Bougainville #PeaceAgreement #Referendum and #Mining News Updates : @pngnri to host a National Conference on the Bougainville Referendum ” “Implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the implications for the referendum

“ The Autonomous Bougainville Government wants to ensure nothing undermines the region’s unity ahead of the referendum on independence.

In June next year Bougainvilleans will be asked to vote on whether they want independence from Papua New Guinea in what will be the final chapter of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Efforts had been underway to re-open the Panguna mine which was closed by the region’s civil war, but disputes within local communities caused the Bougainville parliament to place an indefinite moratorium on any mining there.

President John Momis said landowners are split with factions supporting different mining companies.

“For us you know determining Bougainville’s future is more paramount right now. It is the priority we are focussing our attention to, to make sure that the people of Bougainville are united, so we don’t want any other issues to undermine this unity.”

News Part 2 Mining

The Autonomous Bougainville Government has reinforced its decision to continue with the moratorium over Panguna Mine after seeking advice from the Bougainville Mining Advisory Council.

ABG Vice President and Minister for Mineral and Energy Resources Raymond Masono said the decision stems from the advice of the BMAC and recent deliberation by Bougainville House of Representatives.

Upon these advices the Bougainville Executive Council under the Bougainville Mining Act 2015 Section 66(subsection 1) has designated the area, approximately 37.8 square kilometres to be reserved from any mining activity.

The area covers the Mine Pit, Dapera, Moroni, Pirurari and borders Guava Village which literally means the areas where the Panguna Mine operations were once situated.

As the ABG tightens its reins over Panguna the continued squabbling between BCL and RTG has intensified as the two companies try to entice the ABG and landowner groups to supporting their right to mine Panguna.

Under the ABG’s Mining Act the landowners have the final say as to who will be allowed back to Panguna but the division them amongst has irked the ABG.

Sources close to the ABG have disclosed that the moratorium will remain in place until the landowners can unite and agree on the developer they prefer back in Panguna.

The first declaration of the moratorium was initiative by the BMAC late last year after negotiations with both companies broke down.

News Part 2.2

Mining company Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) has advised the Australian sharemarket the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) decision not to renew its exploration licence at Panguna has been stayed in the National Court of Papua New Guinea.

Bougainville's Panguna Copper mine

Bougainville’s Panguna Copper mine Photo: Supplied

The vast Panguna copper and gold mine once generated nearly half of PNG’s annual export revenue.

BCL ran Panguna until the outbreak of civil war in 1989 in which grievances caused by the mine were central to the 10 year conflict that cost over 20,000 lives.

It is one of two companies that have been vying to re-open Panguna and has told the market it will continue to pursue the rights of its shareholders.

BCL company secretary Mark Hitchcock said the company was due back in court next month as it was seeking a judicial review over the non-renewal of the licence.

The ABG placed an indefinite moratorium on mining at Panguna which Mr Hitchcock said BCL would respect.

“We just need to protect the rights of everybody. That includes our shareholders and the majority of the landowners that we see as supporting us. And we are just trying to maintain the status quo at the moment,” he said.

“We have always politely gone about our work, and respectfully gone about our work in relation to EL1 (exploration licence) and we will continue to do that.”

News Part 3 Papua New Guinea Parliamentary Bipartisan Committee on Bougainville Affairs 

The Papua New Guinea Parliamentary Bipartisan Committee on Bougainville Affairs says vital issues pertaining to next year’s referendum need to addressed before the end of this year.

A tentative date of June 15th 2019 has been set for a referendum on possible independence in the Autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

Its report, which had been tabled in Parliament, included calls for additional funds to be provided, over and above the grants to which Bougainville is already entitled.

It said the National Co-ordination Office for Bougainville Affairs should become a stand-alone entity, rather than being part of the Prime Minister’s Department.

The report said this agency should have offices in both Port Moresby and Buka so it could become the focal point for development co-operation partners, NGOs and businesses interested in engaging in Bougainville.

It said the National Executive Council should also consider extending the Special Intervention Fund beyond the referendum, when Bougainville would still require support for governance and development, whatever the final outcome.

The Post Courier reported the committee saying it is vital the National Government and the ABG consider and fund economic plans so that the Bougainville economy grows and diversifies.

News Part 4 Bougainville parallel political structures 

There is a need to look at the parallel political structures now in place in Bougainville, the Parliamentary Committee on Bougainville Referendum says.

The report, which was tabled in Parliament by the committee chairman William Powi, found that there were two sets of political structures and two sets of leaders performing almost the same kind of responsibilities.

“These two sets of leaders are the four national leaders who are members of the National Parliament and the 40 Bougainville House of Representatives members.

Mr Powi said that the establishment of the ABG in 2005 had paved way for the co-existence of the dual parallel political structures.

He said that these structures are occupied by two sets of leaders who are elected by the same Bougainville voters and serving the very same Bougainville constituencies that had similar development aspiration for the people and share similar views in terms of policy initiatives for development and service delivery.

Mr Powi said that the sources of friction appeared to be threefold, first, there was the case of what could be called “dual legitimacy” where both governments claim that their respective elected leaders were the rightful or mandated representatives of the Bougainville people.

“While this matter can easily be brushed aside as a needless political tussle, the issues at hand really boils down to who really should be playing the leading role in setting the development agenda as well as the pace for Bougainville’s political future. One can see the logic in the two sets of leaders’ cooperating, but apparently they have not been able to do so for a long time. That is why Bougainville’s Speaker, Simon Pentanu, considered it a significant achievement when the four national MPS recently started taking their seats in Bougainville’s House of Representatives,” he said.

He said secondly, there appeared to be disconnected with policies and development initiatives between the National Government and ABG.

“The National Government has major projects funded through sources like special intervention fund while national MPs have the provincial support improvement programs. At the same time, the ABG has its own budget, projects and implementation schedules. However the four national parliamentarians are able to implement their projects without ease compared to the cash-strapped ABG government.

“Just like the parallel political structure, there are parallel development initiatives sprouting throughout the autonomous region without proper linkage to generate maximum impact from allocated resources,” Mr Powi said.

News Part 5 Bougainville Unity must bring peace

The sacrifice made by Bougainvilleans during the Crisis must not be in vain as the region faces off with deciding its ultimate political future.

Chairman of the North Nasioi Community Government Rodney Niangko said that there has to be unity amongst Bougainvilleans and the Autonomous Bougainville Government to making this political dream a reality.

“The unity that brought us together to end the civil war and bring about peace on the island must again be called upon to unite us as we prepare for the referendum,” Mr Niangko said.

Mr Niangko said that Bougainville must rise to the occasion and show the international community that its people are willing and able to be the masters of their own destiny.

Mr Niangko said that reconciliation amongst Bougainvilleans is tantamount to all aspects of the referendum preparations for the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

He added that the people must fully understand the concept of self-determination and not to succumb to any negativity that will endanger the process of the referendum.

Mr Niangko then paid tribute to former North Solomons Provincial Government member John Bika who was assassinated during the Crisis.

He said that it was only through the sacrifice of leaders like Mr Bika that Bougainville’s struggle was overcome.

The Minister for Primary Industries and Member for North Nasioi Nicholas Daku also reverberated these sentiments

Bougainville Referendum News: Bougainville: hard choices looming for Australia? (part I)


“In Canberra the orthodox view remains that an independent Bougainville would complicate Australia’s strategic environment. It could destabilise both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and would inevitably be a weak and possibly internally conflicted state requiring substantial external assistance for an extended period, with this cost being largely borne by Australia.

The counter-argument—that a peaceful separation of Bougainville from the rest of Papua New Guinea would settle once and for all what has been an issue for all of Papua New Guinea’s history as an independent country—is rarely heard.”

Author James Batley worked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and in AusAID, between 1984 and 2014 including postings in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. He currently works as a Distinguished Policy Fellow in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program in the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at ANU: Published The Strategist
Picture Above Arawa 2014: Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has taken a personal interest in Bougainville.

The 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) marked the formal end to the 1990s Bougainville conflict, even though a truce, and subsequently a ceasefire, had been in place since late 1997. Among other things, the BPA provided for a delayed referendum on Bougainville’s future relationship with Papua New Guinea. Under an agreed formula, the referendum will be held between June 2015 and June 2020.

There are now clear risks, however, that the BPA mightn’t last the distance. This post looks at where things are headed on Bougainville and, in particular, at some difficult choices the Australian Government may need to make in the coming period.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has taken a personal interest in Bougainville, having visited it both in opposition and in government. She’s been careful to avoid commenting on the independence question although there’s no reason to think that the Abbott Government’s approach will be different from that of its predecessors; it will have a strong preference for Bougainville to remain part of Papua New Guinea.

In Canberra the orthodox view remains that an independent Bougainville would complicate Australia’s strategic environment. It could destabilise both Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and would inevitably be a weak and possibly internally conflicted state requiring substantial external assistance for an extended period, with this cost being largely borne by Australia.

The counter-argument—that a peaceful separation of Bougainville from the rest of Papua New Guinea would settle once and for all what has been an issue for all of Papua New Guinea’s history as an independent country—is rarely heard.

For all that, Australia’s formal position on Bougainville’s independence is in fact one of neutrality. This position was first set out in March 2000 by then-Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. During the course of negotiations on the Bougainville Peace Agreement, Downer announced that Australia would ‘accept any settlement negotiated by the parties’.

Downer never made any secret of the fact that Australia’s preference was for Bougainville to remain part of Papua New Guinea. Even so, his March 2000 announcement was seen—particularly on Bougainville—as a significant change in Australian government policy because it meant, in theory at least, that Australia was open to any negotiated outcome, including independence. Previously, during the course of the Bougainville crisis from 1988 onwards, Australia’s position had been that Bougainville was an integral part of Papua New Guinea; that position was part of the reason for strong anti-Australian sentiment among pro-independence leaders on Bougainville.

The perception of a significant policy change was reinforced by Downer’s role, later in 2000, in helping to broker the crucial ‘delayed referendum’ provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA). These provide for an independence referendum 10 to 15 years after the election of a Bougainville government (as it subsequently turned out, this means June 2015–June 2020), plus a requirement for the outcome to be ratified by the PNG Parliament. Downer argued that this outcome gave reassurance to both sides: for pro-independence Bougainvilleans a successful referendum, although non-binding, would have irresistible moral force among the international community; for the PNG government, at the same time, sovereignty would ultimately be preserved by giving the PNG Parliament the final say.

The BPA has a strong legal foundation. Its terms were enshrined in law through an amendment to the PNG Constitution (Article XIV). Furthermore, no amendments to that part of the Constitution can be passed unless also approved by a two-thirds majority in the Bougainville legislature. On the timing of the referendum, the language included in Article XIV is unequivocal:

The Referendum shall be held … not earlier than 10 years and, notwithstanding any other provision [emphasis added], not more than 15 years after the election of the first Bougainville Government.

Australia took as a given that PNG governments of any stripe would want Bougainville to remain part of Papua New Guinea—and that they would (and should) take advantage of the delay in the timing of the referendum to convince Bougainvilleans of the benefits of autonomy over independence.

Whatever Papua New Guinea’s efforts over the years since the BPA was signed, most informed observers would now take the view that majority Bougainvillean opinion remains firmly pro-independence, even if differences exist on the question of how ready Bougainville is for independence and therefore on the best timing for this.

Campaigning for the May 2015 elections in Bougainville was conducted explicitly on the grounds that the incoming government (which has a five year term) would be the one to negotiate the exact timing of the referendum. All presidential candidates, including the winner, John Momis, were pro-independence in outlook.

The PNG government hasn’t publicly walked away from the BPA; on the contrary, it continues to assert its commitment to it. The communiques from successive PNG–Australia Ministerial Forums continue to include routine (perhaps by now ritual) affirmations of the PNG government’s ‘ongoing commitment to the full implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement’.

It would be prudent at least to contemplate ways in which all this could go wrong. Papua New Guinea’s reaction to the May 2015 budget announcement that an Australian consulate would be established in Buka suggested that Australia had touched a raw nerve in Waigani, and gave a valuable insight into the importance and sensitivity of this issue for the O’Neill government. Certainly, the Port Moresby rumour mill increasingly suggests that Prime Minister O’Neill is giving serious thought as to how Papua New Guinea can preserve its interests in Bougainville in the long term.

Many on Bougainville fear that the PNG government will find a way to prevent the referendum from going ahead at all. So it’s at least possible that Bougainville and Waigani may be on a collision course. In a second post I will look at the implications of any such collision for Australian policy.