” The signing of this agreement signifies the progress of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville as we strive to find a lasting political solution that will be the ultimate political future of Bougainville.”
Hon. Patrick Nisira Vice President
The Agreement on the administrative requirements for the conduct of the referendum on the political status of Bougainville was signed between the Government of Papua New Guinea, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the Electoral Commission of Papua New Guinea and the Bougainville Electoral Commissioner.
The formation of the Bougainville Referendum Commission will give flesh to the referendum process on Bougainville; it will be an independent commission that will oversee the referendum with the hope that the process follows stringent democratic principles and has integrity.
The parties agree that the Referendum is to be conducted through a body to be established by the head of state, in this case the Governor General, under Section 58 of the Organic Law to be called the “Bougainville Referendum Commission”.
In accordance with the Organic Law the electoral authorities will enter into an agreement to implement it through the BRC.
The Bougainville Referendum Commission is an independent entity that has been established by both the National Government and the ABG as the administrative to conduct the referendum through the support of the electoral agencies on Bougainville and PNG.
The signing of the agreement between the two governments signified an important step forward and I give all stakeholders the assurance of the ABG’s full support and respect of the independence of the commission.
However I must remind the parties present at the signing that the independence of the BRC does not mean the commission works alone of the two governments, the two governments will continue to play a crucial role on agreeing on the framework on important matters as the options available in the referendum, security and funding issues.
In his inauguration speech President Chief Dr. John Momis said the Bougainville Peace Agreement is the real basis for us all being here today. It provides us with an exclusive right to self-determination. We can choose and shape our future, a right unique in PNG, and rare internationally. We should celebrate this right, as we do by being here today.
The Peace Agreement is a political and constitutional contract between the National Government and Bougainville. It must be honoured in full.
The Agreement is not a gift without any strings attached. Instead it will deliver real benefits only if we work hard to make use of the opportunities provided to us. We cannot just sit back and wait for the National Government and donors to deliver us to a promised land.
Only we Bougainvilleans can build the new Bougainville we want. We must grasp our opportunities. We cannot ignore the requirements of the Agreement. Without it, we would have no legitimate basis for what we do.
In the last Joint Supervisory Body meeting we agreed with the National Government on (a) the key questions to be asked, (b) the common roll to be used and who are eligible to vote, (c) the body to conduct the referendum, and (d) the date for the referendum. It is very clear that time is not on our side and we need to move fast.
As the Vice President and Minister for Referendum I am proud that we have achieved the final two points that have been agreed on during the last JSB, which are the June 15, 2019 working date and with the formation of the BRC.
The ABG has singled out unity as the key to the successful holding of the referendum and for Bougainville to achieve much progress in the way forward to self-determination and eventual independence.
The ABG’s Referendum Department is already conducting a region-wide consultation for this Government to visit all districts to sit and discuss government policies and programs but more importantly to hear what our communities are saying.
Sometime our communities cry foul on us merely because we have not given them the opportunity to be heard and to participate. We need to take heed of the adage “divided we fall, united we stand”.
The greatest threat to a progressive and vibrant Bougainville is the people of Bougainville to remain polarized between different groupings such as Meekamui, Kingdom of Papala and Ex-Combatants etc. My appeal is for the people of Bougainville to come under the legally constituted entity – ABG.
The next step is for the leaders at the political level to have a continued dialogue between the ABG and the National Government.
We already have the JSB meetings as the avenue for this continued dialogue; we must map out what the Referendum will achieve that is beneficial to the people of Bougainville.
June 15, 2019 has been set as the target date but we must confirm an actual date for the Referendum to be conducted, we also must come up with a definitive question that will offer the options for Bougainvilleans to decide our ultimate political future.
The Bougainville Referendum Commission will now help foster the responsibility of this issue and ensure that we have a successful outcome.
I now challenge Bougainvilleans to focus on weapons disposal to provide secure environment where the referendum process is free and fair.
It is time we all took responsibility of our actions and work hard to make Bougainville great again.
I thank the Prime Minister’s Department and Chief Secretary, Ambassador Isaac Lupari, the PNG Electoral Commission, the ABG Chief Secretary Joseph Nobetau and the hard working Bougainville Administration. I must also make mention of our important development partners; Australia, the UNDP and others who continue to support Bougainville.
Hon. Patrick Nisira