the expense to the ABG of transferred activities (a notable exception, however, being in relation to costs of the transfer of public service powers).

Another problem has been National Government failure to extend to Bougainville the significant benefits of new approaches to calculation of the similar grants payable to provincial governments elsewhere in PNG, as it is required to do by the BPA and section 48(2) of the Organic Law on Peace-building in Bougainville.

The second set of problems concerns calculation of the only other major annual grant payable to the ABG – the Restoration and Development Grant (or RDG). Because of the fiscal crisis of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the RDG base amount was not high – just slightly more than the K10 million PNG Public Investment Programme (or PIP) funds available for Bougainville in 2001. But in negotiating the annual RDG calculation arrangements, clear agreement was reached that when PNG’s then fiscal crisis was over, Bougainville would be guaranteed to share in increased tax revenue, as represented by percentage increases in the annual PNG PIP.

So provision was included that the annual RDG payable would not reduce below the 2001 base figure. It would only be adjusted upwards, by the rolling average of the change in the PNG PIP in each of the five years prior to the year of grant.

By 2005-06, as new resource projects came on stream in PNG and commodity prices rose, the annual increase in the PIP became large. Unfortunately, although the National Government did increase the RDG, to K15 million a year, it simply did not make the annual calculations required by the BPA and the Organic Law. RDG calculation became an ever more difficult source of contention between the governments.

In 2010 and 2011, the ABG began doing what it should have done from 2005 – that is, it made its own calculations of the RDG amounts that should have been paid annually. These indicated that the annual amount payable was over K60 million (over four times more than the K15 million actually paid annually). Further the unacknowledged and unpaid arrears amounted to over K200 million.

Since 2011 there have been increasingly acrimonious exchanges over the issues here. They remain unresolved. It is true that the National Government has made other funds available, notably a Special Intervention Fund of K500 million for major infrastructure to be made available at K100 million per year from 2011. So far only K300 million has been paid. It is most unlikely to be paid in 2016 due to the current fiscal crisis facing PNG. While payments received have been a welcome additional source of project funding, it is not the grant funding available to the ABG intended by the BPA.

Without the RDG paid at the constitutionally guaranteed levels, the ABG does not have available to it the necessary financial resources that the goals of the BPA indicated were necessary. In particular, because it was always understood that Recurrent Grant expenditure would be virtually tied to meeting costs of existing services, the RDG would be the main source of ABG discretionary funds.

In the absence of the correct levels of RDG, we in the ABG could be excused for feeling that our role has been reduced to little more than oversight of basic service delivery! So much for the goal of achieving self-determination through autonomy!

  1. Accountability

Another tragedy of the Bougainville conflict was the severe undermining of the high standards of financial management and accountability that the previous North Solomons Provincial Government had developed. There is no doubt that financial management and accountability standards reduced dramatically during the 1990s. Corrupt practices crept in that are now difficult to eradicate. But their eradication is a major focus of the major reforms involved in the Bougainville Public Service. Corrupt officers will be replaced. Accountability mechanisms are being strengthened. Our new internal audit office established in 2015 is already having an impact.

  1. Deciding the Future of Panguna, or Further Large-scale Mining

A major set of issues challenging all three ABG Presidents and their governments (the Kabui government elected in mid-2005, the Tanis government elected in December 2008, and the Momis governments elected in 2010 and 2015) has involved the future of large-scale mining. There are two distinct issues here. One is whether the Panguna mine should re-open. The second is whether any other large-scale mines should be permitted.

Some Bougainvilleans completely oppose either form of large-scale mining. But my strong impression from my wide travels and consultations all over Bougainville is that a solid majority is open to both possibilities. However, all insist that any new mining that occurs must be under a totally different set of conditions than those under which the colonial regime imposed the Panguna mine’s operations on Bougainville.

Further, most such Bougainvilleans are open to resumption of Panguna by BCL. That company clearly accepts responsibility for much of what went wrong in the 1980s. There is concern that a new mine operator may reject any responsibility for mine legacy issues.

The ABG has responded to demands that mining only occur under new and fair conditions accepted by landowners. Its law provides that owners of customary land also own all minerals on, in or under their land. Such rights are accompanied by landowner veto rights over either or both intensive mineral exploration on their land, and/or the grant of licences for mining development.

As a result, neither Panguna nor any other mine will open in the future without landowner agreement. That will be determined by democratic associations. In the Panguna case, since 2011, the landowner communities in the areas of the former leases associated with the mine (and some adjoining areas) have established nine associations. The executives were elected through general meetings attended by a total of about 2,500 landowners.

No decision about the future of Panguna has yet been made by those associations. Indeed, the ABG has nor requested them to make any such decision. But solely at the initiative of a broadly representative meeting of over 50 senior landowner community leaders in July 2012, the ABG has worked with the associations towards holding a preliminary reconciliation (Bel Kol) with BCL. The aim in 2012 was to enable BCL to establish a presence in Bougainville needed to prepare for possible discussions about negotiations.

But there has been an hiatus since August 2014. ABG mining law stripped BCL of most of its tenements. It was left only with an exploration licence over its former Special Mining Lease. The mining giant, Rio Tinto, 53.6 majority shareholder in BCL, then decided to review its ‘investment’ in BCL. That resulted in most of the tentative steps towards possible negotiations being put on hold. Rio Tinto recently advised the ABG that its review may not be completed till late 2016.

In the meantime, additional complexity has resulted from a series of National Government initiatives since 2014 to purchase the Rio Tinto 53.6 per cent equity in BCL. Together with its existing 19.3 per cent equity, that would make PNG 72.9 per cent majority shareholder in BCL. The ABG is unclear why the National Government has demonstrated such determination in relation to the purchase of the equity – though that has not prevented some speculation on the possible issues involved!

The President has consistently informed the Prime Minister, in the strongest terms, that these proposals are not acceptable to Bougainville. And that indeed, if implemented, the proposals would risk conflict.

He has advised both the Prime Minister and Rio Tinto that if, as seems increasingly likely, Rio decides to end its involvement in BCL, then the Rio equity should be transferred to the ABG and former Panguna leases landowners, without payment. Further, Rio Tinto must take full responsibility for an environmental clean up and mine closure program that deals properly with the major mine legacy issues.

In relation to whether other large-scale mines should be permitted in Bougainville, the Bougainville Mining Act provides several important protections. They protect not only landowners likely to be impacted by any particular project, but also the wider Bougainville community.

One protection is the adoption under the Act of the reservation of almost all of Bougainville (other than the BCL leases) from mining exploration and development, under the terms of a 1971 mining moratorium imposed by the colonial administration. That moratorium can only be lifted, wholly or in part, by the ABG Cabinet, but only after debate on the proposed decision in the ABG legislature. With the Bougainville Mining Department getting ready to manage mining tenement applications, the ABG Cabinet decided in March 2016 that in advance of even considering a decision on the future of the moratorium, there should be wide public debate on the issues involved.

But with the ABG in fiscal crisis (because of PNG’s own fiscal crisis) we do not have the funds necessary for an extensive public awareness and consultation program. So as a substitute, we decided to initiate public debate through a two stage debate in the ABG legislature. The first stage was a debate in early April. When it was adjourned, all members were asked to consult their constituents on the issues involved, with a view to a debate with expanded scope at the next meeting of the House. Only after that will the Cabinet consider a possible decision on the future of the moratorium.

The President has publicly spelt out his view. He argues that the moratorium should be only partially lifted. That would provide ongoing protection to Bougainvilleans. It would also enable us to assess how well our new tenement administration system operates.

The other major protections under the Bougainville Mining Act are first, the veto powers of landowners of any exploration or mining licence application, and second the prohibition on the operation, at any time, of more than two very large mines. But a concern expressed by the President about possible full lifting of the moratorium is that there would be no limit on the number of smaller open cut or underground mines (save to the extent that landowners veto such developments).

So I’m sure you can see the extent of the leadership challenges facing the ABG in relation to decisions on the future of Panguna and other large-scale mines.

  1. Gender Equality

While most Bougainvillean language and culture groups adhere strongly to matrilineal descent principles, this does not equate to anything like matriarchy. Males in the matrilineal societies are full members of the same clan-based landowning groups that their mothers, sisters, and maternal aunts and nieces belong to. More important, it is males that generally take on public roles of speaking for their lineage in decision-making about land – and about many other important matters at the ‘village-level’. Consequently, many Bougainvilleans tend to see little basis for roles for women in public life outside the village.

The Bougainville Constitution seeks equality for all, and fair representation of women on all constitutional and other bodies. It also seeks recognition and encouragement of women’s roles in both ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ Bougainville society. It specifically seeks development of those roles ‘to take account of changing circumstances’.

It is difficult, however, to achieve rapid change to deeply ingrained cultural norms. For that reason alone, progress towards our constitutional goal of much greater gender equality has so far been slow. The first step – three reserved seats for women in the ABG House of Representatives, out of a total of 40 seats – was a welcome signal of change. But it was far from a clarion call for real equality.

A strong move has recently been made, however, in that direction. This involves an ABG Cabinet decisions on developing a new draft Community Government Act. It should be ready for debate in the House in June. It involves a new local-level government system, to replace the Council of Elders (or COE) system set up under 1996 Bougainville legislation.

Instead of the COEs, which were made up mainly of unelected traditional leaders, ,– and traditional leaders will continue their roles in village-level governments.

Each community government will have a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 12 wards, and each ward will elect two members – one female and one male. Each community government will have a Chair and a Deputy Chair. If the Chair is a female, the Deputy must be a male, and vice versa. Following the second Community Government general elections, the ‘gender of the member chosen as Chair … must not be the same as the gender of the person who was Chair immediately before the … election’.

In this way, the Bougainville Community Government Bill, when enacted as law, will ensure not only that there are equal numbers of men and women elected to community governments, but also that over time, women will have equal opportunity to hold the senior ‘executive’ positions in community governments.

  1. That Referendum on Bougainville’s Future Political Status

Little more needs to be said here about the referendum, other than to emphasise that the ABG has heavy constitutional and political responsibilities in relation to the referendum preparations. It is now increasingly likely to be held in 2019. Following the conduct of the referendum, the ABG will need to shoulder even more significant responsibilities, in terms of negotiating with PNG on implementation of the outcome and managing the ensuing situation.

  1. Deeply Misleading Public Commentary

An unexpected challenge for the ABG has been the sometimes amazing extent of deeply misleading public commentary on Bougainville, the ABG, its mining policy, and related matters. This commentary began mainly in 2012 as the ABG moved to develop its own mining laws.

The main attacks have come from two sources. One involves small groups in Bougainville. The other is a closely linked external network. Their main ‘message’ is that – in some way never explained, and with no credible evidence ever provided – the ABG is under the control of, or part of a conspiracy with, Rio Tinto, BCL, Australia and PNG. This conspiracy (or so they say) is intended to force the re-opening of the Panguna mine against the united opposition of the people of Bougainville.

The small group inside Bougainville involves a few foreign ‘adventurers’ seeking control of mining resources. They do so by fostering links with Bougainville factions. The ‘adventurers’ and their local supporters, fear that ABG mining policy and legislation will limit their opportunities.

The external network centres on UK-based Australian academic activist, Kristian Lasslett. His network comprises his close associates, including: the NGO, Jubilee Australia; the two blogs run by the PNG-based Bismarck Ramu Group – PNG Mine Watch and PNG Exposed; the Bougainville Freedom Movement; a group of criminologists supposedly studying ‘state crime’, calling itself the ‘State Crime Initiative’; and an Australian activist journalist, Anthony Loewenstein.

All network elements have their own ideological positions that they project onto Bougainville. They do so with virtually no understanding of, or interest in, what is really happening in Bougainville. They do not need much in the way of evidence, mainly because they have no interest in understanding our complex reality. Rather, they pick and choose a bit of information here, an opinion expressed there, and twist what little they have to fit their own pre-conceived theoretical or ideological position.

The misinformation that they put out has very little impact in Bougainville. But the internal and external contributors are mutually reinforcing. The external network undoubtedly provides encouragement to the foreign adventurers and their associates in Bougainville.

The misleading commentary does also perhaps influence perceptions of Bougainville by uninformed observers outside Bougainville. So while not a major leadership challenge, it is certainly one that we would prefer to do without.

  1. Information, Awareness and Public Consultation

The final leadership challenge I will mention involves the grave difficulties we face in providing accurate information to the people of Bougainville.

Perhaps 90 per cent of Bougainvilleans live in mainly small, scattered hamlets in rural areas. Many are in remote areas, completely inaccessible by road or air. In our post-conflict situation, as we seek to implement the complex BPA and constitutional arrangements, it is very challenging indeed to get accurate and balanced information to our people.

The misleading commentary – especially what we might call the Lasslett network – regularly attacks us for inadequate consultation on mining policy and laws. Yet we have allocated far more effort and resources to consultation on these issues than has ever been done in PNG – with the one, and truly remarkable, exception of the consultation by the pre-Independence consultation by the PNG Constitutional Planning Committee. That was under the leadership of current ABG President, John Momis, a truly committed advocate and practitioner of public consultation.

What our uninformed critics fail to acknowledge is the grave challenges involved in carrying out effective consultation in Bougainville’s situation. Radio coverage extends to about 30 per cent of Bougainville. Newspapers have limited reach. The cost of carrying out broad-based face-to-face consultation is astronomical.

We are, however, working hard to improve our capacities in this regard. We are doing that with a particular eye to what we know will be the need for extensive public consultation on many aspects of referendum preparations and post-referendum decision-making. We have commissioned research on the ‘communication landscape’ in Bougainville. It involves a Bougainville Audience Study. That has included a survey of over 800 people in all our 13 districts. It is providing data on how people gain access to information, what sources they regard as most reliable, their knowledge of key issues or concepts such as autonomy, independence, referendum. We expect the final report in May.

With the help of the information and analysis provided by the report, we will analyse the possibilities. We will seek PNG Government and donor support to assist us in improving our consultation capabilities in advance of the referendum preparations.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen:

While undoubtedly the ABG faces many complex and difficult leadership challenges, we are facing them honestly. We constantly explore our best options for dealing with them. Although our resources are extremely limited, we work hard to change that situation, and to face our challenges head on.

I can say little more than that.

Thank you for the opportunity to share with you a little of our experience so far in meeting those leadership challenges that my topic today asked me to address

Bougainville Education Futures: Kindle ereaders open up world of possibilities for kids on Bougainville

James

An Australian scheme to get more children on Bougainville PNG  reading, using kindles, is hoping to expand its aid project.

Colin Cowell is an Australian with links to Bougainville PNG going back to 1970 where he worked in many training and management roles

Over his life he’s been involved in a number of aid projects, both in Papua New Guinea and Australia, and one current project he wants to ramp up is Bookgainville.

Picture above; Colin and  James Tanis launching Bookgainville May 2014:  School founder and Ex-President of Bougainville James stated that after two weeks of the school using Kindles ” The donation of 5 kindles to our school will change the lives of our students and teachers forever

SEE James Tanis interview on You TUBE

Full Name of School: Nariana Elementary School: Metonasi Class B Region: Nagovisi, Via Panguna ,Central Bougainville No of Students: 50

Under this scheme donates kindles to schools on Bougainville.

Mr Cowell told Don Wiseman RADIO NZ Bookgainville came about when he was approached by the former president of Bougainville, James Tanis, who was studying at the ANU in Canberra, to help get books to children in the region.

COLIN COWELL: And I said ‘Oh James the shipping rates to Bougainville are huge’. I have a background in technology. I said there has to be an easier way, and that is when I came across kindles. Each of the small kindles – they can hold up to 1400 books, for an Australian value of $99. So it is very very good value.

DON WISEMAN: You started raising money to provide these kindles and you were providing just a number for schools and kids were handing them around?

CC: Yes I have made a number of trips – I am semi-retired so I made a number of trips to PNG. And we set up a base in Arawa and we have a large database there. We use the idea that was developed here in Australia by the indigenous communities to encourage reading and literacy. They are very effective. Because young people they really like reading off an i-pad and it really encourages them to read. On my first trip up there I tried the kindles and we had kids reading 24 hours a day, just to get that knowledge and so forth, because they have very limited access to books. And so it has been very successful in improving their literacy.

DW: There are many schools on Bougainville aren’t there. Just how many?

CC: About 350. The population of Bougainville is about 300,000 and obviously they are very small schools. On my first trip up there we actually established some schools. They can build a school for about a $1000 New Zealand dollars. So we actually built a few schools as well. They had nowhere to actually learn, so we have facilitated the schools and teachers and so forth.

DW: So how many of these kindles have you provided so far?

CC: We have put out about five kindles per school and there are about 11 schools we have completed so far, in the early stages. We have got some educationalists assisting us in assessing literacy levels and so forth and that will probably occur over the next couple of months and then we can take it to the next level.

When you consider that if you bought the Harry Potter book it might cost you $NZ30, if you get a thousand books, that is $30,000 worth of books on one kindle – you know what I mean. So there are a lot of repositories around the world where we can get free books. So it is very cheap to get the books into the schools.

DW: Do you load the books on before they go up?

CC: We do. We have a database, and it is open access, books that we use. We have a database in Arawa, like a library system and people can top up from that particular library system.

DW: As you say, you are planning this – how big do you think you can go?

CC: I think we could do 100 schools. We are looking at new technologies at the moment. In Africa there is a world-wide organisation, called World Reader, that is actually recycling old phones, and putting the technology on old phones and then loading up the books onto old phones. So there is a lot of modern technology we are looking at at the moment.

World Reader is concentrating on Africa but we are negotiating with them to say that ‘Papua New Guinea we really need some educational levels raised’, so there are all sort of opportunities.

We have done this out of the kindness of our hearts. I have had friends in Australia, teachers, friends throughout Australia who have donated these kindles.

Another thing, we have got to do the feasibility study now to evaluate the project, and I think when people see the results of the evaluation, the cost efficiencies of developing the system, I think we will get some good international aid support.

Pok-Pok1

September 2014

Ms Lillian Ahai, Former Principal of Sogeri National High School, a core member of E Reader Leadership group presents kindles to Uruna Primary, Pokpok Island on behalf of Bookgainville, witnessed by James Tanis the Founder.

Project contact

Colin Cowell (Project manager) Email: colincowellredcent@hotmail.com 

Tel Australia 0401 331 251

International: +61401 331 251

Follow us on TWITTER @bookgainville

Bougainville /PNG Government News: Benefits to reap in mutual relationships and working together

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 “What an opportunity it is that Bougainville has two Ministers in Government. What an opportunity missed it will be if the Ministers do not work in consultation and in tandem with ABG in the remaining months of to the next elections mid next year.

May be the newly appointed Minister for Bougainville Affairs will work around the clock to stitch up the loose ties and ends, mend the fractures and pick up the broken pieces to get a meaningful working relationship established with Bougainville Members of the House .

“Our four national MPs and 40 MHRs must come together and walk along the same path, in the same direction, with the same purpose, bearing the same cross on a journey towards a common Good, welfare and wellbeing of the People.

In a nutshell, have we a leader or a group of leaders that can deliver on the vision for everyone? “

A commentary by – Simon Pentanu

“It will also be something close to political deceit if together our combined political leadership does not deliver on the political promises and pledges that candidates swear to at elections that, if elected, they would do their utmost to rebuild and resurrect Bougainville.

This is the unequivocal challenge the Third House of Representatives faces head on through the referendum preparations and the myriad challenges from now to 2020.

Opportunities missed are opportunities lost and gone.”

Leadership Challenges of Autonomous Government   The Hon Patrick Nisira MP, Vice President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea see below Canberra Australia event 28 April

It has taken a very determined and audacious Prime Minister and his government to give real and long overdue facelift to Port Moresby, the nation’s capital. Mt Hagen has also benefited, so also will Lae city when the new wharf and Nadzab Terminal upgrades are completed.

This in stark reality has meant someone biting the political bullet and defraying all manners of politically loaded invectives and the courage of one’s convictions to do something that others have only played lip service to.

The PM and the Government’s decision has led to renovations and recovery of the decaying and decadent concrete monolith called the Pineapple Building and the adjacent time-ravaged Central Government Offices complex. The offices will save any Government in the future hugely exorbitant outlays in private rentals that real estate owners and operators have been thriving on handsomely for years.

Some of the Provinces and their provincial centres are also benefiting from this. Milne Bay is an example. Alotau, a peaceful town is welcoming an onset of national business travellers. The upgrade of Gurney airport for international flights will be good for the local economy with tourists and business travellers a good sales and marketing pitch for the province and the country. Similarly, if they walk the talk other provinces with business potential and cultural pull will reap benefits in a similar way.

The New Guinea Islands region has always attracted visitors. After the devastation of Rabaul by the volcanic eruption in September 1994, the growth of Kokopo has been an astonishing success in planning, funding, managing and implementing a resurgence through a combined effort of the ENB Provincial Government and the Gazelle Restoration Authority. I mention this because the PM and his Government’s support and delivery of any infrastructural development is being done on the back of what the province already has.

If Bougainville’s leaders also put their foot where their mouth is in demanding basic infrastructural development and upgrades by holding the PM to his repeated remarks that his main concern in rebuilding B’ville is through development. Time and again the PM has said openly that his main concern is to deliver development on Bougainville.

What an opportunity it is that Bougainville has two Ministers in Government. What an opportunity missed it will be if the Ministers do not work in consultation and in tandem with ABG in the remaining months of to the next elections mid next year.

May be the newly appointed Minister for Bougainville Affairs will work around the clock to stitch up the loose ties and ends, mend the fractures and pick up the broken pieces to get a meaningful working relationship established with Bougainville Members of the House .

Our four national MPs and 40 MHRs must come together and walk along the same path, in the same direction, with the same purpose, bearing the same cross on a journey towards a common Good, welfare and wellbeing of the People.

Bougainville has the natural resources and untapped wealth to do it. It has a relatively small population that can share the resources more than adequately and equally for everyone’s benefit .Have we got the collective minds, the sobriety and the goodwill to do it?

In a nutshell, have we a leader or a group of leaders that can deliver on the vision for everyone?

It will be a disappointment if elected leaders in the National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives do not find the common chord and the core values that the people expect leaders to be bound by and if they do not rise above individual preoccupations toward a political precept that confers a duty of service to and care for all citizens.

Leadership Challenges of Autonomous Government

The Hon Patrick Nisira MP, Vice President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea Thursday 28 April 2016 11:00 – 12:00pm Acton Theatre, JG Crawford Building (132) Lennox Crossing, ANU

PN

Papua New Guinea’s Autonomous Region of Bougainville is at a critical juncture. Still dealing with the debilitating effects of an at times brutal civil conflict from 1988 to 1997, the Autonomous Bougainville Government is working to rebuild its economy and governance structures while navigating the final stages of a peace process, including a referendum on its political future due to take place by 2020. Vice President Patrick Nisira, a key member of the Autonomous Bougainville Government elected to lead Bougainville through to 2020, will offer some first-hand perspectives about the unique leadership challenges facing his government over the next few years.

About the speaker

The Hon Patrick Nisira MP is the Vice President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. Mr Nisira also holds the position of Minister for Peace, the Referendum and Veterans Affairs. Mr Nisira was first elected to Parliament in 2007 in the seat of Halia (Buka Island, North Bougainville) as an independent. He served as Minister for Works, Transport and Civil Aviation from 2007-2010 in the government led by Presidents James Tanis and Joseph Kabui. Re-elected in the 2010 general elections, Mr Nisira was appointed Vice President in the Autonomous Bougainville Government led by President John Momis. Nisira held his seat in the 2015 general elections and was reappointed Vice President in the second Momis government.

 

 

 

Bougainville Referendum News : Developing a ‘Whole-of-ABG’ Rolling Plan for Referendum Preparations”

Nisira

Bougainville Vice-President and Minister responsible for the Referendum Patrick Nisira,

In connection with Referendum preparations, there is to be a significant meeting held in Port Moresby on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 April. Its a meeting of the Joint Bougainville Referendum Committee (joint between the National Government and the ABG) which will be discussing key issues about referendum preparations, including:

a. the process for establishing the agency for conducting the Referendum;

b. the process for determining the date for the referendum (and in particular, whether determinations on weapons disposal and good governance are just matters to be taken into account when the two governments consult on setting a date within the five year period between mid-2015 and mid-2020 within which the Referendum MUST be held, or, alternatively, whether they are conditions precedent that must be met, with failure to meet them permitting the National Government to refuse to the referendum being held;

c. Development of an overall plan for preparations for the referendum, inclusive of steps, timelines, budget, and funding.

The ABG is proposing that the meeting  be opened by statements given by the new Minister for Bougainville Affairs (Joe Lera) and Bougainville Vice-President and Minister responsible for the Referendum (Patrick Nisira), and that the outcomes of the subsequent discussions between the officials will be reported back to those two, as well as President Momis, at the end of the discussions.

 Background

A 2 day workshop that the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG)  held in early March for its ministers and senior officials around the theme of “Developing a ‘Whole-of-ABG’ Rolling Plan for Referendum Preparations”.

SEE PAPER HERE : Referendum Overview 2016 – 32 Pages

The National 14 April 2016_Page_2JM 78

Pictured above the Father of PNG  Grand Chief Sir Michael Thomas Somare GCL GCMG CH CF SSI KSG PC MP (born 9 April 1936), who celebrated his 80 th birthday last week with the Father of the Bougainville referendum James Tanis

THE BOUGAINVILLE REFERENDUM

AN OVERVIEW OF THE ARRANGEMENTS

Referendum Overview 2016 – 32 Pages

by Anthony Regan

3rd Draft – 21 March 2016

  1. INTRODUCTORY ISSUES

This paper provides an overview of origins, intentions, sources, and main features of the constitutional arrangements for the ‘Referendum on the future political status of Bougainville’ (the Bougainville Referendum). It must include a ‘choice of separate independence for Bougainville’, and must be held before mid-2020. The paper also outlines work done so far to prepare for the Referendum, and identifies and discusses major steps required to prepare, conduct, and deal with the outcomes of, the Referendum.

A referendum is a process for making decisions, mainly about issues of great importance. The categories of issues dealt with in referendums (or referenda) is extensive. They include: approving new constitutions (as in Kenya in 2010), or amendments to existing constitutions (as under Australia’s Constitution); proposing or even making new laws (as in Switzerland and with citizens initiative referenda in some states of the United States); or resolving major divisive issues (as in Britain’s planned June 2016 referendum on exiting the European Union).

Since 1990 over 50 referenda have been held on independence for a country or part of a country. Usually such referenda are conducted as part of efforts to resolve disputes, often (though not always) violent conflicts. Examples include referenda on: Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia, 1993; Quebec’s independence from Canada in 1995; East Timor’s independence from Indonesia, 1999; Scotland’s Independence from the United Kingdom, in 2014. Of course, issues about sovereignty can be particularly sensitive and divisive, and are often difficult to prepare for and manage.

Very few countries have ever included in a national constitution provision for a deferred referendum on separation of part of the country, required to be held within a specified period. The only examples we know of are: France (in relation to New Caledonia, where a referendum must be held by 2018); and Sudan (in relation to South Sudan, where a referendum was held in 2011, about six years after the Sudan Constitution was amended to provide for it). So Bougainvilleans are a privileged people to have achieved the opportunity to make a decision about their future in this way. In all three cases such provision was included in the national constitution as part of a broader package intended to find ways of ending bitter and violent conflict. Autonomy was intended to operate in the period before the deferred referendum, in the hope (for some parties in both New Caledonia and Sudan) that it would help resolve divisions before the referendum was held, perhaps leading to a situation where the referendum might not be necessary, or might be deferred, or perhaps contributing to a referenda outcome in favour of continued unity.

Although referenda can help resolve difficult conflicts, they can also carry risks. They can be complex and expensive to run. They can be divisive, in preparation, in conduct, and in implementation of results. Problems often arise from misleading and divisive campaigns by political leaders on the question in the referendum. Leaders can be under great pressure to attempt to influence the result through manipulation of the process, and intimidation of voters.

Although usually intended to resolve conflict, holding a referendum can contribute to conflict, especially in a country where there are pre-existing ethnic, religious, or other kinds of divisions. One particular danger is that the outcome of a referendum on a divisive matter leaves a significant minority feeling strongly that the majority vote causes them serious disadvantage. Violent conflict has occurred in the process of implementation of outcomes of referenda in the past 25 years, including in relation to independence referenda – for example, in East Timor and in South Sudan.

A difficulty associated with an independence referendum is that it involves a major decision on long-term arrangements being made at a particular time, often without adequate information about future circumstances. For example, Scotland relies heavily on revenue from petroleum resources, which it would have needed to rely upon if its 2014 referendum had resulted in independence. But little more than a year after the referendum, oil prices were about 25 per cent of what they had been at the time of the vote. A vote in favour of independence where voters had assumed the prosperity of Scotland was assured could have been ill-founded.

So in preparing for the Bougainville referendum, it will be important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages that can flow from them, learn from experience of referenda held elsewhere, and do everything possible to minimise the chance of serious problems occurring.

A starting point is to develop a clear understanding of the Referendum arrangements, so that in planning for and managing it, everything possible is done to ensure arrangements work as intended, potential problems are anticipated and contingencies provided for. As yet, however, the Referendum arrangements are not widely known and understood. Important aspects are often the subject of confusion, uncertainty and misunderstanding.

For example, it has been widely believed in Bougainville that the BPA required the referendum be held in 2015, rather than in the five year window beginning in 2015 as is actually provided. Further, some Bougainvilleans have asked whether, in the absence of a decision by the PNG Parliament on the referendum outcome by 2020, the BPA and the PNG Constitutional Laws implementing it will cease to have effect, resulting in autonomy ceasing to operate, the immunity from prosecution for former combatants and other aspects of the BPA ceasing to have effect. In fact, there is no basis at all for such concern.

Perhaps the greatest confusion and uncertainty involves two sets of questions of great importance to continuing peace in Bougainville:

  1. whether PNG has the authority to defer the referendum beyond 2020 – in particular, should it be determined that requirements as to weapons disposal and good governance have not been met; and
  2. whether a vote in favour of independence requires PNG to implement the outcome, Bougainville then having an immediate right to independence.

Both sets of questions are discussed elsewhere in this paper.

Reasons for such confusion etc., include: most people involved having had no experience of referenda; the history of the arrangements for the Bougainville Referendum is complex; almost 15 years have elapsed since the BPA was signed, and few people other than some who were deeply involved in the negotiations have a clear memory and understanding of what was agreed; and the arrangement are set out in several documents, the details and relationships of which are little known.

This overview aims to provide information needed for improved understanding of the arrangements.[1] The history and intention of relevant parts of the BPA and the Constitutional Laws is a particular focus, for that is often little known, and when clarified often provides a good basis for improved understanding of the arrangements. Where relevant, the paper also examines the links between the referendum arrangements and other aspects of the BPA. It also:

  1. identifies some risks involved in the Referendum in respect of which avoidance or management action may be needed, and
  2. outlines issues to be taken into account when considering whether the Referendum outcome will be credible, an issue likely to be of importance when consulting with the National Government (and the international community) about the results of the Referendum.

[1] To assist readers to locate information, section numbers and pages of relevant laws and reports are included.

Download Full 32 pages here :

Bougainville NEWS : Attacks over mining moratorium : ” nonsense and lies ” says Momis

momis 15 

” I have made those facts clear in several statements, including one to the ABG parliament on 4th April on Rio Tinto’s responsibility to carry out a full clean-up should it decide to withdraw from BCL. Is Mr.Kauona deaf? How on earth can he say I am only concerned to protect BCL and Rio Tinto? What nonsense and lies!

“There is no conspiracy between the ABG, Rio Tinto, BCL and Australia. Mr. Kauona and his few supporters, like Mathias Salas, must stop signing the nonsense and lies his Australian/Canadian partner, Mr. Lindsay Semple, writes for them. Whenever Semple and Kauona don’t get the access to minerals that they want, they make false claims about a conspiracy – nonsense and lies! Their statements are nothing more than desperate attempts to build support for their own economic interests by creating fears about BCL. It’s shameful.”

Bougainville President, Chief John Momis Pictured above

He was responding to statements made by former BRA leader, Sam Kauona and some of his supporters. They include claims that the President is controlling the process to lift the moratorium, and is doing that solely for the benefit of Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) and its majority shareholder, Rio Tinto, in order to prevent Bougainvilleans benefiting from mining.

Read petition letter here Kauona-Semple-Petition Letter Scan – April 2016

The claims are made in a ‘petition letter’ sent to the BCL chairman, in a letter to the President from a few Bougainville Ex-combatants from Arawa, and in a paid advertisement in a PNG daily newspaper on 14 April 2016.

The National 14 April 2016_Page_1

The moratorium was imposed in 1971 at the request of Bougainville leaders aiming to protect Bougainville from unlimited large mines. They were concerned that unlimited exploration licences could have seen many mines established all over Bougainville.

The moratorium was continued under the two mining laws passed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) – a ‘transitional’ Mining Act in 2014, and the Bougainville Mining Act in March 2015. The 2015 Act allows the ABG Cabinet to lift the moratorium, wholly or partially. Before it makes a decision, Cabinet must receive advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council, and allow a debate in the ABG parliament on its proposed decision.

The President said:

“I have no power to lift the moratorium. Cabinet has not even developed a position on the issue. So far the only thing we have done is opened public debate on whether the moratorium should be maintained, or lifted. Because we have no funds to conduct a public awareness and consultation, we have instead asked the Parliament to debate the issues involved. Then the Cabinet can take account of the views expressed when it does make a decision.

“In the parliamentary debate on 5th April, I recommended lifting the moratorium partially. That gives the new Bougainville Mining Department time to build capacity to manage the new system for exploration licence applications. The Mining Department has not yet developed administrative arrangements needed for international tender of licences, and for a new system of community mining licences for small-scale miners. If exploration licences for large-scale mining were available for the whole of Bougainville, we could not implement those important aspects of the Mining Act.

“My recommendation debate did not decide the matter. Others contributed to the debate, which was then adjourned to the next sitting of the parliament. Members can now consult their constituents. The debate will continue when the parliament meets again, in May or June. This encourages wider public debate in Bougainville on this sensitive and important issue.

“I have to ask why Mr. Kauona is afraid of public debate about the lifting of the moratorium.

“I will continue to recommend partial lifting. I want to see exploration licences (for possible open-cut or underground mines) limited to just one or two areas, initially. That limit could be reviewed after international tender and community mining licence arrangements are in place.

“At the same time, if possible, I’d like to see a wider lifting of the moratorium now – for reconnaissance licences and artisanal licences (under our Act restricted to Bougainvilleans, for areas up to five hectares, but not involving open cut or underground mining). This approach would allow most Bougainville mining interests access to minerals. It would see continued protection against establishing many open cut and underground mines. That was the original aim of the moratorium. It continues to be an important aim.

“Mr. Kauona’s claim that my recommendation is intended to look after BCL and Rio is nonsense. Mr. Kauona knows it. BCL was not covered by the 1971 moratorium. At the request of the Panguna landowners, that continued under our law. But BCL got only a ‘first right of refusal’ to negotiate about Panguna, under an exploration licence over its former Special Mining Lease. Like any other exploration licence holder, BCL has no guarantee of getting a mining licence, because landowners have a right to say ‘no’ to grant of all such licences.

“But the Act also abolished all of BCL’s exploration licences adjacent to Panguna. BCL and, the mining giant Rio Tinto certainly don’t see the Mining Act as looking after them. In fact, the loss of their previous licences saw Rio Tinto launch its ongoing review of its investment in BCL. It now looks very likely that Rio Tinto will withdraw from BCL, and that there is little likelihood of BCL reopening the Panguna mine.

I have made those facts clear in several statements, including one to the ABG parliament on 4th April on Rio Tinto’s responsibility to carry out a full clean-up should it decide to withdraw from BCL. Is Mr.Kauona deaf? How on earth can he say I am only concerned to protect BCL and Rio Tinto? What nonsense and lies!

“There is no conspiracy between the ABG, Rio Tinto, BCL and Australia. Mr. Kauona and his few supporters, like Mathias Salas, must stop signing the nonsense and lies his Australian/Canadian partner, Mr. Lindsay Semple, writes for them. Whenever Semple and Kauona don’t get the access to minerals that they want, they make false claims about a conspiracy – nonsense and lies! Their statements are nothing more than desperate attempts to build support for their own economic interests by creating fears about BCL. It’s shameful.”

Chief John L. Momis President Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Bougainville Tribute : To the memory of life and times of Anthony Korokoro

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“If he were to relive his life again, you would see him repeat of many of his successes and achievements that were destroyed in the crisis in Bougainville and in what he left in Port Moresby“.

–  Simon Pentanu

Anthony (Tony) Korokoro. A husband, father, grandfather, an elder, a friend to many. He has passed on. It is sad, he will be missed. But this old man chose his time to leave. He left in peace. This is a choice that not everyone has the opportunity to make.

Tony Korokoro leaves a well endowed and successful children behind. They are proud of him. He will always be adored by his family and relatives and remembered by his friends. He made good choices in his lifetime. He served and fulfilled his time well. He lived, loved and reared well as a father and cared as a grandfather. For this and more, the life he shared with them is worth remembering and celebrating.

Most of all Tony lived and served his pledge as a husband and father to his children with pride, he saw and witnessed them bear the fruits of his labour as a teacher, a manager who minded his own business, a private individual, a community elder and a peace loving man to the last.

He was a quiet maestro when it came to planning and achieving what he set out to do. He walked and talked with purpose and an end result in mind. He saw many rainbows at the end of the day. He shared his laughs, jokes and joys with close friends and new friends.

I will remember him and count him as someone who shared his advice, vision and experiences openly and friendlier-ly with and among those he knew.

There were many that knew him and that related to his life and times.

Sincere condolences.

RIEP

 

Bougainville expedition seeking rare species in ‘the Galapagos’ of the Western Pacific

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Photo: Baby hornbill at the conservation site on Bougainville, PNG. (Supplied by Dr. Jeffrey Noro) Dr Jeff Noro, who will be in charge of the Bougainville leg of the expedition.

Dr Noro, a molecular scientist who did his PhD at the University of New South Wales, is director of The Kainake Project — a community cultural and conservation organisation based in his home village in prime giant rat habitat in virgin rainforest on Bougainville.

From The ABC

Contact Bougainville Experience Tours for all tour options

An expedition to find rare and new species of mammals in a region dubbed “the Galapagos” of the Western Pacific will be the first of a series of expeditions mounted by the Australian Museum in its new Trailblazer series.

Scientists are heading to Papua New Guinea’s island of Bougainville, as well as the Solomon Islands, to look for animals such as monkey-faced bats and giant rats.

Bougainvillean scientists say they are excited to have been put in charge of the expedition by Tim Flannery, in what has been seen as Professor Flannery working to build leaders in conservation.

Professor Flannery, who has just been appointed as “Trailblazer-in residence”, will work with indigenous biologists and communities.

“The flora and fauna of the Solomon Islands is very much underappreciated for its diversity and special nature,” Professor Flannery said.

“Giant rats and monkey-faced bats are the Solomons’ version of … charismatic megafauna.

“These rats are some of the most spectacular rodents on earth.

“They are incredible things … two kilograms in weight and the best part of a metre long.”

Professor Flannery said the monkey-faced bats were an ancient lineage of bats.

“They have such enormous teeth they are capable of cracking green coconuts,” he said.

“They evolved in the Solomons because there were no land mammals apart from the rats competing with them.”

The Bougainville giant rat has not been seen by scientists since 1937 and another species on the island of Malaita has never been recorded.

The expedition’s innovative partnership with indigenous biologists and communities is already paying dividends.

A skin of the Bougainville giant rat has been found by Dr Jeff Noro, who will be in charge of the Bougainville leg of the expedition.

Dr Noro, a molecular scientist who did his PhD at the University of New South Wales, is director of The Kainake Project — a community cultural and conservation organisation based in his home village in prime giant rat habitat in virgin rainforest on Bougainville.

The teams on the ground on each island will set camera traps, test mammal DNA, listen to local people’s experiences and stories of the animals, and examine their hunting trophies.

With feral cats and logging adding to the threats to the mammals, the expedition has been labelled timely.

Junior Novera, a Bougainvillean who is about to start a PhD in zoology at the University of Queensland, will be the onsite science manager on Bougainville.

After years of being part of gruelling field trips in other parts of Papua New Guinea, Mr Novera was delighted to be working at home where the civil war of the 1990s had kept loggers away and habitats relatively intact.

“It [this project] gives us this huge opportunity to go and rediscover, and hopefully discover species are still out there and unknown to science,” he said.

Australian Museum chief executive Kim McKay sees the results being produced by the PNG and Solomon Island cultural and scientific partners as vindication of the decision to put indigenous people at the heart of the project.

“We are actually learning from the local community and working with them, and that’s the point of them being here at the museum this week — to share that experience,” she said.

As one of the world’s leading experts on mammals of Melanesia, Professor Flannery’s decision to put the Bougainvillean scientists in charge is not being taken lightly.

“For him to actually trust us, to say ‘you guys go and take the lead’, I think that is huge for me,” said Dr Noro.

“I think he is really trying to build leaders in conservation.”

Bougainville News : President Momis statement ABG engagement with Rio Tinto about Rio’s plans for its shares in Bougainville Copper -BCL

panguna

” I want to brief you on recent developments concerning Rio’s review because it is obviously a matter of great importance to the future of Bougainville. So all of you, as the elected representatives of the people, have the right to be kept advised of developments on this subject.

Another important reason for me making this statement is that there are still many quite crazy – long long olgeta – stories being spread by a few Bougainvilleans, and by a few of our more crazy international critics, that the ABG is under the control of Rio Tinto and BCL, and is selling out the interests of Bougainvilleans to big mining interests. When such stories are still being spread, by either self-interested liars or deeply misguided people, it is important that accurate information is available that allows you, as the people’s representatives, to make your own judgments about what is happening.

We also emphasised again that the ABG and landowners remain willing to engage with BCL and Rio about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

However, I also said that if Rio does decide to end its investment, then the ABG remains completely opposed to any equity transfer to the National Government. Instead, there must be equity transfer to the ABG and landowners, without any payment.

I also stated firmly the ABG position that Rio must take full responsibility for an environmental clean-up, and for dealing with other major mine legacy issues.

If, as now seems highly likely, Rio decides to end its involvement in BCL, the equity must come to Bougainville, and Rio Tinto must accept its full historic responsibilities, and honour its obligations to Bougainvilleans

I ask this House, and the people of Bougainville, to support my Government in its ongoing, life and death struggle, to protect the interests of the landowners, and of the wider Bougainville community.”

EDITED STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOHN. L. MOMIS, TO THE BOUGAINVILLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 5 APRIL 2016

Mr. Speaker:

I rise to share with all members of this House the most recent developments in the ABG’s efforts of recent years in examining the options for the future of large-scale mining in Bougainville.

In particular, I am talking today about what is still the very uncertain future of the Panguna mine. Since the Bougainville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act in July 2014, the most immediate factor causing uncertainty has been Rio Tinto’s reaction to that Act doing away with BCL’s major mining tenements, replacing them with just an exploration licence over the former Special Mining Lease – the SML.

Rio Tinto is the London based giant mining company that since the early 1990s has been the 53.6 per cent majority shareholder in BCL. Rio announced in August 2014 that it would conduct a review into its investment in BCL. That announcement opened the real possibility that Rio Tinto would withdraw from any involvement in BCL.

Withdrawal of Rio would raise major uncertainties about the future of BCL, and what the ABG and landowner organisations had been doing for several years – that is, we had been engaging with BCL about the possible re-opening of Panguna.

Of course, the engagement process was still in its very early stages. No decisions had been made on the major issues of substance. Further, the Mining Act gave landowners a clear veto over re-opening.

But with the announcement of Rio Tinto’s review of its investment in BCL, most aspects of our engagement with BCL were put on hold. That is still the position today.

I want to brief you on recent developments concerning Rio’s review because it is obviously a matter of great importance to the future of Bougainville. So all of you, as the elected representatives of the people, have the right to be kept advised of developments on this subject.

Another important reason for me making this statement is that there are still many quite crazy – long long olgeta – stories being spread by a few Bougainvilleans, and by a few of our more crazy international critics, that the ABG is under the control of Rio Tinto and BCL, and is selling out the interests of Bougainvilleans to big mining interests. When such stories are still being spread, by either self-interested liars or deeply misguided people, it is important that accurate information is available that allows you, as the people’s representatives, to make your own judgments about what is happening.

Honourable Members may recall my statement to the House about the future of Panguna, made on 22nd December 2012. I then advised of the latest in a series of attempts that the National Government has made since at least 2014 to purchase Rio Tinto’s 53.6 per cent equity in BCL. This latest attempt was made from late November.

The Member of the National Parliament for Central Bougainville, Hon. Jimmy Miringtoro met me to tell me that National Government Minister, Hon. Ben Micah, wanted to discuss with me and Panguna landowner representatives the urgent need for the National Government to purchase the Rio Tinto equity. I subsequently met Mr. Micah, and then Mr. Micah together with the Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill.

In brief, they said it was an urgent necessity for the National Government to purchase the equity as soon as possible. Initially we were told we had to give our agreement by 7 December. The reason given was that if PNG did not purchase the equity, there was a grave risk that Rio would sell the equity to an un-named third party. Mr. Micah emphasised how much that would be against the interests of both Bougainville and PNG.

A major concern for me was that Mr. Micah emphasised that it would be far too sensitive to even mention or discuss environmental clean-up of Panguna with Rio Tinto. The sale of the shares was the only issue that could be discussed, He said that issues had to be dealt with only as a commercial transaction, without any reference to environmental issues.

I made it clear to both Mr. Micah and Mr. O’Neill that the ABG could not support the National Government proposals. At the same time, I made contact with Rio Tinto to check their position. I was advised that the Rio process to review its investment was ongoing, and that there was no immediate proposal to sell the equity in BCL.

So I then wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in mid-December saying it was not acceptable to Bougainville that the National Government become the major shareholder in, and in control of, BCL. I made it clear that if Rio Tinto does decide to withdraw from BCL, its shares must come to the ABG and the landowners. In addition, I said, Rio cannot be permitted to escape its clear responsibilities for an environmental clean-up, and for other mining legacy issues.

I also decided that because of the ‘strange’ information about Rio received from Mr. Micah and Mr. O’Neill, and the high degree of uncertainty about Rio’s plans, that I should re-establish direct communication with Rio Tinto. I had begun that direct communication in July last year at a meeting I had with their senior representatives in Singapore.

The main issues I raised in that meeting concerned why the Rio review process was taking so long – it had then been ongoing for 11 months. I also communicated to Rio the continued ABG and landowner interest in engaging with Rio and BCL about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

We achieved no concrete progress at that July meeting. But the ABG did make clear our view that if Rio does decide to withdraw from BCL that the ABG strongly opposes transfer of the equity to the National Government. I also indicated that we would then seek transfer of the equity to the ABG, and an environmental clean-up. Rio indicated willingness to negotiate such issues, but otherwise did not specifically respond to what I raised.

Rio agreed to my December proposal for renewed direct engagement, and we met again in Singapore in February. I was accompanied by the Minister for Mining and the Minister for Public Service.

This time we put a much more specific Bougainville position. I expressed deep concern about both the very long time that the Rio review of its investment in BCL was taking, and Rio’s failure to communicate at all about its progress.

After all, the ABG and landowners are significant stakeholders, and Rio has duties, that it acknowledges in its own published policies about how they do business, to maintain open communication with stakeholders.

We also emphasised again that the ABG and landowners remain willing to engage with BCL and Rio about jointly examining the possibilities of re-opening the Panguna mine.

However, I also said that if Rio does decide to end its investment, then the ABG remains completely opposed to any equity transfer to the National Government. Instead, there must be equity transfer to the ABG and landowners, without any payment.

I also stated firmly the ABG position that Rio must take full responsibility for an environmental clean-up, and for dealing with other major mine legacy issues.

I emphasised the history of BCL in Bougainville. Although it may have operated legally, under colonial legislation, the basis for the Bougainville Copper Agreement was clearly deeply unjust. It was not based on anything like the informed consent of impacted landowners, and almost completely ignored the concerns and interests of those landowners, and of Bougainvilleans more generally.

It was the long-term impacts of the injustice that led to action, not just by Ona and Serero, but also Damien Dameng, young mine workers, leaders of the Arawa Mungkas Association and the Bana and Siwai Pressure Groups, and others. Their key goal was NOT the long-term closure of the mine, but instead forcing BCL and the National Government to stop ignoring them. Instead, they wanted to negotiate a new and fair agreement, taking account of the concerns of landowners and the rest of the Bougainville community. Long term mine closure was not their goal, but rather the result of the much wider violent conflict that resulted from the conduct of first Police mobile squads and then PNGDF units deployed to Bougainville.

We stated clearly the need for Rio to honour the lessons that it had learnt from its Bougainville experience, and which it has since applied to its operations world-wide. As a result, widely published and advertised Rio policies emphasise principles of corporate social responsibility, informed consent by impacted indigenous communities, and the need to operate on the basis of terms that are just for all stakeholders.

The Rio officials made no official response. Other than emphasising the complexity of the issues involved, no explanation was offered for the long delay in completing the investment review. When pressed on when it could be expected to be complete, they indicated probably before the end of 2016.

In relation to the issues I raised about transfer of equity and Rio being responsible for a clean-up etc., I can understand that they might have some difficulties with what we put to them. Rio might feel, for example, that its majority-owned subsidiary (BCL) operated legally – in accordance with the laws of the day. Yet it lost everything at Panguna as the result of what they might see as a small violent group opposed to mining.

But if that is Rio’s position, then quite apart from the fact that the mine did not close because of Bougainville opposition to mining, in addition Rio would be ignoring its gravely serious responsibilities.

Rio Tinto is a foundation signatory to the sustainable development, and other principles of the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). Those principles are absolutely clear that the responsibilities of a mining company are not limited to its legal obligations alone – especially its legal obligations under deeply unjust colonial laws.

In today’s world, there is no doubt that Rio Tinto would be subject to intense international public criticism if it tried to walk away from its responsibilities for the environmental damage and other unjust legacies it created, or contributed to.

I presented Rio with a two page statement of the ABG position, and I seek leave of the House to table that document. I will arrange for copies to be provided to all members of the House.

The Rio officers indicated that they would consider the ABG position, and would respond within 2 to 3 months, probably at another meeting in Singapore. I am yet to hear more about such a meeting.

But I can assure this House, the Landowners from the former Panguna lease areas, and all other Bougainvilleans, that under my leadership, the ABG will continue to make it clear to both the National Government and Rio Tinto that Bougainville remains determined to protect its own interests.

It is not an option for the National Government to become majority shareholder of BCL.

If, as now seems highly likely, Rio decides to end its involvement in BCL, the equity must come to Bougainville, and Rio Tinto must accept its full historic responsibilities, and honour its obligations to Bougainvilleans. It cannot just walk away from Bougainville, and at the same time pretend to hold itself out to the world as a highly responsible company that learnt from its horrific experience in Bougainville by adopting new and appropriate modern standards of corporate responsibility.

I ask this House, and the people of Bougainville, to support my Government in its ongoing, life and death struggle, to protect the interests of the landowners, and of the wider Bougainville community.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

 

 

Bougainville News : Momis : Debate on the process for lifting the ” moratorium ” on Bougainville mining exploration

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It should be no surprise to Members here today that in participating in this debate on the future of the ‘moratorium’, I am deeply concerned to ensure that the issues involved are discussed thoroughly, with care, and with the most careful attention to the need to fully protect the interests of Bougainvilleans. After all, that ‘moratorium’ protected our interests over many years. We need to consider the issues involved most carefully before deciding what should be done.

I’d like to comment briefly on the main options for a decision on the ‘moratorium’. The options include:

  • Maintaining the moratorium;
  • Lifting it partially, for limited specific areas of Bougainville;
  • Lifting it fully, for all areas of Bougainville currently covered by it.”

These matters that I have outlined must be carefully considered by this House when debating the options for decision on the future of the ‘moratorium’. Because of these issues about international tender for exploration licences, and setting up the community mining licence system, I suggest that we should not yet consider the option of fully lifting.

I further suggests that instead we should either maintain the existing moratorium for at least a period of two or three years, or alternatively only partially lift it, for just one or two specific areas. In that way we would allow the time to organise for international tender and for community mining licences “

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOHN. L. MOMIS, TO THE BOUGAINVILLE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 5 APRIL 2016

Mr. Speaker:

The BEC has recently agreed to a recommendation from the Mining Minister that it is vitally important that this House discuss the future of the ‘moratorium’ on mining exploration.

The ‘moratorium’ was originally imposed 45 years ago, in April 1971, by the colonial Administration. It prevented any mining exploration licences for areas of Bougainville other than those already covered by BCL leases. It was imposed in response to the deep concerns of Bougainvilleans communicated to the colonial Administration by their then leaders.

45 years ago, I was a young, recently ordained Catholic priest working in Kieta. I was being called upon by landowners to support them in their struggle with CRA and the colonial Administration. So I was one of those leaders whose request resulted in the moratorium being imposed. It was imposed to protect our people from the unlimited mining exploration and development that they feared might :

It should be no surprise to Members here today that in participating in this debate on the future of the ‘moratorium’, I am deeply concerned to ensure that the issues involved are discussed thoroughly, with care, and with the most careful attention to the need to fully protect the interests of Bougainvilleans. After all, that ‘moratorium’ protected our interests over many years. We need to consider the issues involved most carefully before deciding what should be done.

When the last ABG House proudly passed the two Bougainville mining laws – the Bouganville Mining (Transitional Arrangements) Act 2014, and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 – both laws retained the ‘moratorium’. It was adopted as if it was a reservation of land from mining exploration made under the Bougainville Act.

Members need to be very clear about what the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 says about lifting such a reservation (or moratorium). It gives the power to the BEC. The BEC can lift it partially (just for particular parts of Bougainville), or fully (for the whole of Bougainville). But when the BEC considers lifting the reservation, either partially or wholly, it must first get advice about its proposed decision from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council (the BMAC). It must also provide an opportunity for debate of the proposed decision by this House.

This procedure is very different from how a reservation under the National Government Mining Act is lifted –that needs just a decision from the National Government Minister, with no consultation or advice required. In developing the ABG’s law, we were determined that an issue of this importance had to be subject to careful scrutiny. That’s why the decision cannot be made just by the Minister – it requires a BEC decision, and only after receiving considered BMAC advice and hearing a debate on the issues involved held in this House.

As the Minister also emphasises, as yet the BEC has not made any decision about the future of the ‘moratorium’. We are not coming to you with a proposed decision. Instead, we are asking this House to debate what we should do about the ‘moratorium’. We are doing this to generate broad public discussion of the issues involved.

Members might ask for an explanation of the reasons why we need such a public debate about lifting the ‘moratorium’. There are several reasons.

First, lifting the ‘moratorium’ is still a highly sensitive issue for many – perhaps even most – Bougainvilleans.

Second, many of the same issues that led to the request for the moratorium in 1971 remain. Even people open to some mining in Bougainville want it very strictly limited.

Third, if we do lift the moratorium, and especially if we lift it fully (that is, for the whole of Bougainville), it is likely that a very large proportion of the land of Bougainville will soon be covered by exploration licences. That will have huge impacts for all of us. There will be great difficulty turning back from such a massive change if it produces results that we do not like.

So there is a clear need for the most careful deliberation on the issues involved.

Ideally we want to have a major Bougainville-wide public consultation and awareness campaign about issues of such great importance. But because of our serious financial difficulties, that is not an option for us at the moment. So instead, the BEC has agreed to an initial debate in this House. That must be a thorough, careful and well-informed debate.

I believe that it is also essential that we engage with our people as part of this debate. So I recommend, in the strongest terms, that this House debate the ‘moratorium’ issue in two separate sessions. One should be now. Then when the issues have been carefully considered, I recommend that all members go out and consult the people of their constituencies, and seek their views. They should then have a second round of debate at the next House session – a debate further informed by the views of our people.

I’d like to comment briefly on the main options for a decision on the ‘moratorium’. The options include:

  • Maintaining the moratorium;
  • Lifting it partially, for limited specific areas of Bougainville;
  • Lifting it fully, for all areas of Bougainville currently covered by it.

Before we consider options, we need to consider carefully how either partial or full lifting of the moratorium would interact with, or impact on, other major aspects of the Bouganville Mining Act 2015. There are at least two aspects of the Act where there could be major impacts.

The first is the provisions on putting exploration licence application for particular areas out for international tender. The aim of international tender is to see if the ABG can raise significant revenue from exploration licences – for international tender could perhaps bring offers of millions of kina instead of a usual small exploration licence fee.

To put areas out to international tender, the Mining Department must first identify areas that have a potentially high prospective value, and then get geological survey done for those areas. The resulting information would then be made available as part of the tender process, so those offering to pay for a licence have some real information on which to base competitive bids.

If the ABG were to lift the ‘moratorium’ fully, we would be shutting the door on the provisions on international tender, for many years to come. The reason is that lifting the moratorium will mean that most, if not all, highly prospective areas will very quickly be covered by exploration licences. There will be nothing left to deal with under international tender processes.

If we are to keep the door open to using the international tender process in the next few years, we need some time to identify prospective areas and find the funds needed to get the necessary geological survey work done. We need perhaps 2 or 3 years to get such things organised.

In our current serious situation of financial crisis, we would be very unwise to throw away the possibility of raising serious funds by tendering exploration licences.

The second aspect of the Mining Act where fully lifting the moratorium would have major impacts is the arrangements for small-scale mining. Under the Act, COEs or Community Governments have authority to request the ABG to reserve areas exclusively for small-scale mining. Once areas are reserved, then the COE or Community Government will have the authority to issue licences to Bougainvilleans who are landowners of the area they are mining, or have permission of the landowners. That will then be the only basis for small-scale mining to be legal.

The Act gave the Mining Department time to get the new system of community mining licences organised. It made existing small-scale mining (in the absence of the new licences) legal for just 18 months, ending in October 2016.

I am very concerned now because I’ve recently been advised that the Mining Department has done nothing at all to organise the community mining licence system.

The problem now is that if the ‘moratorium’ if lifted for the whole of Bougainville, before the community mining licence system is set up and operating, then it will probably be almost impossible to have land reserved for community mining licences. The reason is that exploration licences will almost certainly be granted for most areas where small-scale mining is occurring. Once an exploration licence is granted over land, there can be no reservation of land for community mining licences without agreement of the exploration licence holder. Experience elsewhere suggests that exploration licences will be very reluctant to agree to community mining reservations that will encourage small-scale miners.

So again, we need some time, perhaps 12 to 18 months more, to allow the Mining Department to do what it should actually have been doing over the past 12 months – that is, working with the Community Government Department and other departments to set up the community mining licence system.

If we do not allow the time for this, then most, if not all, small-scale mining in Bougainville will be illegal. It will become more or less impossible to establish the community mining licence system. But of course, that will not stop small-scale mining from continuing. So that will set up serious risks of tension, confrontation and conflict between small-scale miners and exploration licence holders.

These matters that I have outlined must be carefully considered by this House when debating the options for decision on the future of the ‘moratorium’. Because of these issues about international tender for exploration licences, and setting up the community mining licence system, I suggest that we should not yet consider the option of fully lifting.

I further suggests that instead we should either maintain the existing moratorium for at least a period of two or three years, or alternatively only partially lift it, for just one or two specific areas. In that way we would allow the time to organise for international tender and for community mining licences.

There would also be other advantages in partial lifting, for just one or two areas. That would also allow the Mining Department the time it is likely to need to see how well it is able to administer the new tenement applications system established under our new Mining Act.

The Mining Department is a completely new and untried organisation, with no established experience of operating our new Act. Clearly the Mining Department must already be struggling to carry out its heavy responsibilities under the Act – for that would be the only acceptable explanation for its compete failure, so far, to do anything to establish the community mining licence system.

Once it has established that system, we could perhaps feel more confident that the Department is developing the kind of capacity it will be needing to effectively

My recommendations to the House to consider in this debate are:

  1. To debate the issues and options for lifting the moratorium thoroughly during this session of the House, and when the issues have been covered fully, the House should adjourn that part of the debate to return to our constituencies to consult our people on the issues involved;
  2. That there should then be a further debate on the issues at the next session of this House;
  3. That in that second debate, the options for lifting should be carefully evaluated, taking full account of likely impacts of maintaining the moratorium, partial lifting, or full lifting on both:
  4. Setting up the system of international tenders for exploration licences;
  5. Setting up the Community Mining Licence system for small-scale mining.6
  6. The House should consider the possible advantages of a partial lifting of the moratorium in just one or two areas, thereby allowing the Mining Department time to get the arrangements under the Act operating properly.

I must assure the members of this House that as President, I believe that this debate on the future of the moratorium is one of the most important debates we have ever held.

I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and all members, that I, and the BEC, will listen most carefully to the views expressed in this debate, and in the wider public debate, before we make any decision on lifting the moratorium.

I must also remind members that if we do later make a decision to lift it either partially or fully, then that decision too will have to be referred for advice of the BMAC, and the House will have to have the opportunity to debate the decision. So the future of the ‘moratorium’ could be a matter before this House for quite some time.

In my view, Mr. Speaker, it is entirely appropriate for the House to take an extended time to deal with such an important issue.

I look forward to hearing the contributions to the debate.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Bougainville’s Carteret Islanders home to the world’s first climate refugees to Benefit from US $30 Million

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Good news for the people of Carteret Islands in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

The Carterets, home to the world’s first climate refugees, will benefit from US $30 million in development funding (approx. K88 million).

These funds have been made available through a partnership program between the PNG government, Asian Development Bank and Climate Investment Fund.

Carteret Islanders, as beneficiary to these funds, was made known, following series of questions from North Bougainville MP, Lauta Atoi, on the national government’s commitment to climate change affected island communities in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

While others have faced the challenges, Carteret Islanders, although being declared as first climate change refugees of the world, for far too long have silently suffered.

“Has the government got plans to address the specific needs of the Carteret Islanders and other atoll islands that are equally affected,” Atoi asked.

Minister responsible for Environment and Conservation and Climate Change, John Pundari, told parliament that the national government through the Climate Change Development Authority signed an agreement with the Asian Development Bank for funding support.

“I want to confirm to the member and the people of Carterets and other islands, that Bougainville has been identified as a pilot area. They will benefit from the funds,” he said.

Minister Pundari said funding has always been a challenge for the national government and thanked international partners such as the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for their continued support.

“IOM are already at Carterets, working there, following a Memorandum of Agreement with the Climate Change Development Authority,” Pundari said.