“But Bougainville is not being treated as a government with constitutionally guaranteed autonomy. Too often we are regarded as just another provincial government, or a department. When it comes to calculation of grants, National agencies believed they can make arbitrary decisions about the ABG. They ignore what the Constitution requires.
This must change. If it does not, then the ABG will begin challenging breach of the Constitution in the courts.
Understanding of the Peace Agreement and the National Constitutional laws that give effect to the Agreement is absent. The high turnover of both politicians and senior officials since the Peace Agreement is an issue here .Almost no one in the National Government structures was involved in negotiating the Agreement. So perhaps it’s not such a surprise that many do not understand the big difference between autonomy and a provincial government.
I fear sometimes that this failure to understand the ABG as a truly autonomous government is part of the reason why even the JSB is not working well.
The ABG operating account contains less than K3 million. We will soon have to begin shutting down operations.
In the 2014 JSB , the National Government stated that on its calculations, it owed K96 million in arrears of RDG. On those figures, annual RDG payments should have been at least K29.5 million per year. We did not accept the National Government calculations. Our calculation showed arrears of over K400 million, and annual payments of well over K100 million.”
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT
JOINT SUPERVISORY BODY PORT MORESBY, 20 MAY 2016
OPENING STATEMENT BY
HON. JOHN L. MOMIS, PRESIDENT AUTONOMOUS REGION OF BOUGAINVILLE
On behalf of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, I welcome all members of the two, delegations – the National Government and the ABG – as well as all observers or guests.
In particular, I acknowledge, and welcome the presence of the Honourable Peter O’Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, and other Ministers in attendance, and of course, Hon. Joe Lera, Minister for Bougainville Affairs, to whom I offer a special welcome to this his first JSB meeting as Minister.
Colleagues, I must begin by reminding all of us that the reason that we are here is that we are implementing a peace agreement – an agreement negotiated with difficulty to end a violent, bloody and destructive conflict in which thousands of people died – people from not only Bougainville, but also from elsewhere in PNG.
In that context I must make brief comments on the importance of the roles of the JSB.
Download or Read ABG LEADERS’ JSB PREPARATION BRIEFING
In both the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the National Constitution, the JSB is dealt with under the heading ‘intergovernmental relations’. That means relations between two separate governments.
The JSB is by far the most important institution for handling relations between the National Government and the ABG. The JSB has three main functions:
- To enable the two governments to jointly oversee implementation of the Peace Agreement, including both the autonomy and referendum arrangements; and
- To provide a forum for consultation between the two governments; and
- To help resolve disputes between the two governments that cannot be resolved by consultation between the relevant agencies of government. If the JSB cannot resolve a dispute, it can be referred for mediation or arbitration, and ultimately to the courts.
These are all important functions, including the one so far not used – that of dispute resolution. I hope very much that what we agree today means that there continues to be no need to use the dispute settlement arrangements.
The constitutional provisions on the JSB underline the fact that the ABG is a constitutionally established and highly autonomous government. It is very different to the provincial governments elsewhere in PNG. It is different in terms of powers, funding arrangements, and intergovernmental relations.
See Above Quote
For example, the procedures for the JSB agreed by us under Constitution say the JSB must meet at least twice a year. But in the last five or six years, it has not met even once a year on average. When it does meet, the officials try to deal with everything in advance, and treat the JSB as a rubber stamp.
I am sure, that, as usual, a group of National Government officials has produced the draft resolutions that they expect us to sign. That is not acceptable. The JSB is the forum for leaders from both sides to engage directly, and deal with issues. We are not a rubber stamp for what the officials think should happen.
The JSB must return to being the critically important forum for exchanges between governments. I will return to that issue before I finish these remarks.
The Constitutional roles of the JSB underline the importance of the two governments working together to implement the Peace Agreement in full.
Such cooperation is essential if the Peace Agreement is to work as was intended when it was negotiated. It is sometimes forgotten that the Peace Agreement was negotiated to end the worst conflict ever to have occurred amongst Pacific Island people.
We must remember that purpose of the Agreement, or otherwise there will always be a grave risk that violent conflict will begin again. A renewed war would have terrible impacts, for not only Bougainville, but also the rest of PNG.
It is vital that the two governments to work together. After all, as we used to say often, when the Agreement had just been negotiated, it is a joint creation. It involves both the PNG Government and the leaders of Bougainville. Both should have a deep interest in all issues about the Agreement, and in its full implementation.
You will all be relieved that I’m now turning my attention to the issues on the agenda for this meeting. My comments will be brief.
The first issue I want to mention is the calculation of the Restoration and Development Grant. The issues here are of the greatest importance to the ABG.
The ABG has two main immediate concerns here. First, we are almost completely broke. It’s now almost five months into 2016. But so far we have received no funding at all under the 2016 Budget. The ABG operating account contains less than K3 million. We will soon have to begin shutting down operations.
In the 2014 JSB , the National Government stated that on its calculations, it owed K96 million in arrears of RDG. On those figures, annual RDG payments should have been at least K29.5 million per year. We did not accept the National Government calculations. Our calculation showed arrears of over K400 million, and annual payments of well over K100 million.
So we agreed to resolve the differences over calculation method by getting independent legal opinions. In the meantime, the National Government agreed to pay the arrears at K30 million per year over three years. Future annual RDG payments were supposed to be based on their calculations – an RDG of at least K29.5 million per year.
But what happened? A K30 million arrears payment in the 2015 budget was never paid. The annual RDG for 2015 was set at only K15 million, but only K10 million was paid, and it was received in 2016. No provision for arrears was included in the 2016 budget. The annual RDG for 2016 in the budget is only K10 million.
So – the Constitutional Laws are being ignored. National Government promises of payment endorsed by the ABG have not been implemented.
This must change.
We need agreement here, today, that all arrears promised in 2014 are paid immediately, together with the additional arrears in underpayments in the 2015 and 2016 RDG amounts.
The second RDG issue is that we must resolve, once and for all, the issue about calculation of the RDG. I want agreement here that we will jointly go to the Supreme Court to resolve our differences about that issue.
Our goal here is not to force the National Government to pay all the arrears that we think are due, or to force payment of impossibly high annual RDG figures. We understand the fiscal crisis that is facing the country. We will be reasonable. But we do need to agree what the Constitution requires. And we need a clear commitment that the Constitution will be followed.
The next agenda I want to mention is the Special Intervention Fund – the SIF. The SIF is important. It shows National Government commitment to restoring and developing Bougainville. But all sorts of problems are arising. Some National Government leaders are constantly claiming the SIF is being misused by the ABG – there are even claims of corruption. Just as the Prime Minister say he will not resign on the basis of allegations made without evidence, I ask for the evidence of our abuse of the SIF. There have been audit reports and other evaluations of the SIF. They do not support such allegations.
More important, there are now three new unfunded projects approved by the Central Supply and Tenders Board, without prior JSB approval. WE need to know, here, today, where the funding for those projects will come from.
Next, is fisheries. We hope to sign an MOU here on fisheries funds and powers. Under the Peace Agreement, the ABG is entitled to receive from NFA all fisheries revenues derived from EEZ, Continental and territorial waters associated with Bougainville, less costs of collection. All such revenues collected since 2005 are payable to the ABG. For many years, we have been asking NFA for the data on the revenue received. They have failed to provide that.
Now NFA offers an MOU, under negotiation for several years, with an annual ‘good-faith’ payment of K5 million. The MOU was originally to be signed in 2014. If it had been, we would have received K15 million by 2016. But here we are with an MOU to sign that just offers K 5 million for 2016.
I want clear agreement here, today, that the K15 million will be paid by NFA, by mid-June 2016. In addition, all the data on revenue and costs of collection must be provide by July.
There are other issues on the agenda. In addition, there are many key ABG agenda items about which we have prepared papers, but most of which have not been included in the agenda produced by NCOBA from the JTT meeting.
- Second Autonomy Review (PNG and ABG Chief Secretaries)
- Implementing PNG Constitutional Laws Implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement (ABG)]
- Fisheries issues:
- Merging Bougainville Treasury function into ABG Finance Dept.
- DSIP and PSIP, and ABG laws implementing autonomy.
- Implementing ABG “Foreign Relations” Functions
- National Government Representation on Bougainville Senior Appointments Committee
- Reviving JSB Role as Key Autonomy Oversight Body
- Strengthening Bougainville Police Service
The ABG asks for those matters to be added to this agenda.
With those comments, I will bring my opening remarks to an end. I wish us all a productive and cordial engagements in this JSB meeting.
Thank you one and all.
See for details Bougainville News JSB papers – May 2016