Bougainville Referendum and Independence News : Special JSB meeting endorses Era Kone Covenant

ABG President Hon. Ishmael Toroama Opening Address at the meeting of the Special Joint Supervisory Body

I acknowledge the presence of the Prime Minister, Honorable James Marape, the respective Ministers of Autonomous Bougainville Government and the National Government, Departmental Heads and members of the Joint Technical Team. I also welcome our development partners and international friends who are present with us this morning.

I also make special mention of Moderator of the Consultations, His Excellency the Honorable Bertie Ahern. Despite his absence at the three joint consultations due to the COVID 19 pandemic his advice and guidance through the United Nations proved invaluable.

I am very thankful also to the United Nations for their continued support on Bougainville and acknowledge their presence here this morning.

Prime Minister, from the outset I must commend you and your government’s unwavering support to the Bougainville Peace Process through the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

It is a process that you inherited from your predecessors and is more than half a century old dating all the way back to before the dawn of Papua New Guinea’s Independence in 1975. Nevertheless, you have shown great foresight in understanding its historical context and the current political processes on the independence aspirations of the people of Bougainville.

The successful outcome of the 2019 Bougainville Referendum is a testament to the mutual cooperation between the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. As the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea who oversaw the successful outcome of the 2019 Referendum, it is only befitting that you are here today to set the final path towards Bougainville’s political settlement that reflects the 97.7% of Bougainvilleans who opted for independence during the referendum.

Through the three Joint Bougainville Post Referendum Consultations we have jointly developed a decisive path on the future political status of Bougainville. We have jointly agreed on a timeline (not before 2025 and no later than 2027) and a roadmap for the ratification of the referendum results in the National Parliament. Finally, we jointly agreed on the documented record of the three consultations now known as the Era Kone Covenant that we signed on April 5, 2022.

Formally known as the The Era Kone Covenant on finalization of the Bougainville Referendum on Independence the Era Kone Covenant;

  • Captures the outcomes of the three post referendum joint consultations,
  • Ensures the outcomes of the joint consultations are tabled in the 11th Parliament in 2023,
  • Commits both Governments to jointly formulate a report to brief the 11th Parliament on its role to give effect to Section 342 of the National Constitution, in this case a report on the three Bougainville Joint Post Referendum Consultations outcomes.
  • Provides for the respective executive councils of both Governments to make Constitutional Regulations, prescribing all matters that are necessary for carrying out and giving effect to the Era Kone Covenant in accordance with Section 349 of the National Constitution. The Constitutional Regulations will map out the protocols of the ratification process.
  • The Constitutional Regulations cannot be amended or repealed by the National Government except with approval of the Bougainville Executive Council in accordance with the Bougainville Constitution and the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

The Era Kone Covenant has just been endorsed by the National Executive Council and the Bougainville Executive Council. This formally concludes the process of the post referendum consultations between both governments. A report on the outcomes of the Joint Consultations will be furnished by the Joint Technical Team to brief the 11th Parliament in 2023. Henceforth, the Era Kone Covenant will act as a guide to successive Joint Supervisory Body meetings.

The Era Kone Covenant triggers the next important stage in the Bougainville Peace Process and this is the drafting of the Constitutional Regulations. The Constitutional Regulations will chart the course for the ratification process by the National Parliament while taking into account the referendum results and the Post Bougainville Referendum Consultation Report. In hindsight the Constitutional Regulations will enable the Ratification Process to be an all-inclusive democratic process that will ensure considerations are given to the people of Bougainville as well as the state of union of Papua New Guinea.

Article 1 (iii) of the Era Kone Covenant recommends that the Joint Legal Technical Working Group immediately commence drafting the Constitutional Regulations. I am hopeful that this will commence as soon as the conclusion of this special JSB Meeting.

Prime Minister, my technical team have taken the liberty of formulating a working draft of the Constitutional Regulations. This draft can be used as the baseline for the Joint Technical Team in creating and finalizing the joint Constitutional Regulations that will be presented to both our executive governments for endorsement. As a measure of good faith and mutual understanding I would like to propose that our technical teams use my government’s proposed draft to immediately begin work on the Constitutional Regulations.

Prime Minister, I have a moral responsibility to the people of Bougainville and the twenty thousand lives lost in the Bougainville Crisis to ensure political Independence is granted to Bougainville. However, I understand that you also have a responsibility to the people of Papua New Guinea to preserve the sovereignty of the nation. In spite of our differing views on Bougainville’s future political status I am grateful that we share a mutual respect for each other and our own views. I believe this trust and respect is the foundation of the many progress that we have achieved in the last 19 months.

I look forward to our discussions during this Joint Supervisory Body Meeting.

God Bless Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.

Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR

President

Special JSB meeting endorses Era Kone Covenant
The Governments of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea have endorsed the Era Kone Covenant at a special meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body in Port Moresby today.
The Era Kone Covenant captures the outcomes of the three joint inter-government consultations that happened in 2021 in Kokopo, Wabag and Port Moresby respectively.
The Era Kone Covenant now marks the conclusion of the joint inter-government consultations on the referendum results, and outlines the mechanism to table the Bougainville Referendum Result in the National Parliament, including the manner in which the National Parliament may ratify the results.
Speaking this morning at the special JSB meeting, ABG President Hon Ishmael Toroama commended the National Government for their unwavering support to the Bougainville Peace Process.
“The successful outcome of the 2019 Bougainville Referendum is a testament to the mutual cooperation between the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government,” President Toroama said.
“Through the three Joint Bougainville Post Referendum Consultations we have jointly developed a decisive path on the future political status of Bougainville. We have jointly agreed on a timeline (not before 2025 and no later than 2027) and a roadmap for the ratification of the referendum results in the National Parliament.”
Prime Minister James Marape reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the outcomes that were reached in the past three joint consultations and gave his assurance to the people of Bougainville that his government will continue to work within the spirit of peace agreement.
“We’ve established a pathway that we should work towards and we on the national government side, I just want to assure Bougainville that it doesn’t matter who sits in this chair in 3 months’ time, the work for Bougainville has been set and the work we have set will continue on,” he said.
The Era Kone Covenant was signed by the two leaders earlier this month and further required the endorsement of both governments’ respective executive councils in order to be effected.
The Bougainville Executive Council and the National Executive Council have respectively endorsed the Era Kone Covenant which now signals implementation of the next steps.
This will include the immediate commencement on drafting the Constitutional Regulation – which will be the mechanism that outlines how the referendum results will be brought into parliament.
The Era Kone Covenant further binds both governments to ensure that the outcomes of the three joint inter-government consultations are tabled in the 11th parliament in 2023.
This will also include a report prepared jointly by both parties to brief the 11th parliament on its role in giving effect to s342 of the National Constitution on Referendum Results and Implementation.

Bougainville News alert : Hon. Ishmael Toroama President statement commemorating the first year of the #Bougainville Independence Ready Mission

It has been one year since my government launched the Bougainville Independence Ready Mission on April 1, 2021.

My Government’s Independence Ready Mission takes on a three-pronged strategic approach that requires preparations for independence to be implemented internally, domestically and internationally.

In commemorating the first year of implementing this program, I wish to remind us all Bougainvilleans that preparing Bougainville for independence is no easy challenge.

It requires government and people to work together and to work harder in this process to actualize our political aspiration for independence.

For us in Bougainville, we have established our Constituency Independence-Ready Committees across all our thirty-three constituencies through the internal prong of the Independence-Ready Mission.

As President, I call on all Bougainvilleans to work collaboratively with these Committees to progress nation-building and state-building activities at the ward levels.

We can only progress through people-participation in development, adopting social responsibility standards, having a change of mindset and cultivating an attitude of self-reliance in our families and communities.

Our political timeline has been set; ‘no earlier than 2025 and no later than 2027’ and it requires a whole-of-government approach to our independence-readiness.

As Bougainvilleans, we must embrace this timeline and see it as a matter of urgency to get our house in order.

In working towards independence-readiness, my government will ensure that we have the proper systems in place that promotes democracy, transparency, accountability, peace and good order in our society.

In the same manner, I call on every Bougainvillean man, woman and child to stand firm with your government in this process. Our 97.7% vote for independence proves that we are united in this process and we must not shy away from the challenges that lie ahead of us.

We stood united as one people when we voted for Bougainville’s independence, and we must stand firm through this journey to deliver independence together for Bougainville.

May God Bless us All.

Hon. Ishmael Toroama
President

Bougainville News Alert : President Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR Statement and joint statement at the Third Joint Consultation Meeting

The Chairman of this meeting; the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and members of his delegation; the Ministers and members of the Bougainville delegation.

May I also extend a warm welcome to you all to this meeting of our two governments. We have had two consultation meetings since the declaration of the Referendum Results and this is the 3rd and final consultation on the Referendum result. Any political matters remaining unresolved should now go for moderation and may be even for arbitration at an international arena.

I stand here today as a living testimony to the Bougainville Peace Agreement, as a negotiator and as a signatory to the Peace Agreement. When I speak about the Peace agreement, I do not talk theory based on written documents as I have first-hand personal knowledge. In fact, several other leaders on the Bougainville side are also blessed with institutional memory about the Peace Agreement.

I wish to state that as far as my government is concerned, we have taken the “consultation avenue” as far as we can. The timing is now right to address “head on” the long historical issue of independence as expressed in the Referendum Result.

We the leaders of Bougainville hereby declare to Papua New Guinea and the United Nations, the facts on which our long-standing pursuit for political independence is founded.

Noting that the only known cultural and trade links known prior to colonization were with the Solomon Islands and the smaller islands to the east of New Ireland. That the melanin levels of Bougainvillean give unique attributes to the peoples of Bougainville as a distinct group of peoples.

Recalling that the drawing up of geo-political boundaries between the Solomons island and Papua New Guinea including Bougainville was an act of denial by the foreign colonizers without the consent of the Bougainville people.

Affirming that there is a long history of political aspirations for self-determination such as the Muma Rure movement of Siwai, the Napidakoe-Navitu movement of Central Bougainville, and the Hahalis Welfare Society of Buka.

Remembering that as PNG was preparing for Self-Government and Independence, that Bougainville had sent a delegation to the United Nations seeking to be a separate and independent country from Papua and New Guinea.

Noting specifically that on the eve of independence for Papua and New Guinea, that Bougainville announced Universal Declaration of Independence on 1st of September 1975. That the then Chief Minister, Sir Micheal Somare offered “Provincial Government” as a special and unique political arrangement for Bougainville appeasing the separatist sentiments. That the name “North Solomons Provincial Govt” indicated a break from the past political & governance arrangements.

Further considering that the granting of “provincial government system” to the rest of PNG, removed the uniqueness of “the provincial government as a special political arrangement for Bougainville” and “betrayed the Trust” of the Bougainville people.

Noting specifically, that the PNG government failed to renegotiate the Panguna Mining Agreement twice aggravating the concerns of the people. That failure by the PNG Government and Bougainville Copper Limited to genuinely address the concerns regarding the environmental issues, led to the peaceful demonstrations of the landowners.

Remembering that the heavy-handed response by the PNG Government, on innocent civilians including the elderly, women and children, resulted in the escalation of law and order which eventually turned into the full-scale civil war – the Bougainville Crisis. That 20,000 lives were lost from direct combat and from lack of social economic services and that these deliberate actions can be deemed as acts of genocide against a group of people.

Further Specifically Noting that the Government of PNG, using its Constitution and State Institutions, and against international law, and supported by Australia, committed serious crimes against humanity and human rights abuses that can be deemed as acts of genocide in international law. That the states sanctioned measures included the blanket economic embargo and the Sandline mercenaries.

Noting the continued advisory role now being played by Australia Dfat in advising PNG Govt against Bougainville independence.

Further noting that the above history confirms a PNG Govt system that cannot be trusted to stand for and protect its citizens. That against a backdrop of government that cannot be trusted, that independence for Bougainville is seen as the only option to have a political-governance regime that will act in the best interest for and on behalf of the people of Bougainville.

Confirming that the Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed as an interim peace and governance package towards a final political settlement with Referendum guaranteed in the PNG Constitution as the mechanism for deciding the political settlement (highest autonomy; independence).

Further confirming also that the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) had met its part of the Conditionalities (weapons disposal; good governance) for conducting Referendum.

Witnessing that a free and fair referendum was conducted under an internationally sanctioned body the BRC on which PNG was a critical member. That two options were provided with a clear majority of 97.7% voting for independence. That the people have clearly indicated the preferred political settlement.

Noting that PNG government has again displayed its lack of trustworthiness by not fulfilling its obligations in fully funding the Constitutionally guaranteed restoration and development grant (K620m outstanding)

Affirming that various PNG Governments had over the years not acted in the best interest of Bougainville and at times actually betrayed the people of Bougainville. And that the only recourse left for the peoples of Bougainville is to demand for the Government of PNG to accord independence as desired by the 97.7 % vote for Independence.

Declaring that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government” as expressed through the Referendum vote. That the indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination.

By virture of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

I, as the President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, now call upon the PNG Government to make a clear declaration to this Joint Consultation and to the people of Bougainville, its’ plans for giving independence to Bougainville, within the time frame set in the Wabag roadmap.

Finally, exactly 20 years ago to the day, all of us here today those sitting across the table, as representatives of our people, and those of our friends from the international community, and those who are here to represent the United Nations, including yourself Mr Chairman, exactly 20 years ago, we concluded perhaps one of the most successful peace agreements, in modern times.

It brought our people together, it brought Bougainville together, it brought Papua New Guinean together, and it brought our friends in the international community closer to us, so that we may join hands and work out a long-lasting solution to that conflict.

We have dedicated ourselves to this process, where we would finally resolve, through a Referendum the future of Bougainville in the greater PNG union that was formed in 1975.

But while we the living have made the choice for independence; the future has been earned by those who have perished from the face of the earth in this conflict.

Today Mr Chairman, I stand here to say only one thing: My friend Hon James Marape, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, I appeal to you, it is now time to let my people go!

Honorable Ishmael Toroama, MHR  

ABG President

Joint Statement at the conclusion of the Joint Supervisory Body Meeting

The governments of PNG and Bougainville today concluded the Joint Supervisory Body Meeting in Port Moresby.

Prime Minister James Marape and President Ishmael Toroama affirmed to work within the spirit and intentions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

The two leaders further reaffirmed their commitment to the jointly agreed timeframe that has been set to find a lasting solution for Bougainville.

Among key agreements reached today, the leaders tabled the Joint Statement that was agreed to in the Joint Consultations meeting yesterday.

The leaders endorsed the Joint Consultations Statement and directed that both governments’ technical teams will work together to ensure its effective implementation as per the Wabag Roadmap.

Other key agendas discussed in the meeting today include the implementation of the Sharp Agreement and other outstanding financial matters.

The two leaders also noted the recurring agendas that have remain unresolved for a number of years such as the fisheries, BCL shares and the Restoration and Development Grant, and directed the technical teams to ensure that these matters are resolved immediately at the administrative level.

The leaders agreed that the next meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body will be held in March 2022 in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Following the meeting, the two leaders jointly launched the Bougainville Socio-Economic Baseline Survey Report.

The Baseline Survey Report is an activity led jointly by the ABG and National Department of Commerce, and provides the government with complete data on Bougainville’s current socio-economic situation, and proposes policy interventions for the government to implement going forward.

Bougainville News Special Edition : Today August 30 we Commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Bougainville Peace Agreement

Today we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) that was signed between the people of Bougainville and the Government of Papua New Guinea on August 30, 2001.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement formally ended the Bougainville Crisis and signified the cessation of hostilities between the people of Bougainville and the Government of Papua New Guinea.

It closed one of the darkest chapters of PNG and Bougainville’s history. The BPA set the foundation for peace and opened the way for Bougainville to pursue our aspirations on self-determination.

In the last twenty years our people, our leaders and the Autonomous Bougainville Government have shown great resilience in maintaining our commitment to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Our endeavor to attain political independence for Bougainville has always been within the parameters of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Our commitment has given credibility to the process espoused by the BPA by successfully implementing the requirements of the BPA’s three main pillars:

1.      Autonomy

2.      Weapons Disposal

3.      Referendum

We have achieved Autonomy, we have achieved Weapons Disposal and we have successfully held a Referendum with an overwhelming 97.7 percent of Bougainvilleans who have opted for an Independent Sovereign State of Bougainville.

The theme for the 20th Anniversary of the BPA “Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Bougainville Peace Agreement as the Cornerstone of our Independence Mission” is a testament to these achievements.

It also a declaration by our government and our people of our resolve and the journey we have already begun.

We have enjoyed twenty years of peace under the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the autonomous arrangements that created the ABG.

The next five years are going to be critical as the ABG has declared its position to the National Government and we have set a timeline (2025 – 2027) for Bougainville’s final political settlement.

I must thank the Prime Minister Hon. James Marape and the National Government for their continued commitment on the implementation of the BPA, we have come this far in the spirit of friendship and equal partnership.

However, there are outstanding issues such as intergovernmental finance arrangements, drawdown of powers and the joint autonomy review.

In light of this achievable challenges I recognize the Joint Supervisory Body as the appropriate medium to discuss these issues.

In the face of adversity, we have shown courage by defending our land and our people against an oppressive regime and by the same spirit we have proved our valiance to accept peace. Our journey is not yet over, the next chapter in our history requires our people to unite and to continue to work hard to support our government.

History has taught us that peace by peaceful means has been the only answer to Bougainville’s progress. Hence we must embrace the values and principles that promote peace not only for our time but a peace for all time to come on Bougainville.

As a signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement and moreover as President of Bougainville I am proud of the progress we have made despite the many challenges that came our way.

I pay tribute to Bougainville’s past and present leadership for their immense contribution to making Bougainville realize its ultimate political future and that is independence.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”

Happy 20th Bougainville Peace Agreement Anniversary Celebrations to you all.

 

Hon. Ishmael Toroama MHR

President

 

Bougainville News Alerts July 2021 : People of Bougainville have chosen the road to independence

Part 1 of 2 The ABG President and his delegation have  arrived back in Bougainville to a first-of-its kind welcome by the people following the successful outcome of the joint government meetings in Wabag, Enga Province.

President Hon. Ishmael Toroama and his delegation were led in procession by a traditional cultural group from the Ieta Village in Buka, to the Bel Isi Park where the government leaders provided detailed updates on the outcomes of the Joint Inter-Government Consultations and the Joint Supervisory Body meetings that took place in Wabag on Tuesday this week.

President Toroama when speaking on the outcomes of the joint meetings reassured the people that his government’s key agenda is to deliver independence for Bougainville.

At the conclusion of the Joint Government Consultations, the PNG Prime Minister and ABG President had agreed that a political settlement will be determined by both governments no earlier than 2025 and no later than 2027.

The leaders further agreed that a joint roadmap that contains key activities will be used to guide both governments to implement key activities between now and 2027.

Key activities in this jointly agreed roadmap include implementing the SHARP Agreement, amending the National Constitution and preparation for the drafting of the Bougainville Independence Constitution, among others.

President Toroama called on the people to support the government saying that it is not only the government’s responsibility, but all individual Bougainvillean’s responsibility to drive their efforts towards preparing Bougainville for independence.

Part 2 : People of Bougainville have chosen the road to independence and it is Bougainville’s task as leaders and members to bring our journey on independence to our doorstep. 

This is the challenge President Honorable Ishmael Toroama issued  when addressing the Bougainville Leader’s Consultation Forum .

“We have rejected autonomy that is why our government is pursuing this and I want to thank all the leaders present here – Bougainville Independence Mission Advisors, ABG Ministers and Members, administration and the prayers of the people of Bougainville for achieving much from the second consultation,” he said.

President Toroama said the team had achieved much during the recent trip because the Prime Minister had acknowledged Bougainville on its journey through the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).

He thanked the Prime Minister for the positive achievement in the joint consultation meeting and the outcome of the statement setting 2027 as a target year for Bougainville; however, he also reiterated that the challenge was on all leaders of Bougainville to make sure there was a good progress before 2025 for a smooth transition.

President Toroama said the outcome of the statement is a joint creation by the ABG and PNG, however, greater responsibility was upon the leaders.

“All leaders present here today, you have that duty and responsibility to make sure before 2025, we make a good progress. If we can make a good progress from now till 2025, then we will walk right into the date we have set,” he said.

According to the President the joint statement has put a burden on Bougainville and the pressure is on Bougainville to actualize this statement, thus he called on the department heads, workforce in the public service and the people of Bougainville to work together to actualize this or Bougainville will miss the boat on the independence ready mission.

“Pressure is now on us and I want to appeal to the people of Bougainville to make independence ready mission our priority,” he said.

The Bougainville Leaders Consultation Forum was held at Kuri Resort and is the second forum this year organized by the Department of Bougainville Independence Mission Implementation.

This forum is used to gather views, ideas and comments from Bougainville leaders within the government and across all sectors of the community on the way forward for Bougainville’s political journey towards independence.

The forum today was to inform the leaders of the outcome of the recent joint consultation meeting in Enga and discuss and plan for the next consultation and way forward.

The meeting was chaired by the Attorney General and Minister for Bougainville Independence Mission Implementation Hon Ezekiel Massat, and attended by the Speaker of Parliament Hon Simon Pentanu, Ministers and Members of the Bougainville House of Representatives and leaders from all sectors of the community, including women, youth, ex-combatants, churches and prominent leaders.

 

Bougainville News Alerts : NRI Report : What needs to be done on Bougainville in the wake of the 2019 referendum.

“ Any form of self-determination will require some new institutions for Bougainville and some changes to existing ones, all of which will need a foundation in Bougainville’s Constitution. Exactly what changes are made, how they are made, and the future relationship between the Constitutions of Bougainville and PNG will depend in part on the form of self-determination.

  • If Bougainville achieved self-determination outside PNG, with no formal relationship with PNG other than as a close neighbour, this would be reflected in the terms of the Constitution, the range of matters for which it provides, and the mechanisms that it establishes for political and legal accountability.
  • If Bougainville achieved self-determination in a form of free association with PNG, this would be likely reflected in the Constitutions of both PNG and Bougainville, although the Constitutions need not otherwise be dependent on each other.
  • If Bougainville achieved self-determination on a basis that left it formally within PNG, significant constitutional changes still would be needed. In these circumstances, however, there would be a relationship of some kind between the two Constitutions, although it may not be the same as exists at present.
    On any of these scenarios for constitutional change, there is a further question for decision about whether Bougainville should amend the existing Constitution or make a new one. In principle, either is possible and there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

 Abridged from a National Research Institute research report ( Reseach Report 8: Institution Building in Post-Referendum Bougainville) under its Referendum Research Project. This was released along with Research Report 9: Increasing Revenues for the Bougainville Government.

What needs to be done on Bougainville in the wake of the 2019 referendum.

By ANNA DZIEDZIC and CHERYL SAUNDERS

THERE will be four key questions before decision-makers in the post-referendum consultations. While the primary focus of the consultations will be the future relationship between Bougainville and PNG, the other questions are necessarily linked to this relationship.

The questions are identified separately below, to ensure that each is actively considered, in the interests of workable and lasting outcomes.
The questions are:

  • What should be the future relationship between Bougainville and PNG, following the referendum?
  • What changes are necessary to achieve that relationship, in both PNG and Bougainville, in terms of governing authority and the way in which authority is exercised?
  • How should these changes be made, to ensure that they work as effectively as possible from the standpoint of both Bougainville and PNG?
  • Over what time frame should change occur and in what order of priority?

The future relationship between Bougainville and PNG might take different forms, with multiple different features, all of which are consistent with self-determination.

For the purposes of this report, as an aid to understanding the options, the possibilities are grouped into three broad categories.

We note, however, that there may be variations within each.

These categories are: Self-determination for Bougainville outside PNG, as a formally sovereign state; Self-determination outside PNG, but in a form of free association with it; Self-determination in a form that leaves Bougainville formally part of PNG.

Three influential factors

There are at least three contextual factors that are relevant to the form and outcomes of the consultations.

One is the nature of the existing relationship between PNG and Bougainville. These two territories have been connected for the purposes of governance for over 100 years. The legacies of this connection include both long collaboration and significant conflict (Regan & Griffin, 2015).

Both legacies are evident in the considerable achievements of the BPA, which brought a bitter conflict to a close in a way that has proved both manageable and lasting. Bougainville’s peace process provides a model from which others might learn.

Nevertheless, from the standpoint of the consultations, these legacies tend to pull in opposite directions. Complicating resolution further, a century of governance of PNG and Bougainville as a single entity also has encouraged the intermixture of peoples and the interdependence of economies.

Self-determination for Bougainville will require these to be disentangled to some degree, whatever form it takes. On the other hand, geography, shared history and the realities of globalisation suggest that a close relationship of some kind will continue.

A second contextual factor that demands consideration is Bougainville’s capability, now and into the future. Capability should be understood for this purpose as a combination of the knowledge, skills and integrity needed to develop policies, manage programs and run institutions in ways that work for the people of Bougainville and for the polity as a whole. Capability, including ways in which it might be developed, is relevant to all the key questions for decision in the course of the consultations.

Capability is an issue that arises when any political community acquires major new responsibilities for which it has final authority.

In one sense, Bougainville has an advantage in this regard over many other newly empowered political communities, thanks to the experience of nearly two decades of autonomy since the signing of the BPA. Capability is nevertheless a major issue for Bougainville, in ways that are documented in a range of relatively recent reports and reviews (Government of Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Government Joint Supervisory Body, 2018; Government of Papua New Guinea and Autonomous Bougainville Government Joint Supervisory Body, 2013; McKenna, 2019; Nisira, 2017; Peake, 2019).

Comparisons

Bougainville and PNG have distinctive features and a distinctive history that must guide both the decisions that are made in the course of the consultations and the ways in which they are put into effect.

Properly used, however, the experiences of other countries can be a valuable source from which insights for the consultations between governments can be drawn.

The companion report, Increasing Revenues for the Bougainville Government (Chand et al., 2020), identifies 57 states that, like Bougainville, have small island territories, in order to examine their relevance as comparators for the purposes of Bougainville’s own economic and fiscal futures.

From this range, the report ultimately identifies 18 such states that are broadly comparable to Bougainville in terms of size and economic opportunity (Chand et al., 2020).This section of this report identifies three ways in particular in which comparative experience might be useful for the institutional and related issues covered by this report.First, the experiences of other countries may provide useful insight into each of the broad options for the relationship between Bougainville and PNG.

Some examples are given below.

Timor Leste and South Sudan are both states that have separated from larger states in relatively recent times and have achieved self-determination as independent states in their own right.44 Timor Leste became an independent state in 2002 and South Sudan in 2011.

Cook Islands, Niue, the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau are examples of states that are not part of a larger state but operate in ‘free association’ with one.5• Greenland is formally part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but it enjoys self-government on a basis that includes a right to secede and so offers an example of self-determination while formally remaining part of a larger state (Ackrén, 2017).

The experiences of these and other states show how each of the broad options for self-determination works, as a basis for determining their suitability for Bougainville.

Second, polities that are broadly similar to Bougainville in terms of geographic and population size, stage of development, and perhaps culture, offer insights into such matters as the range of institutions that Bougainville might need; the challenges of operating them; and the extent to which governance can be enhanced by local cultural practice.

A subset of the states identified in the report Increasing Revenues (Chand et al., 2021) is most likely to be relevant for these purposes. States that might offer particular insights into the design and operation of institutions in Bougainville include Fiji, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga and Vanuatu.

While each of these polities is different to Bougainville in many respects, all are island states, all are relatively small in global terms, and all are in the same region of the world, with similar neighbours, some shared historical experiences, significant distinctive cultures and broadly similar aspirations.

Third, comparative experience can be useful also to demonstrate how smaller states, with limited resources, share institutions of various kinds, including by using institutions of others. Examples that will be given in the course of this report include currency, courts and diplomatic representation.

There is no shortage of public institutions that might be organised in this way, however, in the short term or even indefinitely. These practices are familiar in smaller states throughout the world, but the same range of Pacific states might be most useful comparators for Bougainville’s purposes.

It is not practicable in this report to canvass comparative experiences in any depth. Once the consultations get underway and the direction of the consultations becomes clear, more specific questions can be formulated. There may be value in organising a forum of representatives of selected states to provide detailed information on institutions and their operation in practice.

Political community

Creating a polity to realise self-determination requires an effective political community, in addition to the institutions and other trappings of statehood (Bogdandy et al., 2005). An effective political community requires cohesion between peoples, trust in public institutions and a shared commitment to the polity.

In an effective political community, disagreement is resolved through processes provided by or under the auspices of the state, potentially including customary law and practice. Members of a political community will not always be pleased by an election outcome, a new law or policy, or a decision of a court or other arbiter. Where a political community is working well, however, people accept such outcomes as part of a system to which they belong and on which they are prepared to rely, even while working to change decisions for the future. Bougainville already has a political community; however, greater demands will be placed on it by self-determination as Bougainville becomes increasingly self-reliant.

Although institutions based on western constitutional models have been established, customary institutions, such as councils of elders and chiefs, customary law, and customary methods of decision making and dispute resolution are recognised in Bougainville’s constitution and laws. Customary institutions have a high degree of legitimacy and operate alongside state institutions in what has been described as an example of successful ‘hybrid’ state building (Boege et al., 2008).

Customary institutions and processes have played a crucial role during the period of autonomy under the BPA. Bougainville can continue to draw on these institutions to develop a political community that suits its new circumstances and needs.

But there are challenges in building political community in Bougainville as well. Regionalism and factionalism are as present in Bougainville as elsewhere (Bougainville News, 2019).

The animosities of the civil war are not entirely overcome and continue to affect the cohesion of local communities (Autonomous Bougainville Government Department of Peace and Conciliation Resources, 2019).

Divisions could be exacerbated by future initiatives including, most obviously, reopening the Panguna mine. The struggle for self-determination has been a catalyst for unity of purpose within Bougainville that could be weakened once that struggle is over. Governance in Bougainville in conditions of self-determination is certain to be difficult, has the potential to give rise to dissatisfaction among sections of the people, and could undermine the solidarity on which political community depends.

Citizenship and passports

Any political community has rules or practices that identify its members. At present, Bougainville’s Constitution recognises the legal status of a ‘Bougainvillean’. Section 7 of the Constitution sets out the way in which Bougainvillean status is acquired. Section 8 identifies key rights held by Bougainvilleans to own customary land and to stand for election. Section 9 sets out the obligations of a Bougainvillean.

If Bougainville were to become a polity outside PNG, it would be necessary to create a status of Bougainville citizen and to provide for a system of Bougainville passports. By contrast, if Bougainville were to achieve a form of self-determination in free association with PNG, it could have its own citizenship and issue its own passports, but it need not do so.

So, for example, Niue, which has a form of free association with New Zealand, relies on New Zealand citizenship and accepts that its people use New Zealand passports, as convenient but not necessary attributes of free association (Angelo, 2009).

Ideas about membership and belonging are not exclusive to independent countries, however.
They also apply in distinct political communities within countries.

Some of these use the terminology of ‘citizenship’ to describe the status of belonging. In these cases, people may have multiple citizenships within the same country, at different levels of government, each of which is meaningful and valued in its own way.

A similar idea of multiple citizenships within the same polity can be found in some supra-national arrangements. For example, someone who lives in France may be a citizen of both France and the European Union.

It follows that even if Bougainville were to achieve self-determination in a form that meant it formally remained part of PNG, a status of Bougainville citizen could be created; although, in this case, passports would continue to be issued by PNG.

If a new status of citizen of Bougainville were created, it would be necessary to decide who is entitled to it. A broadly similar issue was faced in many Pacific states as they obtained independence from colonial rule.

One possibility would be to define citizenship of Bougainville by reference to the previous status of belonging, as a ‘Bougainvillean’. With this approach, anyone who meets the definition of ‘Bougainvillean’ in the current constitution could automatically become a citizen of Bougainville on a specified date.

The existing criteria would prescribe the bases on which citizenship of Bougainville might be acquired in the future. If this approach were adopted, consideration should be given to whether place of birth or other connection with the territory of Bougainville should be added to the criteria for Bougainville citizenship.

Under the current provisions, the requirement for Bougainvilleans to be citizens of PNG before exercising political rights ensures a territorial connection, which would be lost if the two citizenships are separated from each other. An alternative would be to define citizenship of Bougainville by reference to the standard criteria of place of birth and descent that are used in a variety of combinations in most countries in the world. This approach was taken by PNG on independence in 1975.

PNG conferred automatic citizenship at the date of independence on any person born in PNG who had two grandparents born in PNG or in specified neighbouring islands.

Under current PNG law, a person acquires PNG citizenship if he or she is born in PNG and has at least one parent who is a PNG citizen; is born outside of PNG but has at least one citizen parent and is registered; or has had some connection to the people and territory of PNG before naturalisation.8 Bougainville could develop citizenship requirements of its own, broadly along these lines, possibly accepting that birth in PNG and the ‘adjacent area’ as well as in Bougainville is acceptable for the purpose.

With either approach, there are likely to be cases where a person’s citizenship status is unclear. To accommodate these cases, other states in the Pacific also have set out a process for certain classes of people to register or to apply for citizenship (Dziedzic, 2020). Flexibility of some kind would be useful for prescribing the citizenship requirements for Bougainville.

Symbols

Every polity uses symbols to reinforce its sense of political community and for use on official occasions. Symbols usually reflect the polity’s sense of its own identity, in terms of its people and their culture, its territory, its history and its place in the world. Bougainville already has a distinctive identity, which is the product of its story so far.

A move to self-determination, whatever form it takes, will change Bougainville’s identity in some ways while leaving it unaltered in others.

There is no exhaustive list of the symbols that a polity may have for these purposes. Bougainville already has many of the usual symbols: a flag, emblem, motto and anthem. Bougainville also celebrates commemorative days, including Autonomous Bougainville Government Foundation Day and Peace Agreement Commemoration Day.

In connection with a move to self-determination, consideration might be given to whether these symbols adequately reflect the identity that Bougainville wishes to project, internally and externally. The answer could depend on the chosen form of self-determination. For example, the BPA and PNG Constitution presently require that official markings of the Bougainville Police and Bougainville Correctional Service include the national PNG emblem.

Changes in the relationship between PNG and Bougainville in consequence of self-determination may affect this practice and certainly would do so if Bougainville achieved self-determination outside PNG, whether as an independent state or in a form of free association.

Self-determination may have other implications for Bougainville’s identity as well, which could be reflected in the symbols used by Bougainville and the circumstances in which they are used.
Self-determination may ultimately lead to the creation of new symbols. A Bougainville system of honours or awards is a possible example.

In addition, self-determination may bring other changes to Bougainville that take on a symbolic character. To take one example: currency, which is considered further below in Part 5.2, can have a symbolic as well as practical function. As Part 5.2 explains, countries do not need to have their own currency; this is a choice for each to make. Some countries with their own currency also use it as a symbol.

Whatever the outcome of the consultations between the two governments, some changes to the Constitution of Bougainville are needed. The existing Constitution was made within parameters agreed in the BPA and reflected in the Constitution of PNG. It is expressly transitional, bridging the period of autonomy following the BPA and a decision on Bougainville’s future political status.
Both the Constitution itself and the process of making or changing it are relevant to self-determination for Bougainville.

A new or renewed constitution would mark the beginning of a new collective identity for Bougainville, symbolising the unity of the people and signifying Bougainville’s new status to the rest of the world (Haysom, 2005).

The Constitution also has practical significance for institution building, providing the basic framework for institutions of government and setting out their powers and functions.

 

 

Bougainville News Alert : Read / Download Official media statement and resolutions of the February Joint Supervisory Body Meeting in Arawa

Official Joint Media Statement of the Joint Supervisory Body Meeting in Arawa, Bougainville on Friday 05 February 2021, by Co-Chairs Hon. James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR, President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape and President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville Hon. Ishmael Toroama, on February 5 met at the Joint Supervisory Body meeting.

To download the full JSB Resolution 

050221_Arawa_JSB_Resolution

In the meeting the two leaders reaffirmed their joint commitment to the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

In his opening remarks, Prime Minister James Marape acknowledged that both governments had taken a long break from progressing discussions since the last JSB meeting in March 2020 due to the global pandemic.

However, he thanked the Autonomous Bougainville Government for the patience showed and acknowledged all technical officials for maintaining consistent dialogue on both sides.

Prime Minister Marape said that the national government recognizes the referendum choice of the people of Bougainville, and that the two governments must continue to use the Bougainville Peace Agreement as its main guide while on this peace process.

He announced his government’s commitment to have the joint consultations commence in the first quarter of this year, and reaffirmed his commitment to pursue the path as outlined in the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, which should eventually see National Parliament dealing with the Referendum result.

President Ishmael Toroama in his remarks acknowledged the Prime Minister and his delegation, and described the National Government’s commitment to Bougainville as very strong.

He said that there is great anticipation from the people of Bougainville on the 97.7% vote and much needs to be done to actualize this on both sides. The two leaders discussed on a total of nine agenda items.

Key of which was the Post Referendum Consultation Framework where the two leaders agreed to have the first joint consultation meeting on the referendum result on the 4th-5th March 2021 in Kokopo, East New Britain Province.

The Leaders also resolved through the JSB to formally accept the recent Joint Communique as the roadmap to consultations on the outcome of the Bougainville Referendum. On the Economic and Investment Summit, the leaders acknowledged the preparatory work done so far, and accepted the recommendation to have the Summit held from 5th to 6th May 2021 in Arawa, Central Bougainville.

On Fisheries matters, the JSB resolved to prioritize creation of investment in the fisheries sector to generate revenue for Bougainville, and also to further explore the development of a Tuna Cannery in Bougainville.

The meeting also considered other key issues such as the SME funding, establishment of Foreign Development Offices in Bougainville, taxation and revenue matters and other outstanding financial issues including National Governments commitment to retire fully the K621million outstanding RDG and the K100million a year Special Infrastructure Funds.

The leaders agreed that the next meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body will take place in June 2021, and a third JSB meeting to be held in December 2021.

Part 2

In appreciation of the continued peace between our Governments and our people as enabled by the Bougainville Peace Agreement, we, in our humility, praise and acknowledge that our Lord  is above all and that  this Resolution is commended to God for his wisdom and guide on us his servants.

We acknowledge that this is the first JSB co-chaired by the Honourable President of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama and on that note, we recognise that this is a new era of dialogue through peace by peaceful means.

We fully pledge support to each other to continue to maintain and strengthen our relationships at all levels of leadership.

Having met today at the Sharp Memorial Centre in Arawa, we note the recommendations of the Joint Technical Team meeting of February 5, 2021 and endorse the following resolutions;

Agenda 1: Joint Communique on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum

  1. The JSB notes the intentions of the Joint Communique to be the road map to the Inter-Government joint consultations and that the Joint Communique aims to create a mutual understanding and agreement on implementation of the Referendum outcome and defining next
  2. The JSB notes that the Joint Com1nunique on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum was signed on January 11, 2021 at the Sir Manasupe Haus, Port Moresby by the Honourable Prime Minister James Marape, MP and the Honourable President Ishmael Toroama, MHR and witnessed by GoPNG and ABG Attorney Generals Hon. Pila Niningi and Hon. Ezekiel
  3. The JSB accepts and endorses the Joint Communique as the road map to consultations on the Outcome of the Bougainville Referendum.

Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation of the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Process of Transfer of Functions and Powers:

 In the context of the 97.7% vote for Independence by the people of Bougainville in the 2019 Bougainville Referendum;

  • The JSB notes the explanation of the ABG on the intent of the ‘Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation on the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Transfer of Functions and Powers to fast track the process under Section 290 of the National

 

  • The JSB notes that the ABG has provided to the GoPNG State Solicitors the document on the Sharp Agreement and notes that the GoPNG State Solicitors have yet to provide legal feedback on the document hence the JSB recommends that a timeframe of two weeks is accorded to provide legal clearance on behalf of the National

 

  • The JSB accepts the Sharp Agreement on the Dispensation of the Constitutional Requirements relating to the Process of Transfer of Functions and Powers and directs that the legal clearance on behalf of the National Government is completed within the timeframe and that the ‘Sharp Agreement’ is signed no earlier than 19th February and no later than 26th February 2021, before the commencement of the Inter-Government Joint Consultations in 4th and 5thMarch,

Agenda 2: Bougainville Economic and Investment Summit

  1. The JSB acknowledges the JTT recommendations and endorses that Bougainville Economic and Investment Summit be held from 5th to 6th May, 2021 in Arawa, Central
  2. The JSB cautions that the venue be considered carefully as the JSB expects that the venue must be sufficient to cater for the large number of stakeholders to the Bougainville Economic and Investment

Agenda 3: BCL Shares

  1. The JSB acknowledges the work in progress on the transfer of BCL shares to ABG’s Bougainville Minerals Limited,
  2. The JSB endorses the work in progress brief on the transfer of BCL
  3. The JSB emphasises that lead agencies responsible for this agenda timeframe the transfer of shares and report to the JSB the progress of this

To download the full JSB Resolution 

050221_Arawa_JSB_Resolution

Joint Statement:

Genuine in our intentions for sustained peace between us, we endorse that our official statements delivered at the opening and closing of this meeting and all records of discussions and notes in this meeting is an integral part of this meeting.

We conclude by reaffirming that ‘man can make decisions  but God has the last say, with this affirmation, we leave all resolutions reached here today in the care of our God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bougainville News Alert : On the occasion of the signing of the Joint Communique by the Prime Minister of PNG and the President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government

In furthering the Bougainville Peace process in the Post Referendum period and having met 11 January 2020, we officially reaffirm and assure the people of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville that the Governments of PNG and Bougainville is committed to the process of the joint consultations on the outcome of the referendum.” 

The signing of the Joint Communique today signals our intention to immediately commence the joint consultations as is required by the National Constitution under Section 342 (1) and the Bougainville Peace Agreement under Clause 311 (b) for the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to consult over the outcome or result of the Bougainville referendum.

This Joint Communique affirms that as required by the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the referendum outcome will be subject to ratification (final decision making) of the National Parliament while Section 342 (2) of the National Constitution has made the decision of the National Parliament relating to the referendum result subject to the consultation under Section 342 (1).

  • The Joint Communique builds on the tremendous achievements of both Governments and establishes the following facts and principles of the Bougainville Peace process;
  • That the Bougainville Peace Agreement provides for a political right to Bougainvilleans to a referendum, among Bougainvilleans, on the future political status of Bougainville; and
  • That the National Government had guaranteed that political right through Section 338 (1) of the National Constitution; and
  • That the constitutional guarantee for the referendum under Section 338 (1) of the National Constitution depended on the fulfillment by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) of conditions relating to weapons disposal and good governance, of which the ABG satisfactorily met; and
  • That the choice for separate independence was guaranteed under Section 339 (c) of the National Constitution as one of a number of possible choices available to Bougainvilleans in the referendum; and
  • That the both Governments had agreed to the definition of independence before the conduct of the referendum to mean an independent nation with sovereign powers and laws, recognized under international law and by other international states to be an independent state, separate from the state of Papua New Guinea, with a defined territory, inclusive of maritime boundaries and associated exclusive economic zones; and a government chosen by its people; and capacity to enter into and manage international relations and United Nations membership; and
  • That the referendum question and the following two choices presented to Bougainvilleans in the referendum were intended to facilitate a clear result: Option 1 – Greater Autonomy, and Option 2 – Independence; and
  • That the referendum was conducted by an impartial Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC), headed by Mr. Bertie Ahern of Ireland, which comprised of a fair number of representatives from the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government; and
  • That the referendum that was held between November and December 2019 and witnessed by international observers was free and fair, and according to observer groups “credible, transparent and inclusive”; and
  • That a total number of 181,067 Bougainvilleans voted in the referendum, and out of that 97.7 % of them chose independence; and
  • That the report of the Bougainville Referendum Commission was tabled in both the National Parliament and the Bougainville House of Representatives, and was unanimously endorsed by both parliaments.

In adopting fully these established facts and principles; We hereby agree that the upcoming joint consultations will be moderated by an appointed Moderator and will be, but not limited to, addressing the key issues on the future political status of Bougainville, the method of endorsement by the National Parliament and the Documentation of record of the joint consultation.

Finally, in memory of the late Sir Mekere Morauta, for his contributions to the Bougainville Peace process as a former Prime Minister of our Nation and for his role as a signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001, this Joint Communique embodies both our Government’s sincerity to continued peace by peaceful means.

God Bless our people.

Hon. JAMES MARAPE, MP, Prime Minister, PNG

Hon. ISHMAEL TOROAMA, President, ABG

 

Bougainville News Webinar Alert : The use of mobile technologies in the 2019 Bougainville referendum presents both opportunities and challenges for the future of democracy in the Pacific

 ” The use of mobile technologies in the 2019 Bougainville referendum presents both opportunities and challenges for the future of democracy in the Pacific, Amanda H A Watson, Jeremy Miller and Adriana Schmidt write.

In late 2019, the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea (PNG) voted in a non-binding referendum offering two choices: greater autonomy or independence. People voted overwhelmingly for independence (97.71 per cent) in what was widely regarded to be a successful process, with an informed and engaged citizenry.

In the pre-referendum period, there was a strong emphasis on the need for widespread voter education to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the vote itself, and to maintain unity and peace. A number of initiatives were undertaken by the Bougainville government and other partners to overcome people’s lack of access to traditional mass media (radio, television and newspapers).”

This article is based upon a paper published by the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA) as part of its ‘Discussion paper’ series. The original paper can be found here.

The research will also be presented in a webinar on 27 October 2020. 

This article focuses on one initiative, a telephone information hotline that operated for eight weeks just before polling. It allowed people to ring a free-call number and hear pre-recorded messages about peacebuilding and the three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Callers were able to press 1 to hear information on peacebuilding, 2 for autonomy, 3 for the referendum and 4 for weapons disposal.

Each message was less than two minutes and recordings were updated weekly. This provided about an hour’s worth of audio information in total. The service was promoted through traditional media channels, but principally through an introductory, automated ‘robocall’ from the President of Bougainville. This was followed by subsequent weekly text messages announcing the availability of new recordings. 

The service was the first of its kind in PNG and was envisaged as a short pilot to identify the usefulness of the technology for public information dissemination in Bougainville. It was implemented by the Autonomous Bougainville Government with the support of the PNG, Australian and New Zealand governments, and operated by Digicel.

Research into the efficacy of the service was undertaken during its final two weeks, just prior to polling. Eight group interviews were conducted with local community leaders, women and youths in a mix of rural and urban settings across Bougainville.

Of the 42 people who participated in the group interviews, 37 owned mobile telephones at the time of the research. Many of the handsets were basic mobile telephones – suitable for text messaging and calls only – rather than smartphones. Many handsets had flat batteries on the day of the group interview – this indicates a technological challenge of daily life in Bougainville, which has consequences for mobile telephone initiatives.

While 79,285 calls were made to the hotline over the eight-week pilot, overall, the knowledge of the telephone hotline amongst research participants was generally low. The automated ‘robocall’ from the President announcing the service was not in fact received by most participants, and many did not consistently receive the weekly text message reminders. This indicated that the strategy fell short of its promise, which reduced uptake of the service.

As intended, some users gathered in groups to listen to the recordings. Also, the hotline had been used in places where people had no access to radio and very limited access to other forms of media. Participants generally thought the hotline should be continued in the post-referendum period but suggested increasing awareness of the service itself.

There was much discussion about the need to improve mobile network coverage, which participants said was weak and inconsistent, with no coverage in some villages. There were also requests for improvements to other communication mediums, particularly radio broadcasting. Despite these challenges, it was perceived that referendum awareness had been thorough. Most participants felt they and their fellow community members had sufficient knowledge about the referendum and were ready to vote. 

The research found no striking differences in the awareness or use of the service by age or gender. Differences were noticeable, however, between the three regions of Bougainville regarding access to mobile network coverage, as well as access to other information and communication mediums. For example, in South Bougainville, participants reported substantial challenges with the quality and reach of mobile network signals and said that they had almost no access to radio stations, newspapers or television.

As Hogeveen argues, there is a trend in the Pacific region towards ‘digital aid’ in which international donors utilise information and communication technologies. The Bougainville hotline is one such example. Chand contends that, given limited access to radio, textbooks and other information sources, the utilisation of digital technologies could allow delivery of basic services in Bougainville. For example, as part of their emergency response to COVID-19, both the PNG and Bougainville governments are operating free-call telephone information hotlines for their citizens. 

The design of the referendum hotline was in line with published guidelines for the strategic use of mobile telephones in PNG. For instance, that technology should be simple to use for people with low literacy, numeracy and technical skills. This hotline was relatively simple to use, providing a free-call number, with four options of audio messages to listen to.

 Even so, some research participants did not understand how to select the four options or that the messages changed each week. Careful consideration of ‘mobile telephone literacy’ is needed in the design and promotion of future innovative services.

Research participants commented that the free-call design was beneficial for them. Lack of mobile telephone credit is a huge barrier for people throughout PNG, due to both affordability and logistical challenges of locating a place or method to buy credit. 

So, what are the implications for the delivery of public information in Bougainville and elsewhere in the Pacific? 

Effective government-to-people communications are vital for an informed and engaged citizenry and are essential for the effective operation of democracy. For Bougainville, it could be argued that the post-referendum negotiation process now taking place between the Bougainville and national governments requires an even more intensive communications and community engagement effort. If there are broader lessons to be learnt, it is that an engaged and informed population, reached through a range of mediums, can make a positive contribution to the process. 

If there are to be future iterations of a telephone hotline in Bougainville or elsewhere, it must be but one tool in an multi-channel effort. The technology must be pre-tested and well promoted. Research participants also suggested leveraging the hotline for use in community-based, face-to-face activities.

Some asked if the audio files could be made available through other means, such as flash drives. Sharing of digital content by Bluetooth or local Wi-Fi hotspots does present another opportunity for those with suitable devices.

Mobile telephones, particularly when paired with other mediums, can play a role in delivering civic education and increasing community engagement throughout the Pacific. However, the design of future mobile telephone-led interventions may benefit from being realistic about the effective reach of current mobile telephone service and infrastructure. 

This bigger issue of large information ‘blackspots’ in Bougainville, due to poor access to mobile telephony, radio or other information channels, will continue to challenge government and development communicators alike. Mobile telephone users in Bougainville struggle with accessing continuous, reliable mobile network coverage and keeping their handset batteries charged – and they want radio coverage restored to pre-conflict standards. Both in Bougainville and elsewhere in PNG, there is a large gap between ideal and actual service delivery. 

——-

This article is based upon a paper published by the ANU Department of Pacific Affairs (DPA) as part of its ‘Discussion paper’ series. The original paper can be found here. The research will also be presented in a webinar on 27 October 2020. 

Bougainville News Alert : WEBINAR – Mobile telephones on for public messaging: Did the Bougainville referendum information hotline make a difference? @AdrianaAdri09 @ahawatson @GordonPeake @Jezzamiller

 

Last year, the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville voted overwhelmingly to break away from Papua New Guinea in a non-binding referendum.

In the pre-referendum period, there was a strong focus on informing voters about the two referendum options (independence or greater autonomy) to enhance the credibility and legitimacy of the result and help maintain peace in a post-conflict setting.

This seminar will include brief presentations by the producers of a telephone information hotline that operated for eight weeks just before polling. The hotline was a national first in the application of a mobile telephone-based platform to deliver public information en masse.

 It allowed Bougainvilleans to ring a free-call number and hear pre-recorded messages about the referendum and the two other pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement – autonomy and weapons disposal.

The hotline was one element of a multi-media package of government information initiatives supported by Australia and New Zealand.

There will also be a presentation by the audience researcher who analysed the impact of the service.

The qualitative research findings, which were recently published as a part of the Discussion Paper Series of the Department of Pacific Affairs, assess the effectiveness of the telephone hotline in delivering government information directly to citizens. Recommendations will be made about whether such a service should continue.

NOTE: For our audience in Port Moresby and Bougainville, the event will be at 3PM and 4PM respectively (local times).

REGISTER HERE

Chair

Gordon Peake
Gordon Peake is a 2020-2021 Visitor with the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University. He worked as an adviser to the Bougainville government 2016-2020.

Panellists

Amanda H.A. Watson
Amanda H.A. Watson is a Research Fellow with the Department of Pacific Affairs at Australian National University.

Jeremy Miller
Jeremy Miller is a strategic media and communications adviser with over 15 years of experience in Melanesia. He has worked with the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Directorate of Media and Communication since 2014. In 2019 he was seconded to the Bougainville Referendum Commission to lead the media and voter communications campaign. Mr Miller’s position is supported by the Bougainville Partnership, a development partnership between the governments of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Australia and New Zealand.

Adriana Schmidt
Adriana Schmidt is the Director of the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s Directorate of Media and Communication, the agency responsible for whole of government communications. The Directorate is under the Department of President and the Bougainville Executive Council.