Posts Categorized: Autonomy & independence

Referendum on independence targeted for mid-2019

MomisBy John Momis

The Joint Supervisory Body of Papua New Guinean and Bougainvillean leaders established to oversee implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement met in Port Moresby on Friday chaired jointly by prime minister Peter O’Neill and president John Momis

The meeting achieved outcomes of great significance involving preparations for the Bougainville referendum which must be conducted before mid-2020.

In a series of meetings over recent months, a joint team of officials has developed proposals for the referendum.

These include establishing an independent agency to conduct the referendum; a target date of 15 June 2019 for the referendum; a detailed work program of activities and associated funding; and a set of basic messages for an initial joint awareness program.

The Joint Supervisory Body endorsed these proposals.

I’m very pleased with these decisions. Although the date for the referendum cannot yet be finally set (because of various legal steps required to be taken first), it would be impossible to plan the referendum without a target date.

With that date now agreed, we can plan the steps required to hold the referendum and the time and the funding and personnel needed to carry out each step.

Equally pleasing is the national government commitment to provide the funding needed to carry out referendum preparations beginning with the 2017 national budget.

The steps necessary to establish the independent agency that will conduct the referendum have been agreed. The two governments are committed to it being established before the end of 2016.

The PNG Electoral Commission and the Bougainville Electoral Commission are already cooperating closely in developing the agreement, administrative arrangements and the charter required by the peace agreement for establishing the independent agency.

The joint agreement on these and related issues is a huge step forward. It demonstrates once and for all the total commitment of the Papua New Guinea government to full implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the associated constitutional provisions.

As a result, there should no longer be any doubt amongst Bougainvilleans about whether or not the referendum will be held.

I know some factions and individuals have retained weapons because of suspicions that the national government would refuse to hold the referendum. But with the historic JSB decisions on 20 May, those suspicions must end. As a result, all Bougainvillean groups must now work towards achieving complete weapons disposal.

I now call for full disposal of weapons by the Me’ekamui Defence Force elements, the armed groups associated with Noah Musingku at Tonu, and various former Bougainville Revolutionary Army and Bougainville Resistance Force members and groups that have retained weapons.

Only with full weapons disposal will Bougainville be referendum­ready. The Bougainville Peace Agreement requires that the referendum be free and fair.

Without weapons disposal, there will inevitably be doubts about the referendum being free and fair. There are already Bougainvilleans saying that they will not vote if weapons remain. The legitimacy of the result will always be in doubt if weapons remain.

I am impressed by the clear commitment of the prime minister and other ministers to implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Once again, Papua New Guinea is providing a lead to other countries that have experienced violent conflict. It shows that the commitment to achieving peace by peaceful means, evident ever since the Bougainville peace process began in 1997, continues to flourish in Papua New Guinea.

I salute the Prime Minister for his very positive contribution to this historic outcome.

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Public service continues regional referendum consultations

By Ancitha Semoso

The ABG Department of Referendum, headed by a former ABG President Hon. James Tanis, is undergoing a regional referendum consultation with the key stakeholders that need to be on board.

The first consultation was held on Thursday last week in Toniva (Kieta district) with the veterans.

Mr. Tanis urged the veterans to be on board and be players in the game. The result of referendum will be determined by all parties working together, cooperating with the ABG and the leaders of the day.

This is the implementation of the plan by the Department of Referendum to carry out three regional veterans consultation agreed in the Bougainville Technical Meeting held on October 29 2015.

The departmental head Mr. Tanis feels that time should be given for consultations on the ground. Integrity in the process is a vital principle that will determine transparent and a successful referendum among other principles of good governance and weapons disposal.

There are a number of activities that the department is rolling out to make the people of Bougainville are informed on the realities of a referendum. This includes regional consultations and progress in consultations with the Meekamui.

After the region-wide veteran’s consultations, the department has also planned to have a one week of preparation then host a parliamentary workshop on referendum. The idea is to equip leaders of Bougainville with enough information to allow them to engage fully in the process of discussions and decisions on referendum issues.

This is also ensure leaders are talking consistently and singing the same song at the upcoming referendum leader’s summit proposed for the first week of December 2015.

The idea of the referendum leaders’ summit is the greater engagement of both sides because the limited membership of the Joint Supervisory Body.

Out of that process, the next strategy is to step up public awareness and where the technical teams put together the issues for the leaders to discuss

The Department of Referendum with its departmental head is working really hard to ensure that the process of referendum is done properly and no one is left out along the way. Together every can be on board to participate in the future of Bougainville.

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Referendum committee visits Port Moresby students

By Benjamin Heriberth Noibio

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The Bougainville Referendum Committee has made time to visit tertiary students in Port Moresby, while they were in the Papua New Guinea capital for discussions with the National Government.

The committee, under the leadership of chairman Hon. Joseph Watawi, participated in the two day session and then made time to visit Pacific Adventist University (PAU) students.

The students were honoured to host Hon. Joseph Watawi MP (member for Selau), Mr. Thomas Tari (South Bougainville former combatant representative), Ms. Marceline Kokiai (Central Bougainville Women’s representative), Mr. Dominic Itta (member for Kongara) and two officers from the Bougainville House of Representatives.

The main purpose of their visit is to gather information and opinions from the students regarding the referendum on independence in Bougainville in the coming years. The students kicked off formal proceedings with welcome speeches by PAU Bougainville Students Union president, Fabien Epota, and students’ representative, Benjamin Heriberth Noibio, with closing remarks provided by Jonathan Bataru.666-pacific-adventist-referendum-committee

The parliamentarians then presented speeches emphasizing the current stand of Bougainville and what needs to be done prior to the referendum.

“Referendum on Bougainville is on our hands, we will not get Referendum on a golden plate, we have to work towards it; referendum is currently like a huge parcel that we really need to unwrap it, said Hon. Joseph Watawi.

The team is working on setting a date and minimum age that will be able to vote in the referendum. They are putting their blood, sweat and tears in attempting to resolve the questions that remainin.

“Referendum is not a stand-alone thing, we need to unify with each other,” Ms. Marceline Kokiai said.

The big question on the students’ minds was ‘what if we don’t get a referendum?’ and the same question was also raised by the students at University of Papua New Guinea when the team visited  the previous week. The committee said that are working on the practical questions at this stage. Many such questions are good because they encourages a lot and can be used as guide lines while working towards the ultimate goal.

There is a need to raise awareness of the realities of the Bougainville crisis, the peace agreement and the upcoming referendum. The nature of the referendum must be clear to the people so that they will be in a better position to make their decision when the time comes.

As far as the awareness is concerned, the tertiary students must be involved in assiting deep into their various families and communities. It is now our time to educate the ones in rural areas about the referendum, autonomy, independence and weapons disposal. The referendum team was satisfied and students were encouraged to help disseminate information.

“We the students have learned a lot, even though this is on short notice to many of us,” Mr. Epota said.

“We are the future leaders of Bougainville and we must be aware of our current statues.”

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Referendum a key issue at upcoming JSB meeting

By Anthony Kaybing

Momis

Bougainville’s referendum on independence will be the key issue of discussion at the Joint Supervisory Board (JSB) meeting to be held on 2 October in East New Britain Province.

Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) President, Grand Chief Dr John Momis, the ABG hopes to reach an agreement with the National Government on the referendum, with the five year window from 2015 to 2020 now open.

The two parties must determine the key questions to be asked at the vote, voter eligibility and the common roll, assign a body to conduct the referendum and set the date..

“It is very clear that time is not on our side and we must move fast,” the President said.

“The ABG has already moved to implement a number of important initiatives that will strengthen the Government and public service machinery to enable it to effectively deliver services to our people and at the same time prepare them for the referendum.”

Other proposed issues to be discussed at the JSB will be the slow pace of the draw down of powers, tax revenue collections and a replacement fund to the K500 million Special Intervention Fund (SIF) in which the final tranche of K100 million will be paid in 2016.

“Given the focus of our government on economic development and fiscal self-reliance, we will propose to the National Government an investment development fund of K500 million as a replacement to the SIF,” revealed President Momis.

“We will also be discussing with the National Government possible funding options and strategies for our Kokopau-Buin Highway.

“This will be an impact project with huge economic development spin-offs for our enterprising population and an impetus for economic recovery.”

Straight after the JSB there will be a Referendum Summit to be held in the East New Britain Province.

The object of the summit is to seek a consensus and understanding amongst all key players from the National Government and Bougainville under the peace process and the way forward to staging the referendum and the aftermath issues following the referendum.

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Autonomy directorate prepares for JSB meeting

By Ancitha Semoso

A meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) is proposed to be held in October to discuss overarching issues related to autonomy arrangements.

The meeting is held biannually, though the precise date of the next coming together is yet to be agreed by the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

The JSB, as stated in the Bougainville Peace Agreement Part 11 article 263-267, consists of equal number of members representing the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

The functions of the body are to oversee the implementation of arrangements for the establishment and operation of the ABG, to prepare draft legislation to further the objectives of this agreement and to finalize matters of detail and resolving any difference or disputes.

The JSB meeting is normally held twice a year to discuss overarching issues related to autonomy arrangements.

It is a primarily an avenue for consultations, resolving disputes and also involves the facilitation of processes for the drawdown of powers and functions from the PNG Government to the ABG.

The Autonomy, Implementation & Monitoring Directorate is the organizing office at the ABG level in consultation with the National Coordinated Office of Bougainville Affairs (NCOBA) at the national level.

Mr. Paul Kebori, the Chief Executive Officer for the Directorate (Autonomy, Implementation & Monitoring) and the Deputy Secretary Operations, has urged all his officers to cooperate to make necessary arrangements for this meeting to be a successful one.

With the PNG National Government’s cash constraints there is a risk that this important meeting may not go ahead.

The directorate is looking to submit a proposal seeking funding at the UN Peace Building Fund as fall-back option to continuing the JSB meetings, as Bougainville has entered the window of referendum in which there are important issues that needs to be of discussed by the ABG politicians, head of departments or directorates and the national departments.

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Bougainville stakeholders attend UN workshop

By Ancitha Motsi Semoso

Last month officers in the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) were invited to attend a one day workshop on the implementation of three key projects through the United Nations Peace Building Fund.

Ms Julie Bukikun from the United Nations Development Programme was the main presenter at the workshop, which was held at the Holiday Inn in Port Moresby on the 16th of July 2015.

The UN Peace Building Fund is a catalytic fund that government agencies should now not regard as a normal programme funding. This means that the UN secretariat will support the Joint Steering Committee and its technical committee to ensure that there is effective coordination of the funding, monitoring and reporting thus evaluation and proper communication on the achievement of the priority plan results and projects that the funding is intended for.

The Peace Building Fund for PNG and Bougainville this year is $800,000USD which the UN system in PNG has divided according to the priority plans of Bougainville this year.

One project mentioned by Ms Bukikun in her presentation was the strengthening partnerships and political dialogue between GoPNG and ABG.

The outcome of this is for the key Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) provisions on autonomy arrangements and on the referendum to be progressed through joint decisions and actions of the PNG Government and the ABG.

Another objective is for the National and the Bougainville Parliaments to have a shared understanding of the BPA and the referendum provisions and the Bougainville Parliament fulfils the good governance criteria of the BPA, in line with the 2013 Autonomy Review findings that normally take place every after 3 years.

Another project is the support for knowledge-building and understanding of the Bougainville Peace Agreement which is the main concern of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville today, as many people have their own interpretation of the BPA which differs from its intention. The third project is the promotion of security and social cohesion in Bougainville as a means to strengthen society through opportunities to deal with conflict-related trauma effectively and resolution resolutions of local disputes peacefully, as well as through better access to information to access appropriate post-conflict support and services.

Bougainville is progressing through a narrow timeframe on crucial issues, such as the drawdown of powers and functions, which will determined whether Bougainville is ready to run its own affairs.

ABG Chief Secretary Mr Monovi Amani, who was one among the other ABG officers that attended the meeting, advised the ABG officers and other stakeholders (including the National Coordinating Office for Bougainville Affairs) to take ownership of these projects and implement it as expected by the aid donors for the betterment of the ABG political statues.

The next step as stated during the presentation is the signing of the project document which has been done after the meeting, the drawdown of funds, work plans for the project and the implementation plans.

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Contemporary topics present in old Arawa Bulletin issue

568-arawa-bulletin-march-1973As the revived Arawa Bulletin continues to deliver news to the people of Bougainville, an archived issue of the magazine from 1973 reveals similar issues were big news at the time.

Issue No.29 of the Arawa Bulletin, published on 2 March 1973, features a news item with President Momis.

At that time Momis was the Bougainville Regional Member of the House of Assembly, the legislature of Papua New Guinea under the Australian administration of the pre-independence era.

“The people of Bougainville must define their goals and how to achieve them before deciding on their political future,” Momis told the Arawa Bulletin  in 1973.

“Three of the Bougainville MHA’s (Lapun, Bele and Momis) have never said we do not want a referendum (on succession). I believe it is the right of the people to decide their own future.

“Any referendum must allow for three-way discussions between the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments and the Bougainville people.”

The original Arawa Bulletin was a monthly magazine initiated by expatriates that began publication in the early 1970s and continued until the 1990 when the Bougainville Crisis forced its closure.

The periodical provided local news, features, opinion pieces, information on local events and was made possible by advertising from local businesses.

In 2013 a collective of Bougainvilleans, including Romulus Masiu of the Post Courier, decided to relaunch the Bulletin to once again deliver information on the local happenings in central Bougainville.

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A reflection on 2014 – an historic year for Bougainville

By Ishmael Palipal

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People at the tarmac of Aropa Airport during the opening ceremony.

2014 was a great year in the history of Bougainville. Let us not yet put away the important events that will later be known as Bougainville history.

Since I have been writing on many of these events I would like to just briefly reflect back on the major events of 2014 and show that we can do much better in 2015 and beyond.

First of all as a post-conflict region that will soon make a decision on becoming a nation, we have so far gone through a lot of thick and thin, but here we fancy highlighting the positive happenings. Through positive thinking and action we’ll prosper.

2014 begun on a high note for our region with the goodwill visit from Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Hon. Peter O’Neill, who came from January 27-29. He became the first ever Prime Minister to visit to central Bougainville since the Bougainville Crisis. The Prime Minister visited Buka, Buin, Panguna and Arawa and his stated aim was to foster peace and unity amongst leaders from Bougainville and PNG.

He made it his priority to see that infrastructural development takes place in Bougainville and this has been evident with the re-opening of the Post PNG, Motor Vehicle Insurance Limited, Department of Works, and Air Niugini Ticketing Office, amongst others. The visit by Prime Minister O’Neill also paved the way for the re-opening of the Aropa Airport which is currently in use by traveling public now.

The National Government Minister for National Planning & Monitoring, Hon. Charles Abel, followed suit by coming to Bougainville to open a number of national government funded projects. These included opening of classrooms in primary, high secondary schools. These facilities will enable and cater for the increased enrolment of school students throughout Bougainville. The Minister had the privilege to meet with the staff of the Arawa Health Centre who presented him with a proposal to upgrade the facility’s status from health centre to hospital.

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MV Chebu being welcomed at the Buka passage by outboard motors.

On November 11 2014 we witnessed the arrival of the newly bought Bougainvillean ship at Buka. The new ship, MV Chebu, is a joint venture with the Chow family and was bought to minimize the cost of travelling to other provinces. It is now serving the route from Buka through Rabaul, Lae and back.

The day after the arrival of MV Chebu it ferried about 350 plus Bougainvillean athletes to Lae for the 6th Papua New Guinea Games. Bougainville, without much in the way of proper sporting facilities and equipment, came fourth out of 21 provinces that took part in the games.

The re-opening of the Aropa International Airport in the lead up to the festive season of Christmas and New Year was a very memorable event, witnessed by many. The airport was jointly opened by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, and ABG President, Chief Dr John Momis, and is now serving the people of central and south Bougainville. It marks the opening of a new era and is the biggest of all the recent achievements.

New developments are set for 2015 including the general election for the Autonomous Bougainville Government. The government that will be formed from this election is vital for the future of our region and will lead Bougainville to a referendum on autonomy and independence. I therefore would like to urge all our people to think carefully and choose the right leaders to carry us forward.

Do not choose a leader because he gives you money or because he is your wantok, choose a leader that will help you for a long run. Remember, we have suffered enough through the years of civil war and now we see many still suffering because of our own choices.

We must screen and decide the right leaders who will carry us forward with justice, equality and honesty. No mothers should continue to shed their tears because of a lack of services provided; no children should continue to suffer because of corruption, injustice or self-gain and Bougainville should move higher with healthy and honest leaders in place this year.

We are in a critical period now for our journey to achieve referendum and the onus is now upon us Bougainvilleans to work together in peace and unity.

Remember, your vote in this ABG Election can break or mend Bougainville!

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Australia’s development contribution on the rise

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Koromira Primary School.

Bougainville has received increased funding support from Australia over the past five years according to a recent report from the Australian High Commission.

The report, Highlights of Australia’s development assistance to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, states that Australian assistance in 2013-14 reached nearly K100 million, having increased each year since 2009.

The funding provided to the autonomous region went towards the key areas of health, law & justice, governance and transport infrastructure.

Among the improvements in healthcare were new clinics, which were built in Buka, Arawa and Buin, and the provision of medical kits across the region. These medical kits contain essential supplies and were provided to 32 health centres, 162 aid posts and the Buka General Hospital.

Australia has committed to help Bougainville’s education system by reducing class sizes and improving the learning environment. Between 2012 and 2014, twenty primary schools benefited from the construction of a double classroom, teacher’s house, office and an ablution block.

These schools were located at Lemanmanu, Hahela, Ubuko, Kunua, Sohano, Iaun, Tekoknih, Koromira, Sipatako, Peter Lahis (Arawa urban), Tupukas, Wakunai, Asitavi, Kongara, Tabago, Iruh, Ugubakogu, Laguai and Tonu.

Law and justice is vital in Bougainville as a post-crisis region and Australian assistance has seen the construction and refurbishment of a number of police stations, court houses and centres for justice around the region.

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Backing for referendum committee signals ABGs intent

By Leonard Fong Roka

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Chief Secretary, Mr Monovi Amani has stated that the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) fully supports the referendum committee, as they chart the waters for a referendum to be held between 2015 and 2020.

The Referendum Committee, led by former Acting Chief Secretary, Mr Chris Siriosi met with Mr Amani on Tuesday 17 February 2015 to set out a framework for ABG support of the most vital entity under the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).

Other participants at the meeting included Paul Kebori from Autonomy and Implementation, Kearnett Nanai from the Law and Justice Sector, Lauvatu Tautea officer in charge of strategic planning for ABG and ABG legal advisor Anthony Regan.

According to the Chief Secretary, the referendum scheduled between 2015 and 2020 was entangled by an activity-laden Papua New Guinea calendar.

Despite many high profile events ahead, including the 2015 Bougainville election, 2017 National Election and the APEC meeting in 2018, Mr Amani stated that the ABG is committed to the referendum.

Mr Chris Siriosi outlined that there were needs that the ABG should now focus on and now is the time to operationalize tasks to be undertaken in order to execute the referendum.

“PNG and Bougainville must agree and set a date for the referendum,” Mr Siriosi told the meeting.

“Both governments also must come up with a logical measurement scheme for the weapons disposal process on Bougainville. They need to set it out and agree on it.”

Siriosi believes the immediate task for the Bougainville government is to set up a referendum office, sort out the job roles and pass them through the Bougainville Gazette.

The ABG should continuously brief the PNG and all sides of Bougainvillean politics, as well as providing a report to the upcoming Joint Supervisory Board (JSB) meeting scheduled for Arawa on the 13 March 2015.

The ABG also needs to establish an effective framework for consultation with the people of Bougainville, which is still lacking for the crucial referendum. The government must also provide feedback on the UN referendum specialist report and prepare for the JSB discussions on referendum.

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