Bougainville Tourism News : #Tourism Step by Step : #Bougainville #PNG has much to offer visitors and travellers. And tourism has much to offer Bougainville.

 ” Let us do something with what we already have, starting in small ways and in partnership with others – cooperating, communicating and always having one eye on what our decisions will mean for the future.
Done well, tourism is an industry that can help us with new long-term revenue streams, showcasing our land and sea to the world without chewing up our natural resources for a short-term payoff. It will not foot the bills after referendum irrespective what may happen but it is money that can go directly into people’s pocket not dissimilar to earnings from coca, copra and beche de’ mer.” 

Article by Simon Pentanu

In the photo below you can see a green kayak and the indomitable Yamaha fibreglass boat beached on a perfect sandbank – fit for a postcard – at low tide, 15 to 20 minutes from Pokpok Island.

A friend and I rode out to this location one cool morning before sunrise to feel the warmth of the sun when it rose and rose in the east. My friends and I often do this whenever I am home.

At the earliest break of blue dawn looking northwest we could see the outcrop known as ‘negro head’ protruding like a human head donning a cap in the distance. Looking to our right, not in this photo, was the bellowing volcano, Mt Bagana, which never ceases to amaze on a clear day. We could see the contours of hilly and forested Kieta Peninsula nearby jutting out furthest towards William Takaku’s Eberia and the once busy and popular resort island of Arovo.

Bougainville Island has some of the best beaches in the Pacific. Its eastern seaboard boasts a plethora of stunning beaches and sandbanks from the top of Buka in the far north to the deep south.
The coast and waters off Buin are dotted with myriad small, fully forested green islands that seem to openly defy the international imaginary border between Bougainville and the Solomons, brokered by the Germans and the British to settle territorial spoils at WW2’s end.

Bougainville has much to offer visitors and travellers. And tourism has much to offer Bougainville. But it is an industry that needs careful planning, because its basis is the environment that we all share and hold in trust for future generations.
Unplanned mass tourism can quickly turn into a nightmare for locals and the natural environment on which we all depend. In a similar way we need not look further than Panguna for real examples of what can happen.

To encourage sustainable tourism – as opposed to variety that burns out fast – our Government needs to use a little bit of imagination. It needs to put much more effort and seed money to bring land owners into the process at an early stage, and learn from how PNG has learnt from its past after realising the real potential of tourism in the economic sector. Little by little and step by step communities can be assisted  with strategies that can showcase their own beautiful part of our islands in a way that will put money in their pockets and make sure the attractions are still there for their children and grandchildren.

The good news is we’re not starting from scratch. In a way what we are doing is reincarnating tourism in our region. I have read a lot about what Bougainville Tourism was doing prior to the crisis and have been privileged to meet some of the individuals involved before the crisis. If Arovo was the icing on their cake, the rest of the cake was trekking the hills and mountains, diving the mapped wrecks, saving war relics as museum pieces for display, surfing, fishing, yachting, and boat and plane trips across to the south Solomons.

The business community on Bougainville has been the backbone of restoring our economy and commerce, virtually from the ground up in many cases. Many businesses have tried very hard while governments have squandered money on investments that should really have been left to private enterprise. Governments everywhere – and Bougainville is no exception – are not very good at making money but very good at spending it!

A boost to tourism may need a reorientation of Government ministries. I say this knowing that disruptions in life and in organisations often lead to something better, even bigger and better. So, maybe splitting up the Ministry of Community Development would see visible and tangible results.

Retain the Ministry of Community Government and let it absorb the community development responsibilities. In its place create a Ministry of Youth, Arts, Culture, Sports and Tourism. The idea to include Tourism here is to train, skill and involve the youth in something they already have, that is land and opportunities to do something with. Rather than give up on young people who cannot find employment we must help them Lto appreciate and recognise that they belong to a place that they can promote with pride. The Ministry of Economic Development / Commerce can write up the training manuals and deliver the training.

Let us do something with what we already have, starting in small ways and in partnership with others – cooperating, communicating and always having one eye on what our decisions will mean for the future.

Done well, tourism is an industry that can help us with new long-term revenue streams, showcasing our land and sea to the world without chewing up our natural resources for a short-term payoff. It will not foot the bills after referendum irrespective what may happen but it is money that can go directly into people’s pocket not dissimilar to earnings from coca, copra and beche de’ mer.

Bougainville PNG Referendum News : The referendum on Bougainville’s long-term political future will now be held on 17 October 2019

We are pleased to be able to inform the people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville that the referendum on Bougainville’s long-term political future will be held on 17 October 2019”

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Hon. Peter O’Neill and President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the Hon. Dr John Momis on Friday reaffirmed their joint commitment to ensuring the full implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Please Note : The writs will be issued on 16/8/19, with polling to take place between 12 and 17/10/2019

Reports and Photos : From Aloysius Laukai New Dawn

In the JSB Meeting Friday in Port Moresby, the two leaders acknowledged the importance of maintaining efforts to secure a lasting peace in Bougainville.

A critical outcome of the meeting was an agreement on the final date for the referendum to be held.

“We are pleased to be able to inform the people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville that the referendum on Bougainville’s long-term political future will be held on 17 October 2019” the leaders said.

The meeting also considered important issues around peace and reconciliation and weapons disposal, with the two leaders agreeing that a national reconciliation ceremony will take place before the referendum is held.

Leaders also agreed that an independent expert will be appointed to advise on the formula for the Restoration and Development Grant, with the advice of the expert to be binding.

Leaders will meet again on 6 August 2019 ahead of the writs for the referendum being issued, to ensure that all necessary arrangements for the referendum are in place.

Part 2 : The Bougainville Referendum Commission on Friday recommended to the two governments of PNG and ABG to fast-track the work of the BRC by funding the BRC with funds totalling TWENTY MILLION KINA allocated by the National Government so that the preparations can be done quickly.

He said funds allocated by the ABG totalling FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND Kina was used up already in other preparatory work.

He said that the target date of June 15th cannot be met because of this shortfall.
The Chairman said that the Commission had met different stakeholders on Bougainville and they are all set for the conduct of the referendum.
The Chairman also noted that Peace reconciliations and weapons disposals ceremonies have been ongoing on Bougainville and he was happy with how Bougainville was preparing for the referendum.

He said that the Referendum must be done properly so that the outcome can be credible and bring lasting peace on Bougainville. Meanwhile the Prime Minister told the JSB funds totalling TEN MILLION KINA has been transferred to the Bougainville Referendum Trust account and the remaining Ten Million kina will be paid next week.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Autonomous Bougainville Constitution provides for a Bougainville Ombudsman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bougainville Mining ad Referendum News : BCL has serious concerns over proposed new mining laws proving divisive at a time when unity is required in the lead-up to the referendum

 ” Bougainville Copper Limited (BCL) has serious concerns over proposed new mining laws that some members of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) seem keen to rush through parliament.

The three bills that were introduced to parliament last Wednesday, with insufficient stakeholder consultation, are proving divisive at a time when unity is required in the lead-up to the referendum.

If passed, one of the bills seeks to amend the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 to allow a new company, Bougainville Advance Mining Limited, to be issued with a special mining licence granting “large-scale mining leases over all land in Bougainville available for reconnaissance, exploration and mining that is not subject to an existing exploration licence or mining lease”. Leases of up to 100 years could be granted.”

See Continued Part 2 Below

The government of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea believes establishing its own company to re-open the long shut Panguna mine will solve its funding crisis going into the referendum.

Bougainville's Panguna Copper mine

Bougainville’s Panguna Copper mine Photo: Supplied

Bougainville is due to hold a referendum on independence from PNG in June this year.

However, it claimed that the national government had not yet provided the money it is constitutionally bound to provide.

The Bougainville government had previously placed a moratorium on re-opening Panguna to ensure the vote was not disrupted, but President John Momis said the region is facing an emergency.

He said this is why it is setting up Bougainville Advance Mining in which the government and people of Bougainville will hold a permanent majority ownership.

Time is running out on us. The people of Bougainville are determined to have the referendum and they must find the money to fund the referendum. One way of doing it would be if we started our own company and generated the revenue to enable us to conduct the referendum. We cannot sit on our hands.”

Landowners of the closed Panguna Copper and Gold Mine today called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government that they are ready to partner with the ABG and open the mine that created disunity amongst the people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.

In an exclusive interview with New Dawn FM, Chairman of the SPECIAL MINING LEASE OSIKAIYANG LANDOWNERS ASSOCIATION (SMLOLA) PHILIP MIRIORI and LAWRENCE DAVEONA said that they are ready to talk with the Government on ways they can work together for Bougainville’s future.

They said that they were not happy with the Government trying to make amendments to the untested Bougainville Mining Act.

MIRIORI said that the Panguna landowners were tasked by the ABG to work on uniting the landowners and they had to do it just to find out that the Government had now changed their mind on the issues at Panguna.

He said when the Panguna people are finally united they want to put issues of the past and work into the future.

MIRIORI said that the Panguna situation is already complex with the landowners, RTG and BCL.

If the ABG backs McGLINN the situation will become more complex.

He said the only way PANGUNA can be resolved, is through negotiation

Part 2 BCL Press Release 

These bills mirror proposals put forward by an Australian opportunist Jeffery McGlinn, whose apparent primary business appears to be horse breeding. In presentations to MPs and others he has proposed a 40 per cent stake in Bougainville Advance Mining for his own newly formed company Caballus Mining with other unknown foreign investors and sovereign states.

These developments raise very legitimate legal, constitutional and ethical questions, not only by BCL and its shareholders, but also by landowners in Bougainville and others in the community. More widely these bills could also be interpreted as both anti-competitive and anti-investment which is the last thing Bougainville needs.

Bougainville introduced good laws and regulations in 2015 designed to rebalance Bougainville’s mineral rights after a long period of consultation with all stakeholders. Now those rights are being undermined in haste by these proposed changes. Any genuine investor worth its mettle should be able to work within the existing laws. The Bougainville Mining Act 2015 therefore does not need to be changed.

BCL urges ABG leaders to think very seriously about the unnecessary divisions being created by these proposed amendments to the Mining Act and instead re-focus on the important work of unifying landowners and Bougainvilleans at this critical time for Bougainville, as they prepare for the referendum.

From the company’s own perspective, these legislative moves also ignore current court proceedings and BCL’s rights to natural justice and they are also at odds with the ABG’s decision to place a moratorium over the Panguna project area. The ABG has maintained there should be no discussions regarding mining activities in Panguna until after the referendum.

In early 2018, the ABG advised of a decision not to grant BCL an extension of its exploration licence (EL1) over the Panguna project area.

BCL maintains that the application process was both legally and procedurally flawed and was also undermined by other parties with competing commercial interests in Panguna mineral rights.

To protect the interests of all those with a significant stake in our company, including the people of Bougainville, BCL commenced legal proceedings in the PNG National Court seeking a Judicial Review of the decision. We were subsequently granted leave by the court to seek the review.

Since being invited back to Bougainville in 2012 by the ABG to reengage about the prospect of redeveloping Panguna, BCL has always conducted itself in an ethical and respectful manner and we continue to support worthwhile community projects.

The ABG and PNG National Government remain major shareholders in the company and we retain strong support among customary landowners in the project area and others in the community. BCL also possesses valuable local knowledge, project IP and mining expertise.

We have a highly-regarded local board led by respected Bougainvillean Sir Melchior Togolo as well as strong connections within the global mining and investment communities where there are potential project partners.

For all these reasons BCL remains a viable option for future mineral development in Bougainville and in the best interests of all Bougainvilleans, we would urge all members of the ABG parliament to seriously consider this before the bills are further read on 12 February.

Community leaders, landowners and others who are concerned by these proposals also have an opportunity to ensure their voices are heard by decision-makers before these laws are passed.

 

Bougainville Tourism News : Does tourism have the potential to sustain the economy of #Bougainville and assist the region achieve fiscal self-reliance.

Firstly, the Bougainville government has to come up with a tourism master plan which captures the views of all tourism stakeholders in the region and this can then be used as the roadmap to develop the sector,

Tourism is a sustainable industry and puts money right in the pocket of our people and unlike mining or other industries you the service provider have the option of setting your own price for your services. In mining or other industries the products are sold at market value and people or companies have no choice but to sell at that price

Bougainville Experience Tours managing director, Zhon Bosco Miriona 

Zhon pictured above representing PNG Tourism at an International Tourism Conference in Melbourne 2015

ARTICLE BY PATRICK MAKIS

Tourism has the potential to sustain the economy of Bougainville and assist the region achieve fiscal self-reliance.

But it needs the support of the Autonomous Bougainville Government to develop the sector.

The support from the government is needed to educate people and assist them develop tourism products and sites that can then be marketed through reputable tour operators in Bougainville and overseas.Bougainville tourism advocate and Bougainville Experience Tours managing director, Zhon Bosco Miriona said the industry in Bougainville is still struggling to recover since the end of the crisis but the number of tourists visiting had steadily increased since 2016.

“As a tour operator, I have been receiving about 200 to 300 tourists per year since 2016 and I know the potential of tourism in terms generating income for the people and the government,’’ he said.

“From experience, one tourist can spend about K3000 on a seven day trip in Bougainville. That translates to about K15,000 to K20,000 if five tourists were to spend a week in the region. This is direct income-money given to tourism site owners, guest houses, hired vehicle owners and money go directly to the people.

“Mainly we have adventure seekers, bird watchers, researchers, and the children of former employees of Bougainville Copper Limited who grew up here during the Panguna Mining days visiting Bougainville. We do not have many tourists who come here purely for holidays because we are yet to develop holiday resorts and sites to attract them.”

He said since 2016 the number of tourists has increased due to yearly visits by tourist boats like the True North and the Professor Khromo, the annual Bougainville Chocolate Festival has also attracted quite a number of tourists to the region.

“A five-day visit by True North to Bougainville injects about K92,000 into the economy. This money goes directly to the people through hire car services, sale of artefacts, boat hires, venue hire, site fees and other associated services and this goes to show that tourism is big money and can reap benefits for us if we develop it,” he said.

Mr Miriona said another issue that needs to be addressed is the marketing aspects of Tourism sites and products.

“The government must assist tour operators and people in the tourism industry to market the products especially by attending local and international expos where we can establish connections with international tourism operators and get them to assist the market tourism on Bougainville,” he said.

He said the major obstacle to tourism development was the lack of support from the government towards ensuring that people received adequate training on all aspects of tourism to properly develop sites and market them.

“Firstly, the Bougainville government has to come up with a tourism master plan which captures the views of all tourism stakeholders in the region and this can then be used as the roadmap to develop the sector,” he said.

“Tourism is a sustainable industry and puts money right in the pocket of our people and unlike mining or other industries you the service provider have the option of setting your own price for your services. In mining or other industries the products are sold at market value and people or companies have no choice but to sell at that price.

“Is mining sustainable? Will future generations continue to benefit after a mine is closed down? We should be looking at industries like tourism which are sustainable and will continue to support our future generations if we develop them well.”

Bougainville Experience Tours has a website and interested people can look it up on www.bougtours.com to make bookings or view the products and packages on offer.

“We are on Twitter at @YesBougainville and we also have a Facebook page,” Mr Miriona said.

“We have also opened an office in Canberra, Australia to tap into the Australian market as Australians are our main customers.”

Mr Miriona reiterated that Bougainville was blessed with all the attractions that would lure tourists to come and visit and just needed the political and financial support to develop the industry.

Bougainville News and the Referendum : Respect #Bougainville and care for her says Simon Pentanu : What kind of Bougainville do we want to leave for our future generations ?

 

In Bougainville we should learn to start listening to each other, especially to the voices in the wilderness. The echo to a sound doesn’t always come from where you think it will. Everyone’s voice is important and must be heard. We should heed our backbench voices – not only when they raise their voices, thump the bench and walk out. Autonomy and unity must be about the caring spirit of individuals having a collective cause to promote a better humanity.

We must see the Referendum as not just an inevitable political contest. You are not going to choose between two individual competing candidates. What you will be deciding on is what kind of a society you want – what kind of community we all want.

And what kind of Bougainville do we want to leave for our future generations.” 

Simon Pentanu 

The sea is a huge food bowl – a supermarket for all varieties of seafood. Its waters serve as highways for transportation. It provides therapeutic bathing and gives us salt for seasoning and preserving food. It is the hugest swimming pool!

It provides a facility and venue for all manner of leisurely and competitive sports. The beauty and serenity of its white sand beaches – where millions of tourists and locals flock to walk, laze, tan and burn themselves – give joy to people across the world.

The sea drives the fashion industry, which keeps churning out new designs to gird the loins of bathers, swimmers, surfers, sailors and beachcombers.

The list of things associated with the use of the ocean goes on and on – in fact it goes miles out to sea. This isn’t surprising when we consider about 71 per cent of the Earth’s surface is water covered and the oceans hold about 96 per cent of Earth’s water.

Water sports are among humanity’s most popular pastimes and activities. We seem to be unable to get enough of game fishing, snorkelling, diving, water skiing, kiteboarding, sailing and more.

And then there is surfing. Surfing has developed its own international culture, which connects a huge population of world surfers through a common language of love, fun, serious competition and an obsession for surfing and its variations across continents. Surfers flock to places like Fiji, Tahiti and Bali, to catch the famous waves in these destinations.

Humans’ connection with the sea obviously has a huge impact on many small state economies. Some of the most popular resorts around the world are dotted along the coastlines of small nations – in the Pacific, the Caribbean and south-east Asia.

Eco-tourism has emerged in many places as a conscious option for travellers who want to experience the beauty of the planet without damaging our fragile environment in the process.

Sadly, the advances being made by eco-tourism in Pacific countries are probably being cancelled out by the continuation of practices from last century that are damaging our Earth. I’m talking about multinational logging companies clear felling huge tracts of rainforest (including virgin rainforest) in places like PNG and the Solomon Islands. Rainforests, sometimes called the lungs of the Earth, are also being short-sightedly destroyed to make way for oil palm plantations, which, although they appear green, are actually lifeless monocultures that are sprayed with chemicals and leave the soil depleted.

Right on the edge of the growing township of Buka, Bougainville’s current HQ, the senseless uprooting of tracts of healthy mangrove trees has not been stopped by authorities, even though it goes on in broad daylight.

Mangroves are an amazing gift to humanity. They are nurseries for numerous fish and sea creatures – a place for marine life to breed, feed and raise their young away from the threats of sharks and bigger ocean fish. And we are finding out how effective mangroves can be in protecting human populations from tsunamis and tidal surges. To rip them out is madness and an action we will regret.

We must preserve the things that give our communities life – the oceans, the forests, the rivers, the mangroves and the mountains. Interestingly, these things, which sustain our lives, are also attractive to eco-tourists.

In many respects PNG is fortunate to have avoided the ravages of mass tourism. Whether unwittingly or otherwise, tourism in the country has developed into a niche market of mostly adventure-seeking travellers, more interested in reefs, rainforests and unique cultures than in nightclubs and international hotels. For this we should be eternally grateful.

When it comes to tourism in general and in eco-tourism in particular, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville can, very clearly, learn a lot from the rest of PNG, from our cousins across the border in the Solomon Islands, from the rest of the Pacific and from countries and peoples in the rest of the world.

Before the advent of industrial logging, the Solomons was a country of hundreds of forested islands which provided for the needs of its people.

I can recall conversations that the startling Marovo Lagoon, which surrounds Vangunu Island in the Solomon Islands’ Western Province, was being considered for UNESCO world heritage status. The lagoon had the largest double barrier reef in the world and it was being considered for listed as one of the world’s natural heritage wonders.

Sadly, 15 years of open slather logging – along with the inevitable run-off and reef damage – put an end to that dream. The little money that was earned by the indigenous land owners will be long gone. The trees will be gone. The lagoon, once a place of precious local and national pride, will never be the same.

The country and the many generation of Solomon Islanders to come will be the poorer for the lack of foresight and policies of their successive governments and the wanton greed of their elders who gave this land to the loggers.

Similar examples of this abound in PNG, where huge tracts of forests are being clear felled under the guise of controversial Special Agricultural Business Leases (SABL).

Logging Tonolei in South Bougainville, under a SABL type agreement with landowners, to introduce oil palm that will destroy good fertile land is very short-sighted.

It is the sort of plan grasped by political leaders who want quick fixes and quick returns. We must resist this sort of thinking. In the long term the landowners will be worse off after depleting what is their capital, their resource. This forest has sustained their populations over hundreds, perhaps thousands of years. The damage to the land, the pride and integrity of a self-sustaining people and the loss of their ecosystem is irreversible. Can we please learn from the example of the Marovo Lagoon?

It is not dissimilar to a person losing their soul.

The knee jerk reaction to this has always been that this is development and progress. The truth is we have a growing population of people who have become victims of this so-called development and progress. Yes, we want development and progress, but let’s have it on our own terms and not destroy the things that give our communities life.

Let us back ourselves that we will not go under if we do not knock over the trees, dig up and maul the earth and scavenge the seabed to supposedly ‘catch up’ with the rest of the world.
The truth is those who take from the Earth are never satisfied, while we are quite content to live by what nature provides and will keep providing, so long as we respect her and take care of her.
This may sound overly simplistic, but if we are prepared to learn from each other, we can make the world a safer, more peaceful and contented place without greed, wars and prejudice.
In Bougainville we should learn to start listening to each other, especially to the voices in the wilderness. The echo to a sound doesn’t always come from where you think it will. Everyone’s voice is important and must be heard. We should heed our backbench voices – not only when they raise their voices, thump the bench and walk out. Autonomy and unity must be about the caring spirit of individuals having a collective cause to promote a better humanity.
We must see the Referendum as not just an inevitable political contest. You are not going to choose between two individual competing candidates. What you will be deciding on is what kind of a society you want – what kind of community we all want.
And what kind of Bougainville do we want to leave for our future generations.

Bougainville Referendum News Update : #PNG PM O’Neill and President of Bougainville Momis agree at JSB on referendum question “Do you agree for Bougainville to have, option 1.Greater Autonomy or option 2 .Independence.

 

 ” Bougainvilleans for the first time would be given the right and freedom to actively participate in development through the referendum. Bougainville stands on threshold of a new socio-economic and political order that will define its future.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis

Reports from New Dawns Aloysius Laukai

The implementation of the Referendum to decide Bougainville’s ultimate political fate has reached another momentous milestone with the approval of the Question to be asked during the referendum.

The Questions to be asked will be placed on ballot papers during the referendum vote for Bougainvilleans to decide whether to secede or continue to remain as a part of PNG.

The question has been simplified to “Do you agree for Bougainville to have, option one Greater Autonomy or option two Independence.

During the referendum vote the ballot papers will be printed both in English and Tok Pisin.


The Joint Supervisory Body has agreed that this question is simple and easy to understand by the average Bougainvillean during the referendum vote.

The JSB was adjourned from yesterday to today because both the ABG and National Government were not satisfied with the structure of the question.

Both governments have since agreed to this question and have endorsed its use in the referendum vote ballot papers.

JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT AFTER END OF JSB

Photo above Radio New Zealand report

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, the Hon. Peter O’Neill and President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, the Hon. Dr John Momis today reaffirmed their joint commitment to ensuring the full implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Meeting in Port Moresby as part of a special meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB), the two leaders discussed broad ranging issues associated with the upcoming referendum.

The two leaders noted the importance of ensuring that the referendum is free and fair, and conducted in full accordance with the Constitution and Peace Agreement. Both the Prime Minister and the President agreed that it was essential that people understand the choice to be put, and the process to be followed once the referendum has taken place.

The meeting was also attended by the Chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission, former Prime Minister of Ireland, the Hon. Bertie Ahern. Mr Ahern indicated his honour at being appointed as Chairman and committed to working with both governments to ensure that the referendum is conducted freely and fairly.

Leaders noted the work undertaken to date by officials to prepare for the referendum and endorsed a proposed budget of K34 million for the coming year. Prime Minister O’Neill undertook to ensure that the budget was incorporated into the 2019 national budget when it is handed down later this year.

It was agreed that the question to be put at the referendum would clearly outline the process to be followed after the referendum takes place and would be accompanied by a comprehensive awareness campaign (refer attachment).

Leaders agreed to meet again in the third week of January 2019 in Port Moresby at a full meeting of the JSB where further updates would be provided on referendum preparations and associated work to advance peace in Bougainville.

Momis Happy with JSB

Self-determination has been a perennial problem in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville ever since first Bougainvilleans decided to secede from Papua New Guinea.

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis says that Bougainvileans have struggle for a long time to exercise their right to self-determination.

President Moms says the progress achieved in this JSB augurs well for both Bougainville and PNG.

He says Bougainvilleans for the first time would be given the right and freedom to actively participate in development through the referendum.

President Momis says Bougainville stands on threshold of a new socio-economic and political order that will define its future.

He adds that with a joint effort a good and democratic outcome can be achieved if the process has integrity by fully implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

The President also extended gratitude to officials on both government for their tireless efforts in resolving issues pertinent to next year’s referendum.

President Momis said this was the beginning of good things to come in the future.

Bougainville Peace News : UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) Four key priorities include strengthening the relationship and trust between the #PNG Government and ABG towards effective implementation of the #Bougainville Peace Agreement  

The four key priorities are

(i) strengthening the relationship and trust between the PNG Government and ABG towards effective implementation of the BPA;

(ii) empowering the people of Bougainville to make informed choices in the referendum and increased confidence in the BPA process through access to objective information and fora for dialogue;

 (iii) strengthening community social cohesion and security in Bougainville through opportunities to deal with conflict-related trauma and resolution of local disputes; and

(iv) strengthening the ABG’s understanding and commitment to women’s empowerment and addressing some of the major issues faced by women in Bougainville communities, especially gender-based violence.

Originally Published HERE 

From 26 to 31 August, a mission of the partners of the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) including Australia, Belgium, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Norway visited Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Pictured above in Buka with the Speaker of the ABG House Simon Pentanu

The mission allowed partners to engage with the Government, civil society organizations, beneficiaries and the UN System and appreciate the impact of the PBF’s support. Participants discussed the PBF engagement approach, project results and also challenges and remaining needs in peace consolidation.

The mission included visits to Port Moresby, the capital of PNG, and to Buka, the capital of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, which has been the focus for the PBF’s support.

Context

Bougainville is an autonomous region within PNG. After nearly a decade of a bloody conflict between 1989 and 1997 resulting in about 20,000 casualties, the PNG Government and representatives of Bougainville actors involved in the conflict signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) in 2001.

This agreement provided the legal basis for the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in 2005 and a gradual transfer of powers from the national Government. It also included provisions for weapons disposal, governance arrangements, and a referendum on the political status of Bougainville, the outcome of which is subject to the ratification of the PNG National Parliament.

Since 2001, the Agreement has enabled political dialogue between the PNG Government and the ABG and paved the way for the referendum planned for June 2019.

In this period, Bougainville has remained largely peaceful thanks to ongoing peacebuilding efforts. That said, many challenges remain, including key joint decisions yet to be made, additional progress with weapons disposal, reconciliation, integration of ex-combatants and outliers to the peace process, community confidence in the process and social cohesion. The planned referendum will be a critical milestone in this process.

The Peacebuilding Fund in Papua New Guinea

To strengthen the implementation of the BPA and assist the two Governments in making the necessary joint decisions, the PBF support to PNG commenced in 2015 following the declaration of PNG’s eligibility for the Fund by the UN Secretary-General in view of the approaching referendum. PBF support has included two phases totaling $15 million in allocations.

The first phase of $9 million was implemented between mid 2015 to early 2018, while the second totaling $6 million commenced in 2018.

Priorities for PBF support have been : (i) strengthening the relationship and trust between the PNG Government and ABG towards effective implementation of the BPA; (ii) empowering the people of Bougainville to make informed choices in the referendum and increased confidence in the BPA process through access to objective information and fora for dialogue; (iii) strengthening community social cohesion and security in Bougainville through opportunities to deal with conflict-related trauma and resolution of local disputes; and (iv) strengthening the ABG’s understanding and commitment to women’s empowerment and addressing some of the major issues faced by women in Bougainville communities, especially gender-based violence.

In addition to continuing with the first two priority areas, the new PBF phase of support includes (v) a joint and community focused process for weapons disposal and factional unification in Bougainville, accompanied by support for targeted community interventions on security and social cohesion in zones of political factions which had not signed up to the Peace Agreement, and (vi) stronger involvement of women and youth in the Peace Agreement and referendum processes. Projects are implemented by UNDPUN WomenUNFPAUNICEFand OHCHR together with partners.

Highlights

The Mission started with a meeting with the UN Resident Coordinator (RC), Gianluca Rampolla. He highlighted some of the important steps taken recently on the path towards the referendum, including agreements on the Bougainville Referendum Commission, but raised concerns on the short remaining timeline and the ambitious steps still pending, including the voter roll and the precise formulation of the question on the ballot.

An economic downturn made it more difficult for the national Government to allocate funds for various aspects relating to the peace agreement and the referendum, including the Bougainville Referendum Commission, the weapons disposal and the restoration and development grant.

But two sides have a common interest in making progress and maintaining the process’ integrity, not least because Bougainville’s political status will not be determined by the referendum alone. Rather, the referendum will lead to consultations between the two Governments on the next steps, including the national Parliament’s role in considering the referendum outcome. Any transition will take time and may require the amendment of the PNG Constitution. The RC highlighted that PBF support in 2015 had come at a crucial moment when the two Governments’ relationship was under some strain. “The Government has increasingly requested the UN to be part of a very sensitive political space in the lead up to the referendum in Bougainville and none of this would have been possible without the PBF.” The PBF enabled the UN to work better together and sharpened the preventive focus of the UN Country Team, providing a common platform.

The Mission team also listened to a briefing by the Autonomy Review experts, who were in country to conduct a fact-finding mission.

This is the second such review since the ABG was formed in 2005. It is mandated by the BPA and its objective is to provide a neutral assessment of the state of progress of autonomy arrangements by the ABG and the national Government. The current review is funded by the PBF.

The Mission participants then continued on to Buka (Bougainville) where they met with key ABG leaders and officials over two days, including the Vice President, the Deputy Chief Secretary, the Minister and the Secretary for Peace Agreement Implementation, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Minister for Community Development, women Parliamentarians, Bougainville Women’s Federation, members of the Community Government, human rights defenders, and a selection of ex-combatants, including an ex-combatant Parliamentarian.

On their return to Port Moresby, the mission met with the Bougainville President, Chief Dr John Momis, who was returning to Bougainville. The main impressions conveyed by these interlocutors were:

  • PBF has been a very important partner in the political space and is seen to be making a positive contribution to the peace process and progress towards the referendum. In particular, the PBF is seen to be a major source of support for dialogue between the two Governments and for taking forward some of the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) resolutions. According to James Tanis, the Secretary for Peace Agreement Implementation, “PBF has allowed for a continuity of dialogue even at times of mistrust and despite obstacles.”
  • PBF is also seen to be helping the ABG and the political factions to negotiate amongst themselves and come to common positions. Moreover, PBF support has enabled creative positive connections between PNG and ABG, including through a recent helpful visit by the leadership of the PNG Council of Churches.
  • PBF is seen as having made a crucial contribution to referendum discussions and preparations, especially by training the Bougainville MPs on the Peace Agreement and enabling them all to travel to and engage with their constituencies on the “Referendum Ready” process, which included sharing information and engaging in discussions on the BPA and the referendum, encouraging weapons disposal and helping to address remaining security concerns within the communities, following an agreed checklist. Hon. Francesca Samoso, the Deputy Speaker, stated: “With PBF support, we were able to travel to our constituencies, including the areas where ex-combatants hadn’t signed up to the BPA and raise awareness about the peace process and the referendum.”
  • Hon. Marcelline Kokiai also stated: “Through supporting the Referendum Ready process, the PBF has made souls meet. People who had not spoken to each other since the conflict are now coming together.” That said, interlocutors noted the need for additional support for reaching the constituencies, including through the community Government, to ensure that all the 33 constituencies have the support to go through the ABG-designated requirements to be declared as referendum ready and weapons free.
  • PBF support has contributed to some initial exchanges between the two Parliaments including the support to visits of the National Parliament bi-partisan committee on Bougainville Affairs and a draft MOU between the two Parliaments. This was seen as an important step forward, but interlocutors felt that more needed to be done given the level of understanding for and commitments to the BPA were still rather low.
  • PBF helped increase women’s participation in the political and peacebuilding debate. The female MPs testified how the UN’s accompaniment including training and travel helped reduce marginalization and increase their participation. They were also supported in rolling out three regional women’s unification ceremonies and establishing a parliamentary committee on gender equality and human rights.
  • Interlocutors in Bougainville generally felt that there is some room for the national Government to make more effort in implementing the Peace Agreement and enabling progress towards the referendum. Various promised funds have not yet been made available, impeding progress towards the referendum. A second JSB meeting, expected in mid 2018, to address the referendum question had not yet been agreed. Bougainville was ready to go forward, yet the timeline was shrinking and patience was waning. That said, there was a clear sentiment from all leaders that maintaining peace and stability would be paramount. There was also an understanding of why it is difficult for the national Government to contemplate potential independence of one of its parts. Moreover, the Bougainville leadership was clear that the referendum would not in itself lead to independence, but to a transition process mandating the Bougainville representatives to negotiate with the national Government. President Momis stated on the referendum: “It doesn’t matter which way the cookie crumbles, as long as the process is fair and inclusive and addresses the underlying grievances, as per the Peace Agreement.”
  • More needs to be done to address the grievances and demands by the ex-combatants, some of whom continue to be outside the Peace process, and to find ways to involve youth – both of which are included as particular areas of focus in the new PBF projects.
  • Interlocutors in Bougainville emphasized the importance of continued international presence and of UN support for the oversight of the implementation of the Peace Agreement to help ensure continued peace and stability. Some made requests for some kind of a UN or regional security observer mission. ABG expressed hope that the international community could help to ensure implementation of the Peace Agreement.

“It doesn’t matter which way the cookie crumbles, as long as the process is fair and inclusive and addresses the underlying grievances, as per the Peace Agreement.” – President John Momis

The Mission team was warmly welcomed to a formal ceremony in the Constituency of Hagogohe, one of the two constituencies which had gone through the full Referendum Ready process and declared itself ready. The ceremony included local leaders, women and youth representatives, who celebrated the moment and emphasized the importance of expressing their voice peacefully. The Mission team then attended the opening of one of three youth resource centers funded through the PBF. The center will provide young people with access to vocational training and a space to get information and discuss political, socio-economic and peacebuilding issues. The center is located on land next to the Parliament, which will be helpful in strengthening links between youth and Members of Parliament.

Back in Port Moresby, the Mission team met with four Members of the National Parliament representing Bougainville, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council (PMNEC), and Director of National Coordination Office for Bougainville Affairs. The four Members of Parliament stated that they needed additional support for their interactions with the rest of the PNG Parliament and that they hoped to play a greater role in the coordination of funding going to Bougainville. They also emphasized the critical role of the national Parliament’s bi-partisan committee on Bougainville.

The Deputy Secretary of the Department of PMNEC explained the variety of issues that PNG was facing and prioritizing, including improving health and education services, empowering local level government, dealing with national disasters etc.

He stated that the UN’s work funded by the PBF was important for the Bougainville peace process and mentioned some of the reasons the PNG funding to Bougainville had been delayed, including problems with ABG acquittals and reports.

He also stated that negotiation on the way forward would be key. The Secretary for Foreign Affairs emphasized it was very important for the people of Bougainville to have a chance to express their views and aspirations through the referendum as part of the democratic process. The implementation of the Peace Agreement is also paramount, especially regarding the disposal of weapons. Her Department has been raising awareness of the Peace Agreement and the referendum with the international community. The Secretary confirmed that the UN was considered an objective partner in this process and that the National Government appreciated the UN’s support for the implementation of the Peace Agreement.

The Mission team also met with an Australian NGO, Peace and Conflict Studies Institute Australia (PaCSIA), supporting community discussions throughout Bougainville, which is also establishing a partnership with the UN through PBF funding. The dialogues have shown the people in Bougainville have a genuine willingness to discuss the future political status, to understand better the options for Bougainville, and for a closer engagement with their leaders.

Finally, the Mission team engaged with the UN Country Team on two additional issues:

  • The UN Senior Electoral Officer presented the Bougainville Referendum Support Project, which still confronts a financing gap of nearly $4 million, following a contribution from New Zealand (other partners have been approached but no further contributions have materialized so far). He emphasized the country was 18 months behind the original notional calendar of preparations for the referendum proposed by the UN. Too much focus had been placed on the target date, and not enough on the process to get there, especially the voter roll which presents an important challenge. The funding from the PNG Government had not yet reached the Bougainville Referendum Commission. The question(s) have still not been formulated. It was still possible to catch up but with considerable challenges.
  • The UN Country Team made a presentation on the work in the Highlands region, following the recent earthquakes and humanitarian crises, which required UN assistance to a region that had been largely inaccessible. The UN has conducted a conflict analysis, which shows deep and complex conflict causes and factors in a region fraught by tribal tensions, disagreements over mining and land, high levels of inter-personal violence, increased access to guns, and little presence of and trust in the state. The UN team emphasized the importance of not leaving the Highlands behind but finding innovative ways of supporting local peace champions and local means of conflict prevention and resolution while increasing state presence. The UN is currently applying for a PBF grant through the Gender and Youth Promotion Initiative. Importantly, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs similarly emphasized the importance of assisting the Highlands in her meeting with the Mission team.

Participants appreciated the clear value-added of the UN’s engagement with PBF’s support in regards to the implementation of the BPA. Participants witnessed the One UN approach in action and the commitment and professionalism of UN staff. Participants noted the broad levels of enthusiasm from the partners they met in Bougainville. The road towards the referendum remains complex, but the UN’s engagement with PBF support was focused on the right issues. One challenge which was raised in the closing session was progress with weapons disposal, which is currently only supported by the UN and needs more commitment from the two Governments and engagement by ex-combatants. Overall, participants concluded to the continued need for PBF support and felt, in the words of Amb. Hanns Schumacher, representative from Germany and member of the Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on the PBF that “the projects in PNG provided a sterling examples of how PBF is working to implement its mandated vision and how relatively minor amounts of money can stabilize a complex situation and make a clear impact”.

About the PBF

The UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund is the organization’s financial instrument of first resort to sustain peace in countries or situations at risk or affected by violent conflict. The PBF may invest with UN entities, governments, regional organizations, multilateral banks, national multi-donor trust funds or civil society organizations. From 2006 to 2017, the PBF has allocated $772 million to 41 recipient countries. Since inception, 58 member states contributed to the Fund, 33 in the present 2017-2019 Business Plan. The PBF works across pillars and supports integrated UN responses to fill critical gaps; respond quickly and with flexibility to political opportunities; and catalyze processes and resources in a risk-tolerant fashion.

 

Bougainville News : Download report and watch video @Jubilee_AU Long Han Blong Yumi (It’s in our hands) and report, Growing #Bougainville’s Future.

Jubilee Australia has just launched a major report, Growing Bougainville’s Future, which examines the economic development paths for Bougainville.

Download the report

 GrowingBougainvillesFuture_120918

Bougainville fought a brutal Civil War from 1989-1997 which claimed the lives of up to 20 000 people, and tens of thousands more were displaced. At the core of the conflict was the Panguna mine, a massive copper and gold mine that had serious socio-economic, environmental and cultural impacts.

20 years later, Bougainville is planning for a referendum for independence from Papua New Guinea. Simultaneously, there is a heated debate about re-opening the Panguna mine, based on the argument that independence requires economic self-sufficiency, and mining is the only way to achieve that.

As shown by our report Voices of Bougainville, many local communities do not want to re-open the Panguna mine, and our research shows that this is not the only development option for Bougainville. Bougainville can pursue a development path that is more sustainable and broad-based, and this film explores that option.

Bougainville: Long Han Blong Yumi (It’s in our hands) is being published along with a report, Growing Bougainville’s Future.

The report explores many of the same issues as the movie, and together we hope they contribute to facilitating an informed debate on Bougainville’s development options.

The report challenges the argument that Bougainville needs other large-scale mining for the sake of development, and explores alternative and sustainable development options.🌍

This report is being published along with a short film, Bougainville: Long Han Blong Yumi (Bougainville: It’s In Our Hands), which covers many of the same topics as the report.

Watch it below👇🎥

#GrowingBougainvillesFuture

Bougainville News 2 of 3 coverage of #JSB meeting Arawa June 29 : Read or Download President Momis’s speech at opening Joint Supervisory Body meeting

 ” Prime Minister I have no doubt that you are serious in the public assurances that you have been giving about honouring every last word in the Peace Agreement, and ensuring that the referendum will be held. But of the money required does not flow, and if other things I have mentioned do not happen quickly, then not only will we miss the target date for referendum in 2019, but we will be struggling to achieve a referendum by the last possible date-June 2020.

I understand your government has other pressing priorities with APEC, and the complex current situation in the Highlands. I understand too that your budgetary constraints are grave. But we must also remember that the Peace Agreement ended a terrible conflict.

There is a slowly emerging risk of real frustration amongst Bougainvilleans about the lack of progress both with autonomy, and with the referendum. The time for action on the referendum is now. Prime Minister, I look forward to a productive meeting with you and your colleagues.”

President Momis opening speech June 29 Arawa Download HERE

President Momis Opening address JOINT SUPERVISORY BODY ARAWA 290618

Prime Minister, Ministers accompanying the Prime Minister and members of the ABG, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Officers of the national government and the ABG, and other observers:

I am pleased to be at this meeting of the JSB for 2018. As always, there are important matters for us to discuss at this JSB meeting. At the outset, I ask that we all remind ourselves of the important roles that the peace agreement and the National Constitution give to the JSB.

In fact, we should all do well to recall that it is the National Constitution that established the JSB.

It is a constitutional body, with important roles given to it by explicit words in the Constitution. Those roles include oversight of the Implementation of the whole of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. That means oversight of all three pillars of that agreement – autonomy, the referendum and weapons disposal. The second main role of the JSB involves providing a forum for consultation between the two Governments and their agencies. The third role is in relation to conflict resolution between the two Governments.

It is timely to remind ourselves of these roles of the JSB, because in this meeting of the JSB there are items on the agenda related to implementation of all three pillars of the Peace Agreement. And the ABG is seeking to consult the National Government about many of these matters. But for some of the matters, we are coming to the JSB with the aim of settling disputes.

Here I refer to our concern, once again, about the calculation of the Restoration and Development Grant –the RDG. While we reached a compromise in the December 2017 JSB meeting, we did not resolve issues about calculation of the RDG going forward. On our calculations, according to the formula for the RDG set out in the Organic Law on Peace- building, we should be receiving about K70 million per year in RDG-not the K15 million that has been budgeted, but not fully paid in several recent years.

This year again the National Government proposes to pay K15 million, we have not yet seen a single toea of RDG so far, six months into the year. I hope, Prime Minister, that we will reach agreement here on what the RDG payments should be going forward, and that in 2019 we will see payment at the correct level, of more than K70 million.

While talking about ABG finances, I must raise the issue of the extreme budget crisis now faced by the ABG.I realise that the National Government faces its own budget crisis.But the lack of funds being received by the ABG is leading to a desperate situation for us. We simply do not have the money to do anything. We are not even receiving the amount of recurrent grants needed to meet salary costs, and not enough for our public service to do much at all. We have received no RDG. Most of the Police grant has not been paid. Our share of the National Government taxes collected in Bougainville is in arrears. Prime Minister I ask you and your Ministers for Treasury and Finance to do all you can to ease our terrible financial position.

Prime minister, I turn to the referendum, and in particular to the work needed to ensure that the referendum is held before the end of five year window within which the peace agreement and the national constitution say it must be held. That window ends less two than years away – in mid – June 2020.

Prime Minister, all Bougainvilleans have been heartened by the assurances you have recently given in public statements that you and your government will honour the peace agreement in full. On several occasions now you have stated that the referendum will be held – and held on the target date in June 2019.

But the fact is that a huge amount needs to be done, and done very soon, if there is to be any hope at all that the referendum will be held, either in 2019, or before the end of that five year window in mid-June 2020.

Amongst other things, the following are some of most urgent things that must be done.

First, the proposed chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission (the BRC), the Honourable Bertie Ahern, must accept the appointment, and his appointment must be notified in the National Gazette and the Bougainville Gazette. Only then can the full BRC convene, and only then can the BRC appoint the chief Referendum officer. Only then can the chief Referendum officer appoint the other staff of the BRC secretariat. Prime Minister, I ask that your officers take urgent action to confirm the appointment of the chair of the BRC by the necessary notice in the National Gazette.

Second, Prime Minister we need the appointment of the two National Government appointees to the BRC. While the BRC can meet once the chair is appointed, I would be worried if were to meet without national government representation. That will happen, I’m afraid, if we do not hear of the National Government appointees.

Third, we must do everything possible to protect the constitutional independence of the BRC, something which is guaranteed by the Organic law on peace-building in Bougainville, and charter establishing the Constitution. The independence of the BRC is essential if the referendum process is to have integrity. The Referendum can only be free and fair if the BRC has full independence from Government.

In relation to protection of independence Iam concerned about a proposal emerging from the JTT for the two chief secretaries to co-chair an intergovernmental committee to provide guidance to the BRC. If the BRC is to be independent it cannot be subject to guidance from the chief secretaries. On the other hand, if such a committee plays a role in ensuring liaison between governments and the BRC, that would be acceptable. I hope that we can reach agreement on arrangements that recognise the independence of the BRC.

Third- Prime Minister, the BRC is in desperate need of the earliest possible flow of funding. If the BRC were to have had much real chance of organising the referendum by the target date of mid-June 2019,the enrolment of voters should have begun in April, But in the absence of the funding expected from the National Government, the BRC has so far been able to do nothing to start the enrolment process. The BRC needs at least K5 OR K6million to undertake the major enrolment process required.

Prime Minister, I am sure that you will agree with me that it is essential that the roll of voters for this referendum should be of much higher standard than we have become used to in PNG National elections. We cannot have thousands of people turned away because their names cannot be found on the rolls. A truly free and fair election will depend on an accurate roll providing all voters with the right to vote. I am pleased to hear that the BRC is proposing to work with the ward recorders that are part of the ABG’s new community government system, with the goal of having a grass roots check on the accuracy of the rolls. All these efforts to get a real accurate roll will be costly- but it is a cost well worth incurring.

Prime Minister, please make the flow of adequate funding to the BRC a top funding priority in the next couple of weeks.

Fourth, Prime Minister, it is essential that at this meeting of the JSB that we BOTH agree the question to be asked in the referendum, and agree to the criteria of enrolment of non-resident Bougainvileans. Both of these issues are essential for immediate agreement if the referendum preparation are to go ahead. Without the question being agreed, we can not have adequate referendum awareness- because awareness must be directed to explaining carefully and in simple language the issue that will be decided in the referendum. As for the criteria for enrolment, the BRC will not be able to undertake enrolment of non-resident Bougainvilleans without agreement on those criteria.

Fifth, Prime Minister, I am concerned about security for the referendum.There are two major issues that I must mention here. One concerns weapons disposal. Much work has been done, jointly between ABG’s Department of Peace Agreement Implementation and your National coordination office of Bougainville Affairs, to develop a four phase program for disposal of remaining weapons.

A joint weapons disposal secretariat has been established. The former BRA and BRF and the Me’ekamui factions have agreed to join this new disposal process. But without funding, this disposal process cannot proceed. I ask that the necessary funding be released.

The second issue about security concerns the role of Police. I am afraid that the Bougainville Police service still has very low levels of capacity. As a result, I am concerned that the Bougainville Police should be the main factor in security arrangements. Experience elsewhere in the world shows that good security can be vital.

Prime Minister, I want us to consider here at this JSB the possibility of an invitation being given to the United Nations to provide an International security force for the referendum, perhaps one that could work closely with the Bougainville Police Service.

Prime Minister I have no doubt that you are serious in the public assurances that you have been giving about honouring every last word in the Peace Agreement, and ensuring that the referendum will be held. But of the money required does not flow, and if other things I have mentioned do not happen quickly, then not only will we miss the target date for referendum in 2019, but we will be struggling to achieve a referendum by the last possible date-June 2020.

I understand your government has other pressing priorities with APEC, and the complex current situation in the Highlands. I understand too that your budgetary constraints are grave. But we must also remember that the Peace Agreement ended a terrible conflict. There is a slowly emerging risk of real frustration amongst Bougainvilleans about the lack of progress both with autonomy, and with the referendum. The time for action on the referendum is now. Prime Minister, I look forward to a productive meeting with you and your colleagues.

Thank you.