Bougainville Referendum News : Simon Pentanu says ” In setting up our own #Bougainville Ombudsman office, we first need to ask ourselves, what kind of society do we want #Bougainville to become? “

 

” In setting up our own Ombudsman office, we first need to ask ourselves, what kind of society do we want Bougainville to become?

A Bougainville Ombudsman that is fully functional and has the support and respect of elected leaders and the people can set the tone for the whole society – government, business and the community. To this end a nurturing role in a highly involved mentoring and consultative process would be fitting

How important is it to us to have a body that holds our elected leaders to account and encourages open, transparent government? How much can we do with what we have?

Those are the sorts of questions we need to be asking.

We have many hard decisions to make and challenges to face, which is a normal process of growing up. Autonomy means building our state institutions in governance and in other sectors.

A serious discussion about a Bougainville Ombudsman immediately at back the end of Referendum process would be timely and important.” 

Simon Pentanu : As from 2015 Speaker of the Bougainville House of Representatives and was PNG’s Chief Ombudsman 1995-2000

Bougainville should begin the groundwork soon to have its own Ombudsman by 2020-22.

The Autonomous Bougainville Constitution provides for a Bougainville Ombudsman.

I reckon by the year 2025 it should be sufficiently well established to be inducted a member of the International Ombudsman Institute.

The kind of Ombudsman Bougainville needs is an oversight body – to oversee the activities of government and give the people confidence that their representatives are following the rules and governing transparently. The Ombudsman’s purpose must be clearly understood and appreciated by everyone – that is, by the governors who are elected to lead and by the governed, who have an expectation that those that they elect to govern can be trusted to lead.

My six years as PNG’s Chief Ombudsman have given me many insights into what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to oversight bodies and how time and resources can be wasted if the right efforts are not being made to bring to bear the changes and results needed.

Photo: Attending the International Ombudsman Institute Board of Directors, Pretoria, South Africa 2000

Without sounding idealistic and simplistic, if Bougainville borrows the best practices and processes from the PNG Ombudsman Commission and discards those that have rendered its processes tardy, futile and adversarial, as well as looks at the strengths of the traditional role of the Ombudsman around the world, Bougainville’s Ombudsman could be a vital, effective cog in our democratic machinery.

In setting up our own Ombudsman office, we first need to ask ourselves, what kind of society do we want Bougainville to become?

A Bougainville Ombudsman that is fully functional and has the support and respect of elected leaders and the people can set the tone for the whole society – government, business and the community. To this end a nurturing role in a highly involved mentoring and consultative process would be fitting.

Bougainville is a relatively small Island in terms of land size and population but has the resourcefulness and a wealth of experiences to learn from its past and steer clear of bumps and potholes into the future. If we are serious about Bougainville’s future wherever we are, we should all think, metaphorically speaking, like an Ombudsman.

The institution of Ombudsman that functions well and which a society can relate to in terms of delivering on the expectations of good, honest government can be tremendous help and value to society.

And the old adage is worth keeping in mind: if a job is worth doing at all, it’s worth doing well. A Bougainville Ombudsman that will nurture and develop our leaders to appreciate their roles as elected representatives and their value to society, cannot depend solely on the advice and assistance of the over-stretched Ombudsman Commission of PNG. We need to look to the best international models and learn from the premier international examples.

We are fortunate to have the recently established PNG Ombudsman Commission Regional Office in Buka. That office can be used to start the groundwork for establishing a Bougainville Ombudsman, but that should not be the only source of our advice and assistance.

Let us not stall on establishing, or seriously thinking about, important state institutions under the Autonomous arrangements on the basis of lack of funds. Whenever we hold out inadequate finances as the main explanation we will keep believing this to be obstacle. A better way to think about it is that we have challenges in how we allocate and spend our available financial resources. We have to prioritise.

How important is it to us to have a body that holds our elected leaders to account and encourages open, transparent government? How much can we do with what we have? Those are the sorts of questions we need to be asking.

We have many hard decisions to make and challenges to face, which is a normal process of growing up. Autonomy means building our state institutions in governance and in other sectors. A serious discussion about a Bougainville Ombudsman immediately at back the end of Referendum process would be timely and important.

Having said all of the above I would also seriously caution the ABG and the House of Representatives not to rush into invoking the constitutional provision to create a Bougainville Ombudsman Commission overnight or before the referendum if the intention or motive is to avoid any elected leader in Bougainville from being referred to the Ombudsman Commission of PNG for alleged misconduct in office under the leadership Code.

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