Bougainville Referendum Results : ‘We are reborn’: Bougainville votes 97.7 % for independence from Papua New Guinea

” That’s my dream, to go and rebuild, We need the best policies, the best laws, to be the best country. We are reborn.”

Pajomile Minaka, from Bougainville’s southern region the 36-year old, who was a child during the conflict , told Reuters he was taking a law course to equip himself to help rebuild his homeland.

The people of Bougainville, an island group in Papua New Guinea, have voted overwhelmingly for independence.

Voters had two options – more autonomy, or full independence. Of the 181,000 ballots, almost 98% were in favour of independence.

The referendum was approved by the Papua New Guinea government, but the result is non-binding.

Nevertheless, the landslide victory will put pressure on PNG to grant Bougainville independence.

The islands have a population of around 300,000, and 206,731 people enrolled to vote in the referendum.

In total, 181,067 ballots were cast. Of those:

176,928 voted for independence
3,043 voted for greater autonomy
1,096 were classed as informal, or void.

“There’s tears, tears of joy, raw emotion – people have waited a long time, The pen is always mightier than the sword.

The results were announced in the town of Buka by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, the chairman of the Bougainville Referendum Commission.

“Now, at least psychologically, we feel liberated,” said John Momis, president of the regional autonomous government.

The ABG President, Chief DR JOHN MOMIS was lost for words after the results were declared by the Chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission this afternoon.

In his address to the people who were present at the Hutjena Counting Centre, President Momis thanked the people for giving his ABG the clear mandate to consult with the National Government on the wishes of the people. He said that the people have spoken through the votes and the outcome will not be different.


President MOMIS also thanked the National Government for their commitment to complete the process and the end result must be a total and lasting peace for the people of Bougainville.
He also thanked the Donor partners, International organizations that observed the polling and the count the UN team, High Commissioners of Britain, Australia, New Zealand and many who were part of the peace process on Bougainville.

The President Momis mentioned the people of Bougainville that despite so many problems they have faced in the past kept their faith for the future of Bougainville as clearly demonstrated by their vote. He said nearly 98 percent for Independence is a huge testimony of what the people of Bougainville want for their future.

One Bougainvillian, nursing graduate Alexia Baria, told news agency AFP that “happiness was an understatement”.

“You see my tears – this is the moment we have been waiting for,” she said.

Will this place become the world’s next country?

Why was there a referendum?

Bougainville had a nine-year separatist war that began in 1988, fuelled by economic grievance.

The end of the fighting led to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the creation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, and the promise of a non-binding referendum on independence.

Even in colonial times, Bougainville was an outpost. The islands attempted to declare independence during the formation of Papua New Guinea in 1975 – but they were ignored.

What happens now?

The referendum was non-binding – meaning independence won’t happen automatically.

Discussions will take place with the Papua New Guinea government to decide when – or if – the transition to full independence can begin.

Although the PNG government was against independence, and does not have to accept the result, the huge mandate will make it hard to ignore.

The 98% result is above pre-referendum predictions – most experts expected the figure to be around 75% – 80%.

The PNG minister for Bougainville affairs, Puka Temu, said “the outcome is a credible one” – but asked that voters “allow the rest of Papua New Guinea sufficient time to absorb this result”.

Is Bougainville ready for independence?

The new country – should it happen – would be small, with a land mass of less than 10,000 sq km (slightly larger than Cyprus, and slightly smaller than Lebanon).

Likewise, its population would be one of the world’s smallest – slightly smaller than Pacific neighbour Vanuatu, and slightly bigger than Barbados.

But according to research by Australia’s Lowy Institute, Bougainville self-reliance would at best be years away.

The country is rich in natural resources – especially copper, which has been extracted on a large scale since the 1960s under Australian administration.

But mining has been crippled by the war – and the distribution of revenue was one of the factors behind the conflict.

One estimate cited by the Lowy Institute says Bougainville would only have 56% of the revenue needed to be self-reliant.

Bougainville Referendum 23 Nov News : Sixty Minutes visits Bougainville to ask why is China on the move in the South Pacific? This Sunday Nov 17 a special #60Mins

 ” The United States and its Pacific allies have plugged a funding gap that endangered next month’s independence referendum in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) region of Bougainville, a strategic move that also sidelined China, two sources told Reuters.

Western nations are looking to rein in China’s influence in the increasingly contested Pacific, where it has recently drawn away two of Taiwan’s allies, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, triggering a strong rebuke from the United States.

The vote in PNG’s autonomous region of Bougainville, formerly the site of a bloody civil conflict, will run from Nov. 23 to Dec. 7, and could trigger separation negotiations to create a new nation in the strategic waters of the Pacific.” 

Continued Part 1 Below

Background to the 60 Minutes Story to be broadcast Sunday 17 November

The Bougainville visit by the 6 man 60 minutes team was managed by Zhon Bosco Miriona , Steven Tamiung and Colin Cowell from Bougainville Experience Tours Arawa see Part 3 below

 General Sam Kauona and Josephine Kauona.


Main agenda was a link with China in the Pacific and Bougainville

Picture below Steven Tamiung with the 60 Minutes Crew

Part 1 U.S. edges China out of race to fund Bougainville independence vote

Sources with direct knowledge of the arrangements in Bougainville told Reuters that China was not blocked from helping fund the referendum, but neither was it invited to contribute when the shortfall emerged.

“It’s just that the invitation never arrived, or, rather, was never sent,” one source said.

The second source said the West wanted to limit China’s engagement with what could soon be the world’s newest nation, strategically located in waters separating Asia and the Americas.

China’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on whether it was involved in discussions to assist in the referendum.

“China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, and respects the independent choices of people in all countries,” it said in a statement.

The funding shortfall emerged early this year amid preparations, overseen by former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, to register the votes of 300,000 people, most of them spread over the main island of Bougainville, nearby Buka and other outlying islands.

The United States, along with Australia, New Zealand and Japan, helped plug the funding gap of 7.1 million kina ($2 million), according to a breakdown of funding arrangements provided to Reuters by the Bougainville Referendum Commission.

Part 2

An independence referendum will be held in Bougainville between 23 November and 7 December 2019, with results declared around 20 December.[1] The vote is the result of an agreement between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. The vote is not binding and the Government of Papua New Guinea has the final say on what becomes of Bougainville in the event of voters choosing independence.[2]

Background

According to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, a referendum which includes the option of independence must be held at the latest by June 2020.[3] The vote was originally scheduled for 15 June 2019,[4] before being delayed to 17 October due to a row over funding.[5] The referendum was delayed again to 23 November at the request of the Bougainville Referendum Commission to ensure the credibility of the referendum roll so more people can vote, most of the promised funding not having been sent by the national government. Both governments said this delay would be the last.[6] Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Karl Claxton said there is a wide expectation Bougainville will vote to become independent.[7] In October 2018, former Taoiseach of Ireland Bertie Ahern was appointed to chair the Bougainville Referendum Commission, which is responsible for preparing the referendum.[8]

In November the BRC completed the official ‘certified voter list’ to be used in polling for the Bougainville Referendum. The number of voters is 206,731.

 
Voting District Men Women Blank [a] Total
Resident Bougainvilleans 98,565 95,371 80 194,016
Non-Resident Bougainvilleans [b] 6,846 5,844 25 12,715
Total 105,411 101,215 105 206,731

Question

The question to be put to voters is:

Do you agree for Bougainville to have: (1) Greater Autonomy (2) Independence?[9]

Results

 
Choice Votes %
Greater autonomy
Independence
Valid votes
Informal votes
Total 100
Registered voters/Turnout 206,731[10]
Vote
Greater autonomy
%
Independence
%

Notes

  1. ^ The gender of the voter could not be determined
  2. ^ Outside the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in PNG provinces, and Solomon Islands and Australia

References

  1. ^ “Bougainville set to hold long-awaited independence referendum”France 24. 2019-09-27. Retrieved 2019-10-06.
  2. ^ “Bougainville referendum not binding – PM”Radio New Zealand. 2019-03-11. Retrieved 2019-03-18.
  3. ^ “Move to postpone Bougainville Referendum”Papua New Guinea Post Courier. 2019-02-08. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  4. ^ “Bougainville and Papua New Guinea set target date for independence referendum”ABC News. 2016-05-23. Retrieved 2017-10-21.
  5. ^ “Independence vote delayed for Papua New Guinea’s Bougainville”France 24. 2019-03-01. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  6. ^ Gorethy, Kenneth (2019-08-05). “B’ville referendum dates changed”Post Courier. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
  7. ^ “PNG leader apologises to Bougainville for bloody 1990s civil war”Australian Associated Press. 2014-01-29. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
  8. ^ “Bougainville ‘very happy’ to have Bertie Ahern involved”Radio New Zealand. 2018-10-17. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  9. ^ “Question agreed for Bougainville’s independence referendum”Radio New Zealand. 2018-10-13. Retrieved 2018-10-19.
  10. ^ “Referendum Roll Completed”Bougainville Referendum Commission. 2019-11-08. Retrieved 2019-11-08.

Part 3 The Bougainville visit by the 6 man 60 minutes team was managed by Zhon Bosco Miriona , Steven Tamiung and Colin Cowell from Bougainville Experience Tours Arawa

 

 

Bougainville Referendum News : As we celebrate Independence Day today for 2019, Simon Pentanu MHR GCL reflects on the upcoming referendum and the future political path of the Autonomous Region of #Bougainville.

 ” As we celebrate Independence Day for 2019, I want to reflect on the upcoming referendum and the future political path of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

As a Bougainvillean and a Papua New Guinean, I am less concerned about Greater Autonomy, Independence (or the ‘Third Choice’ whatever it might be). The simple fact is that two options are already guaranteed, and it is now for the people to make their choice.

My real concern is more about our insouciance and disregard for good governance that we must sternly guard against, whatever the political outcome of referendum will be. For, good governance is one of the major considerations that must be ticked off or crossed when it comes to ratification of the vote.

Here I say, take heed the soothsayers say, or forever hold your breath.”

Hon. Simon Pentanu MHR GCL : Speaker
Bougainville House of Representatives

Picture Above : Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE and ABG President, DR. JOHN MOMIS signed the joint resolution September 12 at the Presidential villa Buka in front of journalists and the Ministers and members from both the ABG and the National Government. See Part 2 for full details or Download Document Here

12092019_JSB_Resolution

Whatever the choice is, and we know that Independence is the greater expectation of most Bougainvilleans, we have to make it work. This is the essence of my message today. Let us not tire of talking about good governance, honest and transparent leadership, common sense, and not being above or beyond reproach. Let us not forget the foundation stones and the building blocks of good government, regardless of what form that Government takes.

Adherence to good governance must be the message delivered in unison by the people to their representatives in the House of Representatives and to Leaders in Government. All Leaders, whether at the national, provincial or community government level, must be held to account.

Without regard for good governance the writing is on the wall. We know this from the countless examples of developing countries that have been turned into pariah states by their own Leaders in power.

Let us avoid the pitfalls of bad governance by making a conscious and conscientious choice for good governance without making compromises, taking short cuts or looking for quick fixes at the leadership level.

Nothing is more certain than the dire consequences that befall a people whose leaders turn a blind eye, a deaf ear and who play mute to the evils of corruption.

Conversely, nothing is more certain than the successes and gross national happiness and contentment that follows when elected leaders live up to the oaths and loyalties they swear by and the responsibilities they promise to live up to in office, leading the people from the front.

We can grab and take the opportunities to heart or we can squat and squander them. It is my sincere hope this Independence Day, that our leaders take the former rather than the latter path.

Hon. Simon Pentanu MHR GCL
Speaker
Bougainville House of Representatives

Part 2 Editors note

Congratulations to Simon Pentanu, who has been named on the 2019 Independence Day Anniversary Honours List. Simon Pentanu

Mr. Pentanu will be awarded the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GCL) Conerred with the title of “Chief” for distinguished public service in the senior roles of Clerk of the National Parliament, Chief Ombudsman, and currently as Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Part 3

Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE and ABG President, DR. JOHN MOMIS signed the joint resolution in the afternoon at the Presidential villa in front of journalists and the Ministers and members from both the ABG and the National Government.

The first Agenda was concerning the request by the BRC to extend the Referendum date by six weeks from October 12th Polling to November 23rd Polling.


The BRC had sought for additional time for the referendum roll to be updated so that the outcome is credible and has integrity.


Agenda two was on weapons disposal, after the joint Weapons disposal secretariat briefed the JSB on the progress of the Me’ekamui Weapons disposal program, the JSB resolved and noted that the weapons disposal work must continue, and also touched on the National Reconciliation ceremony that must be held between the National Government and the ABG and also between the veterans.


Agenda three was on the Post Referendum Transition of which many discussions have been made and also looking at the legal issues going forward.


The JSB noted the progress made so far and resolved for the establishment of a Joint Ministerial Task Force on Post Referendum.


Approved for the Post Referendum Task Force to identify facilitators/moderators to assist in the Post referendum negotiation period.


And there must be one national moderator and one external moderator.


The fourth Agenda looked at the Restoration and Development Grants in which both governments have been at loggerheads over the calculations for the RDG.


The JSB resolved to accept the calculations made by an independent expert engaged by the UNDP and that officers work on these calculations and settle those outstanding through the RDG and SIF programs.


The JSB also resolved to approve a new arrangement for the National Government to provide 100 Million annually to the ABG for the next ten years starting next year.

 

Bougainville Referendum News : Chair of #BRC Bernie Ahern travels from the #UnitedNations in New York to Arawa , Buin and Buka for Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) roadshow this week

5 major news alerts this week ( July 1- 7) on the Bougainville Referendum

Follow Bougainville News on Twitter 

1 : Ahern urges focus on post-referendum peace in Bougainville ( From Irish Times )

2. Dates for this weeks BRC Bougainville Roadshow announced

3. Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

4. With a projected vote on independence from Papua New Guinea just three months away, suddenly Bougainville is the centre of a lot of activity.

5 : THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year. (USA NEWS ) 

1  : Ahern urges focus on post-referendum peace in Bougainville 

 ” Chair of the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC)  Bertie Ahern last  week  stressed to the UN the need for focus on maintaining peace in Papua New Guinea after an independence referendum in the region later this year.

Mr Ahern met UN secretary general António Guterres in New York to discuss the progress of the peace process in the autonomous region of Bougainville.” 

Read full story from the Irish Times

2. Dates for this weeks BRC Bougainville Roadshow announced:

Arawa 9 July 2pm (Christmas Park),

Buin 10 July 1pm (Buin Secondary),

Buka 11 July 2pm (Bel Isi Park).

Information and progress updates from the Chair Hon Bertie Ahern and Commissioners

3. Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

Referendum is one of the pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).

The BPA declares that in the Constitution of the Papua New Guinea National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARoB) is guaranteed a referendum on Bougainville’s political future to be held amongst Bougainvilleans 10-15 years after the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

ABG was established in 2005 and therefore, according to the Constitution, a referendum can be held between the years 2015 and 2020. Both governments will agree upon the official date of the referendum.

Issue of writs – August 16, 2019

Start of polling – October 12, 2019

See Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

4.With a projected vote on independence from Papua New Guinea just three months away, suddenly Bougainville is the centre of a lot of activity.

A crowd of people in Bougainville watching the handover of the agreed definitions for the two questions for the Independence Referendum. The first Greater Autonomy for Bougainville and the other full Independence from Papua New Guinea. Photo: Autonomous Bougainville Government

The vote, which is scheduled to start on 12 October, has already been moved once from 15 June.

Now there is a call for it to be delayed further, with the Bougainville Referendum Commission, which is in charge of preparing the region for the vote, saying more time is needed to ensure the integrity of the electoral roll.

A six-week extension was mentioned.

But the newly appointed PNG Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said the BRC needed to make a formal request if it wanted to delay the referendum.

“If the BRC thinks they need a little more time because of the credibility issue on the referendum roll then the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) will be the body that will make the final decision. It is not the national government or the ABG, it is a JSB decision.

“If they say no then that’s it. If they agree then we will inform our people and the basis will be the credibility of the common roll,” he said.

That JSB meeting is set to be held in south Bougainville, in Buin.

The PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, then confirmed the National Executive Council, the cabinet, will hold its meeting there at the same time.

Sir Puka, who has significantly lifted the tempo on Bougainville since coming into the role just weeks ago, said it is vital for all of PNG’s leaders to show their commitment to the referendum process.

Two upcoming reconciliations are to be held on Bougainville at the same time before the referendum.

Sir Puka said a national reconciliation and another involving former combatants were postponed last month because of the PNG government’s change of leadership.

“Our commitment is to never again bring the military ever again onto the island – that’s our commitment.”

Sir Puka said these events will include commitments to dispose of weapons.

He said he came back from a visit to Bougainville two weeks ago with an “enormous level of comfort” that the former militant groups had given their commitment to the peace process.

Sir Puka said there are now teams on the ground preparing for the events at a date that is yet to be announced but expected to be the end of the month.

He said he embraced the reconciliations because of their importance to Melanesian culture and the commitment that the final outcome will be jointly negotiated.

“So as part of that is to guarantee the security of the process and also reconcile and rebuild the relationship amongst all of us – our soldiers on this side and ex-combatants on the other side because that will then remove this cloud of suspicion.”

Meanwhile, at discussions this week a British political scientist with experience in referenda said if Bougainville chooses independence from PNG it’s likely to be some years before it is implemented.

Coventry University’s Matt Qvortrup was in Port Moresby to speak to lawmakers about possible scenarios after the referendum.

He said if there is a clear vote for independence it’s still important that there is what he calls a ‘a just and fair divorce settlement’ – not just one party walking away.

Professor Qvortrup said he’d seen other referenda results implemented in a matter of months, for instance in Czechoslovakia and Ukraine, which said were examples of countries that broke up quickly.

“The more successful ones have taken a little bit longer, so I think the process of independence will probably take, my estimate compared to other cases would probably be up to five years, or even more,” he said.

Also, this week a survey of more than 1,000 Bougainvilleans found people still need to know more about the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the referendum.

One of the key findings of the second Bougainville Audience Study is the need for continuous awareness in the lead up to the referendum and beyond.

The ABG’s communications director, Adriana Schmidt, said the report provided a clear picture of the information needs of Bougainvilleans going into the vote.

She said people want to know more about what the two options – greater autonomy and independence – mean in practical terms, and to understand what happens after the vote.

5 : THE Pacific island of Bougainville is moving a step closer to potential independence from Papua New Guinea as preparations begin for a long-promised referendum later this year.

Whether it can survive as a stand-alone nation is a key question for its 250,000 inhabitants, and for other separatist movements in the Pacific.

Published Here

The future course of the island could ripple across the region, as the question of Bougainville’s independence will touch on a complicated mixture of business concerns, environmental worries and geopolitical interests stretching from Australia and New Zealand to ChinaJapan and the United States.

It’s an outsized international role for Bougainville, which lies 900 kilometers (560 miles) east of the Papua New Guinea mainland. The roots of the referendum stem from a bitter inter-clan and separatist conflict that ran from 1988 to 1997, fighting that claimed between 10,000 and 20,000 lives through a combination of violence, disease, poverty and dislocation.

 

A truce brokered and maintained by regional neighbors that included Australia, New Zealand and Fiji helped restore order, and a comprehensive peace agreement was signed between Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in 2001. The island has had its own autonomous government since 2005.

Bougainville’s people are expected to vote decisively for independence in the Oct. 17 referendum, according to Jonathan Pryke, Pacific Islands program director at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based policy think tank. The vote is not binding and any move toward independence will require agreement from the central government of Papua New Guinea, commonly referred to as PNG.

Most people hope the two sides can find a “Melanesian solution” that will deliver a workable form of autonomy for Bougainville, says Pryke, using the term that describes the region of the South Pacific that includes PNG, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and other island nations and territories.

James Marape, who took over as Papua New Guinea’s prime minister in late May, said on June 14 he would prefer Bougainville to remain part of a unified nation, but would listen to the people’s voice and then consult over future options.

Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Sydney, says the desire for independence in Bougainville remains strong, but from a regional perspective it will be best if the Bougainville people decided to stay in Papua New Guinea. “We don’t need another microstate emerging in the Pacific.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who visited Bougainville on June 19 with PNG’s new minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the referendum and will not pass judgment on the result. Australia is by far the biggest aid donor in the Pacific region, giving $6.5 billion between 2011 and 2017, according to research last year by the Lowy Institute. Most of Australia’s aid goes to Papua New Guinea.

Scars Remain From a Civil War

The Bougainville conflict, in which rival clans on the island fought among themselves and with the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, evolved from multiple issues, including land rights, customary ownership, “outsider” interference and migration, mineral resource exploitation, and perceived inequities and environmental damage associated with the rich Panguna copper mine.

Under the terms of the 2001 peace agreement, a vote on independence within 20 years was promised.

A reconciliation ceremony will be held on July 2 between the central PNG government, the national defence force, the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army.

Deep scars remain from the conflict, both physical and emotional. Much of the island’s public infrastructure remains in poor shape, educational opportunities are limited, and corruption is pervasive. Clan rivalry and suspicion persists, particularly in regard to land rights and resource development.

Since Panguna closed in May 1989, Bougainville’s people have led a life built around agriculture and fishing. The cocoa and copra industries ravaged by the war have been re-established, there is small-scale gold mining, and potential for hydroelectric power and a revived forestry industry. For now, a lack of accommodation inhibits tourism.

Copper Mine Underscores Doubts over Bougainville’s Economic Viability

Almost 40 years ago, Bougainville’s Panguna mine was the biggest contributor to Papua New Guinea’s export income and the largest open-cut in the world. But the mine, operated by BCL, a subsidiary of Conzinc Riotinto Australia (now Rio Tinto Ltd.), became a focal point for conflict over pollution, migrant workers, resource ownership and revenue sharing, and has been dormant since 1989.

Apart from any foreign aid it may receive, Bougainville’s future prosperity may well depend on whether it can restart the mine, which contains copper and gold worth an estimated $50 billion. But customary ownership claims – land used for generations by local communities without the need for legal title – remain unresolved and at least three mining groups are in contention, which means an early restart is unlikely. Jennings cautions against investing too much hope in Panguna, with remediation costs after 30 years of disuse likely to be high.

Likewise, Luke Fletcher, executive director of the Sydney-based Jubilee Australia Research Centre, which studies the social and environmental impacts of resources projects on Pacific communities, says reopening Panguna would be a long, expensive and difficult proposition. He says the challenge for any mine operator would be developing a project that is environmentally safe, yet still deliver an acceptable return to shareholders and to the government.

Bougainville’s leader, President John Momis, believes that large-scale mining offers the best chance for income generation and is keen both to revive Panguna and encourage other projects. That would require outside investment, which was a factor contributing to the outbreak of violence in the late 1980s. The local community perceived that it was not getting its fair share of Panguna’s wealth.

Rio Tinto gave up its share in BCL in 2016, and ownership now rests with the government of PNG and the Bougainville government, each with 36.4%. Independent shareholders own the remaining 27.2%.

At least two other groups are vying to operate Panguna. Sir Mel Togolo, the BCL chairman, told the company’s annual general meeting on May 2 that continued uncertainty about Panguna’s tenure remains a big challenge. “We will need to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to achieve our objective of bringing the Panguna mine back into production,” he said.

Regional, International Eyes on October Referendum

With doubts persisting about Bougainville’s economic viability if it cuts ties with the central government, the referendum outcome will be closely watched by other PNG provinces pushing for greater autonomy, such as East New Britain, New Ireland and Enga.

Across the region, some parts of neighboring Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are agitating for their own separate identities. In the nearby French overseas territory of New Caledonia, voters rejected independence from France by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin in November 2018. European settlers were heavily in favor of staying part of France, while indigenous Kanak people overwhelmingly voted for independence.

At the international level, Australia will be keen to ensure that whatever the outcome of the Bougainville referendum, stability is maintained in Papua New Guinea, if only to counter China’s growing interest in offering aid and economic benefits as it builds a Pacific presence.

Along with Japan, New Zealand and the U.S., Australia has committed to a 10-year $1.7 billion electrification project in Papua New Guinea. Australia and the U.S. have agreed to help Papua New Guinea redevelop its Manus Island naval base, which sits 350 kilometers north of the mainland and commands key trade routes into the Pacific.

Jennings says Australia would be likely to give aid to an independent Bougainville to try to keep China at bay. “China is everywhere. Its destructive connections co-opt leaderships in a way that doesn’t work out well for people.”

From a strategic perspective, Jennings says it would be best if Melanesia looked to Australia as its main partner on matters of security.

While China gives most of its aid to PNG and Fiji, the region’s two biggest economies, Jubilee’s Fletcher says China giving aid to an independent Bougainville was “feasible.”

Geoff Hiscock is a Sydney-based journalist with a focus on international business

 

Bougainville News Alerts this week : Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne visits Bougainville ahead of independence referendum and amid fears #Bougainville independence will open Pacific door for China  

 “I don’t think the exercise of a democratic process in one of our nearest neighbours would be described as a huge problem for Australia.

The referendum is part of a peace agreement that has been under way for some time.

The important things that Australia is focused on is not forming a view one way or the other on the outcome of a referendum in another country, but importantly supporting that wherever we can to ensure a credible, and a peaceful and an inclusive process.”

Australia will work to ensure the integrity of the Bougainville referendum later this year, and won’t cast judgment on the result, Foreign Minister Marise Payne says.

Hear ABC Radio Coverage

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne this week visited Bougainville for a few hours amid fears an upcoming independence vote there could undermine regional stability and provide an opening for China to establish a strategic foothold in what could become the Pacific’s newest nation state.

Report from The Australian

The visit was the first by an Australian minister since a bungled 2015 attempt to open an Australian consulate led the PNG government to slap a ban on Australian officials travelling to the autonomous region.

Papua New Guinea, which fought a decade-long civil war with Bougainville rebels ending in the late 90s, is trying to convince

PNG Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Sir Puka Temu, said Bougainville’s people needed to understand what “cutting the umbilical cord from Papua New Guinea” would mean.

“The revenue for Bougainville is only 20 million kina ($8.6m) per year,” Sir Puka said.

“They will need, according to international studies, at least 900 million kina ($390m) a year to rebuild Bougainville as an independent state.” He said independence would also mean “Papua New Guinea will not be able to be politically responsible for an independent Bougainville state”.

Bougainville’s people will vote on October 17 to either become an independent state or to have greater autonomy within PNG.

There is a widespread expectation that Bougainvilleans will vote in favour of independence in a result that would then have to be ratified by the PNG parliament, where it could face opposition from MPs who fear other provinces could follow.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape has said PNG was “stronger with Bougainville than without” but it would listen to the people of Bougainville “and then consult on options for the future”.

Lowy Institute Pacific program director Jonathan Pryke said the referendum outcome would have strategic implications “thanks to the active presence of China throughout PNG and the broader Pacific”. “Given the new strategic landscape, and not to mention the huge reserves left in Panguna (copper) mine, I would expect an independent Bougainville would have a number of potential international suitors to help them with their financial challenges,” Mr Pryke said.

Nana Buba from New Dawn Reports on visit to Bougainville

The visiting Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne this week met with the Bougainville women Peace builders at the Nazareth Rehabilitation centre, Chabai on the northern tip of mainland Bougainville.

She was very keen to know the work of these peace builders who work in their communities working tirelessly to end violence against women and children and also carry awareness on the upcoming referendum.

Presenters assisted Sister Loraine in presenting what the women peace builders have been doing silently to make the place free from violence and human right abuses in the communities.

The woman who made several comments is the former ABG member representing the women of South Bougainville, Rose Pihei who stressed the need to address traumatized people and also address mental health issues in our communities.

Mrs Pihie said that if these post conflict problems are not addressed Bougainville will be facing a big problem with these people in the future.

She said that the work Sr Loraine  is doing must be supported by donor partners. The women had representatives that came all the way from North,Central and South Bougainville for this meeting.

The team was fully informed on the work of these women peace builders at this meeting.

The Bougainville Affairs Minister, DR. Puka Temu this week  acknowledged the important tripartite relationship that the three countries, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea have developed over the years.

Minister Temu made these remarks during lunch at the Reasons Guest house in Buka town . He said that this significant relationship between our three countries have grown over the years and continue strengthen our friendship.

Dr Temu also acknowledged the members of the Regional Peace Mission contributing countries like Solomon Islands Vanuatu and FIJI for their continued support for peace throughout the Pacific. He said as the Minister for Bougainville Affairs Minister it was only proper to thank these countries for their continued support especially assisting PNG on the Bougainville issue.

Dr Temu said that PNG will continue to work with Australia and New Zealand to complete the Bougainville Peace Agreement with the conduct of the referendum in October and also manage the transitional period after the vote is taken.

The Minister for Bougainville Affairs, SIR PUKA TEMU has told the visiting Australian and New Zealand delegation that since the change of the government two weeks ago, Prime Minister, JAMES MARAPE has announced that the PNG Government is 100 percent behind the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Bougainville News Alert : Today we commemorate the 14th Anniversary of the Autonomous #Bougainville Government :Celebrating our past , embracing our future , #togetherwecan

 

“ The Bougainville day, for this year alone, is very special for Bougainville when the people are getting ready to vote on the future political status of the government and region as a whole.

It was the cry of our ancestors that Bougainville becomes an independent nation.

Their cries haven’t fallen on deaf ears. Leaders and powerful decision makers have all heard our cries. And now it is up to us to make the choice come the Bougainville Referendum on October 12,” he said.

“So come. Let’s celebrate our past and embrace our future. Together we can reach that destiny,”

Acting Chief Secretary Mr Thomas Raivet said that he wants the Bougainville day celebrations to be bigger and better this year.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government was inaugurated on the 15th of June 2005. Today the region will commemorate the 14th Anniversary of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.  In the 14 years of its existence, the ABG has gone through many challenges and overcome many difficulties.

Photo Ishmael Milton Palipal

The few challenges and the negatives are minor, and give us Bougainvilleans strength and make us more determined group of people. And the challenges and negatives should be humiliated by the many achievements that the ABG continues to attain and deliver to the people of Bougainville.

Commemorating the event is one way that Bougainvilleans are continued to be reminded on the achievements and instill amongst them a clear sense of patriotism and they take ownership of the entire process of finding a lasting solution to the Bougainville conflict and aspiration.

As the window period on the conduct of the referendum is coming closer to its end and with the agreement on the Question to be asked in the Referendum, it is becoming apparent that the 14th ABG day may be the last to be celebrated under the current Autonomous arrangement, ensued by the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Based on this the ABG Department of Peace Agreement Implementation (DPAI) together with other ABG agencies, intends to ensure 14th anniversary of the ABG is celebrated differently from the past and previous ABG Days.

The event must be inclusive as much as possible so that all Bougainvilleans across the different levels and organizations fully participate. Particular emphasis will be placed on the youthful population and most importantly all ABG Department must be seen to embrace the day and fully participate directly or indirectly.

Some of the underline objectives of the 14th ABG day include;

  • To celebrate on the achievements of the Autonomous Bougainville Government since its establishment and positively look forward to the challenges that are yet to come,
  • To promote the identity of Bougainville through the various forms of arts and cultures that will be showcased during the ABG Day.
  • Doing away with regionalism and factionalism and promoting peace and unification amongst all Bougainvilleans through arts and cultures and other various forms that will be showcased,
  • To promote all inclusive participation of Bougainvilleans in the event. The event as much as possible must draw full participation of all stakeholders including the youthful population, women and elderly, people living with disabilities,
  • To inform Bougainvilleans on the recent development pertaining to the Referendum preparation.

The theme for this year’s ABG Day is set as “CELEBRATING OUR PAST, EMBRACING OUR FUTURE…TOGETHER WE CAN.

This theme fits in well as it continues to remind Bougainvilleans that we have come a long way after the cessation of the Bougainville conflict. And as we are progressing, we continue to achieve many positive outcomes for the betterment of the region we all call our home.

And as we celebrate we continue to remind ourselves that we are a peaceful people that does not want to enter into any conflict again. We have proven that through the survival of the Bougainville Peace Agreement without any relapse of war. Above all, the achievements are a result of the contribution of all Bougainvilleans and together we desire to achieve many positive outcomes for the years to come.

This year the celebrations will be big. The celebration for this year is set for two days Saturday June 15 and Sunday June 16. The Program for Saturday will begin with a dawn service at the Bel Isi Park at Buka Town followed by a boat and truck floats, boat race, peace walk, tug of war, biker stunts and the main celebrations held at the Hutjena Oval.

On Sunday the celebrations takes place at the Hutjena Oval. There will be a combined church service followed by traditional dances, a panel discussion on the Bougainville Referendum; a theatre group to entertain with drama; Mr & Miss Bougainville Quest; bands to play till the afternoon and the releasing of the lanterns to remember the 20,000 lives lost during the Bougainville Crisis.

 

Bougainville Mining News : ABG calls for submissions to #Bougainville Mining Bills : Submissions close 19 April

 

The Parliament’s Legislation Committee is conducting public enquiries into the following Government Bills: 

  1. BILL NUMBER ONE: Bougainville Mining (Amendment) Bill 2019;
  2. BILL NUMBER TWO: Bougainville Advance Holdings Trust Authorization Bill 2019;
  3. BILL NUMBER THREE: Bougainville Advance Mining Holdings Limited Authorization Bill 2019.

BILL NUMBER ONE seeks to amend the Bougainville Act 2015 to allow the Bougainville Executive Council, in conjunction with the Minister for Mineral and Energy Resources, to issue a Special Bougainville Exploration Licence or Mining Lease to a Special Bougainville Entity.

BILL NUMBER TWO seeks to establish a Trust (the Bougainville Advance Holdings Trust).

BILL NUMBER THREE seeks to establish Bougainville Advance Holdings (AROB) Ltd as a commercial enterprise and business platform.

See ABG Website

The Committee is calling for written submissions from interested persons and organizations. We ask that Submitters be clear in their submissions which Bill(s) they are offering a submission on.

The Committee invites public participation in the enquiry process. Written submissions addressing the Terms of Reference must be submitted to:

The Legislation Committee

Parliamentary Committee Secretariat Office  

Bougainville House of Representatives,

KUBU, Buka, Autonomous Region of Bougainville

Submitters can indicate whether they want to appear to give evidence orally.

Further information about this enquiry is available and can be obtained directly at the Committee Secretariat Office location at Parliament House.

The Committee will consider requests that a submission remain confidential and not be released to the public.

THE CLOSING DATE FOR WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS IS 19th April 2019

TERMS OF REFERENCE

On Wednesday 13th February 2019 the House referred for the second time to the Legislation Committee, three Government Bills titled:

  1. BOUGAINVILLE MINING (AMENDMENT) BILL 2019,
  2. BOUGAINVILLE ADVANCE HOLDINGS TRUST AUTHORIZATION BILL 2019, and
  3. BOUGAINVILLE ADVANCE HOLDINGS LIMITED AUTHORIZATION BILL 2019.

The Bills which were withdrawn by the sponsoring Ministers were again reintroduced on the floor of Parliament and are now in the hands of the responsible Committee to conduct public consultations, and report to the House.

The Committee adopts the following Terms of Reference governing its examination of the Bills. The Committee will:

Enquire into how the proposal was initiated by whom, within or outside of the Government et cetera;

  • Be mindful of and sensitive to the role that mining has played in the history of this country and what its role could be in the future for all people;
  • Examine the Bills and their drafting in detail;
  • Consult with responsible Ministers, Departments and officials and other key stakeholders;
  • Conduct consultation to gauge the widest range of Bougainvillean’s views on the proposed legislations;
  • Consider whether or not the Bills as drafted are consistent or not with existing objectives, principles, protections and duties in relevant legislation and instruments including (but not limited to) the Constitution of Bougainville and the Bougainville Mining Act 2015;
  • Propose any amendments to the Bills; and
  • Present a final report on its findings to the House in the next Parliament Session.

A Short Guide to writing a submission

While there is no set format for a submission to a select committee, you should aim to present your submission in a way that is ordered and easy to read.

Key Information

Head your submission with the name of the select committee to which it is addressed and the full title of the bill, inquiry, or matter under consideration.

Provide the following information in a covering letter or at the top of your submission: your name or the name of the organisation you are representing; an email address; a contact address; and a daytime telephone number.

If you wish to appear before the committee, include with your name your daytime telephone number and email address. If you wish others to appear in support, include their names and, if representing an organisation, designations. What are your organisation’s aims?

If you are writing for an organisation, give brief details of the organisation’s aims, membership, and structure. Make sure that you have the authority to represent the organisation and note your position within the organisation.

Who has been consulted? Note how much support you have and how widely you have consulted while writing the submission.

Content of the Submission

When writing a submission, you will usually be making comments in relation to a bill or inquiry. While there are differences in the way in which a submission is written for a bill or inquiry, there are five basic principles that apply to both.

Relevant Your submission must be relevant to the matter before the committee. A committee may decide not to receive a submission it considers not relevant.

Clear Arrange your sentences and paragraphs in a logical order. Present a clear and logically developed argument. A submission that jumps from one issue to another and back again or jumbles unrelated issues together may confuse members and reduce its impact.

Concise Be simple and direct. Do not write more than is necessary. An overly long submission may prove too long for members to consider fully. They want to know what you think and the evidence or arguments you have that support your view.

Accurate Be accurate and complete. Include all relevant information. It will only confuse the committee if, in your submission, you refer to evidence or information that is not included. Make sure your facts are correct. An error-ridden submission will greatly reduce its impact and credibility.

Conclusion Restate your recommendations in a conclusion at the end of the submission or an executive summary at the beginning. Consider listing your submission’s recommendations or summing up its main points.

Writing a submission on an Inquiry

Writing a submission for an inquiry is different from writing a submission on a bill. As there are no specific clauses to comment on, use the terms of reference of the inquiry as a guide to presenting your views. You may then like to list any specific recommendations that you wish the committee to consider. It is essential to have a copy of the inquiry’s terms of reference to assist in preparing your submission.

Writing a submission on a Bill

When writing a submission on a bill you should have a copy of that bill so you know what is being proposed. You will then be able to focus your submission on what the bill actually contains.

First, state your general position on the bill, whether you support or oppose the measure being proposed, and give your reasons.

Having stated your general position, make more detailed comments on the clauses that are of concern to you. If you feel that certain clauses need to be changed, say so, and give your reasons. You might also like to suggest new wording for the clauses that you feel ought to be changed. Using clauses as numbered in the bill is a good way to organise your submission.

This notice is authorised by the Committee Chair Hon. Rodney Osioco

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.