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

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

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

2. Dates for this weeks BRC Bougainville Roadshow announced

3. Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

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

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

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

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

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

Read full story from the Irish Times

2. Dates for this weeks BRC Bougainville Roadshow announced:

Arawa 9 July 2pm (Christmas Park),

Buin 10 July 1pm (Buin Secondary),

Buka 11 July 2pm (Bel Isi Park).

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

3. Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

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

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

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

Issue of writs – August 16, 2019

Start of polling – October 12, 2019

See Bougainville Referendum Commission Website

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

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

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

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

A six-week extension was mentioned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published Here

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scars Remain From a Civil War

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

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

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

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

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

Copper Mine Underscores Doubts over Bougainville’s Economic Viability

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regional, International Eyes on October Referendum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Autonomous Bougainville Constitution provides for a Bougainville Ombudsman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See Continued Part 2 Below

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

Bougainville's Panguna Copper mine

Bougainville’s Panguna Copper mine Photo: Supplied

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2 BCL Press Release 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

ABG President Chief Dr John Momis

Reports from New Dawns Aloysius Laukai

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

JOINT MEDIA STATEMENT AFTER END OF JSB

Photo above Radio New Zealand report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Momis Happy with JSB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bougainville Referendum News : A pledge by Bougainville leaders to work together

Pic 2

” All four national Members: Hon Joseph Lera, Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Jimmy Miringtoro, Minister for Communications, Hon Louta Atoi, member for North Bougainville and the recently elected MP for South Bougainville Hon Timothy Masiu  all took turns to air and share their views on the importance of consultations and commitment to work together on matters concerning Bougainville.

The pledge expresses a desire for everyone to be on the same page in implementing the terms and intentions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, a historical joint creation borne out of the efforts of the National Government and Bougainville’s political and factional leaders.”

Photo above : All four Bougainville national MPs with visiting members of Bougainville’s parliamentary committee on referendum after the Pledge

Autonomous Region of Bougainville’s four elected members in the National Parliament have come together, have spoken with one voice and have pledged they will work closely with the Bougainville’s Members of the House of Representatives.

In a small, unassuming but important, meeting over dinner hosted by the Minister for Bougainville Affairs on Thursday evening 11 August the four Bougainvillean national MPs made an unequivocal pledge that they will work with Bougainville parliamentarians in consulting, advising, sharing, working with each other and taking part in all matters of political, social and developmental interest and concern to Bougainville.

The main guests at the evening dinner gathering were members of the Bougainville House of Representatives committee on Referendum led by its Chairman Hon Joseph Watawi MHR.

Pic 1

Photo above :At PNG Parliament Minister Joe Lera MP and Chairman Joseph Watawi MHR both with other colleague members.

The committee was in Port Moresby to observe the National Parliament in session and meet with the National Parliament bipartisan committee on Bougainville matters including referendum.

The joy and exchanges of pleasantries was most obvious. At long last! It is done!

There is more than one reason to expect there will be a lot of trust and cooperation from hereon between and amongst Bougainville politicians at the National level and in the Autonomous Region.

All four national Members: Hon Joseph Lera, Minister for Bougainville Affairs, Jimmy Miringtoro, Minister for Communications, Hon Louta Atoi, member for North Bougainville and the recently elected MP for South Bougainville Hon Timothy Masiu  all took turns to air and share their views on the importance of consultations and commitment to work together on matters concerning Bougainville.

A timely and proper, in-depth, educated and adequately funded awareness on referendum was discussed as one of the most important matters needing immediate focus and attention for concerted, cooperative approach by leaders.

The visiting members of the House of Representatives Parliamentary Committee on Referendum led by its Chairman Hon Joseph Watawi also spoke in turns all expressing delight that the undertaking for the Bougainville political leaders to work together is most welcome. Members of the committee that spoke and shared the same sentiments included Hon Marcelline Kokiai MHR, Hon Thomas Tari MHR, and Hon Tepaia  MHR

The people of Bougainville as electors will find comfort, confidence and assurance and can only benefit from the undertaking by their political leaders. Bougainvilleans have often criticized their politicians  for not working together on matters that can make a difference with better political cooperation  and coordination at the elected leadership level.

The four MPs representing Bougainville in the National Parliament have pledged that they will, from hereon, work with members of the Bougainville House of Representatives in the interest of all facets of development of Bougainville. The pledge expresses a desire for everyone to be on the same page in implementing the terms and intentions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, a historical joint creation borne out of the efforts of the National Government and Bougainville’s political and factional leaders.

After a number of attempts over many elections on both sides, many exchanges and  suggestions, to-ing and fro-ing, and at times laying blame from both sides, this is an achievement by Bougainville parliamentarians in both Houses to come to terms and put aside any differences in their commitment and approach on the ongoing political processes that requires their attention and decision.

The agreement pledged by the leaders followed two consultative meetings with the Minister for Bougainville Affairs and Chairman Watawi and members of his committee at Parliament House.

The Minister Hon Joe Lera said the National Coordination Office for Bougainville Affairs (NCOBA) which he heads as Minister has made a lot of effort to give practical effect to the roles and functions and fulfill the objective why this Office was established in the first place. With his intervention and better focus by the staff, NCOBA will be the primary coordination link between Bougainville and Port Moresby. His first task has been to get his colleagues the Bougainville national MPs to work in closer consultation with him through NCOBA.

The Speaker Simon Pentanu who accompanied the referendum committee delegation in his remarks  praised and thanked the national MPs for this development calling it remarkable because  he said it will see, in a long time, a meaningful consultative effort and cooperation by Bougainville parliamentarians at the national level and on Bougainville.

He said he will be inviting the four national MPs and expect them to take their seats in the House of Representatives in the forthcoming meeting in September and at all subsequent meetings of the House. He also said that from now on the dates of meetings of the Bougainville Parliament will be determined so they do not clash with National Parliament meetings to enable the four National MPs to attend.

B Pic 3

Photo Above : Meeting with PNG Parliamentary committee on Bougainville Matters and referendum, with UNDP and agencies invited as observers.

Hon Ministers Joseph Lera also informed the dinner meeting NCOBA is improving its coordinating role and under his watch he expects to deliver on the aims and objectives for which this Ministry for Bougainville was established.  His colleague national MPs praised and agreed with Minister Lera that since he assumed office as the Minister there has been enthusiasm, zest and zeal about the place.

Speaking for and on behalf of the parliamentary committee and his colleague MHRs Mr Watawi said that such a pledge between leaders has been some time coming. He said the pledge to work and stay together is like a bridge has now been built that Bougainville leaders can walk along together and cross both ways

Bougainville House of Representatives : Statement by the Speaker Simon Pentanu

 Simon Pentanu

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES 

Office of the Speaker

STATEMENT BY SPEAKER

Budget session

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Simon Pentanu MHR has announced the 2015 Budget meeting will commence on Monday 21 December at 2 o’clock pm. This is the date agreed to in consultation with the President and the Minister for Finance taking into account the preparation time for the budget to be finalised. The House will meet over two to three days to consider and approve the Autonomous Region’s  budget for 2016.

This will be the final meeting for this year. The first meeting of the House in the New Year will be in March at a date and time to be fixed by the Speaker in consultations with the President.

In a prepared statement the Speaker also made brief reference to a number matters on his impressions to the start of the Third House 2015-2020.

Parliamentary Committees

The Speaker said the start to his term in Office has been eventful. It has been a period of settling in for all members, including Ministers. The Speaker expressed a particular delight that the House has appointed its main and important select and statutory parliamentary committees early in the life of the Third House. The parliamentary committee system in its full operational capacity would provide the best opportunities for members to play their rightful roles in wider and inclusive ways as leaders, lawmakers and elected representatives.

 Parliament poorly resourced

Mr Pentanu said resources,  financial resources in particular, will continue to be a challenge in the administration of the Parliament. In this regard the Speaker said that sadly, over the last ten years the Parliament which is an important arm of the Government has been poorly resourced. Even more appalling, the Legislature as one of the three symbiotic arms of the Government has been regarded , if not degraded as if it is just another administrative arm of the Autonomous Bougainville Administration.

He said that unless this attitude is changed Parliament and its parliamentarians will not play their representative, lawful roles as long as the Parliamentary Service continues to be poorly resourced. He said it is already obvious to him that the demand on members’ time and effort compared to the meagre resources that come with the office of a member is enormous. A Parliament and parliamentary service that is adequately resourced can plan well in supporting the constitutional mandate of elected leaders and provide integrity and respect to the roles they are expected to perform.

Financial Accountability

Our whole financial administration regime and accountabilities for funds at every level need to be blow torched and overhauled. We cannot continue to walk up and down the same corridors and expect different results. I am confident however, we have the leaders in Parliament to institute changes through well thought out and considered decisions to demand more and better accountabilities overall over ABG’s finances  in order to do and achieve more from the resources Bougainville is raises and receives. Our members are not just law makers, the Parliament is also the highest oversight body to which the Executive and the bureaucracy is accountable.

Women’s participation

Our women parliamentarians have shown confidence, commitment, desire and a strong will to make their marks inside and outside Parliament as they strive to represent women of Bougainville. Their participation in debates, the questions they direct at the ministerial benches and their appreciation of what their roles entail has been impressive so far.

Former combatants

Our three members representing the former combatants have contributed to discussions and debates in an assured way. They are members of important parliamentary select committees. However, as representatives of interest groups the members need more assistance in articulating the hovering constituency issues in a way that Parliament and Bougainville leadership may be able to involve or utilise their membership in a progressive way in connection with the constituents they represent.

Positive start

The management of the business of the House, the corporation and collaboration with the Executive in Parliament and attendance and  participation by all members during parliamentary sessions has been pleasing. Members have benefitted from inductions at the start of their political and parliamentary career. Member’s attendance and participation at a recent parliamentary seminar jointly hosted by the Department of Referendum, Peace and Veterans in a rural setting was very encouraging.

Autonomous funding

Ours is a Parliament by the People, for the People, of the People and we must go back to the People at every opportunity.  I do not see why this should be difficult when this is the duty and desire of all members. It is absolutely possible with proper planning and adequate funding under an arrangement in which Parliament is funded separately in an autonomous arrangement where it is provided and is accountable for its funding.

 

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

Bn 26

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.

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

panguna

 

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 President Press Release: Jubilee Australia demonstrates ‘shameful ignorance and arrogance

Grand Chief Momis addresses Excoms

“Your assumptions, and an apparent bias, were reflected in your choice of research partners with well-known records of vehement anti-BCL views. The PNG researchers chosen to do the interviews are also people well-known in Bougainville as holding similar views.

“My Government is on the ground in Bougainville. Elected members and government officers have for many years constantly consulted landowner communities from the former Panguna leases, with the organisations established since 2010 to represent those communities, with leaders of the various Me’ekamui organisations in the area, with Councils of Elders and Village Assemblies in the area. While there is undoubtedly a range of views on the future of mining at Panguna, the only way of getting 63 interviewees opposed to mining

The President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) today released a statement about the refusal of Australian NGO, Jubilee, to respond to three letters he has sent them since October raising questions about a Jubilee report on Panguna landowner views on mining. He said their refusal to answer his questions demonstrated ‘shameful ignorance and arrogance on the part of Jubilee.

In a series of letters to the Jubilee in October, November and December 2014, President Momis questioned research methodology used, false claims made on the basis of interviews with a tiny selected group of opponents of mining, many serious factual errors in the report, and the track record of opposition to BCL and Rio Tinto on the part of Jubilee Australia’s research partners, Kristian Lasslett and the Bismarck Ramu Group.

DOWNLOAD LETTER HERE Momis – to Jubilee Board – 26 March 2015

In a letter to the Jubilee Board released with today’s statement, the President said:

“You proudly proclaim to be a scientific research organisation. But your research on Bougainville has been unethical and deeply flawed.

He went on to say that the Jubilee Report “was clearly based on false assumptions, and those same assumptions have been evident in claims made both at many points in your report, and in statements by your CEO, that there is near unanimous opposition to mining in the landowner communities in the former leases associated with the Panguna mine.

“Your assumptions, and an apparent bias, were reflected in your choice of research partners with well-known records of vehement anti-BCL views. The PNG researchers chosen to do the interviews are also people well-known in Bougainville as holding similar views.

My Government is on the ground in Bougainville. Elected members and government officers have for many years constantly consulted landowner communities from the former Panguna leases, with the organisations established since 2010 to represent those communities, with leaders of the various Me’ekamui organisations in the area, with Councils of Elders and Village Assemblies in the area. While there is undoubtedly a range of views on the future of mining at Panguna, the only way of getting 63 interviewees opposed to mining would be to carefully select them. If your report stated clearly that that was what you had done, there would be little complaint. But the report does not do that. It dissembles.

“Moreover, you compound your error by numerous absolutely false statements about the views expressed in the interviews being representative of all in the area.

“In short, there is no doubt at all that those doing the interviews in Bougainville on which the report claims to be based carefully chose a small group of opponents to the resumption of mining.

“The report was written by a person from one of your partner organisations with a clear record of a particularly unbalanced view on BCL.

“Your assumptions and bias were further demonstrated by your deliberate refusal not only to consult the ABG, but also to give it any opportunity to comment on a draft of the report before rushing to publish.

“You have also refused to respond to my questions about the ethical standards of the research, and your adherence to PNG law in the conduct of the report.

“By your refusal to answer the issues and questions raised in my three letters (above), you simply raise more doubts about your standards, your accountability and your bona fides.

“In all the circumstances, your behaviour is shameful, and your claims to be a scientific research organisation seem little more than a joke.

“I continue to request a response to the specific issues raised in those three letters.”

,

Chief John L. Momis

President, ARoB

 

Momis Speech : Bougainville’s preparation for a referendum on our future political status

Challenges of Implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement / Jo

“There is considerable international community interest in the preparations necessary for the referendum. In particular, the United Nations was requested last year to undertake a scoping visit to assess what its roles might be in supporting both the 2015 elections, and the referendum. The UN scoping team visited Port Moresby and Bougainville in February, and has recently provided a report to both governments, highlighting important issues about the work required, and proposing important roles that the UN can play in preparations for and conduct of the referendum.

I know all Bougainvilleans will support and welcome the close involvement of the UN as we continue to implement the Peace Agreement provisions on the referendum”

HON. CHIEF JOHN MOMIS PRESIDENT

AUTONOMOUS REGION OF BOUGAINVILLE  HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 STATEMENT TO THE HOUSE THURSDAY 26 MARCH 2015

 PREPARATIONS FOR THE REFERENDUM  ON BOUGAINVILLE’S FUTURE POLITICAL STATUS

Mr. Speaker:

I rise to make a brief statement about a matter of the greatest importance to Bougainville.

As we all know, the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which was given effect by amendments to the National Constitution, and the making of the Bougainville Constitution, guarantees that Bougainvilleans can vote in a referendum on the future political status of Bougainville. That referendum must include the “choice of a separate independence for Bougainville”.

This is a momentous choice. Very few people’s anywhere in the world have the opportunity for a referendum on their self-determination. The Peace Agreement has been a remarkable achievement for all Bougainvilleans.

The referendum must be held between mid-2015 and mid-2020. In other words, it must be held sometime during the term of the next ABG House.

I am making this short statement mainly to inform this House, and through you, the members of the House, about progress made under this, the second ABG House, in making the necessary preparations for the referendum.

The referendum is the third of the three pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement to be implemented. Considerable progress has been made on implementation of the other two pillars. As we all know, those two pillars are weapons disposal and autonomy.

With weapons disposal, the UN mission in Bougainville supervised the weapons disposal process, from 2001 to 2005. Until mid-2003 the UN was assisted by the PMG. Almost 2,000 weapons were handed in by former combatants.

With autonomy, there has also been considerable progress. We have together made the Bougainville Constitution, established our own institutions of Government, held elections for two ABG Houses (one from 2005 to 2010, and one from 2010 to 2015). Transfer of powers to the ABG started slowly, with the first requests for transfer made by President Kabui in 2006. During this, the second House, the progress with transfer has speeded up. We have taken over many new powers, and made new Bougainville policies and laws on a number of important subjects. From 2014, they have included establishing a separate Bougainville Public Service, a separate Bougainville public finance management system, and our own mining laws.

Though we have taken great strides with both weapons disposal and autonomy, there is still work to be done to maintain and keep building both pillars. And much of that remaining work on those pillars is closely related to the third pillar – the referendum on independence. I will come back to those issues, and clarify the relationship of weapons and autonomy to the referendum, at the end of this statement.

Mr. Speaker:

The Bougainville Peace Agreement was negotiated between June 1999 and August 2001. Although all aspects of the referendum that we could properly deal with then were covered in the Agreement, some significant issues could not be resolved at that time. They were deliberately left till later consultation and negotiations between the two governments.

I will outline some of the most important of those issues still to be decided. But before doing so, I must emphasise that it was because there are so many referendum issues to be dealt with, that more than three years ago, my Government took up the issue of referendum preparations in the JSB. As a result, a Joint Referendum Working Group was established. It has been working ever since, and it reports regularly to the JSB.

The ongoing work of that Joint Referendum Working Group has already assisted the JSB to make a decision, in 2014, on one of the most important issued that was deferred by the Peace Agreement. That was the issue of the agency, or body, that will conduct the referendum. The Peace Agreement and the National Constitution provided several options. Last year, the ABG and the National Government agreed that the referendum should be conducted by a completely independent institution, operating under a Charter that must be agreed between the two governments.

Perhaps the most critical issue that was deferred by the Peace Agreement was the decision on when the referendum will be held – the date of the referendum. It was agreed, however, that it could be no earlier than 10 years after the ABG was established, and no later than 15 years. It was also agreed that the date within that 5 year window would be agreed between the ABG and the National Government.

In consulting about the date, the two governments are required to take account of:

“whether:

  1. weapons have been disposed of in accordance with the Agreement; and
  2. … it has been determined that the Bougainville Government has been and is being conducted in accordance with internationally accepted standards of good governance.”

It is very clear from the wording of the Agreement and of the National Constitution that these matters are to be considered only for the purposes of setting the date within the five year period ending mid-2020. Issues about weapons and good governance cannot in any way be used to delay the referendum beyond mid-2020.

Because the decision on the date was deferred, that is going to be one of the most important matters that the third ABG will need to consult about and agree with the National Government. I have already begun the discussions on the issue with Prime Minister O’Neill, suggesting that 2019 should be considered. But as yet there has not been a decision on the issue.

Many other aspects of the referendum arrangements must also be agreed between the two governments. Perhaps the three most important aspects that will need to be resolved are:

  • The wording of the question, or the questions, that will be asked in the referendum – but I emphasise that whatever is decided, the Peace Agreement and the Constitution are clear that the “choice of separate independence for Bougainville” must be included.
  • The Charter for the agreed independent agency (which will spell out the duties and responsibilities of the agency, for those have not yet been defined); and
  • The qualifications for enrolment to vote in the referendum for Bougainvilleans not resident in Bougainville.

The most important issue of all has also been deferred, till after the referendum. That is the decision on implementation of the decision of the referendum. Under the Peace Agreement, the two governments are also required to consult about that. But the compromise on the referendum made in 2001 was that power to make the final decision on implementation rests with the National Parliament.

Mr. Speaker,

Clearly, there are many significant issues about:

  • the preparations for,
  • conduct of, and
  • implementation of,

the referendum that will have to be negotiated.

In addition, because neither the National Government nor the ABG has any experience of the conduct of referendums, there are many aspects of practical arrangements for the conduct of the referendum that will have to be decided jointly.

The two governments agreed last year on obtaining a report from an administration expert on the streams of work that will be needed to prepare for decisions on the major issues I’ve mentioned, as well as on more general administrative preparations for the referendum. The report was prepared in October, in close consultation with the two governments. It identified seven major work streams. In summary they are:

  1. Close consultation with the people of Bougainville and PNG, and the two governments, so that they can participate in decision making about the referendum;
  2. Weapons disposal assessment (important in terms of setting the referendum date, as well as for other reasons I will mention later in this statement);
  3. Determining the criteria for enrolling non-resident Bougainvilleans on the voters roll for the referendum;
  4. Good governance assessment (also important for setting the date, as well as for other reasons);
  5. Determining the referendum question or questions;
  6. Establishing the independent agency to conduct the referendum, and providing the funding needed to conduct the referendum;
  7. Review of the constitutional provisions for the conduct of the referendum.

The report recommended setting up a joint secretariat of the two governments to oversee the implementation of those seven work-streams. No decision has yet been made on that issue.

At the recent meeting of the JSB in Arawa on 13 March, the two governments noted the report, and agreed to meet to decide on the issues of the date of the referendum, and the charter for the independent agency to conduct the referendum, as well as other milestones for the conduct of the referendum.

My Government has also moved to establish our own structures to oversee preparations for the referendum. In 2014, we established an ABG Ministeral committee to provide oversight, direction and monitoring of referendum preparations. It will need to liaise closely with the counterpart committee established by the National Parliament.

Then in January 2015 the BEC approved the establishing of the ABG Office Bougainville Referendum  to oversee referendum preparations on behalf of the ABG. Its mandate is to:

  • Coordinate and implement ABG policy on the referendum;
  • Liaise with the National Government and development partners on referendum preparations;
  • Coordinate awareness-raising and communications for the referendum, and provide support to referendum sub-committees as may be established;
  • Develop and manage on behalf of the President and BEC, a work plan for the referendum arrangements;
  • Identify resource needs and report to BEC.

It is now vital that this new Office receives the support, especially resources and staff, necessary to carry out its import work. In the very near future, it must begin work on:

  • Consulting Bougainvilleans on options for the question or questions to be asked in the referendum, inclusive of independence;
  • Defining options on the links non-resident persons will need to be regarded as Bougainvilleans for the purposes of enrolment for voting in the referendum;
  • Reviewing the Rules for the Conduct of the Referendum agreed in 2001 and incorporated into the Organic Law on Peace-building in Bougainville, and in doing so taking account of experience in the conduct of the three ABG general elections (2005, 2010 and 2015) and the 2008 Presidential by-election;
  • Developing and implementing a general awareness campaign for Bougainvilleans on the process of, preparations for and issues in the referendum

Mr. Speaker:

There is considerable international community interest in the preparations necessary for the referendum. In particular, the United Nations was requested last year to undertake a scoping visit to assess what its roles might be in supporting both the 2015 elections, and the referendum. The UN scoping team visited Port Moresby and Bougainville in February, and has recently provided a report to both governments, highlighting important issues about the work required, and proposing important roles that the UN can play in preparations for and conduct of the referendum.

Mr. Speaker:

I know all Bougainvilleans will support and welcome the close involvement of the UN as we continue to implement the Peace Agreement provisions on the referendum.

So, Mr. Speaker:

While there is much to be done, important steps have been made. Much more will need to be done by the ABG after the election. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that negotiations about referendum preparations will be one of the most important responsibilities of the third ABG, taking office in June 2015.

Mr. Speaker,

Those responsibilities will include making strenuous efforts to continue achieving progress in relation to both weapons disposal and good governance. Progress on those matters is important in at least four distinct but also closely connected ways.

First, they are important in setting the date for the referendum, between 2015 and 2020. Disagreement between the governments on our weapons disposal status or good governance could push the date back towards mid-2020. But of course, such disagreement cannot delay the referendum after mid-2020.

Second, weapons and good governance will be very important in determining whether the referendum is “free and fair”. Under the Peace Agreement, we have all committed to a free and fair process. There is provision for international observers to be involved. If weapons are available and in use, and if the ABG does not provide good governance, for example in the form of law and order, there are serious risks that observers will decide the referendum is not free and fair.

Third, when the National Parliament comes to make its decision on implementation of the referendum outcome, it can decide what issues it takes into account in making its decision. If there are serious weapons disposal and good governance issues, they will be free to argue that it will not be safe for the people of Bougainville if independence is considered.

Fourth, and finally, the international community will be watching closely. When Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, persuaded the Bougainville leaders in late 2000 to make a compromise on their position that the referendum vote be binding on the National Government, he indicated that the international community would support implementation of a free and fair referendum with a clear outcome. The truth is that we may need to rely on international community support at that time. So we Bougainvilleans need to make sure issues about weapons and good governance result in loss of international community support.

Mr. Speaker:

There is clearly still much to be done to prepare for the referendum. But an important start on make preparations for this momentous decision-making process has been made in the five years this House has been in office.

All of us here look forward to seeing the steps being made by the new, 3rd House, President, and BEC, taking office in June, as they take the major next steps towards the conduct of the referendum.

I thank all those who have contributed to the progress we have made so far.

The referendum will involve the single most important joint and democratic decision ever made by Bougainvilleans.

I call on all members of this House and all Bougainvilleans, whether resident in Bougainville or living elsewhere, to work together to ensure that the referendum is a complete success, and provides a secure foundation for the future of Bougainville.

 

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.