THE World is a better place when its constituent populations get together regularly as equals to discuss important issues and learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.
Parliaments of the Commonwealth certainly do this through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA), when they meet on matters of common regional and global concern.
By Simon Pentanu Parliament House Buka
The CPA has a long history that contains many worthwhile achievements. Among these, the Commonwealth significant role in the long struggle to stamp out apartheid, the release of Nelson Mandela and the eventual emergence of multi-racial South Africa under Mandela.
As well, matters of topical political and parliamentary interest, global challenges like climate change, the plunder of the world’s oceans, pollution, food security, the rights and plight of children, election fraud and money laundering are among the range of issues discussed when members of the CPA meet. That many Commonwealth Parliaments now have strong laws against money laundering is thanks in part to the CPA’s dialogue on how to address this wicked global problem
PNG and AROB are, separately and together, equal parliamentary partners in the CPA. PNG and Bougainville’s ability to enact their own laws on matters of regional concern is enhanced by their membership of the CPA’s regional and global bodies.
In a recent meeting following the official opening of PNG’s Tenth Parliament on 22 August 2017, the Speakers of the National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives pledged to forge closer, meaningful ties through exchange and reciprocal visits of members and parliamentary staff of their two Parliaments. Inter-parliamentary relationships like this already exist between and among many Parliaments in the Pacific region.
It is worth remembering that the Oceania region presents a real example of peace and stability when compared to many other parts of the world where wars are being fought or where threats of war, including nuclear annihilation, are used as threats between nations.
We have something we can justifiably show the world. The PNG National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives, together with the National Government and ABG, can hold up the Bougainville Peace Agreement as a success story, by and large, to the Commonwealth and to members of the international community when they converge on PNG for the APEC meeting in November 2018 – the first time APEC will be hosted by a Pacific nation.
The onus is on Bougainville to successfully implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement. But the National Government must be just as concerned as the ABG to see the outcomes of the agreement are managed as best and as successfully and amicably as possible.
Coming to a shared understanding will be easier if we spend more time with each other and seek to understand the issues we are each grappling with. Reciprocal visits between our two Parliaments provide appropriate forums for our MPs and MHRs to engage in healthy exchanges, formally and informally, and gain new insights about the political requirements of their respective Parliaments.
In much the same way the involvement of our respective Parliaments in international and regional forums and associations can enhance the quality of dialogue between our elected leaders in Buka and Port Moresby. Let us not forget: the ratification of Bougainville’s Referendum vote will ultimately be a decision for the members of the PNG National Parliament.
So it is important all Papua New Guinea’s elected MPs – whether they are from the islands, the highlands or elsewhere – have some knowledge of Bougainville’s particular circumstances and understand how regional and national dilemmas are worked out in other parts of the Commonwealth and elsewhere where similar conflicts have had to be negotiated.
With all this in mind, I am heartened to hear the Prime Minister say PNG’s new Parliament will be open to debate and discuss a wide range of local issues as well as matters of regional and global interest.
Bougainville still elects four MPs to the National Parliament. In the current Parliament one of the MPs – the new member for Central Bougainville – is a Minister in the Government.
Perhaps more than MPs from other parts of the country, Bougainville parliamentarians should take the PM’s statement to heart and seek to forge and promote a more expansive and meaningful dialogue with the Government and their colleagues on the preparations for Referendum, which both Governments and Members of both Parliaments are expected to deliver on.
Only then will both our Parliaments be playing their leadership and institutional roles as the highest accountable bodies in the land, according to the Westminster system.
We are at a juncture when we need clear thinkers in the NEC and BEC to understand and appreciate the importance and enormity of the tasks and responsibilities that face both Governments and the People of Bougainville counting down to the agreed target date for the Referendum on 15 June 2019.
Likewise, it should take the collective wisdom of our 111 members of the National Parliament and 41 members of the Bougainville House of Representatives to address ourselves to the values, motivations and aspirations that bond humanity together.
Our membership as politicians in our respective Parliaments is a relationship that we should cultivate in and expect to get better and meaningful dialogue from in exerting our leadership roles as we will be called upon to exercise foresight, forbearance, respect and understanding as time draws nearer to the Referendum target date barely two years away.