Multinational mining giant Rio Tinto has agreed to fund an independent assessment of the human rights and environmental impacts of its former Panguna copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea’s autonomous region of Bougainville.
Rio Tinto abandoned the mine in 1989 during a brutal civil conflict on Bougainville and now no longer holds a stake after controversially divesting its shareholding to the PNG and Bougainville governments in 2016, rejecting corporate responsibility for environmental damage.
The mining agreement, negotiated by Rio Tinto with the Australian government in the 1960s, when PNG was a colony, did not include significant environmental regulations or liability for mine site rehabilitation.
An estimated billion tonnes of mine tailings pollution has now spread downstream from Panguna, spreading across the Jaba-Kawerong river delta stretching 40 kilometres to the coast.
“This is an important day for communities on Bougainville,” said traditional landowner and MP Theonila Roka Matbob, representing the communities involved in the complaint.
“Our people have been living with the disastrous impacts of Panguna for many years and the situation is getting worse. The mine continues to poison our rivers.”
“These problems need to be urgently investigated so solutions can be developed and clean-up can begin. Today’s announcement gives us hope for a new chapter for our people.”
Last November, a complaint by 156 landowners against Rio Tinto was accepted by the Australian government for mediation under its obligations as a member of the OECD club of wealthy nations.
Their environmental and human rights claim states: “The mine pollution continues to infringe nearly all the economic, social and cultural rights of these indigenous communities, including their rights to food, water, health, housing and an adequate standard of living”.
“This is an important first step towards engaging with those impacted by the legacy of the Panguna mine,” Rio Tinto chief executive Jakob Stausholm said in a statement.
“Operations at Panguna ceased in 1989 and we’ve not had access to the mine since that time. Stakeholders have raised concerns about impacts to water, land and health and this process will provide all parties with a clearer understanding of these important matters so that together we can consider the right way forward.”
“We take this seriously and are committed to identifying and assessing any involvement we may have had in adverse impacts in line with our external human rights and environmental commitments and internal policies and standards.”
The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) has confirmed it supports the process.
Rio Tinto has not yet committed to funding clean-up and remediation of the mine.
The Panguna mine was one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines, generating an estimated US$2 billion in revenue for Rio Tinto during the 1970s and 1980s.
Disputes over jobs for landowners, environmental pollution and distribution of profits sparked a decade-long ‘Bougainville Crisis’ civil war in 1989 that claimed the lives of nearly 15,000 people.
Landowners also want Rio Tinto to fund long-term rehabilitation efforts.
“This assessment is a critical first step towards addressing that legacy,” said Keren Adams, a legal director at the Human Rights Law Centre.
“However, we stress that it is only the first step. The assessment will need to be followed up by swift action to address these problems so that communities can live in safety.”
“Communities urgently need access to clean water for drinking and bathing. They need solutions to stop the vast mounds of tailings waste eroding into the rivers and flooding their villages, farms and fishing areas. This is what remediation means in real terms for the people living with these impacts.”
Estimates of the cost for full mine site and downstream tailings rehabilitation is in the billions of dollars.
“It’s destroyed the sago palms and other trees … and destruction continues. You can see where the fertile land is covered over,” said downstream landowner and claimant George Posiona.
“It’s taking up a large area and we believe in a few years time we will not be able to plant food. It continues to flow down and destroy this land.”
The Department of Treasury’s OECD National Contact Point (AusNCP) is responsible for mediating the dispute, issue findings, and recommending action to address any breaches.
The announcement comes as Rio Tinto continues to face a federal parliamentary inquiry into the destruction of the sacred Aboriginal Juukan Gorge cave site in Western Australia which contained evidence of 46,000 years of human use.
Bougainville overwhelmingly voted for independence from Papua New Guinea in 2019 and hopes to gain nationhood by 2027.
Debate continues over whether to reopen the mine to underpin the economic security of Bougainville.
” The aim of highlighting here important aspects of the ABG’s commitment to and plans for achieving independence is not to raise questions about how realistic they are being, but rather to indicate the depth of commitment evident in the ABG position and its related post-referendum initiatives.
It is clearly going to be difficult for PNG to persuade the Bougainville leaders to accept anything short of full independence.
Neighbouring countries need to be aware of the direction that the consultations are taking, and the difficulties likely to arise in reaching compromises in the initial consultation process, and perhaps beyond.”
Setting goals for independence by 2025, UN membership and a sustainable economy signal Bougainville’s resolve.
The second constitutionally mandated post-referendum consultations between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville leaders about independence for Bougainville are being planned for late June 2021.
Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama stated a goal of independence and full United Nations membership by the end of 2025 at the first consultation meeting, chaired by the UN, on 18–19 May.
Together with significant initiatives taken by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) since elections last year, the statement of these goals signals a degree of commitment to independence that not so far fully understood outside Bougainville.
The PNG/ABG consultations are required following the referendum on Bougainville independence held late in 2019. There was a 97.7 per cent vote for independence, based on an 87 per cent turnout of enrolled voters, in turn based on a remarkably accurate roll. The referendum was adjudged “credible, free and fair” and “transparent and inclusive” by multiple independent international and national observers.
Unlike other conflicts resolved by agreements requiring a referendum on independence following a period of autonomy (notably Southern Sudan and New Caledonia), the Bougainville referendum outcome is not binding on PNG.
Rather the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the PNG constitution leave the referendum outcome to be dealt with by three possible processes: first, PNG and ABG consultation; second, subject to consultation outcomes, tabling of the referendum results in the PNG Parliament for “ratification”, involving “final decision-making authority” of the parliament; third any “differences” being resolved per the “dispute resolution procedure” provided for in the PNG Constitution.
The first consultation was held almost 18 months after the referendum, much to the frustration of many Bougainvilleans. Reasons for delay in the first half of 2020 included ABG constitutional amendment processes and a PNG Supreme Court challenge (both unsuccessful) directed to giving then sitting ABG president John Momis a third term in office.
Subsequently Covid-19, ABG general elections, and a late-2020 PNG political crisis were factors. But in addition, there was a lack of PNG focus and preparedness.
During the two day consultation, ABG President, Ishmael Toroama tabled a short “timeline” of main steps towards achieving independence in 2025.
It included the end of 2022 for achieving not only transfer of all powers as yet to be transferred to the ABG from PNG under the autonomy arrangements, but also for achieving “self-government” for Bougainville.
Self-government would involve establishing a “constituent assembly”, which by the end of 2024 would present “feedback on the draft Independent Bougainville Constitution”. The timeline steps were intended to set the agenda for the second consultation meeting.
PNG’s Prime Minister James Marape did not reject Bougainville’s independence demand outright.
He expressed concerns, however, both that Bougainville independence could provide a precedent for other parts of PNG to secede, leading to the dissolution of PNG and about Bougainville’s capacity to manage independence.
All Bougainville public service departments are being challenged to become independence-ready.
Perhaps the most significant initiative illustrating the extent and depth of commitment to the goal of early independence is the ABG’s multi-faceted “independence-ready” program.
Launched by a late 2020 resolution of the ABG House of Representatives, the program was inspired by the highly successful 2016 to 2019 ABG constituency-based “referendum-ready” program, which made significant contributions to local-level referendum-awareness.
The independence-ready program has a similar constituency-based focus, involving locally focused independence awareness and encouragement of behaviour change in all 33 single member ABG constituencies, as well as the three “regional” constituencies, each represented by one woman and one “former combatant” and has so far been launched in 23 of the single member constituencies.
A major independence awareness focus involves the related issues of economic development and generating the sustainable Bougainville government revenue needed to support independence.
The ABG accepts the conclusions of research undertaken for the PNG National Research Institute since 2018 by economist, Satish Chand, and others, indicating that an independent Bougainville is likely to need a budget two to three times the current ABG budget. The 2020 ABG budget was about K440 million (K151 million recurrent and K242 million capital expenditure).
“Internal” revenue sources in 2020 (some under PNG control but nevertheless derived locally, such as goods and service tax and tuna licence revenues) were estimated at K30 million, about 16 per cent of the total budget.
The independence-ready program responds to the internal revenue deficit through awareness efforts encouraging all Bougainvilleans, including resource owners, to engage in income-earning activities (wage employment, cash crop production, or establishing businesses) with a view to contributing to economic growth, and also encouraging people to be tax payers, contributing to the proposed independent government’s revenue base.
Bougainville is also exploring what it should receive from PNG’s current share of revenue from a regionally administered Pacific tuna fishing licence scheme for fishing in Bougainville-associated waters, which Chand estimates “could range from K30 million to K130 million per year”.
The President also talks of proposed new ABG supported business ventures, part funded by the ABG (US$19 million) and investors (US$100 million), creating 2,000 new jobs.
All Bougainville public service departments are being challenged to become independence-ready by moving promptly to develop ABG legislation to transfer as yet untransferred powers available to the ABG under the autonomy arrangements.
The constitutional transfer process has been simplified by the ABG-initiated Sharp Agreement signed by both governments a few days before the first consultation meeting. The ABG sees this simplified transfer process as contributing to the independence-ready process.
Finally, recognising the difficulties likely to be involved in gaining international community recognition as a new state and gain UN membership, the ABG cabinet has recently established a Ministerial Committee on International Relations that will be “cultivating international support” for Bougainville independence.
The aim of highlighting here important aspects of the ABG’s commitment to and plans for achieving independence is not to raise questions about how realistic they are being, but rather to indicate the depth of commitment evident in the ABG position and its related post-referendum initiatives.
It is clearly going to be difficult for PNG to persuade the Bougainville leaders to accept anything short of full independence.
Neighbouring countries need to be aware of the direction that the consultations are taking, and the difficulties likely to arise in reaching compromises in the initial consultation process, and perhaps beyond.
Mr Speaker, Honorable members of Parliament, much has transpired since the formation of my Government and I am happy to brief this House on some of these achievements in the 10 months that we have been in government.
Mr Speaker, I will start by making a few statements about the important work on “Independence Readiness”.
Mr Speaker, as all members know, we came into this house on the back of the 97.7 percent Referendum Vote for independence. And as a deliberate intent, one of the key strategies that ABG has embarked on, is the Independence Readiness program which comprises of three Prongs.
We are all currently actively engaged in the “Internal Prong” of getting all our communities ready for independence. Last week, we had the opportunity to engage with the Ramu and Lato constituencies of South Bougainville. Last month we met with the Halia and Nissan Constituencies. And everywhere we travel, we are met with high enthusiasm and spirit.
Mr Speaker, all members must familiarize yourselves with the program and the key messages, go out and make communities independence ready. The length and breadth of Bougainville must show a united stand to the rest of the world.
Mr Speaker, with regards to the International prong, BEC had recently approved a policy paper on cultivating international support under the leadership of the Minister for the Dept of Bougainville Independence Mission Implementation.
Mr. Speaker, under the National Prong, my Government and the Leaders of Bougainville, continue to consult with the PNG Government on the Referendum Result. We are on very cordial terms with the PNG Government with much good will and understandings on both sides as we journey towards our destiny.
Mr Speaker, Honorable Members, as you are all aware, at the Kokopo Consultations, I presented the Bougainville position based on the Oasis Resolution. Both parties signed a Joint statement agreeing to work on:
Defining the meaning and process of Ratification
The constitutional issues relating to the Referendum results and the tabling of the consultation outcomes in the National Parliament
Developing a Joint Roadmap on the Post Referendum Consultations
And to fully implementing the Sharp Agreement
Mr Speaker, the Bougainville Executive Council has recently approved a paper on the International Prong aimed at cultivating friendly relations in the pursuit of our course but through currently existing arrangements under PNG. There are a number of aspects to international relations such as political, social, cultural, economic and trade. We will have a bit more understanding on how these aspects will be managed within ABG in due course.
Mr Speaker, One final note on independence readiness is that “we, as leaders and as public servants, are the public face of Bougainville” and we must maintain ethical standards of behavior at all times. The kind of behaviors reported recently in the media should not happen again.
As your President, who is directly mandated into this chair by the people, I want all structures and systems of government, including all Committees of this House, to all be aligned and working towards our common goals and not be distracted by agendas outside of this Parliament.
Mr Speaker, at this juncture, let me announce and congratulate the new Minister for Public Service, the Member for Baba, the Honorable Emmanuel Kaetavara. Yours is a key Ministry that provides structural leadership and legislative oversight for the Human resources in the delivery of services and development. The challenge of your Dept is to reinvent itself and align its relevance in an evolving Presidential system of Government.
May I also thank the former Minister and Member for Lato for his services in the 9 months of his appointment. You will continue to serve the people of Bougainville through your Constituency and through this House.
Mr Speaker, I now want to highlight key achievements by my Government since our formation.
Mr Speaker, the Political Control agenda has already been noted above under the Independence Ready Program. I am pleased with its progress and much credit must go to the Minister responsible and to BIMAT. BIMAT is an example of thinking outside the box.
Mr Speaker, another achievement is the signing of the Joint Communique, which basically recognizes the historical journey undertake by the two governments under the Bougainville Peace Agreement and commits the two governments to jointly consult on the Referendum results for independence.
Mr Speaker, the Sharp Agreement, which was signed on the 13th of May, does away with the Constitutional requirements under section 295 (a) and (b) regarding the transfer of powers and functions under the Autonomous arrangements. This paves the way for the consultations to focus on the political agenda while the Administration deals with the implementation of the remaining powers and functions. This is a challenge in itself and I urge the administration to rise up to the task.
The Bougainville Position tabled at the Kokopo Consultation presents a detailed five-year timeline from 2021 to 2025. Each year comprises a number of key Milestones to be achieved with independence fully declared during 2025 (and perhaps set 1st September 2025 as the date for declaration). The Kokopo Resolutions now provide the strategy for both parties to consult over the Bougainville position through the coming consultations. This will need careful analysis and planning going forward.
Mr Speaker, in this regard, my Government has established two secretariats specifically to attend to the intellectual and strategic needs of our political journey. The Bougainville Independence Mission Advisory Team (BIMAT) under the Dept of Independence Mission Implementation is providing the intellectual grunt in our political engagement with PNG.
The other Secretariat established is the Bougainville Strategic Research Planning & Monitoring Secretariat (BSRPMS) which will take lead on the higher level Long -Term Vision and Development Strategies and the review and restructuring of Government in line with emerging scenarios.
Mr Speaker, it is very pleasing to note the capabilities and institutional memories housed in both Secretariats, which complement the Public Service and I ask the rest of the administration (especially the Finance Dept) to accord timely support to these two bodies.
Let me now make a few statements about the Economic Control Pillar – State Owned Enterprises and Internal Revenue
Mr Speaker, since the formation of the post crisis Bougainville Government, a total of 20 Government owned Business Enterprises have been set up. As of this year, only 4 of these businesses are operating while 16 have closed. Out of the four that are still operating, only two are contributing revenue to ABG. This is a failure rate of 80% and is a serious indictment on the performance of past governments.
There are a lot of lessons to be learnt going forward in how we plan, manage and conduct business. We currently only generate 24% internally of the revenue needed to run government and to deliver services and development.
Mr Speaker, in order to avoid the problem of poor business performance in the future, my Government is working on setting up Business management systems that will uphold good management principles against the pilfering of funds in the past.
My government will also soon announce new business ventures to the value of US$19m (about K68m) and announce investments totaling US$100m (K400m) by early 2021 creating employment of about 2,000 jobs to the economy.
Mr Speaker, with regards to Panguna, the Veterans Association of Panguna, under the Leadership of the Vice President is preparing the ground work for the removal of the remaining bones in and around Panguna. This will clear the way for any talks relating to the possible reopening of the mine.
An overall Economic Development Strategy is being formulated for presentation at the Economic Summit which is now postponed to November this year.
Mr. Speaker, whilst I am on the subject of Government revenue, I am happy to mention to this sitting, that the PNG Government has released K40m to ABG as first instalment of the K100m per year promised by Prime Minister Hon James Marape at the February JSB in Arawa.
Mr Speaker, for the information of members, funds owed to Bougainville by PNG Government include:
The K1billion over a ten-year period (K100m per year)
The PIP K100m per year under BPA section 50
The RDG outstanding grants of K624m up to 2019
The K81m currently outstanding since 2018
Our officers need to engage constantly with Waigani to draw this money down.
Mr Speaker, on Taxation matters, the Arawa JSB, also agreed on a new Taxation arrangement for ABG. The Bougainville Peace Agreement stipulates for 70 percent of Taxes collected from business conducted in Bougainville to be held in Trust by the PNG Government and 30 percent to be allocated to Bougainville annually. The February JSB agreed with the Prime Minister Hon James Marape, to reverse this situation in Bougainville’s favour by now allocating 70 percent to Bougainville and keeping 30 percent in Trust by PNG IRC. When effected, this will contribute further to increasing our internal revenue.
Mr Speaker, under Law and Order, the Law and Order sector through the Dept of Law and Justice continues to make headway in “institutional strengthening” to better position itself to deliver on its mandate. We have recently witnessed the ground breaking for its new office building in Kubu. It has also recently held consultations with its PNG counterparts to strategize on legislative matters relating to the powers being transferred under the Sharp agreement.
Mr Speaker, on Corruption or perceptions of corruption continues to be a major stumbling block to the government both at the leadership and administrative level. Some of the practices, like officers hiring their own vehicles for project monitoring visits must stop. At the Leadership level, we must focus on legislation and policy making and leave matters of implementation to the appropriate bodies. A key point to highlight here is the ABG owned enterprises with 80% failure rate because of political influence.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy that BSP has recently paid K500,000 to the ABG revenue but this announcement should not shroud the monies previously diverted by the trustees of this shareholding. ABG through the relevant agencies should recover these monies.
The key approach to combatting corruption is to follow proper systems and processes that exist or to create new systems where none exist. There will be many changes as Bougainville transitions from an Autonomous Government to a future sovereign state and there will be times when we have to think “outside the box” to find solutions because the normal way of doing business will not be adequate.
Mr Speaker, however, in saying this, I am not advocating “a free for all situation”. We must still be strategic, coordinated and systematic!! The ABG Administration will still take lead in implementing normal delivery of “services and development” whilst BIMAT will take lead in any forward thinking and implementation on the political consultation front and the Bougainville Strategic Research Planning & Monitoring Secretariat will take lead on the higher level Long -Term Vision and Development Strategies and the review and restructuring of Government in line with emerging scenarios.
Mr Speaker, on the 2022 Budget, the Administration has just concluded the formulation of the 2022 Budget at its workshop in Arawa. This will be the first budget that will reflect the Six Strategic Priorities under my Government. As noted elsewhere in this speech, my Government has already progressed most of my Governments priorities except for the Long-term Vision and Development Strategy and Mobilizing Civil Society and the Private Sector.
Plans are underway for an extensive Bougainville wide consultation process, beginning in July, at the districts & communities regarding the Bougainville Long term Vision and Development Strategy. It is my intention to present the final product to Parliament in the first quarter of 2022.
Mr Speaker, the Long-term Vision and Strategic Plan will be the Blue Print providing the Framework for subsequent Medium and Short-Term Development Planning by the Administration under subsequent governments. It will also provide the framework for mobilizing the Private Sector and Civil Society.
My Government, intends to conduct a comprehensive “resource mapping”, using the latest modern technology, of all our resources (natural or man-made) on which the detailed Long-Term Plan will be based. A knowledge of the resource inventory and its monetary value will be fundamental to the economic growth of an independent sovereign Bougainville. We will not be fooled by any external interests once we complete this exercise.
Mr Speaker, the concept of Regional Development Authorities (RDA) was also legitimized at the recent Budget Planning meeting in Arawa. It must have the capacity and ability to deliver on its mandate and should not simply be another government office that will chew up scare resources.
Mr Speaker, the challenges are many and obvious as we transit into a future political status. As we have experienced so far, the consultation timeline and process are going to be quite intensive. Both the leaders and public servants will need to balance the domestic responsibilities of providing governance, services delivery and development with that of participating in the political agenda. Ministers and Heads of Departments should pay particular attention to this challenge.
Mr Speaker, another challenge is “funding”. Both Bougainville and PNG are being assisted in the consultations by the donor community through the United Nations. We will need to manage expectations of our various stakeholder groups in how we all participate in the consultation process through fair representation whilst travelling on a crowded journey. It will not be possible to take large delegations to all consultations.
Mr Speaker, there are many other challenges which I am sure all levels of Bougainville society are well aware off and are taking appropriate remedial measures.
Mr Speaker, the journey ahead is not going to be easy on all fronts as we play catch-up on missed opportunities over the last 15 years. All we ask for from all our citizens, through your respective leadership positions, is their patience and support.
“ Any form of self-determination will require some new institutions for Bougainville and some changes to existing ones, all of which will need a foundation in Bougainville’s Constitution. Exactly what changes are made, how they are made, and the future relationship between the Constitutions of Bougainville and PNG will depend in part on the form of self-determination.
If Bougainville achieved self-determination outside PNG, with no formal relationship with PNG other than as a close neighbour, this would be reflected in the terms of the Constitution, the range of matters for which it provides, and the mechanisms that it establishes for political and legal accountability.
If Bougainville achieved self-determination in a form of free association with PNG, this would be likely reflected in the Constitutions of both PNG and Bougainville, although the Constitutions need not otherwise be dependent on each other.
If Bougainville achieved self-determination on a basis that left it formally within PNG, significant constitutional changes still would be needed. In these circumstances, however, there would be a relationship of some kind between the two Constitutions, although it may not be the same as exists at present.
On any of these scenarios for constitutional change, there is a further question for decision about whether Bougainville should amend the existing Constitution or make a new one. In principle, either is possible and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.
Abridged from a National Research Institute research report ( Reseach Report 8: Institution Building in Post-Referendum Bougainville) under its Referendum Research Project. This was released along with Research Report 9: Increasing Revenues for the Bougainville Government.
What needs to be done on Bougainville in the wake of the 2019 referendum.
By ANNA DZIEDZIC and CHERYL SAUNDERS
THERE will be four key questions before decision-makers in the post-referendum consultations. While the primary focus of the consultations will be the future relationship between Bougainville and PNG, the other questions are necessarily linked to this relationship.
The questions are identified separately below, to ensure that each is actively considered, in the interests of workable and lasting outcomes.
The questions are:
What should be the future relationship between Bougainville and PNG, following the referendum?
What changes are necessary to achieve that relationship, in both PNG and Bougainville, in terms of governing authority and the way in which authority is exercised?
How should these changes be made, to ensure that they work as effectively as possible from the standpoint of both Bougainville and PNG?
Over what time frame should change occur and in what order of priority?
The future relationship between Bougainville and PNG might take different forms, with multiple different features, all of which are consistent with self-determination.
For the purposes of this report, as an aid to understanding the options, the possibilities are grouped into three broad categories.
We note, however, that there may be variations within each.
These categories are: Self-determination for Bougainville outside PNG, as a formally sovereign state; Self-determination outside PNG, but in a form of free association with it; Self-determination in a form that leaves Bougainville formally part of PNG.
Three influential factors
There are at least three contextual factors that are relevant to the form and outcomes of the consultations.
One is the nature of the existing relationship between PNG and Bougainville. These two territories have been connected for the purposes of governance for over 100 years. The legacies of this connection include both long collaboration and significant conflict (Regan & Griffin, 2015).
Both legacies are evident in the considerable achievements of the BPA, which brought a bitter conflict to a close in a way that has proved both manageable and lasting. Bougainville’s peace process provides a model from which others might learn.
Nevertheless, from the standpoint of the consultations, these legacies tend to pull in opposite directions. Complicating resolution further, a century of governance of PNG and Bougainville as a single entity also has encouraged the intermixture of peoples and the interdependence of economies.
Self-determination for Bougainville will require these to be disentangled to some degree, whatever form it takes. On the other hand, geography, shared history and the realities of globalisation suggest that a close relationship of some kind will continue.
A second contextual factor that demands consideration is Bougainville’s capability, now and into the future. Capability should be understood for this purpose as a combination of the knowledge, skills and integrity needed to develop policies, manage programs and run institutions in ways that work for the people of Bougainville and for the polity as a whole. Capability, including ways in which it might be developed, is relevant to all the key questions for decision in the course of the consultations.
Capability is an issue that arises when any political community acquires major new responsibilities for which it has final authority.
In one sense, Bougainville has an advantage in this regard over many other newly empowered political communities, thanks to the experience of nearly two decades of autonomy since the signing of the BPA. Capability is nevertheless a major issue for Bougainville, in ways that are documented in a range of relatively recent reports and reviews (Government of Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Government Joint Supervisory Body, 2018; Government of Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Government Joint Supervisory Body, 2013; McKenna, 2019; Nisira, 2017; Peake, 2019).
Bougainville and PNG have distinctive features and a distinctive history that must guide both the decisions that are made in the course of the consultations and the ways in which they are put into effect.
Properly used, however, the experiences of other countries can be a valuable source from which insights for the consultations between governments can be drawn.
The companion report, Increasing Revenues for the Bougainville Government (Chand et al., 2020), identifies 57 states that, like Bougainville, have small island territories, in order to examine their relevance as comparators for the purposes of Bougainville’s own economic and fiscal futures.
From this range, the report ultimately identifies 18 such states that are broadly comparable to Bougainville in terms of size and economic opportunity (Chand et al., 2020).This section of this report identifies three ways in particular in which comparative experience might be useful for the institutional and related issues covered by this report.First, the experiences of other countries may provide useful insight into each of the broad options for the relationship between Bougainville and PNG.
Some examples are given below.
Timor Leste and South Sudan are both states that have separated from larger states in relatively recent times and have achieved self-determination as independent states in their own right.44 Timor Leste became an independent state in 2002 and South Sudan in 2011.
Cook Islands, Niue, the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau are examples of states that are not part of a larger state but operate in ‘free association’ with one.5• Greenland is formally part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but it enjoys self-government on a basis that includes a right to secede and so offers an example of self-determination while formally remaining part of a larger state (Ackrén, 2017).
The experiences of these and other states show how each of the broad options for self-determination works, as a basis for determining their suitability for Bougainville.
Second, polities that are broadly similar to Bougainville in terms of geographic and population size, stage of development, and perhaps culture, offer insights into such matters as the range of institutions that Bougainville might need; the challenges of operating them; and the extent to which governance can be enhanced by local cultural practice.
A subset of the states identified in the report Increasing Revenues (Chand et al., 2021) is most likely to be relevant for these purposes. States that might offer particular insights into the design and operation of institutions in Bougainville include Fiji, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga and Vanuatu.
While each of these polities is different to Bougainville in many respects, all are island states, all are relatively small in global terms, and all are in the same region of the world, with similar neighbours, some shared historical experiences, significant distinctive cultures and broadly similar aspirations.
Third, comparative experience can be useful also to demonstrate how smaller states, with limited resources, share institutions of various kinds, including by using institutions of others. Examples that will be given in the course of this report include currency, courts and diplomatic representation.
There is no shortage of public institutions that might be organised in this way, however, in the short term or even indefinitely. These practices are familiar in smaller states throughout the world, but the same range of Pacific states might be most useful comparators for Bougainville’s purposes.
It is not practicable in this report to canvass comparative experiences in any depth. Once the consultations get underway and the direction of the consultations becomes clear, more specific questions can be formulated. There may be value in organising a forum of representatives of selected states to provide detailed information on institutions and their operation in practice.
Creating a polity to realise self-determination requires an effective political community, in addition to the institutions and other trappings of statehood (Bogdandy et al., 2005). An effective political community requires cohesion between peoples, trust in public institutions and a shared commitment to the polity.
In an effective political community, disagreement is resolved through processes provided by or under the auspices of the state, potentially including customary law and practice. Members of a political community will not always be pleased by an election outcome, a new law or policy, or a decision of a court or other arbiter. Where a political community is working well, however, people accept such outcomes as part of a system to which they belong and on which they are prepared to rely, even while working to change decisions for the future. Bougainville already has a political community; however, greater demands will be placed on it by self-determination as Bougainville becomes increasingly self-reliant.
Although institutions based on western constitutional models have been established, customary institutions, such as councils of elders and chiefs, customary law, and customary methods of decision making and dispute resolution are recognised in Bougainville’s constitution and laws. Customary institutions have a high degree of legitimacy and operate alongside state institutions in what has been described as an example of successful ‘hybrid’ state building (Boege et al., 2008).
Customary institutions and processes have played a crucial role during the period of autonomy under the BPA. Bougainville can continue to draw on these institutions to develop a political community that suits its new circumstances and needs.
But there are challenges in building political community in Bougainville as well. Regionalism and factionalism are as present in Bougainville as elsewhere (Bougainville News, 2019).
The animosities of the civil war are not entirely overcome and continue to affect the cohesion of local communities (Autonomous Bougainville Government Department of Peace and Conciliation Resources, 2019).
Divisions could be exacerbated by future initiatives including, most obviously, reopening the Panguna mine. The struggle for self-determination has been a catalyst for unity of purpose within Bougainville that could be weakened once that struggle is over. Governance in Bougainville in conditions of self-determination is certain to be difficult, has the potential to give rise to dissatisfaction among sections of the people, and could undermine the solidarity on which political community depends.
Citizenship and passports
Any political community has rules or practices that identify its members. At present, Bougainville’s Constitution recognises the legal status of a ‘Bougainvillean’. Section 7 of the Constitution sets out the way in which Bougainvillean status is acquired. Section 8 identifies key rights held by Bougainvilleans to own customary land and to stand for election. Section 9 sets out the obligations of a Bougainvillean.
If Bougainville were to become a polity outside PNG, it would be necessary to create a status of Bougainville citizen and to provide for a system of Bougainville passports. By contrast, if Bougainville were to achieve a form of self-determination in free association with PNG, it could have its own citizenship and issue its own passports, but it need not do so.
So, for example, Niue, which has a form of free association with New Zealand, relies on New Zealand citizenship and accepts that its people use New Zealand passports, as convenient but not necessary attributes of free association (Angelo, 2009).
Ideas about membership and belonging are not exclusive to independent countries, however.
They also apply in distinct political communities within countries.
Some of these use the terminology of ‘citizenship’ to describe the status of belonging. In these cases, people may have multiple citizenships within the same country, at different levels of government, each of which is meaningful and valued in its own way.
A similar idea of multiple citizenships within the same polity can be found in some supra-national arrangements. For example, someone who lives in France may be a citizen of both France and the European Union.
It follows that even if Bougainville were to achieve self-determination in a form that meant it formally remained part of PNG, a status of Bougainville citizen could be created; although, in this case, passports would continue to be issued by PNG.
If a new status of citizen of Bougainville were created, it would be necessary to decide who is entitled to it. A broadly similar issue was faced in many Pacific states as they obtained independence from colonial rule.
One possibility would be to define citizenship of Bougainville by reference to the previous status of belonging, as a ‘Bougainvillean’. With this approach, anyone who meets the definition of ‘Bougainvillean’ in the current constitution could automatically become a citizen of Bougainville on a specified date.
The existing criteria would prescribe the bases on which citizenship of Bougainville might be acquired in the future. If this approach were adopted, consideration should be given to whether place of birth or other connection with the territory of Bougainville should be added to the criteria for Bougainville citizenship.
Under the current provisions, the requirement for Bougainvilleans to be citizens of PNG before exercising political rights ensures a territorial connection, which would be lost if the two citizenships are separated from each other. An alternative would be to define citizenship of Bougainville by reference to the standard criteria of place of birth and descent that are used in a variety of combinations in most countries in the world. This approach was taken by PNG on independence in 1975.
PNG conferred automatic citizenship at the date of independence on any person born in PNG who had two grandparents born in PNG or in specified neighbouring islands.
Under current PNG law, a person acquires PNG citizenship if he or she is born in PNG and has at least one parent who is a PNG citizen; is born outside of PNG but has at least one citizen parent and is registered; or has had some connection to the people and territory of PNG before naturalisation.8 Bougainville could develop citizenship requirements of its own, broadly along these lines, possibly accepting that birth in PNG and the ‘adjacent area’ as well as in Bougainville is acceptable for the purpose.
With either approach, there are likely to be cases where a person’s citizenship status is unclear. To accommodate these cases, other states in the Pacific also have set out a process for certain classes of people to register or to apply for citizenship (Dziedzic, 2020). Flexibility of some kind would be useful for prescribing the citizenship requirements for Bougainville.
Every polity uses symbols to reinforce its sense of political community and for use on official occasions. Symbols usually reflect the polity’s sense of its own identity, in terms of its people and their culture, its territory, its history and its place in the world. Bougainville already has a distinctive identity, which is the product of its story so far.
A move to self-determination, whatever form it takes, will change Bougainville’s identity in some ways while leaving it unaltered in others.
There is no exhaustive list of the symbols that a polity may have for these purposes. Bougainville already has many of the usual symbols: a flag, emblem, motto and anthem. Bougainville also celebrates commemorative days, including Autonomous Bougainville Government Foundation Day and Peace Agreement Commemoration Day.
In connection with a move to self-determination, consideration might be given to whether these symbols adequately reflect the identity that Bougainville wishes to project, internally and externally. The answer could depend on the chosen form of self-determination. For example, the BPA and PNG Constitution presently require that official markings of the Bougainville Police and Bougainville Correctional Service include the national PNG emblem.
Changes in the relationship between PNG and Bougainville in consequence of self-determination may affect this practice and certainly would do so if Bougainville achieved self-determination outside PNG, whether as an independent state or in a form of free association.
Self-determination may have other implications for Bougainville’s identity as well, which could be reflected in the symbols used by Bougainville and the circumstances in which they are used.
Self-determination may ultimately lead to the creation of new symbols. A Bougainville system of honours or awards is a possible example.
In addition, self-determination may bring other changes to Bougainville that take on a symbolic character. To take one example: currency, which is considered further below in Part 5.2, can have a symbolic as well as practical function. As Part 5.2 explains, countries do not need to have their own currency; this is a choice for each to make. Some countries with their own currency also use it as a symbol.
Whatever the outcome of the consultations between the two governments, some changes to the Constitution of Bougainville are needed. The existing Constitution was made within parameters agreed in the BPA and reflected in the Constitution of PNG. It is expressly transitional, bridging the period of autonomy following the BPA and a decision on Bougainville’s future political status.
Both the Constitution itself and the process of making or changing it are relevant to self-determination for Bougainville.
A new or renewed constitution would mark the beginning of a new collective identity for Bougainville, symbolising the unity of the people and signifying Bougainville’s new status to the rest of the world (Haysom, 2005).
The Constitution also has practical significance for institution building, providing the basic framework for institutions of government and setting out their powers and functions.
Official Joint Media Statement of the Joint Supervisory Body Meeting in Arawa, Bougainville on Friday 05 February 2021, by Co-Chairs Hon. James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR, President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape and President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Hon. Ishmael Toroama, on February 5 met at the Joint Supervisory Body meeting.
In the meeting the two leaders reaffirmed their joint commitment to the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister James Marape acknowledged that both governments had taken a long break from progressing discussions since the last JSB meeting in March 2020 due to the global pandemic.
However, he thanked the Autonomous Bougainville Government for the patience showed and acknowledged all technical officials for maintaining consistent dialogue on both sides.
Prime Minister Marape said that the national government recognizes the referendum choice of the people of Bougainville, and that the two governments must continue to use the Bougainville Peace Agreement as its main guide while on this peace process.
He announced his government’s commitment to have the joint consultations commence in the first quarter of this year, and reaffirmed his commitment to pursue the path as outlined in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, which should eventually see National Parliament dealing with the Referendum result.
President Ishmael Toroama in his remarks acknowledged the Prime Minister and his delegation, and described the National Government’s commitment to Bougainville as very strong.
He said that there is great anticipation from the people of Bougainville on the 97.7% vote and much needs to be done to actualize this on both sides. The two leaders discussed on a total of nine agenda items.
Key of which was the Post Referendum Consultation Framework where the two leaders agreed to have the first joint consultation meeting on the referendum result on the 4th-5th March 2021 in Kokopo, East New Britain Province.
The Leaders also resolved through the JSB to formally accept the recent Joint Communique as the roadmap to consultations on the outcome of the Bougainville Referendum. On the Economic and Investment Summit, the leaders acknowledged the preparatory work done so far, and accepted the recommendation to have the Summit held from 5th to 6th May 2021 in Arawa, Central Bougainville.
On Fisheries matters, the JSB resolved to prioritize creation of investment in the fisheries sector to generate revenue for Bougainville, and also to further explore the development of a Tuna Cannery in Bougainville.
The meeting also considered other key issues such as the SME funding, establishment of Foreign Development Offices in Bougainville, taxation and revenue matters and other outstanding financial issues including National Governments commitment to retire fully the K621million outstanding RDG and the K100million a year Special Infrastructure Funds.
The leaders agreed that the next meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body will take place in June 2021, and a third JSB meeting to be held in December 2021.
In appreciation of the continued peace between our Governments and our people as enabled by the Bougainville Peace Agreement, we, in our humility, praise and acknowledge that our Lord is above all and that this Resolution is commended to God for his wisdom and guide on us his servants.
We acknowledge that this is the first JSB co-chaired by the Honourable President of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama and on that note, we recognise that this is a new era of dialogue through peace by peaceful means.
We fully pledge support to each other to continue to maintain and strengthen our relationships at all levels of leadership.
Having met today at the Sharp Memorial Centre in Arawa, we note the recommendations of the Joint Technical Team meeting of February 5, 2021 and endorse the following resolutions;
Agenda 1: Joint Communique on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum
The JSB notes the intentions of the Joint Communique to be the road map to the Inter-Government joint consultations and that the Joint Communique aims to create a mutual understanding and agreement on implementation of the Referendum outcome and defining next
The JSB notes that the Joint Com1nunique on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum was signed on January 11, 2021 at the Sir Manasupe Haus, Port Moresby by the Honourable Prime Minister James Marape, MP and the Honourable President Ishmael Toroama, MHR and witnessed by GoPNG and ABG Attorney Generals Hon. Pila Niningi and Hon. Ezekiel
The JSB accepts and endorses the Joint Communique as the road map to consultations on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum.
Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation of the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Process of Transfer of Functions and Powers:
In the context of the 97.7% vote for Independence by the people of Bougainville in the 2019 Bougainville Referendum;
The JSB notes the explanation of the ABG on the intent of the ‘Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation on the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Transfer of Functions and Powers to fast track the process under Section 290 of the National
The JSB notes that the ABG has provided to the GoPNG State Solicitors the document on the Sharp Agreement and notes that the GoPNG State Solicitors have yet to provide legal feedback on the document hence the JSB recommends that a timeframe of two weeks is accorded to provide legal clearance on behalf of the National
The JSB accepts the Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation of the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Process of Transfer of Functions and Powers and directs that the legal clearance on behalf of the National Government is completed within the timeframe and that the ‘Sharp Agreement’ is signed no earlier than 19th February and no later than 26th February 2021, before the commencement of the Inter-Government Joint Consultations in 4th and 5thMarch,
Agenda 2: Bougainville Economic and Investment Summit
The JSB acknowledges the JTT recommendations and endorses that Bougainville Economic and Investment Summit be held from 5th to 6th May, 2021 in Arawa, Central
The JSB cautions that the venue be considered carefully as the JSB expects that the venue must be sufficient to cater for the large number of stakeholders to the Bougainville Economic and Investment
Agenda 3: BCL Shares
The JSB acknowledges the work in progress on the transfer of BCL shares to ABG’s Bougainville Minerals Limited,
The JSB endorses the work in progress brief on the transfer of BCL
The JSB emphasises that lead agencies responsible for this agenda timeframe the transfer of shares and report to the JSB the progress of this
Genuine in our intentions for sustained peace between us, we endorse that our official statements delivered at the opening and closing of this meeting and all records of discussions and notes in this meeting is an integral part of this meeting.
We conclude by reaffirming that ‘man can make decisions but God has the last say, with this affirmation, we leave all resolutions reached here today in the care of our God.
Press statement from the office of the president on the issue of the Panguna Mine re-opening.
The idea of Caballus operating a mine on Bougainville has long been shelved after their failed attempt to co-sponsor the mining amendments with the former Momis led ABG.
Let me make it clear that the current ABG under my Presidency is not colluding with Caballus, RTZ, Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) or any landowner group to redevelop the Panguna Mine at this time.
Statements by companies or landowner groups with a vested interest in Panguna who claim to be working with the current ABG are false; we are not backing any company or any landowner group to reopen the mine.
My government is committed protecting landowner rights from undue influence by persons wishing to solicit favours from the Autonomous Bougainville Government in an attempt to reopen the mine.
Any company wishing to develop Bougainville’s mineral resources be it Panguna or the exploration of a green field site must come through the proper channels.
Bougainville has a Mining Act that governs the exploitation of our mineral resources, any parties wishing to be involved in the mining industry on Bougainville must comply with the laws of the land.
As it stands there is a moratorium in place over Panguna as well as the surrounding areas around the proximity of the mine.
The Panguna Mine remains a very sensitive issue on Bougainville and parties wishing to reopen it must maintain a sense of decorum that respects the land, the landowners and the ABG.
We cannot continue to make unfounded claims that are based on promises from the previous regime and its band of leaders and public servants who sought to manipulate the people of Bougainville and wantonly exploit its resources.
I urge leaders from the past government as well as the current ABG to refrain from making unsubstantiated claims over the future of the mine at this time.
Let us be frank in our dealings and be considerate of the welfare of all our people on Bougainville. It is high time we stopped using our Independence aspirations as a bargaining chip to further our personal agenda.
” PANGUNA and its landowners have had a mixture of these feelings and positions during the time of mining but have not felt much this way since the mine was forcibly shut down at the end of 1989. That is 31 years ago now.
The ordinary folk up there that still wake up to an altered landscape with their women – mothers of the land – are still asking what they did to deserve this as they eke out their livelihood from their usable plots of land which are mostly on hillsides.”
Contributed by Simon Pentanu
Their biggest local hero Francis Ona came to prominence when he took a stand against his own extended family members and BCL for what he saw as an unfair and unjust payment and distribution of royalty, lease, inconvenience payments and other payments.
Ona was incensed by what he thought and saw as the vanguard of RMTL Executives supported by BCL against a mounting dissatisfaction of younger landowners who felt their grievances and interests for the share of the pie was not being given due consideration.
Their growing frustration culminated in an attempt to out-vote and replace the elderly and duly elected PLOA whose numbers comprised the majority in the RMTL Executive. Rather defiantly, if not boisterously, an AGM was convoked by Francis with this specific aim in mind.
Let us say the rest is history now, a short and sad history that BCL and the rest of Bougainville became embroiled in without any indication or warning that armed conflict, menace and mass exodus was going to follow. It is a history that is intertwined with irreverent behaviour, blood letting and a descent into the abyss that we must never follow or repeat.
The fall out from the voluntary pull out and disbursement of shares in BCL by Rio has developed into arguments and differences between some of the same people that Francis took a singular hard line stance against. If time heals, up in Panguna the healing has been slow though not exactly without some positive progress.
The reverberations have been still audible and the fractures have been still visible. In the mean time everyone else is still trying to figure out what Panguna means now after Rio has pulled the plug and cartwheeled out of Bougainville.
Well not quite! Rio was left in both an unenviable and untenable position that left it little choice but to make the commercial decision it made. The pros and cons, the timing and implications of Rio’s decision will long be argued, possibly in the Court rooms as well. What is most certain is Rio will never find any favour in Bougainville by landowners. Not in any obvious way anyway.
In the beginning everyone rushed into Panguna like honey bees taking to a new beehive. To the mining investor at the time it was seen as a cash cow ideally located in the largely virgin Crown Prince Range. The forest was dense green, the creeks and flowing rivers and estuaries pristine and bird life and marsupials adorning their habitat in plentiful numbers.
For everyone, including the often bewildered, sometimes excited and expectant landowners this was probably the best opportunity to catapult Bougainville from the backwaters to unimaginable affluence. No one foresaw or imagined the stuff of effluence that everyone from miner to landowner, hardliner to politician and the environmentalist would be mired in.
When the decision was made to mine, its timing and the set and scene was ideal. To the colonial administering authority Panguna provided the perfect investment to finance the Territory of Papua and New Guinea which was already showing signs that its political independence was emerging as an issue for open and frank discussion with Canberra. To Australian PM then, John Gorton, and his Ministers at the time Charles Barnes, Andrew Peacock and those in Konedobu like David Hay, APJ Newman, Tom Ellis and others Panguna looked a very promising prospect if Independence was going to be forced and fostered on PNG sooner than later.
As the turnstiles sometimes turn in history, it turned out it was Gough Whitlam and his Labour Government that gave the inevitable nod to Independence.
The dye was cast both for Panguna to go ahead as a real mining proposition and for the inevitable political process and transition to Independence for Papua and New Guinea as a single entity and as one country.
I’m not sure whether Panguna today is lying flat on its face or lying down on its belly. I don’t think it is either. After the landscape has been defaced and the booty and loot is gone there isn’t much of the old Panguna face that is left to be recognizable any more. And it has no belly to speak of or talk about after it has been gutted out.
But for the insatiable world hungry for minerals there is not any aota of doubt that Panguna and and its surroundings and vicinity still hold billions worth of copper, gold and silver below people’s customary land.
So what else is left of Panguna? Among the LOs they are pitted at different ends of the same table but they are seeking the same outcomes in different ways with different foreign interests.
The remnants of the old and new LOs may not be obviously visible but some of the same players that bore much of the brunt of Francis Ona’s spite and antagonism still differ in their demands and approach, even the modus operandi on how the last of the spoils from the damages might be shared or divided and how the mine might be regurgitated into the future.
What is more and more stark is, in the landowning family and extended family the differences and cracks in their arguments and claims about who has more rights to entice investors or negotiate with ABG or deal with anybody for that matter has never been more uncertain and never more confusing.
The alliances and dalliances landowners have formed with foreign interests has also added to the differences and arguments, and even doubts, as to who has more rights and claims to SML and other leases up there.
In this regard the Bougainville mining law has been tested more or less whether it adequately covers the interest of the landowners as espoused or intended in the preamble and opening provisions of the Bougainville constitution.
IF we have all learnt anything from Panguna, it is this. We have not learnt enough.
” The use of mobile technologies in the 2019 Bougainville referendum presents both opportunities and challenges for the future of democracy in the Pacific, Amanda H A Watson, Jeremy Miller and Adriana Schmidt write.
In the pre-referendum period, there was a strong emphasis on the need for widespread voter education to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the vote itself, and to maintain unity and peace. A number of initiatives were undertaken by the Bougainville government and other partners to overcome people’s lack of access to traditional mass media (radio, television and newspapers).”
This article is based upon a paper published by the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA) as part of its ‘Discussion paper’ series. The original paper can be foundhere.
The research will also be presented ina webinaron 27 October 2020.
This article focuses on one initiative, a telephone information hotline that operated for eight weeks just before polling. It allowed people to ring a free-call number and hear pre-recorded messages about peacebuilding and the three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Callers were able to press 1 to hear information on peacebuilding, 2 for autonomy, 3 for the referendum and 4 for weapons disposal.
Each message was less than two minutes and recordings were updated weekly. This provided about an hour’s worth of audio information in total. The service was promoted through traditional media channels, but principally through an introductory, automated ‘robocall’ from the President of Bougainville. This was followed by subsequent weekly text messages announcing the availability of new recordings.
The service was the first of its kind in PNG and was envisaged as a short pilot to identify the usefulness of the technology for public information dissemination in Bougainville. It was implemented by the Autonomous Bougainville Government with the support of the PNG, Australian and New Zealand governments, and operated by Digicel.
Research into the efficacy of the service was undertaken during its final two weeks, just prior to polling. Eight group interviews were conducted with local community leaders, women and youths in a mix of rural and urban settings across Bougainville.
Of the 42 people who participated in the group interviews, 37 owned mobile telephones at the time of the research. Many of the handsets were basic mobile telephones – suitable for text messaging and calls only – rather than smartphones. Many handsets had flat batteries on the day of the group interview – this indicates a technological challenge of daily life in Bougainville, which has consequences for mobile telephone initiatives.
While 79,285 calls were made to the hotline over the eight-week pilot, overall, the knowledge of the telephone hotline amongst research participants was generally low. The automated ‘robocall’ from the President announcing the service was not in fact received by most participants, and many did not consistently receive the weekly text message reminders. This indicated that the strategy fell short of its promise, which reduced uptake of the service.
As intended, some users gathered in groups to listen to the recordings. Also, the hotline had been used in places where people had no access to radio and very limited access to other forms of media. Participants generally thought the hotline should be continued in the post-referendum period but suggested increasing awareness of the service itself.
There was much discussion about the need to improve mobile network coverage, which participants said was weak and inconsistent, with no coverage in some villages. There were also requests for improvements to other communication mediums, particularly radio broadcasting. Despite these challenges, it was perceived that referendum awareness had been thorough. Most participants felt they and their fellow community members had sufficient knowledge about the referendum and were ready to vote.
The research found no striking differences in the awareness or use of the service by age or gender. Differences were noticeable, however, between the three regions of Bougainville regarding access to mobile network coverage, as well as access to other information and communication mediums. For example, in South Bougainville, participants reported substantial challenges with the quality and reach of mobile network signals and said that they had almost no access to radio stations, newspapers or television.
As Hogeveen argues, there is a trend in the Pacific region towards ‘digital aid’ in which international donors utilise information and communication technologies. The Bougainville hotline is one such example. Chand contends that, given limited access to radio, textbooks and other information sources, the utilisation of digital technologies could allow delivery of basic services in Bougainville. For example, as part of their emergency response to COVID-19, both the PNG and Bougainville governments are operating free-call telephone information hotlines for their citizens.
The design of the referendum hotline was in line with published guidelines for the strategic use of mobile telephones in PNG. For instance, that technology should be simple to use for people with low literacy, numeracy and technical skills. This hotline was relatively simple to use, providing a free-call number, with four options of audio messages to listen to.
Even so, some research participants did not understand how to select the four options or that the messages changed each week. Careful consideration of ‘mobile telephone literacy’ is needed in the design and promotion of future innovative services.
Research participants commented that the free-call design was beneficial for them. Lack of mobile telephone credit is a huge barrier for people throughout PNG, due to both affordability and logistical challenges of locating a place or method to buy credit.
So, what are the implications for the delivery of public information in Bougainville and elsewhere in the Pacific?
Effective government-to-people communications are vital for an informed and engaged citizenry and are essential for the effective operation of democracy. For Bougainville, it could be argued that the post-referendum negotiation process now taking place between the Bougainville and national governments requires an even more intensive communications and community engagement effort. If there are broader lessons to be learnt, it is that an engaged and informed population, reached through a range of mediums, can make a positive contribution to the process.
If there are to be future iterations of a telephone hotline in Bougainville or elsewhere, it must be but one tool in an multi-channel effort. The technology must be pre-tested and well promoted. Research participants also suggested leveraging the hotline for use in community-based, face-to-face activities.
Some asked if the audio files could be made available through other means, such as flash drives. Sharing of digital content by Bluetooth or local Wi-Fi hotspots does present another opportunity for those with suitable devices.
Mobile telephones, particularly when paired with other mediums, can play a role in delivering civic education and increasing community engagement throughout the Pacific. However, the design of future mobile telephone-led interventions may benefit from being realistic about the effective reach of current mobile telephone service and infrastructure.
This bigger issue of large information ‘blackspots’ in Bougainville, due to poor access to mobile telephony, radio or other information channels, will continue to challenge government and development communicators alike. Mobile telephone users in Bougainville struggle with accessing continuous, reliable mobile network coverage and keeping their handset batteries charged – and they want radio coverage restored to pre-conflict standards. Both in Bougainville and elsewhere in PNG, there is a large gap between ideal and actual service delivery.
This article is based upon a paper published by the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA) as part of its ‘Discussion paper’ series. The original paper can be found here. The research will also be presented in a webinar on 27 October 2020.
For all of Theonila Roka Matbob’s three decades, the scar on her land that was once the world’s largest copper mine has cast a pall.
The Panguna mine in Bougainville, eastern Papua New Guinea, has not yielded a single ounce in her lifetime – forced shut the year before Matbob was born – but she grew up in the shadow of the violent civil war it provoked.
When she was just three years old, her father, John Roka, was murdered by the secessionist soldiers who had forced the mine to close. Spending years in a “care centre” run by the PNG defence force, she remembers a childhood dominated by an all-pervasive fear, where the sound of gunshots regularly rang out across the valley, where neighbours disappeared from their homes, their bodies later found slaughtered.
There is peace now, but memories remain, and “we live with the impacts of Panguna every day,” Matbob says.
“Our rivers are poisoned with copper, our homes get filled with dust from the tailings mounds, our kids get sick from the pollution.
“Every time it rains more waste washes into the rivers, causing flooding for villages further downstream. Some communities now have to spend two hours a day walking just to get clean drinking water because their nearby creeks are clogged up with mine waste.”
Panguna is quiet these days. The mining trucks lie rusting in Bougainville’s clammy heat; the massive pit carved into the middle of a mountain is inhabited by a handful alluvial miners, digging with hand tools for what gold remains; and the Kawerong-Jaba river delta downstream is flooded with bright blue toxic waters which poison the land and the people who live there.
And Matbob, the little girl who grew up in the shadow of the mine’s violence, is now a parliamentarian, determined to seek redress for her people.
Newly elected to the Bougainville parliament for the electorate of Ioro, which encompasses Panguna, Matbob has led a formal complaint filed with the Australian government against Rio Tinto for environmental and human rights violations caused by the mine.
The complaint, supported by more than 150 members of her electorate and by the Human Rights Law Centre, alleges that the massive volume of waste pollution left behind by the mine is putting communities’ lives and livelihoods at risk, poisoning their water, damaging their health, flooding their lands and sacred sites, and leaving them “in a deteriorating, increasingly dangerous situation”.
A toxic legacy
Panguna was an immensely profitable mine. Over 17 years it made more than $US2bn for the mine’s former owner and operator Rio Tinto, who pulled 550,000 tonnes of copper concentrate and 450,000 ounces of gold from the mine in its last year alone.
At one point, Panguna accounted for 45% of all of PNG’s exports, and 12% of its GDP.
But for those whose land it was, Panguna brought but a sliver of the wealth and development that was promised – less than 1% of profits – leaving behind a legacy only of division, violence, and environmental degradation.
In 1989, amid rising fury at the environmental damage and the inequitable division of the mine’s profits, customary landowners forced the mine closed, blowing up Panguna’s power lines and sabotaging operations.
The PNG government sent in troops against its own citizens to restart the foreign-owned mine – at the behest of Rio, it says – sparking a civil war that would rage for a decade. Along with a protracted military blockade, it led to the deaths of as many as 20,000 people.
Rio Tinto cut and run, and has never returned to the island, claiming it is unsafe, despite pleas from landowners to repair the vast and ongoing environmental damage.
“These are not problems we can fix with our bare hands,” Matbob says. “We urgently need Rio Tinto to do what’s right and deal with the disaster they have left behind.”
‘We expect a fair share’
A product of Bougainville’s matrilineal society, which bestows women with custodianship of land and community authority, Matbob speaks quietly but forcefully.
A teacher by profession, and mother of two, she studied at universities in Madang and Goroka before working as a social worker and running for parliament. She beat a field of 15 candidates, including several former revolutionary soldiers, and even her own brother.
But the parliament to which Matbob has been elected has another primary and overwhelming concern, though one intimately related: negotiating independence from Papua New Guinea.
Despite resistance from PNG’s government to losing its resource-rich eastern province, there is genuine expectation amongst Bougainvilleans that their decision to secede will be honoured.
Upe men line up to vote in the 2019 independence referendum in Teau, Bougainville. Photograph: Jeremy Miller/AP
But the argument allied to political independence in Bougainville is that it can only be achieved alongside economic autonomy.
To that end, the argument runs, re-opening Panguna is the surest, perhaps the only, way a small province of just 300,000 people can survive as an independent nation. On Bougainville, the issue of independence has become inextricably linked to that of resources, for which Panguna has become a grim synecdoche.
“Large-scale mining provides a route to fiscal self-reliance, but this strategy has risks,” a report by Dr Satish Chand for the National Research Institute of PNG found, arguing of Panguna, “the viability of this project, the… profitability of the mine, and the revenues generated for… government are all speculative”.
Deeply embedded in Bougainville’s political psyche is a belief in the transformative power of political and economic independence – most likely achieved through mining – to bring prosperity, development and stability after decades of turmoil and privation.
But those expectations may prove difficult to marry with reality: an independent Bougainville would likely face a revenue shortfall of tens of millions of dollars a year.
“The Autonomous Bougainville Government had, by 2016, reached just 6% of the distance to fiscal self-reliance,” Chand found.
Unquestionably there is money to be made on Bougainville: the potential profits to be pulled from Panguna alone have been valued at close to $60bn. But profits for whom?
New president Toroama, once a leader of the militancy that forced the mine to close, says any decision on its future lies with local landowners.
“Panguna mine will be a key target but we will not put all our eggs in one basket,” Toroama told Bougainville’s parliament last month in his maiden speech.
“We welcome foreign investment, because without outside funding and technologies, we may not be able to exploit our natural resources. But we expect a fair share of return and participation.”
As their elected representative, Matbob is more definitive. Her people must come first.
“Though there is a future for Panguna,” she tells the Guardian from her electorate, “… it will have to be shelved until the needs of my people are well addressed.”
Crowded with outsiders
Bougainville’s acute political uncertainty – poised, potentially, on the threshold of nationhood, with all of its attendant vulnerabilities – has brought ferocious renewed attention on Panguna.
An alphabet soup of foreign mining companies – at least four registered in Perth alone – have sought to carve up the province for future exploitation.
The jostling for position and favour with both the Bougainville and PNG governments has been sharp-elbowed, with accusatory press statements and missives to the stock exchange, even spilling into Australian courts.
And a Chinese delegation reported to have travelled to the province in 2018 was rumoured to have pledged $1bn to fund its transition to independence, accompanied by offers to invest in mining, tourism, and agriculture.
An allied, independent, and resource-rich Bougainville – in the middle of Melanesia and so soon after neighbouring Solomon Islands flipped to recognise Beijing over Taipei – would be of significant strategic value to China.
Even Rio, after years of claiming it could never return to Panguna, has recently indicated it is not entirely out of the picture, saying it was “ready to enter into discussions with communities”.
“We are aware of the deteriorating mining infrastructure at the site and surrounding areas, and acknowledge that there are environmental and human rights considerations.”
For a small island, Bougainville is, suddenly, very crowded.
Matbob understands the enthusiasm of outsiders to return to Bougainville. But for too long, she says, her people’s priorities were subsumed to those of foreign interests, and to profit.
“The Bougainville revolution… was founded on the protection of people, land, environment and culture,” she tells the Guardian.
“Though there is a future for Panguna… there are a lot of legacy issues attached to it. As the new member representing the Ioro people, I say it will have to be shelved until the needs of my people are well addressed.”
” We must be masters of our destiny, and we can only do this by putting our own “software”, into the structures and institutions we are going to build.
Yes, we can borrow ideas from outside, but they must be adapted and adjusted to fit our way of thinking. It is only through our own “intellectual control”, that we can chart our own pathway and create our own identity, and a place in the global society – the Asian Countries have proven this in no uncertain terms.
To this extent, Bougainville must establish, a high powered Planning Secretariat that will help us dream big into the future, innovate and reach new heights.
We must make use of the enormous talent of educated Bougainvilleans outside of Bougainville in this endeavor.”
President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Hon. Ishmael Toroama, outlined his six-point strategy under his leadership, in his maiden speech delivered at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Fourth Bougainville House of Representatives .
1. Political control of our Destiny
2. Economic Growth and Control
3. Administrative Control
4. Mobilizing Private Sector and Civil Society
5. Long term Vision and Planning
6. International Relations
Full Transcript below
The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Honorable James Marape; the outgoing President of Bougainville Honorable Chief Dr John Momis, Ministers of the PNG Parliament present here today, Ministers and Members of the Bougainville Parliament; Heads of Foreign Missions represented here today, the Speaker of the Bougainville Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my utmost pleasure to be presenting my Maiden Parliamentary Speech in front of you all.
Mr Speaker, I am humbled and honored to be speaking to you, as your new President for the next five years. This is the highest position on our land, and I intend to serve the office with faithfulness and diligence.
Mr Speaker, we are entering a very important five years, as the people have given us, the enormous responsibility of securing the 98% vote. I am fully aware of this responsibility, as I now take the frontline in the political arena.
Mr Speaker, we enter an exciting parliament, as about 70% are new members entering for the first time, to shoulder the long and old agenda. It is also an interesting Parliament, because three pairs of family relations have made it into the house – a husband and wife; a father and daughter; and a mother and son. This must be a record in the democratic world. I look forward to their contributions, without fear or favor.
Mr Speaker and members of this house, before I go any further, let me first pay homage to the 20,000 lives, who died during our struggle for freedom. Many died not in combat but from a lack of access to services. My victory is in their honor. May those of us still alive, continue the journey to the promise land so that their sacrifice will not be in vain.
Mr Speaker, may I thank the people of Bougainville, both inside and outside of Bougainville, for having trust and confidence in me, and giving me the mandate to be your President. You had the difficult task of choosing me, from amongst the 25 candidates, all of whom are persons of high standing. Your choice of me as your President, proves that wisdom, knowledge and experience from the “University of Life”, still has a place in our Bougainville society.
Mr Speaker and Members of this Parliament, what is my key agenda as your new President? As all of my voters know, I campaigned on a platform of three core issues which are Independence; Corruption and Law & Order.
As stated earlier, Independence has been our dream since the days of our forefathers. We have fought for it, and won the war, but we have not yet won the battle! We have now translated it into a number (the 98% Vote), without any significant minority throughout Bougainville. Let there be no doubt, about the legality and validity of the Referendum and the results, as the Referendum is captured in the Organic Law on Peacebuilding in Bougainville and Referendum, and inserted into the PNG Constitution.
Mr Speaker, I thank the outgoing President Hon. Chief Dr John Momis, the outgoing Minister for Referendum, Mr Punghau, and the United Nations, for the tremendous work they have done in delivering a successful Referendum, and setting an international benchmark, as far as referendum votes are concerned. My Government will ensure that both Hon Chief John Momis and Mr Punghau continue to guide and participate, in the consultation and dialogue process with the PNG Government.
Mr Speaker, the Joint Consultative Framework has already been agreed to by the March JSB. My government’s priority is to continue the preparations and conduct of consultation and dialogue with the Government of PNG. The Bougainville Peace Agreement, the PNG Constitution, International Treaties and Conventions will show us the way in our journey to our destiny. We must remain steadfast and continue to consult with our people, inside Bougainville, and outside of the islands, because this has been our collective past, and must also be our collective future.
Mr Speaker, my second campaign pillar was Corruption. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be deceived as bad company ruins morals” and 2 Peter: 1-9 says “They promised them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved”.
These two versus are very clear, if we want freedom, we must not keep bad company. We must get rid of any individuals, systems or institutions that are practicing corrupt behaviors. Corruption, whether it is true or a mere speculation, is damaging and we leaders must avoid putting ourselves in questionable situations.
My government intends to keep a clear separation, between decision making (policy or law) and implementation. Leaders should not make decisions, and then take lead in implementing the same decisions. Leaders may go out and monitor, to ensure laws or policies are implemented as planned.
Mr Speaker, I am aware of the weaknesses in the current Financial Management System as it has too many leaks. We must fix the leaks going forward. “A house that is built on sand, will easily get blown away by the wind” (Mathew 7: 26). So, let us now start building our Independence journey on solid rock!!
Mr Speaker, Members of the House and my people of Bougainville, the other key agenda that I campaigned on and elected is Law and Order. This is essential if Bougainville is to prosper, socially and economically, beyond the Ratification and the securing of Independence. Our dream of being masters of our destiny, will amount to nothing if we cannot behave in civil ways. We have signed the Peace Agreement, we have contained weapons, we have reconciled amongst ourselves as well as with PNG, and above all, we have conducted a highly successful referendum. There is now no more reason, for anyone to be carrying arms or causing violence or behaving in unruly manners.
To those groups that are still not actively participating in our journey, I urge you to join me as your President, with open arms and walk this journey together. I will be meeting with the law and order agencies here in Bougainville, to develop ways of combating increasing law and order issues especially drugs, homebrew, gender and family violence, stealing of cars and so on. In the medium to long term, we must have broader economic interventions that can keep the young people usefully employed.
Mr Speaker, “the very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision for the people. You can’t beat the garamut for nothing.”
The above three campaign agendas will be part of a much bigger vision, which the people of Bougainville expressed in the form of the Bougainville Crisis 31 years ago. The Crisis was a revolution in every way, politically; economically; and development wise. It developed all systems and provided a golden opportunity to create a new Bougainville. There were many new innovations at that time such as hydropower; coconut oil, new farming systems and even new architecture of village houses. The crisis liberated the thinking of Bougainvilleans.
Mr Speaker, however, in restoring Bougainville to normalcy, we have simply re-established the old system under new labels such as Interim Authority, the People’s Congress, and the Autonomous Government and Public Service. We have not encouraged, the innovative ability of our people, so evident during the Crisis years. The end result is that Bougainvilleans, are again in danger of becoming by-standers on their own land.
I intend to re-orientate some of the Technical Services functions so that they are better positioned to respond to the needs of the village people instead of simply being a manager of large tenders and contracts.
Mr Speaker, we must be masters of our destiny, and we can only do this by putting our own “software”, into the structures and institutions we are going to build. Yes, we can borrow ideas from outside, but they must be adapted and adjusted to fit our way of thinking. It is only through our own “intellectual control”, that we can chart our own pathway and create our own identity, and a place in the global society – the Asian Countries have proven this in no uncertain terms. To this extent, Bougainville must establish, a high powered Planning Secretariat that will help us dream big into the future, innovate and reach new heights. We must make use of the enormous talent of educated Bougainvilleans outside of Bougainville in this endeavor.
Mr Speaker and Members of this new Parliament, the winds of change have arrived! “Change will not come if we wait for other persons or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek!” To quote President Obama.
How do we build a new society? Mr Speaker, we must build trust and confidence in the people through the strategies:
Strategy Number 1 is Political control of our Destiny – we can only exercise political control through independence – we must pursue Independence by all peaceful means. It may happen in one year, or it might take a few more years, but we must never lose focus however long it may take. My people of Bougainville, you have endured this far and your continued patience is all I ask for of you.
Mr Speaker, in the formation of the new government, we must also give confidence and trust to our people. People have desired change as expressed in the high number of new members in this Parliament. This change will be the theme of my government. They may be small but significant changes, in the way Government operates, for example, getting each department to manage their own funds, or they may be big infrastructural investments. However, while we are pursuing change, we must also maintain balance between old and new, because the new leaders need to be mentored by the experienced leaders in the ways of running a government.
Mr Speaker, still under political control, maintaining constant Communication with our people, is essential to their engagement. People must know and understand what the government is doing, in order for the people, to give us their support and participate fully. My government will look at ways of communicating better with our people.
Mr Speaker, Strategy Number 2 is Economic Growth and Control – political control will not lead to much improvement in our livelihood, if we are by-standers in the economy. After 45 years of independence, PNG, through the leadership of Prime Minister Honorable James Marape, is taking PNG back. We in Bougainville have a golden opportunity to get it right at this point of our political journey.
Mr Speaker, under my government, we will have specific targeted plan for growing our economy. Panguna Mine will be a key target but we will not put all our eggs in one basket. My government has a number of specific large to medium project ideas in mining, agriculture, fisheries and tourism that will create employment and generate revenue for Bougainville.
We welcome foreign investment, because without outside funding and technologies, we may not be able to exploit our natural resources. But we expect a fair share of return and participation, in the form of shareholding or equity in large scale projects. The medium to small enterprise sector must be controlled by our people.
Mr Speaker, it is time we change the shanty-town business image our main towns. We must also create an equal opportunity environment for businesses, so that economic benefits are spread throughout a larger population. In this regard, my government will be looking at relevant policies of making this happen under an overall Economic Development Plan.
Mr Speaker, Strategy Number 3 for building trust and confidence in our people is Administrative Control. We must have the right Administration to facilitate economic growth and be able to translate and implement political directions. The administration must change from being paper pushers to being agents of change. Too often the public servants are accused of being self-serving, who are more interested in their perks and privileges, or in how much allowance they will get when they go to Port Moresby instead of going to Torokina, Buin or Nissan. Their behavior must change. My government intends to review, restructure and make changes as appropriate and with a view to redirecting resources to the District level.
Mr Speaker, and Prime Minister Hon. James Marape, I understand that the drawdown of powers and functions under section 290 of the PNG Constitution that were made available to Bougainville, have not been fully drawn down yet. This needs to be progressed. As we consult and dialogue with PNG, we will also look at the possibility of getting powers and functions currently with the PNG Government such as:
Section 289 (powers currently vested with PNG Government)
Section 291 (powers relating to Criminal Code)
Section 293 (the exercise of international obligations), and
Section 298 National Government Assets and Lands as far as it related to Bougainville
Mr Speaker and Members of this House, Strategy number 4 is mobilizing Private Sector and Civil Society – 80% of our citizens live in villages where local custom, associations and churches play a far greater influence.
It is impossible for Government to move Bougainville forward by itself. The private sector and civil society organizations be it the church, a farmer’s association, and so on, must be mobilized to play a greater role then at the moment. The business houses for example, apart from paying taxes, can be asked to play a direct role in other ways. This must now change.
Mr Speaker, Strategy Number 5 is long term vision and planning – as the saying goes “planning to fail is planning for failure.” Bougainville must embark on an exercise of long-term planning, beyond the medium-term plans which gather dust from the offices of government. We must plan long term, say 40 years and have political commitment to such planning, so that Bougainville rises from the ashes into a vibrant economy, where the full potential and capacity of our citizens are fully harnessed. Singapore, under the leadership of President Lee Kwan Yew was able to transform Singapore, into the global economic hub it is today, through deliberate and sustained long-term planning since 1954. Conditions in Bougainville are different from Singapore, but there is a lesson in long term planning and commitment to it that we can learn from. Bougainville must have long-term blueprint.
Mr Speaker and Members of the House, Strategy Number 6 is International Relations – our historical friends will continue to be our friends as ours is a long enduring relationship through good and bad times. You have given us trouble but you have also helped us overcome these difficult times, and that is the nature of human spirit, one that is able to recover, forgive and move on. History must be our guiding light in moving forward, so that we do not make the same mistakes of the past. Our doors under my government will be open to the international community, especially to those who want to help us achieve our dreams, but in way that is of mutual benefit to us and to our friends to be.
Mr Speaker and Members of the House and the people of Bougainville, that is my six-point strategy for Bougainville in the next five years, my first 100 day plan will be one that will drive this six-point Strategy. Education and Health will of course continue to be offered as normal services. Any new standards of service delivery must await improvements in the economy. We are only generating about 24% of total budget from within Bougainville. Furthermore, COVID-19 has greatly impacted the global as well as the PNG economy. PNG has recently slashed its budget by K2 billion. So, all of this need to be taken into account as we are planning and implementing the Strategies.
Mr Speaker, much needs to be done, but we must set our house in order before we can embark on these strategies. The following preconditions are necessary:
Setting the right political leadership – the right mix of political leadership is essential to leading Bougainville in the next five years especially for our journey ahead. I will therefore announce a full cabinet, within the 14 days, a team of vibrant leaders who will provide the drive, energy and innovation in moving Bougainville forward.
Mr Speaker, as noted previously, innovative leadership of the Administration is also important. I will review the situation and make changes if necessary.
Mr Speaker, a long term Bougainville Blueprint that captures the entire Bougainville society is essential in guiding our way forward. In this regard, I intend to establish a high-powered Planning Secretariat (a small unit) made up of highly qualified and competent citizens who will report directly to the President and Executive Council so that our people’s political and development aspirations are achieved.
Control over the population and territory is another precondition as already stated under law and order. We must educate the masses, those who have not had the opportunity to realize their potential, not necessarily in the classroom, but in the society, so that they become productive members of society.
Mr Speaker, at this juncture, let me address directly a number of stakeholders that are important to Bougainville:
Firstly, the PNG Government – Mr Speaker, to the PNG Government, you caused us immense pain and suffering, but you have helped us in restoring our lives, and you are helping us to rebuild our government systems and institutions. We have reconciled and buried our differences as true Melanesian people. However, a lot more needs to be done in helping our Bougainville people live a comfortable life. I am aware that Bougainville may not have received its share of funds as agreed in the Bougainville Peace Agreement. I intend to explore this further with the Prime Minister.
Mr Speaker, Bougainville and PNG will also walk the journey ahead side by side as you help Bougainville to reach its destiny, which was sanctioned by the blood of 20,000 lives. The sentiments expressed by National Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, in his recent parliamentary statement, asking PNG Parliamentarians to educate themselves about the history, the culture, the sufferings and the aspirations of Bougainvilleans is the right grounds on which to walk together the journey and set us free.
Mr Speaker, the changing of guards, always comes with uncertainty and trepidation. My government will endeavor to establish and maintain an environment of trust within Bougainville, with PNG and the international community so that we can confidently go about our joint agendas. Diplomacy, respect and our Melanesian values must underpin our joint journey but above all trust and honesty must prevail as we consult and dialogue towards an outcome that reflects the 98% vote.
Mr Speaker, let me now turn to the international community and development partners. The international community especially Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Solomon Island, Fiji, Vanuatu and the United Nations have been of tremendous value to Bougainville in pacifying the conflict and in helping to rebuild Bougainville. Under my leadership, Bougainville will continue to work with you so that we reach new heights in our areas of mutual interest.
The door will be open to any member of the international community in general that is interested in helping Bougainville take its place in the international arena.
Mr Speaker, the government and people of Solomon Island deserve a special mention. You sheltered us during our times of need and you suffered in the course of it. But most importantly, you were the launching pad for the peace process and I as the new president of Bougainville accord you my sincere appreciation and look forward to a continued and renewed relationship.
Mr Speaker, to the people of Bougainville, we have finally given an unshakeable number, to the long-held dream of our forefathers, and our leaders who have gone before us. We owe it to Sir Paul Lapun, Sir Donatus Mola, Dr Alexis Sarei, Anthony Anugu, Joseph Kabui, Francis Ona, Leo Hannet, Moses Havini and many others who at different times of our history, added to the foundations of our journey. My government will need your continued support and patience, as we walk the journey of securing Bougainville sovereignty. We must maintain peace and unity at all times.
Mr Speaker, to the outgoing President – I acknowledge the presence and work of the outgoing President Hon Chief Dr John Momis. You have led Bougainville through the colonial era through to self-government and independence, you crafted the Constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, you inserted the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government; you later helped to amend to include the Organic Law on Peace Building in Bougainville; you have now served two terms as President of Bougainville. All in all, you have been our leader for about 45 years – your durability compares only with a very select group of eminent leaders in former Prime Ministers Somare and Chan. Yours is a contribution that will remain unmatched, and will forever be etched in the history of Bougainville. I thank you and salute you from the bottom of my heart. If you think you are going into retirement, then you are mistaken because I will be seeking your wise counsel at every opportunity.
Mr Speaker, some of our relatives and friends are still outside our journey for their own reasons. The Bougainville Peace Agreement provides for “pardon and amnesty” to any violations of human rights committed during the crisis, up to the point of conducting the Referendum. Any violations committed thereafter are law and order issues. I want to appeal to you, as your newly elected President, and as a soldier who fought with you, to come out and join me and my government in pursuit of our destiny.
Mr Speaker, to the other 24 Presidential Candidates who contested the presidential seat with me, we campaigned as colleagues appearing together in public forums in the major towns. This spirit of togetherness must continue as we move forward in our journey towards our common goal. I intend to tap into your enormous collective pool of knowledge and expertise and look forward to your continued active participation in the journey ahead.
Mr Speaker, now to the Public Service – yours is a mandate to be servants of the people. But too often you have become a self-serving organization, caring only about the perks and privileges you can enjoy. The public service must rediscover the spirit “of service” that we saw in the early days of independence and provincial government.
My presidency intends to have a closer look at the public service in order to realign with the needs of the people and I need your cooperation in this endeavor.
Mr Speaker, to the Youth and Women who constitute the most active economic population of our society. You are the now and the future of Bougainville society. My government intends to help you realize your potential. Yours is not a situation of men against women or that women should be allowed to perform certain roles, but a question of how men and women should work together better. Your roles are already prescribed by custom and by church doctrines. The divisive gender politics of western societies has no place in Bougainville society because it has led to unchristian values like “same sex marriage” in some societies. Instead we must find our own balance in enhancing the roles of women within the Bougainville context.
Mr Speaker, to the members of this Bougainville Parliament – you have run under various parties and on various platforms during the campaign. But we are all serving the one and the same 380,000 people of Bougainville. So let us join our many different leadership talents into a harmonious pool of leadership for the benefit of the people of Bougainville.
There will be differences in views from time to time, depending on the policy or matter of law, and depending on the political thinking of individual leaders. Indeed differences in opinion are a healthy sign of a mature democracy, and it needs to be exercised with responsibility. My government intends to encourage good public debate on key policy matters, both in parliament as well as in the community, through the various foras that exist today. Good public debate leads to good policies and laws.
Mr Speaker, last but not least, I very much look forward to your leadership in managing this House, in a way that will be reflective of the status of the House, as we are “political leader servants” of our people! It’s the people who have voted us into this House, and it is they who will also get us out of this House, if we do not deliver to their expectations. The people must be “front and centre” in any debate and decision making in this Parliament.
Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the PNG Cabinet Ministers, the outgoing President Dr Chief John Momis, Ministers and Members of this Parliament, the Diplomatic Core and the people of Bougainville, I thank you once again for this opportunity to be your President and may God bless us All!