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

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Differences could arise in a number of ways but at the more serious end of the range, possibilities include either a refusal by the PNG Parliament to recognise a pro-independence referendum outcome, or a failure by Papua New Guinea to agree to a referendum going ahead at all.”

Author James Batley worked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and in AusAID, between 1984 and 2014: Originally published in the Strategist

In my earlier post I argued that, notwithstanding the strong legal underpinning of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement, it’s possible that Bougainville and Waigani may be on a collision course. What would such a collision mean for Australia?

In the event that a referendum were held and clearly favoured independence with the outcome subsequently ratified by the PNG Parliament—accompanied by an orderly transition—Australia would have little choice but to accept the result. But while this is a possible outcome, it’s by no means the most likely scenario.

Far more likely is a situation in which Papua New Guinea and Bougainville find themselves at odds. Differences could arise in a number of ways but at the more serious end of the range, possibilities include either a refusal by the PNG Parliament to recognise a pro-independence referendum outcome, or a failure by Papua New Guinea to agree to a referendum going ahead at all.

To this, it might be countered that Article XIV of the PNG Constitution includes a range of dispute resolution provisions including through the courts. Yet this ignores the fact that any differences that may arise are far more likely to be political differences than matters of interpretation that are amenable to mediation or judicial resolution.

In either of the disputed situations outlined above Australia would be faced with difficult choices. Of course, Bougainville isn’t Australia’s responsibility, but Australia has a stake in Bougainville’s future, including its relationship with Papua New Guinea. Australia doesn’t have the luxury of not having a view on these questions. In any serious dispute, both sides would look to Australia for support.

Whatever the legal niceties, the PNG government would expect to have the greater claim on Australian support, both on historical grounds and in the light of more recent experience—you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours (i.e. Manus) grounds. For their part Bougainvillean groups would point to Australia’s role in acting as midwife to the BPA back in 2000.

In any such scenario a range of Australian interests would be thrown into the balance: Australia’s stake in Papua New Guinea’s long-term security and stability; the state of the bilateral relationship; the risks of renewed violence on Bougainville; the implications of any action (or inaction) on Australia’s part for its broader role in the region.

Many decisions are yet to be taken by the parties themselves, and many variables remain in play. While there are the beginnings of discussion in Bougainville on possible transition scenarios, there’s no requirement for a referendum to be held before 2020, so any breakdown in the process—assuming one does occur—might be years away. So it’s wise not to take the scenario-building too far.

For Australia, however, the key point is this: Downer’s 2000 formula (Australia would ‘accept any settlement negotiated by the parties’) has served successive governments well over the past 15 years when all parties could sincerely declare themselves committed to the BPA. It’s a good formula, and if anything it’s been reinforced by the regular commitment to honouring the BPA included in Ministerial Forum communiques. That said, enough risks are now apparent to suggest that this formula may be reaching its use-by date. Events beyond Australia’s control may require Australia to declare its hand one way or the other.

None of this will be news to Australian officials engaged in PNG policy and, given her personal interest, it’s safe to assume that Julie Bishop understands what’s at stake. That doesn’t make the choices that may be faced any easier.

Much of the above analysis renders the Bougainville issue down to a binary choice: independence or not. Might there be another way of framing the issue? It’s possible that the parties themselves could think of a ‘third way’, even if no such options have been canvassed publicly so far. Even if the PNG and Bougainville governments find themselves seriously at odds on the referendum issue over the course of the next five years, it shouldn’t be assumed that they wouldn’t be able to come up with creative solutions. A worst case scenario isn’t inevitable or even the most likely outcome.

This is where Australian diplomacy could play a role. In 2000, Alexander Downer moved the peace process forward by helping the parties see beyond the immediate binary choices they felt confronted with at the time. The BPA may not have solved the Bougainville question definitively, but it has given the people of Bougainville fifteen years of peace.

It may yet turn out that the key contribution that Australian diplomacy can make is to help the parties see the future as something other than an exclusive yes/no choice.

PNG BAN ON AUSTRALIAN’S TRAVEL TO BOUGAINVILLE – Momis says honour the Bougainville Peace Agreement

 

 

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“I call on the Foreign Minister to lift the ban immediately, and to separately take steps to resolve the PNG dispute with Australia. There is no basis for the PNG Government to be harming Bougainville as a way of dealing with its misunderstanding with Australia.

“I also call on the Foreign Minister to work with the ABG to ensure that we can use our foreign affairs powers under the Peace Agreement.

“I also seek an assurance from the Minister that in future he will not take unilateral action in relation to foreign citizen’s travel to Bougainville. Instead, he must recognise Bougainville’s autonomy, and only take any such action at the request, or with the agreement, of the ABG

Grand Chief Dr John L. Momis

President John L. Momis today made a statement on the dispute between PNG and Australia over the PNG announcement of a ban on travel to Bougainville by Australians. The ban was imposed in response to Australia’s announcement about establishing a diplomatic office in Bougainville.

The President said the ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville would only cause problems for PNG, Bougainville, and Australia.

He said: “Australia is spending K120 million per year on assistance for Bougainville. It supports development building the capacity of the public service of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG). A ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville will severely slow delivery of important assistance that is helping Bougainville in many ways.

“It is therefore vitally important that this dispute between PNG and Australia is resolved as soon as possible. The dispute can readily be resolved if both governments honour the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“Australia knows that under the Agreement, Bougainville’s leaders accepted that Bougainville is part of PNG unless the referendum process results in a change. So unless or until that happens, Australia must of course respect PNG sovereignty.

“I understand that what Australia proposes is a limited increase in the full-time office it has had in Buka since about 2007. Australia has had discussions with PNG and the ABG about doing this. But the announcement in the Australian Treasurer’s budget speech last week made it sound as if a major diplomatic office is to be established

That is not the case. Australia should publicly clarify what is little more than a misunderstanding.

“For its part, PNG should remember that the Peace Agreement provides Bougainville with high autonomy, now guaranteed by the PNG Constitution.

The travel ban has been imposed without a request from or agreement of the ABG. This is a serious breach of at least the spirit of the Peace Agreement.

“The Agreement also clearly gives the ABG control of access of foreigners to Bougainville.

Under it the ABG can propose names of foreigners to be placed on the visa warning list, to prevent their entry to PNG and Bougainville. All applications for work permits and employment visas for people wanting to go to Bougainville are required to be referred to the ABG.

“But ABG requests to the National Government to set up the necessary administrative machinery for the ABG to exercise these powers have so far been ignored. So it seriously concerns me that PNG now wants to control travel to Bougainville, when it does nothing to allow the ABG to exercise its clear powers to control foreigner’s access to Bougainville.”

The President said that he wanted to discuss the travel ban with Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs as a matter of urgency.

He said: “I call on the Foreign Minister to lift the ban immediately, and to separately take steps to resolve the PNG dispute with Australia. There is no basis for the PNG Government to be harming Bougainville as a way of dealing with its misunderstanding with Australia.

“I also call on the Foreign Minister to work with the ABG to ensure that we can use our foreign affairs powers under the Peace Agreement.

“I also seek an assurance from the Minister that in future he will not take unilateral action in relation to foreign citizen’s travel to Bougainville. Instead, he must recognise Bougainville’s autonomy, and only take any such action at the request, or with the agreement, of the ABG

Grand Chief Dr John L. Momis

 

Diplomatic row BREAKING NEWS: PNG Government Imposes Ban on Australians Travelling to Bougainville

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Rimbink Pato, Minister For Foreign Affairs and Immigration, has announced a ban on Australians travelling to Bougainville.

Minister Pato issued the notice following the announcement by Australia of its plan to establish an Open Mission in Bougainville.

The Minister said, “I have instructed the Chief Migration Officer to impose the ban with immediate effect and to notify all PNG Overseas Missions and Posts and domestic carriers of the ban.”

He said Australians residing in Bougainville on work and permanent resident visas will not be affected by the ban. The ban will apply to all Australian passport holders who intend to visit Bougainville on tourist, business and other short-term entry visa’s.

All Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials wishing to visit Bougainville must seek clearance from the Department of Foreign Affairs before travelling to Bougainville. A clearance note will be issued to the Carrier to uplift the named officail(s).

The ban will also be imposed on any foreigner who applies for a visa at an PNG Overseas Missions and Post to visit Bougainville.

PNG Migration, Customs and Police Officers on duty at PNG Ports and Entry and Provincial Airports will monitor the ban and report any non-compliance to the Chief Migration Officer.

Source: Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration 15 May 2015 [Media Release]

Bougainville Political News: PM O’Neill wasn’t consulted over new Australian mission in Bougainville

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Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has said he was not consulted by Canberra over plans to set up a diplomatic post in Buka ,Bougainville, a politically sensitive autonomous region expected to hold a referendum on independence.

Report from The Australian online VIEW HERE

The federal government announced on Tuesday it would open five new overseas missions as part of this year’s national budget, including one at Buka in Bougainville.

Australian diplomats will also be dispatched to Doha, Mongolia and Phuket as Australia seeks to expand its footprint and spruik trade and investment opportunities.

But Mr O’Neill said there had been no consultation and no agreement to establish a post in Bougainville.

“We were shocked to learn from the budget documents that Australia is planning on establishing a diplomatic post in Bougainville,” Mr O’Neill said on a visit to Sydney today.

“I want to say that there has been no consultation on this proposal and there is no agreement to proceed,” he added.

“As we respect the territorial integrity of others, we expect others to respect ours as well.” He said that the region was a historically and politically sensitive area for PNG, with Bougainville voters expected to elect authorities in June who will call for a referendum on independence from the country as part of a 2001 peace agreement.

Under the agreement, Bougainville was promised the right to hold an independence referendum between 2015 and 2020.

It followed an almost decade-long, bitter guerilla war beginning in 1988 that claimed 10,000 lives.

The separatist conflict was the bloodiest in the Pacific since World War II, and ended when the New Zealand government helped broker a truce signed by all factions in 1997.

An Autonomous Bougainville Government was established in June 2005 as part of a United Nations-sponsored process.

O’Neill said that PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato was requesting more information about Australia’s proposal.

Pato Thursday described the plan as “outrageous” and “mischievous”.

“I’ve directed the acting secretary to call in the Australian high commissioner to explain the media accounts of this mischievous proposal to open a foreign mission on Bougainville,” Pato said in a statement, local media reported.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insisted the matter was discussed with the PNG government during a visit she made to the country last December.

“Australia has a significant and growing development program in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, which is almost 50 per cent higher than 2012/13, and will continue to partner with the PNG government in supporting economic growth throughout PNG,” her spokeswoman said.

Bougainville is home to the giant Panguna copper deposit. A Panguna mine run by Bougainville Copper, a subsidiary of Australian-listed Rio Tinto, was forced to close in 1989 during the conflict.

Rio Tinto has said the PNG government as well as Bougainville’s leadership were supportive of restarting operations at what is one of the South Pacific’s largest mines for copper and gold.

Bougainville Mining News: BCL chairman addresses AGM (Download full transcript)

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“Let me assure you that the vision to return to active exploration and profitable, sustainable mining remains, with the active support of many local stakeholders.

The Board and Management of Bougainville Copper Ltd are well positioned to recognise the opportunities inherent in recent challenges, and to maintain progress in a new year.

I believe the economic self-sufficiency of Bougainville needs the successful development of Panguna “

The following is a transcript of the address given by BCL Chairman Peter Taylor to the Annual General Meeting in Port Moresby on Wednesday 29 April 2015. A PDF of the transcript can be downloaded here.

The Annual General Meeting gives me an opportunity, as chairman, to make a statement concerning the up-to-date affairs of the company. Copies of this statement will be distributed as you leave today, and with your permission, I would now like to present it.

Mining Legislation

The most significant event to impact the company in 2014 was the passing of new mining legislation by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, which creates uncertainty regarding Bougainville Copper’s rights to mining and exploration licences. The Bougainville Mining Act 2015 was passed on April 1, substantially mirrors the clauses of the Interim Mining Act, which has reclassed the existing Special Mining Lease as an Exploration Licence. There remains uncertainty over the seven (7) leases for mining purposes.

The Company made applications for new licenses and to affirm rights which appear to have been impacted by the interim ABG mining legislation. These applications have been declined. The final Bougainville Mining Act 2015 prevents the Mining Registrar from accepting or registering applications for tenements before October 1, 2015.

The company is taking some comfort from correspondence and continued dialogue with the ABG and President Momis where he acknowledges that the company is a holder of a Special Mining Lease prior to the Act coming into force. The Act substitutes the Special Mining Lease (SML) with an Exploration Licence. The Company will seek formal granting of the exploration licence and exclusive access to the SML area.

Given the potential impact of the new legislation, the Board has decided to take a full impairment of the value of the mine assets, and to restrict the flow of funds into some of BCL’s work programs. The impairment dramatically decreased the value of the company fixed assets and has resulted in a corresponding impairment expense in the Statement of Comprehensive Income. I will discuss the impact of the impairment shortly when I summarise the 2014 results.

Company representatives continue to engage with the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government seeking clarification of the company’s rights, and at the same time to explore legal options, as well as taking steps to protect BCL’s priority position should re-commencement of mining at Panguna be viable and approved.

The company’s major shareholder Rio Tinto announced in August 2014 “in light of recent developments in Papua New Guinea, including the new mining legislation passed earlier this month by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Rio Tinto has decided now is an appropriate time to review all options for its 53.83 per cent stake in Bougainville Copper Ltd”

The review is ongoing.

President John Momis has emphasised that the new mining legislation was needed to address unregulated mining activity on Bougainville, and was not aimed at discouraging BCL. President Momis has supported redevelopment of the Panguna mine, subject to community support.

Given the uncertainty the company has minimised its Bougainville work programs.

Financial Results

The results for the year ended December 31, 2014 as reported in the Annual Report, record an operating loss of K9.1 million and an impairment charge of K166.6 million which equates to an overall loss of K175.7 million. This compares with the profit of K6.8 million in the previous year. The impairment charge reflects the diminishing rights of the company to the mine assets and resources with the directors acting prudently in impairing the mining assets completely. We continue to seek advice regarding all our options.

The value of the mining assets in 2013 was K197.9 million and after the asset revaluation reserve of K31.3 was reversed the net impact of the impairment recorded in the statement of comprehensive income was 166.6 million.

Revenue from Interest and Dividends (K4.9m) was slightly lower than budget (K5.1m).

Operational expenditure overall (K14.1m) was lower than budget (K15.9), reflecting the scaling back of work programs.

The company will not pay a dividend.

The company has sufficient funds to cover its recurrent expenditure under the current three year plan and is debt free.

Taxation

I am pleased to report to the shareholders that the company has negotiated a settlement with the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Commission (IRC) in PNG. A scheduled second mediation occurred on 2nd April 2015. I am able to report the court has confirmed the company will receive back K39.7 million from the funds held on term deposit with the Registrar of the High Court. This concludes this long outstanding matter.

There was a total of K70.6 million reported in the 2014 Financial Statements as receivable. The IRC was paid K13.0 million in addition to K4.4 million of interest withholding tax. K14.0 million was agreed to be paid to the IRC in settlement from the K53.2 million, held on IBD for the national court, which leaves the Company with around K40 million.

Financial Assets and Investment strategy

At the end of 2014 Bougainville Copper’s liquid assets were K4.7 million in cash and K102 million in Australian equities. The company’ financial position is linked to the performance of the Australian equities market, which is in a positive phase.

In 2014 Bougainville Copper’s Australian Equities Portfolio, performed broadly in line with the Australian Stock Market.

It is intended to continue with the current investment strategy, for as long as the investment committee deems this to be the best option, or until such time as equities need to be sold to fund further work programs.

The company’s cash position is enhanced as a result of the conclusion of the taxation dispute.

Governance

Bougainville Copper has governance reporting obligations to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). A statement on the company’s compliance with the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations is contained within the annual report. In addition, the company has adopted policies that seek to comply with Rio Tinto’s comprehensive range of policies including safety, environment, financial management and other governance practices. The company has chosen to early adopt the latest edition of the ASX principles, for the 2014 Financial Statements, one year before the mandatory adoption date.

Safety and Risk Management

Bougainville Copper is particularly safety conscious and has in place a comprehensive set of safety standards to ensure that it provides a safe working environment and that its employees and contractors comply with best practice safety procedures. The company complies with the requirements of the Rio Tinto safety policy.

The management of Bougainville Copper undertakes regular risk reviews.

Bougainville Copper Foundation

Bougainville Copper has continued to support the work of the Bougainville Copper Foundation. This is an independent, not-for-profit company that has been funded by Bougainville Copper since its inception.

In 2014, as in previous years, the Foundation had more than 100 Bougainville students on scholarships. Many are continuing to be supported in 2015.

The Foundation also undertakes special project on a needs basis with the emphasis placed on education, peace and good governance.

The Foundation is proud of its achievements and those of its former scholars who are contributing to the development of Bougainville.

The Foundation continues to review its objectives and future direction. As mentioned, the Foundation is an independent body, and it is hoped that its range of activities will not be materially reduced by the factors that are now constraining some of BCL’s social and work programs.

I will now report on some other current events which have a bearing on the company’s prospects and its progress towards the vision of reopening the mine.

Work Programs

In view of recent actions of the Bougainville legislature, funding to progress all studies and welfare programs will be limited until uncertainties of tenure and the legislative regime are clarified.

During the period, limited work continued to refine the 2013 Order of Magnitude Study, which is an exercise aimed at giving the company guidance as to the most appropriate and cost effective way to re-develop the Panguna resource. It is one of the Board’s major tools in evaluating options going forward.

The Order of Magnitude Study is based on many assumptions including commodity prices, market demand, investor risk, opportunity costs, security of tenure and others. In brief it describes a new mine at Panguna processing between 60 million and 90 million tonnes of ore per annum, over a mine life of 24 years, with an estimated capital cost of 5.2 billion US dollars, as estimated in 2013.Further, more detailed studies, such as a pre-feasibility study and a feasibility study are required to confidently determine the potential economic viability of re-opening the mine. Only upon completion of those studies will the Board be sufficiently informed to take a decision whether or not to proceed with financing and commencement of construction.

The time-line to first production could be between five and seven years from the date of approval and financing.

Many of the assumptions, including the size of the resource, the life of the mine, and the start-up cost, may vary significantly when the company gains access to the former mine site and undertakes further work.

Several other studies were initiated by the company, in conjunction with the Bougainville Administration, aimed at providing a clearer picture of the environmental conditions, the needs of the population, training and employment readiness, as well as land ownership and social mapping. However the company is not in a position to commit to funding these studies until tenure is assured.

Bel Kol

Representatives of the customary landowners from the mine lease areas have requested that Bougainville Copper perform a cultural ceremony with them, Bel Kol.

The ceremony is aimed at restoring relationships between Bougainville Copper, landowners, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, ex-combatants and community leaders.

Significant progress was made towards Bel Kol by the end of 2014. A senior Bougainville Copper manager began regular travel and participated in discussions in Central Bougainville.

Bel Kol is now postponed until after the Bougainville elections. As a gesture of goodwill, the company will make commitments to support programs focused towards health and education initiatives.

The company has asked for open access to Panguna and the area covered by the original Special Mining Lease, assurances of safety, and an invitation to establish a presence in Arawa, as a base for field work, baseline studies and social mapping previously mentioned, and for the recruitment of local people to participate in drilling and other evaluation and de-risking programs

A training program has been jointly designed, to be supported by the company, to prepare members of the lost generation for work opportunities.

Joint Panguna Negotiations

The Joint Panguna Negotiation Coordination Committee (JPNCC) consisting of National Government and ABG representatives, together with landowner and company delegates, was active in 2014 in defining several baseline studies and preparing to implement them.

The JPNCC has established a Multi Trust Fund, to manage joint monies including aid, and to conduct the process of tendering and awarding the baseline studies, in order to vest the findings of studies with arms-length transparency, and credibility with all parties. The Trust Fund formally came into effect in November 2014.

Senior PNG statesman Sir Peter Barter accepted chairmanship of the Multi Trust Fund, and as a respected Bougainville peace-maker, reminded the people of his long held view that there can be no meaningful autonomy without a viable economy.

Throughout the year, company management maintained its own fruitful dialogue with a wide range of Bougainvillean interest groups, through regular meetings at Buka, Arawa and Kieta, with landowners, ex-combatants, women’s groups, ABG agencies, aid donors and other stakeholders.

Events on Bougainville

There have been a number of developments in Bougainville, including Prime Minister Peter O’Neill who visited Bougainville and Panguna in January 2014, and visited again in December 2014 to re-open the Aropa airport.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop visited the region.

Preparations for elections to the Parliament of the Autonomous Bougainville Region are gathering pace, polling scheduled for May 2015, with results known during June.

President John Momis is one of nine candidates seeking election.

There has been a re-structure of the Bougainville Public Service administration.

The relationship between President Momis, his government, and the Board and management of Bougainville Copper remains cordial.

The regulatory regime and the company’s position

The practical effect of the permanent mining legislation requires further clarification so that the long term mining regime for Bougainville is settled, allowing the company to factor these terms into its assessment of the viability of the potential mine redevelopment.

The next phase of study, a pre-feasibility study on reopening the mine, will be very expensive, and requires certainty of a workable mining regime and conditions prior to committing the study funds.

I wish to restate that even if further studies confirm that recommencement of mining is economically attractive, mining at Panguna cannot recommence unless all parties: the Landowners, the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the National Government of PNG, and BCL, are acting in close accord, now and into the future.

Funding and sovereign risk assurance for the project will require a united effort. Investors also need a fair and stable regulatory regime that gives them the confidence to commit to a project that will require billions of dollars of investment.

Conclusion

Let me assure you that the vision to return to active exploration and profitable, sustainable mining remains, with the active support of many local stakeholders.

The Board and Management of Bougainville Copper Ltd are well positioned to recognise the opportunities inherent in recent challenges, and to maintain progress in a new year.

I believe the economic self-sufficiency of Bougainville needs the successful development of Panguna.

The company faces the coming year with resolve and determination.

For your further information, I remind you that reports and commentaries of the company’s activities are regularly reported to the Australian Securities Exchange and associated media, and can also be accessed on our website.

Bougainville Mining News: Bougainville mine now in play, government says

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Secret dealings of this kind are completely unacceptable to the people of Bougainville, It would be unacceptable to the people of Bougainville for the national government to try to take control of Panguna. Such a move, would trigger demands for immediate independence “

“We cannot allow a new form of colonial dealings in Bougainville’s resources to occur.”

Bougainville President John Momis

The Bougainville Autonomous Government is convinced Bougainville Copper — which owns a mine containing copper and gold worth more than $50 billion, as well as a recently ­reconfirmed exploration licence — is now in play.

As reported in todays Australian Newspaper  By: Rowan Callick Asia Pacific Editor

Bougainville President John Momis last week called on Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Rio Tinto to reveal any dealings over Rio’s 53.58 per cent shares in BCL.

“For over a year now, Mr O’Neill has expressed interest in the national government taking control of BCL,” Mr Momis said.

“He proposes that PNG operate the Panguna mine in Bougainville in the same way it operates the Ok Tedi mine,” which Mr O’Neill’s government took over in 2013.

The PNG government has hired Peter Graham, who led ExxonMobil’s successful construction of the country’s first liquefied natural gas project, to manage Ok Tedi mine and potentially to steer other state-owned mining assets.

The Bougainville mine, which was closed by conflict in 1989 and which would cost an estimated $6.5bn or more to reopen, is also owned 19.06 per cent by the PNG government, and 27.36 per cent by other shareholders.

Mr O’Neill confirmed that “we have had discussions with other shareholders of BCL on a range of issues including the reopening of the mine and the disposal of shares by existing shareholders, including Rio Tinto”.

But, he added, “There are no secret deals, and we are disappointed that President Momis is trying to use this issue at the time of the election” for a new Bougainville government that takes place at the end of next month.

“President Momis has been informed of whatever talks we have with other shareholders of BCL, only because the state is the second biggest shareholder,” Mr O’Neill said.

There would be no talks about reopening the mine, he said, “until landowners and the people of Bougainville are ready”.

It is understood the Momis government’s concern was aroused by information it had received that law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, which does a considerable amount of work for Rio internationally, had instructions to handle the sale of Rio’s shares, and had held discussions with agents in Port Moresby in relation to the deal. A Norton Rose Fulbright spokesman declined to comment when questioned by The Australian.

The BCL share price suddenly soared by 50 per cent a fortnight ago. The ASX issued a “speeding ticket”, asking the company to explain the leap. BCL said it couldn’t.

Mr Momis, whose government has recently passed new mining legislation that hands back control of all resources to landowners, said: “We cannot allow a new form of colonial dealings in Bougainville’s resources to occur.”

He said that last month he wrote to BCL, seeking advice from either it or Rio Tinto, about whether share transactions between Rio and PNG were under discussion or preparation.

“I received a brief reply from Rio, addressed to BCL but passed on to me, dated March 23. The letter simply stated that ‘Rio Tinto … is reviewing its options with respect to its stake in Bougainville Copper Ltd. This review is continuing’,” Mr Momis said.

“Secret dealings of this kind are completely unacceptable to the people of Bougainville,” he said. “It would be unacceptable to the people of Bougainville for the national government to try to take control of Panguna.” Such a move, he said, would trigger demands for immediate independence.

Peter Taylor, who has been chairman of BCL for 12 years, told The Australian “the Bougainville government seems to want the mine reopened, but we have to sit down … and see what’s doable”.

Bougainville Mining News: Rumbles from the jungle as Bougainville mine stirs

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The big questions hanging over the mine right now include: who will run the Autonomous Bougainville Government after the election due at the end of May? Nine figures are contending the presidency, including several former combatants, with the front runners probably former Catholic priest John Momis, the veteran incumbent, and Sam Akoitai, a former national mining minister.

The next government will have the responsibility of setting the parameters for the referendum on independence that must happen at some time during the five years from this July.

The Panguna mine on Bougainville Island would cost $6.5bn to restart.

Source: The Australian Rowan Callick News Limited

Even the long-suffering Bougainville Copper board, which has witnessed cargo cults, wars, and the closure of its own vast mine, was puzzled when its share price soared 50 per cent a week ago.

For this sudden surge of confidence appeared, oddly, to have been triggered by troubling news for the company — the commencement of a new Mining Act passed by the Bougainville autonomous region’s parliament, which hands back control of all resources to landowners.

The future of the Bougainville mine, which still contains copper and gold worth about $50 billion, is tied up with its complex past, with the long geopolitical shadow cast by the 1989-2001 civil war on the island — and with cargo-­cultist hopes held out by local leaders allied to eccentric foreigners constantly seeking to seize control of the resources from BCL.

The ASX issued a “speeding ticket”, asking the company to explain the April 2 share price leap. BCL replied that it couldn’t.

The price had slid back down to 28c by Friday.

The directors of the company, which is 53.58 per cent owned by Rio Tinto, 19.06 per cent by the Papua New Guinea government, and 27.36 per cent by other shareholders, are trying to juggle an enormous range of unknowns and variables, without even the compensating benefits of having a mine to run.

It has remained closed since May 1989, and would cost upwards of $6.5bn to reopen.

The big questions hanging over the mine right now include: who will run the Autonomous Bougainville Government after the election due at the end of May? Nine figures are contending the presidency, including several former combatants, with the front runners probably former Catholic priest John Momis, the veteran incumbent, and Sam Akoitai, a former national mining minister.

The next government will have the responsibility of setting the parameters for the referendum on independence that must happen at some time during the five years from this July.

What will be the response of the national government led by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to the new Bougainville mining law? National legislation insists that, as in Australia, such resources are owned by the state.

And Mr O’Neill has hired Peter Graham, who led the remarkably successful construction of the country’s first liquefied natural gas project for ExxonMobil, to manage the Ok Tedi mine, which the Port Moresby government nationalised — and may be eager to deploy his skills to reopening Bougainville too, if Rio chooses to sell to PNG.

What does Rio itself want? At the end of 2014, it announced from London that it was reviewing its BCL stake.

It has not entirely lost its stomach for complex, ever-changing negotiations in developing countries with governments lacking the disciplines of party politics — managing director Sam Walsh only recently flew to Mongolia for talks about the constantly challenging Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold mine there.

But it could follow BHP-­Billiton, after its Ok Tedi debacle, in placing PNG in the ultimately-too-hard basket.

The key question is what do the landowners want? If they don’t want a mine back, it won’t happen.

Many do favour a reopening, since they see no alternative source of income for their families on the horizon — the agricultural potential for Bougainville is all on the coast, rather than in the mountains.

But they are themselves split into about nine recognisable factions — whereas at the time the mine was set up, during Australian colonial days, they spoke as a unified group.

The legislation does not specifically mention the BCL mine, because it is intended to cover the whole of the highly prospective region, which has since the onset of the civil war attracted growing numbers of carpetbaggers seeking to set up their own private operations — almost always seeking gold — in collaboration with ex-combatants who often retain guns.

Formerly, BCL was granted the only mining licence in Bougainville, which it still holds — but from the PNG government — while the Bougainville government now says its legislation supersedes the national legislation, under the accord agreed at the peace conference that ended the conflict.

The company is not only governed by legislation, but operated the mine under a contract with the PNG government that remains in force.

Peter Taylor, who has been chairman of BCL for 12 years, said that “the Bougainville government seems to want the mine reopened, but we have to sit down around a table and see what’s do­able.”

He said he remained confident that “if there’s a will there to get the mine reopened, we will find a way. But we’re talking a long lead time.’

When the first study about reopening was conducted, the copper and gold prices were lower than today — but that’s not the key issue: “We’re a mining business, not a trading business,” he said.

“It will happen only if the government and the landowners want it to happen.”

President John Momis, who has driven Bougainville’s new Mining Act, said that with it, “we are completely rejecting the terrible past. The Act recognises that all owners of customary land own all minerals in, on and under their land.” And now those who joined the civil war on the side of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army based around the mine site at Panguna, are also entitled, under custom, to share in any proceeds from that land.

Bougainville Autonomy Arrangements Joint Review : Download the 116 page report here

Review

 

The attached 116 page review contains a significant level of background material. The Review will be read by people who may not have access to essential information about Bougainville. We hope that this information will contribute to greater understanding of the broader context for the Joint Resolutions

It is now a public document having been tabled in the ABG House in March 2014 and the National Parliament in February 2015.

DOWNLOAD HERE

Joint Review of Autonomy Arrangements (JSB and RC approved Joint Resolutions)

This is a joint review by both governments of Bougainville’s autonomy arrangements as required under the constitutional laws. The review was due in 2010 and was not initiated until 2013.

This report, the Review, is the joint report of both governments. It is informed by six separate reports prepared by independent experts appointed by both governments. Their reports are contained in a supplementary volume. The views expressed in those reports are the views and opinions of those experts and they do not necessarily represent the views of either or both governments.

Both governments have decided to be forward looking and practical in accepting this joint report. Establishing Bougainville’s autonomy is a new journey for all parties to the Bougainville Peace Agreement. It was to be expected that there would be blockages, stumbles and some disagreements. Nonetheless, considerable progress has been made since the signing of the Peace Agreement.

The Review sets us on a joint path to remedy some of the major weaknesses while at the same time preparing for the Referendum which is due in the period May 2015 to May 2020.

The Review contains Joint Resolutions – actions by both governments at the JSB held at Kokopo on 18 October 2013 and refined at the Referendum Committee 26 October 2013. The governments will agree an implementation plan against which we will monitor progress and report to the JSB, and the respective parliaments.

The Review contains a significant level of background material. The Review will be read by people who may not have access to essential information about Bougainville. We hope that this information will contribute to greater understanding of the broader context for the Joint Resolutions.

As required by the constitutional laws the Review will be tabled in both parliaments through the National Executive Council and the Bougainville Executive Council respectively.

Below are the first few pages FYI

The Referendum Committee directed that these Joint Resolution be referred immediately to the respective Cabinets for endorsement and tabling in the respective Parliaments with the Joint Review and the Reports of the Independent experts as provided under Section 337 of the Papua New Guinea Constitution.

Planning for 2015 Autonomy Review

1.1 Joint planning for the next review of the autonomy arrangements will commence in late 2014 with the review to be conducted in the first quarter of 2015.

Review of Bougainville Constitution

2.1 The Bougainville Constitution will be reviewed by the ABG in 2014.

2.2 The recommendations from the constitutional review will be made available to the independent experts who conduct the analysis that contributes to the 2015 joint review by the National Government and ABG of Bougainville’s autonomy arrangements.

Greater awareness of Bougainville’s vision and autonomy

3.1 The ABG needs to articulate in a brief accessible document the kind of society Bougainville desires to be in the long term (not just political independence) and formulate a long term higher level strategic vision and plan for realizing the espoused vision based around the aspirations of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the people. All other planning and service delivery functions should take their cues and direction from the strategic vision.

3.2 The Bougainville Awareness Framework will be the basis for a comprehensive (region-wide, multimedia and direct face-to-face dialogue) awareness campaign be undertaken to inform the people and leaders of the strategic vision, the meaning of autonomy, how it is being implemented and its benefits, and the context and process for the impending referendum.

3.3 The ABG will take responsibility, with the National Government, for initiating a regular series of briefings with local and key national political and public service leaders to seek to significantly increase their awareness and understanding of Bougainville’s vision and entitlements.

Draw down of functions and powers to be consolidated

4.1 The governments will:

  1. jointly review the current Framework for the Draw Down of Functions and Powers;
  2. jointly take stock of and review the progress of the draw-down of functions and powers by all sectors operating in Bougainville. In 2014 the focus will be on completing and consolidating the transfer of the functions listed in Table 2 of the Joint Review;
  3. provide guidance to ensure that all future requests for the draw down of powers and functions, commencing with environment and health, comply with Sections 3 and 4 of the Organic Law and where applicable Section 43 of the Bougainville Constitution.

4.2 The drawdown of powers and functions process will be coordinated by the Chief Secretary and Chief Administrator respectively to expedite the evolutionary and smooth drawdown of functions and powers through the preparation of legislation for consideration by the Bougainville House of Representatives.

4.3 Greater attention will be given to calculating, negotiating and agreeing the on-going funding arrangements for each function and power to be drawn down by the ABG according to the provisions of the Organic Law.

4.4 The governments will work together to seek additional expert resources (including from development partners) to strengthen the ABG to manage the orderly draw down of powers and functions, and their subsequent implementation, particularly to contribute to analysis and policy development in legal, staffing, planning, financial and organisational aspects.

Social and Economic Development

5.1 Law and order – that priority be given to strengthening law and order (weapons, police and community justice) and resolving key existing conflicts that continue to hinder return to normalcy, peace and development in parts of Bougainville (e.g. Konnou and Siuwai crises).

5.2 Economy – a broad based and integrated economic strategy be designed and implemented that would include:

  1. high impact projects, down-stream processing of coca and copra and small to medium enterprises; and
  2. Support be extended to strengthening economic institutions for growth of private enterprise. A specific initiative in exploration of impact projects needs to be investigated with a view to creating much needed employment.

5.3 Infrastructure investments be coordinated through the Joint Project Management Unit such that all of the Region is connected via transportation and communications links in the shortest possible time.

5.4 Education and Health –ABG continue to expand the delivery of education and health services, especially to inland areas of North, Central and South Bougainville and at the same time orientate education and health service delivery to be in line with the strategic visioning above. Specific attention will be given to:

  1. Lost generation – that Education Division (in collaboration with relevant divisions such as Community Development, Veterans Affairs, development partners and NGOs) design and implement a specific education program targeting the lost generation.
  2. Certification and Accreditation of artisans – that ABG through a relevant division, design and implement a Trade Testing, Certification and Accreditation program for skilled village artisans in anticipation for the vocational employment when mining and other economic opportunities commence.
  3. Opportunities for the provision of vocational and technical education must be explored as a matter of urgency with reforms to entry requirements into vocational and technical schools to be started.

5.5 Strategy for Less Developed Areas – all three regions in Bougainville have pockets of isolated communities facing severe under-development. Examples include Visai in the Buin district, Rataiku in Siuwai district; Marau in Bana; Torokina; Kunua; Rotokas; and West Coast of Buka. The ABG will formulate a strategy for progressively linking and opening up these areas to social and economic development.

5.6 The governments will contribute to the immediate expansion of the reach of radio throughout the Region by ensuring current projects are implemented expeditiously.

Grants

4.5 The governments agree to discuss and negotiate a solution to the payment of outstanding Restoration and Development Grant calculated according to law and to ensure that it is then properly calculated, appropriated and paid annually to the ABG in a timely manner.

4.6 The ABG will prepare detailed budget submissions for each new function and power delegated or transferred to the ABG detailing staffing and goods and services budgetary requirements for the first and subsequent three years of implementation in Bougainville of that function or power. These submissions will be endorsed by the BEC, and where required by the Bougainville Constitution, the House of Representatives.

Audit Functions in Bougainville

7.1 The ABG will establish an internal audit function within the Administration before 1 January 2015 to be funded under the Recurrent Grant arrangements.

7.2 The PNG Auditor General will establish an office in Buka before 31 March 2014 with ABG assistance for housing and office space.

ABG Budget

8.1 The ABG will, with National Government assistance, seek to develop and implement a four-year rolling program budget for development and recurrent expenditure with the intention of giving greater certainty to the planning, budgeting and financing of all government plans and service delivery activities. This will be closely linked to the estimates prepared under Joint Resolution 4.3 (Budgets for powers and functions to be drawn down.)

8.2 The ABG will seek to capture in PGAS greater detail on the geographical spend for all development activities.

8.3 The ABG will seek partner support to undertake detailed annual expenditure analysis to contribute to the development of future budgets and assist in the prioritisation of expenditure for service delivery and enhancing autonomy.

8.4 The ABG will work with all development partners to seek to have their contributions recorded in the ABG annual budget.

Medium term economic and fiscal analysis

9.1 The ABG will commission expert assistance to undertake economic and financial analysis on the cost of various options to implement the BEC’s vision for Bougainville taking into account various development scenarios over the next five to ten years.

Financial Reporting and Capacity Improvements

10.1 The ABG will significantly improve the level of reporting on financial matters and projects to the BEC, indivicual ministers, the Bougainville House of Representatives, the National Government, development partners and the community.

10.2 The ABG will develop and then implement a comprehensive capacity development strategy to build the competencies and capabilities of the new ABG Finance and Treasury Department from January 2014.

Taxation

11.1 The ABG will host a Taxation and Revenue Summit in early 2014 to educate the political leadership and the public service of both governments about the tax and revenue arrangements and issues available to Bougainville under the existing Organic Law. Its objective will be (a) to achieve a consensus on a broad strategy, and priorities, to secure improved efficiency and effectiveness in administering the taxation and other revenue entitlements and (b) to contribute to future revenue policy development being properly informed particularly when it seeks to improve the ABG’s ability to achieve the fiscal objectives of the Peace Agreement.

11.2 Based upon the outcome of the Revenue Summit ABG will review its Office of the Chief Bougainville Collector of Taxes to assess future staffing and capacity needs.

11.3 The ABG will activate arrangements to establish the audit function provided in the Organic Law to monitor the collection of revenues by the IRC.

11.4 The IRC will be provided with additional resources in Port Moresby, the regional office and in Buka to undertake its role including an increased awareness program across the region.

Public Administration

12.1 An immediate joint review be carried out on NCOBA to determine its continued relevance and its future roles and responsibilities. The ABG and the National Government should give serious consideration setting up the ABG to manage coordination with the National Government on its own with current NCOBA resources shared between an ABG representative office and the ministry.

12.2 The ABG with the assistance of the National Government will take immediate steps to put in place a weapons disposal plan and set a concrete time to implement weapons disposal prior to 2015. It then should move quickly to implement this plan.

12.3 The ABG take immediate steps to put in place a peace and reconciliation plan and that this plan be immediately implemented before 2015.

12.4 The new structure and operations of the Bougainville Public Service will strengthen and enhance reporting and accountability arrangements including enhancing the roles of ministers and the BEC in setting policy and monitoring the performance of the Administration.

12.5 The ABG will develop and implement a capacity building programme, based around the White Paper on Councils of Elders to resuscitate the capacity of Councils of Elders and Village Assemblies to ensure that they are operational and remain sustainable as the second tier of government in Bougainville.

Good governance

13.1 The governments note the expert’s view that when all the reports are read together and a number of indicators are looked at it is doubtful if it could be said that the ABG was achieving the required standard of good governance in public administration as at mid-2013.

13.2 The governments agree that for future joint reviews greater clarity is needed on the set of indicators (having reference to the constitutional definition) against which good governance is to be assessed taking into account the available sources of quality data.

13.3 In early 2014, with Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs’ assistance, the ABG will complete a joint organisational assessment using an agreed set of Key Result Areas and indicators based upon the Provincial Performance Improvement Initiative, to be repeated in early 2015 to feed into the 2015 joint review of the autonomy arrangements. ABG and Department of Provincial and Local Government Affairs will seek to involve a representative from East New Britain Province (and/or Milne Bay Province) in the assessments given those provinces’ above average performance in service delivery.

13.4 The ABG will complete its 2014-2016 Corporate Plan by 31 March 2014.

Capacity Development

14.1 The governments agree that they will apply significant resources, with the support of development partners, to implement the BEC approved Capacity Development Strategy for the Autonomous Bougainville Government (November 2012).

House of Representatives and Principal Legal Officer

15.1 The governments will engage, when appropriate, in collaborative efforts to consider the issues of construction of a permanent Parliament building for the House. [This is dependent upon the ABG and its people determining the location of the seat of government.]

15.2 The ABG will undertake a review to assess the required level of resources for the House for the next five years, including recruitment of its necessary administrative support staff, build office capacity and fund resources necessary.

15.3 The ABG will expand programs for induction (after 2015 elections) and ongoing training of Members of the House of Representatives so they understand their roles and the parliamentary procedures and processes. [This should be alongside the AusAID funded mentoring of the House by the NSW Parliament.]

15.4 The ABG will immediately recruit the Bougainville Principal Legal Officer, the principal adviser to the BEC, through an open and transparent process and support the office with lawyers, support staff and resources.

Law and Justice

16.1 Recognising that improving law and order is the people’s highest priority, the governments agree that there is a need to develop and implement, as soon as possible, a clear implementation plan for the transfer of police and correction services functions and powers to the ABG based upon the specific constitutional provisions

16.2 As part of and under the recently launched police modernisation program, GoPNG will give special attention to infrastructure capacity development, funding of resources and police manpower in Bougainville to bring police service to at least pre-crisis level.

16.3 The Police Service, Correctional Service, the Courts and the other law and justice constitutional offices are an integral part of law enforcement, maintaining peace and order and for public security. Both governments will give attention to building the capacity of all aspects of the law and justice system in order to prepare the ABG to be able to enact its own laws to transfer of related powers and functions when appropriate and affordable.

16.4 Given the importance of establishing and maintaining law and order in Bougainville both governments will support the police and correctional services special working groups to analyse and develop appropriate short and medium term funding proposals for the police and correctional services in Bougainville based upon an optimal configuration of staff and facilities.

Mining

17.1 The governments will review the 15-step strategy and seek to implement it in full consultation with each other.

17.2 The governments will as a matter of urgency meet in the Joint Consultative Coordinating Committee on Panguna Negotiations and agree the budget and potential sources of support for a comprehensive program of consultation, analysis and information-sharing so that the ABG, the landowners and the National Government are fully prepared to advocate and negotiate among each other and with BCL the new terms and conditions for mining and exploration leases associated with Panguna Mine.

17.3 Both governments will continue to support building staff capacity of the ABG Mining Department and other departments in order for them to be fully prepared to administer, implement and monitor mining (including issuing, managing and monitoring of mining tenements) and other legislation associated with the possible re-opening Panguna Mine, other mining operations (if any).

17.4 The ABG will continue to consult the National Government through the Department of Mining Policy and the Mineral Resources Authority on the ABG’s proposed transitional law in accordance with the Alotau Agreement, prior to the House enacting the law. The ABG to continue wider consultation of all stakeholders in the ARB in formulating its mining legislation and the Panguna negotiations.

The Referendum

18.1 The governments will meet quarterly in the Referendum Committee, and then at the Joint Supervisory Board, to monitor and discuss the preparations for the Referendum.

18.2 The governments agree that the Referendum will be conducted by an independent agency established for that purpose under Section 58 of the Organic Law on Peace -Building in Bougainville-Autonomous Bougainville Government and Bougainville Referendum 2002.

18.3 The governments agree that by 31 March 2014 the work plan for establishing the arrangements to conduct the Referendum will be completed including specifics on the roles, responsibilities and resources needed for:

  1. the administrative arrangements including establishing the independent agency to conduct a free and fair Referendum in Bougainville;
  2. engaging with international partners to obtain support for the independent agency and the conduct of the Referendum;c. seeking secure sources of funding for the agency to conduct a free and fair Referendum;d. maintaining and supporting regular fora for officials (Referendum Committee) and political leaders;

    e. establishing a Bipartisan Parliamentary Committee of the National Parliament on Bougainville Affairs and a similar committee of the Bougainville House of Representatives so as to provide oversight, direction and monitoring of progress towards the Referendum;

    f. establishing a process of consultation with Bougainvilleans, and others, determine the link or links a person has to have to Bougainville, including those of non-residents, to vote in the Referendum [See Peace Agreement Article 315 and Organic Law Section 55];

    g. reviewing the legal and administrative Rules for the Conduct of the Referendum as contained in the First Schedule to the Organic Law taking into account issues and experiences arising from two Bougainville elections and any other relevant matter.

    h. establishing a process of consultation with Bougainvilleans and others, to seek agreement on the options to be voted on in the Referendum, including independence [PNG Constitution Section 338];

    i. developing and implementing a generalised awareness campaign within Bougainville on the process and arrangements for Referendum. [Awareness on the Referendum itself will be conducted impartially by the independent agency established to conduct the Referendum.]; and

    j. complying with the Bougainville Constitution’s general and specific provisions for consultation within the Region including with traditional leaders and others.

    Feedback to the People

    19.1 The government will support the independent experts to meet with the people of Bougainville through a series of public consultations to close the consultation loop through feedback and deliver the Joint Review to the communities. These sessions will include representatives of both governments.

    .

Bougainville JSB Outcomes : PNG Prime Minister assures ABG of support at Arawa summit

Outcomes

 

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon Peter O’Neil assured the Autonomous Bougainville Government President Chief Dr John Momis and the people of Bougainville that any outstanding issues presented by the Autonomous Bougainville Government at the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting will be addressed and effectively resolved.

Hon Peter O’neil assured that the issues were to be resolved during the JSB meeting held on Friday March 13th 2015. Prime Minister Peter O’Neil reassured that other outstanding issues would be addressed effectively before the next JSB meeting.

By Tanya Lahies from the Bureau of Media and Communications

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PM Peter O’Neil assures ABG to resolve issues of transfer of powers

Prime Minister Peter O’neil responded:“I want to assure you, issues about transferring of powers will be effectively resolved before the next JSB meeting.”

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PM Peter O’Neil assures ABG to resolve issues of funding

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil said: “I want to assure you that our national government will honor every commitment prior to the peace agreement. That includes the Special Intervention Funds (SIF); ongoing recurrent expenditures; funding will be provided for recurrent expenditures. I want to assure the people of Bougainville that we will expand the LLGSIP funds.”
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PM Peter O’Neil assures ABG of support to the ABG 2015 National Elections

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil said: “We will transfer K1million to assisting with the elections. The transfer was made this week.”
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PM Peter O’Neil assures ABG for referendum

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil said: “As I have publicly said before, there are conditions which are attached to the referendum that we all have agreed to.”

“We must follow the conditions so that the people have the rights to make a free choice. “

“We are committed as a national government to the referendum process and as governments before, we assure you that we will work closely with you to ensure that –a referendum committee is established and it is working so that we can be able to address many outstanding issues.”
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PM Peter O’Neil assures of commitment to Bougainville

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil said: “I explained publicly during my visits to Arawa, Buin and Panguna that I am committed to making sure that we provide the level of services that our people expect and I’m pleased to see that our Joint Programme Management Unit (PMU) is working closely together to making sure that many of the key infrastructure challenges that we have are been addressed.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil announced that preparations are under way for the major road network from Kieta to Kangu wharf. “A tender for the major road network between Kieta to Kangu wharf has been now forwarded to the general suppliers for tenders board for awarding of contracts.
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PM Peter O’Neil assures of commitment to working with PMU

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil said: “We will work closely with the Programme Management Unit (PMU) again in making sure that the services are to be delivered in a more kindly manner as well.”
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PM Peter O’Neil’s remark on JSB Meeting

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil said: “Today the joint supervisory body meeting now marks a new level of government. It is important that we continue that we work together- the rest to assure that we show our government support- our top priority of restoring basic services. “

Prime Minister Peter O’Neil reassured that commitment to the ABG has always been strong. “We will continue to work with you till we implement many of our programmes. I want to reassure that our government will continue to support your government to ensuring the best outcomes to achieving the best standard of living.

Bougainville News: Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to address concerns on Bougainville visit

 

julie Bishop2

Put simply, this vote will determine whether Bougainville pushes ahead for full independence or chooses to remain an autonomous region of PNG.

Yet the complexity of the issues in Bougainville, and as between the ABG and PNG, means that as the referendum date draws nearer, Bougainville will again inevitably feature prominently in Australia’s foreign policy considerations.

The process of negotiation between the ABG and PNG is fraught with difficulties as there appear to be deeply entrenched differences over the future of Bougainville, the possibility of reopening the Panguna mine and the direction of economic and social development.

I believe that this region should be Australia’s highest foreign policy priority and that is why I am spending as much time as I am able to do making contact, engaging with people, listening to them and talking about issues of concern.”

Julie Bishop speaking in 2012 after her trip to Bougainville : Has her views changed ?

Picture: Julie Bishop a friend of Bougainville for many years recently hosted Autonomous #Bougainville Government MPs Joan Jerome, Rose Pihei, Elizabeth Burain in her Canberra Office

Fresh from a trip to the International Climate change in Peru South America Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will today travel to Papua New Guinea and Bougainville

The Minister will co-chair the annual Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum, and Business Dialogue and travel to Bougainville where she will meet political and community leaders to discuss the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and visit Australian aid-funded projects in Buka and Arawa.

Speaking on Sky News Australia this morning (December 14) the Minster said she was concerned about the upcoming referendum on Bougainville independence .

Ms Bishop said Bougainville wanted a referendum on independence next year but she did not believe it or PNG would be ready for a referendum for some time. “I want to meet with the autonomous Bougainvillian government and talk to them about their expectations,” she said.

Asked if she was concerned about a resurgence of violence on Bougainville, Ms Bishop said that had always been a possibility.

“Unless the PNG government and the autonomous Bougainvillian government can sort out their differences and work closely together, I think it is going to be a challenge for Australia and New Zealand and other countries who are responsible, if you like, for this part of the world.”

photo

SEE VIDEO of her interview HERE

Included in this post below are background information on Julie Bishop and her thoughts on Bougainville’s Future  including

What was Julie Bishop saying about Bougainville in 2012 as opposition spokesperson?

Interview with Radio Australia about her Bougainville trip in 2012

Minister Bishop will be joined by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Scott Morrison, Minister for Defence David Johnston and Minister for Justice Michael Keenan.

“The participation of four senior members of the Coalition reflects the strength and depth of the relationship the Australian Government shares with our closest neighbour.” She said

Forum discussions will focus on key areas of bilateral cooperation, including defence and policing cooperation, the implementation of the Regional Resettlement Arrangement, how Australia is assisting PNG to host APEC in 2018, and strengthening PNG’s public service through improved education and training.

Minister Bishop said she  look forward to co-chairing the annual Ministerial Forum Business Dialogue, which enables the business community to discuss with Ministers ways to further strengthen trade and investment links between our two countries.

Following the Ministerial Forum, Minister will travel to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville – the first visit to Bougainville by an Australian Foreign Minister since 2000.

End Press Coverage

Speaking in advance of trip a Bougainville elder had this word of advice for Julie Bishop

“Tell Julie Bishop many of us can understand where she is coming from (from Canberra in Australia) where political correctness is on the lips of politicians. But there are times when politicians are best advised not to come out in public space and view about Bougainville because there are others that will not understand encrypted political messages and even others that will see her as stifling a cause for which people lost their lives.

Sensitivities and knowing what to say, how to say it, when to say it and in the company of who to say it has played a major part in rebuilding Bougainville. It’s challenging and the people of Bougainville will say they don’t need the only LNP women Minister throwing too many spanners into the works in a male dominated work-shop designed and run largely by men. Julie is a friend of Bougainville but she is also Australia’s Foreign Minister.”

images

Background

What was Julie Bishop saying about her Bougainville trip in 2012 as opposition spokesperson

See Video Link Bishop and Rudd exchange comments about Bougainville 2012

The range of complex issues surrounding Papua New Guinea’s national election have been widely commented on by Australian media and politicians – some more helpful and diplomatic than others.

In the week before Easter I visited PNG – my second extended visit to the country in the past 9 months – accompanied by Queensland federal colleagues Senator Ian Macdonald, Jane Prentice MP and Ewen Jones MP.

We held discussions with Prime Minister O’Neill, senior members of his Cabinet, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief of the PNG Defence Force, the Police Commissioner and the PNG Election Commissioner, amongst others, on the many and varied challenges associated with the election.

Papua New Guinea is a democracy and as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations is committed to regular parliamentary elections and strong democratic institutions, yet recent political events have been challenging.

Current indications are that the election will be held mid year with hopefully many of the constitutional issues surrounding the composition of the government and a dispute with the judiciary being resolved by PNG voters at the ballot box.

What is less well known is that there is another vote that will take place in the coming years in Bougainville, an autonomous region of PNG, that is potentially of far greater significance to PNG and the broader region than the general election this year.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement signed in 2001 between the PNG Government and the leaders of Bougainville brought a formal end to a civil war that had cost many lives in Bougainville over decades.

Bitter conflicts over land rights, the closure of the mainstay of the local economy in the Panguna mine in the late 1980s and a nascent secession movement has meant that Bougainville has presented a challenge to the fragile nature of PNG nationhood and its politics since PNG independence in 1975.

However, part of the 2001 Agreement, which was brokered in part by the Howard Government, provides for a referendum to be held between 2015 and 2020 on the question of Bougainville’s independence from PNG.

Various conditions must be met prior to the referendum, notably the disposal of weapons currently held in Bougainville and an acceptable standard of governance achieved by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

Put simply, this vote will determine whether Bougainville pushes ahead for full independence or chooses to remain an autonomous region of PNG.

Yet the complexity of the issues in Bougainville, and as between the ABG and PNG, means that as the referendum date draws nearer, Bougainville will again inevitably feature prominently in Australia’s foreign policy considerations.

The process of negotiation between the ABG and PNG is fraught with difficulties as there appear to be deeply entrenched differences over the future of Bougainville, the possibility of reopening the Panguna mine and the direction of economic and social development.

As Anthony Regan, a leading expert on Bougainville, has stated, the starkly different views that are held by Bougainville leaders and the PNG Government, gives rise “to possibilities of conflict over the referendum outcome”.

Aware of the challenges facing Bougainville and the importance of engaging with all relevant parties at the earliest opportunity, our trip to Papua New Guinea included a number of days in Bougainville to gain a deeper understanding of the complex web of cultural, social, economic and political issues that lie at the heart of the referendum question.

During our stay in Buka, we met with leaders of the ABG including President John Momis and Vice-President Patrick Nisira to discuss progress of the peace process, weapons disposal and economic development.

While the 2001 Agreement resulted in the destruction of many weapons used in the civil war, there are fears that a significant number of weapons are still held in the community.

Further, the military ordnance left in southern Bougainville by the United States during the Second World War in the Pacific is an ever present danger.

We made a seven hour round journey by boat and four-wheel drive to Arawa, the pre-civil war capital of Bougainville, to meet with people involved in the reconciliation process including members of the ABG Regional Administration and a representative from the Me’ekamui people, a tribe who had not taken part in the 2001 Agreement.

The reality of the civil war and the bridges that have to be crossed before the referendum can take place were brought home to me in our meeting with former members of the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, Sam Kauona and Ishmael Toroama.

Sam Kauona, a Bougainvillean but also an Australian Army trained former PNG Defence Force lieutenant and explosives expert, who became one of the most feared guerrilla fighters in the civil war, told me that he had been “rehabilitated” and that he was now committed to peace and reconciliation.

However he was also deeply committed to an independent Bougainville and he is not alone in his views.

We saw the work funded by Australia’s foreign aid program to improve basic infrastructure across the islands, as well as improving governance, education and health standards. However, the massive challenge of achieving an independent Bougainville should not be underestimated.

Whether the preconditions for the referendum will be met within the timeframe remains to be seen, but this will be a crucial test for the people of Bougainville and the PNG Government.

Australia must be, and be seen to be, deeply committed to the peace and reconciliation process in the lead up to 2015 and beyond.

Interview with Radio Australia 2012

JULIE BISHOP    It is my first visit to Bougainville but it is part of a trip to Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, and I have brought a number of my parliamentary colleagues with me. And we arrived in Buka in Bougainville this morning. We have met with the Vice President and with the Chief Administrator and a number of senior officials. We will be staying overnight this evening and then going to Arawa tomorrow, we will spend another night in Bougainville on Thursday and then return to Papua New Guinea on Friday.

HELENE HOFMAN    Did anything arise from the meetings that you had this morning?

JULIE BISHOP    They have been very significant meetings because I have been given an update about the post conflict challenges in Bougainville. One issue that keeps being raised with me is the weapons disposal programs and the challenges ahead for the autonomous government to try and get the weapons containment under control.

Your listeners will be aware that there is a proposed referendum on independence to be held as part of the Bougainville peace process sometime before 2020, between 2015 and 2020, and one of the issues that must be confronted before the referendum can be held is the weapons disposal. And that is an issue that is really exercised in the minds of those in leadership positions here.

HELENE HOFMAN    And you’re due to meet with President Momis tomorrow, is that something you’ll bring up with him or do you have other issues that are on the agenda?

JULIE BISHOP    I will be meeting with President Momis in the morning. As well as the issue of weapons disposal we will be talking about peace and reconciliation post conflict. I also want to discuss the effectiveness of Australia’s aid program into PNG and Bougainville. I propose discussing with him some of the challenges that Bougainville faces in terms of its budget and the revenues that Bougainville is able to derive, and also some opportunities for opening the Panguna mine again and other mining and resource projects that are being considered here. And we will also talk about other ways to expand the economy and ways that Australia can assist through AusAID and other means.

HELENE HOFMAN    President Momis has repeatedly said he would like to see more Australian aid for Bougainville, what is your stance on that?

JULIE BISHOP    Well that is one of the reasons that I have come here in my capacity as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I want to understand far better the challenges facing the people of Bougainville. And that is why we are spending two and a half, nearly three days here so that we can meet people who are recipients of aid, understand whether it is having the desired impact.

We have met with the Catholic Bishop today, we are now meeting with one of the Sisters, Sister Lorraine’s organisation out here in Chabai, and trying to understand from them what more is needed in terms of support for health, education, as well as infrastructure.

HELENE HOFMAN    Have you had to field any questions about why the Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr hasn’t yet visited the region?

JULIE BISHOP    I have certainly had to field questions in Port Moresby about Senator Carr’s recent comments concerning sanctions on PNG should an election not be held and I have been reassured on many occasions by every level of government in PNG that the national elections will go ahead as constitutionally required.

And so it is unfortunate that Senator Carr made those comments but he has admitted that they were wrong and I would encourage him to visit PNG and Bougainville as soon as he is able.

There is no substitute for actually spending time here. In the last eight months I have spent a week in PNG, I have spent time on the Solomon Islands and now another week in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.

And so I believe that this region should be Australia’s highest foreign policy priority and that is why I am spending as much time as I am able to do making contact, engaging with people, listening to them and talking about issues of concern.