The Government is set to focus on Constitutional and Parliamentary processes on Bougainville’s Self – Determination and cannot put the country’s future at stake.
Prime Minister Hon. James Marape, when addressing the Joint Supervisory Body meeting resolution in Wabag on Tuesday 6 July 2021, said, although President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville , Hon. Ismael Toroama and the people of Bougainville are pushing for Independence to be in 2027, consultation is still in progress and must not be rushed.
Hon. Marape said as the Prime Minister his job is to ensure that the rest of the country remains united.
“This has been a long journey, and as we approach the most critical part of the peace process, we cannot rush.
“That is why our consultations and continued dialogue are so important. By continuing to talk through the issues, whilst maintaining our focus and resolve to put in place the practical measures to transfer powers to the ABG, we can lay the foundations for Bougainville’s long-term economic future.,” he said.
“That is what we must focus on, ensuring that we position Bougainville for success – to manage its own affairs, in the form of a final political settlement.”
PM Marape added, “We must recognize the two important issues to consult on – the process of giving effect to the results of the referendum, and the identification of the constitutional issues relating to the result of the referendum and the tabling to Parliament of the consultation outcomes are two issues that have not been dealt with in detail.
“While getting to an outcome is important, we should also recognize the importance of building a pathway constitutionally and where necessary, insert parliamentary processes that will shepherd the tabling of the referendum results and the outcome of the consultation.
“Once the motion goes before Parliament, it becomes the property of Parliament, said PM Marape.
“This process cannot be rushed as the future of our nation is at stake and this process is the single most important process any government is faced with, far bigger than COVID-19 or our economic challenges.”
Mr Marape has however expressed concern that the matter and process of giving effect to the results of the referendum, and the identification of the constitutional issues relating to the result of the referendum and the tabling to Parliament of the consultation outcomes are two issues that have not been dealt with in detail.
“When we last met in Kokopo, I said that I understood the urgency of this matter to which the result of the referendum was clear, resulting in a 97.7 percent of Bougainville people voted for an independence outcome.
“I want to say again, we have listened, and we accepted that the people have spoken.
“As the Prime Minister, my role is to lead our national consultation team and provide the direction that is needed to seek a long-term political settlement.”
Mr Marape has further directed officials to deal with four issues, namely: to consult on the definition and process of giving effect to the result of the referendum, to identify the constitutional issues relating to the referendum results and the tabling of the outcomes to Parliament, develop a road map on Post Referendum Consultations, and fully implement the Sharp Agreement.
Prime Minister Marape understood that the Sharp Agreement has some traction and will subsequently move along.
The Sharp Agreement will ensure that the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government consult to continue to implement ongoing transition plans.
Mr Marape noted the “silence” of the Constitution of Papua New Guinea on secession and independence, and called for wider consultation across the length and breadth of the country on Bougainville’s issue of independence.
He understands all Papua New Guineans will be impacted by the final outcome, “which is why we must not just consult amongst our leaders, however consult the length and breadth of the nation, from the highest peaks of the Highlands to our most outlying islands, to ensure that our people understand the process and have a say.”
“Our Constitution and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea was established on the back of wider consultation.
“ Therefore, we must give our people an opportunity to give their views on the outcome of the Bougainville Referendum before Parliament meets to consider the referendum results.
“As far as constitutional provision is concerned, with regard to one part of the country becoming independent, the constitution is silent,” Mr Marape said.
Mr Marape admits, there is no provision for one part of the country to be independent, however there is a need to recognize the peculiarity of Bougainville, and give recognition to the constitutional provision where Bougainville Peace Agreement was borne out of.
He added the country was secured at the back of consultation in the early 70s until 1975, when it became a sovereign state and to unbind the country as a sovereign state would require almost the same process.
Mr Marape said the signing puts in significant clauses that allow PNG to know what is at play and what is at stake and for the government to take necessary steps to consolidate the rest of PNG.
The Wabag JSB consultation ended with a number of resolutions that allows for continued dialogue within the given timeframe as follows:
- To continue to consult and develop clarity on establishing the constitutional and parliamentary pathway for the tabling of the results of the Referendum, the outcome of the consultation to give effect to the results of the Referendum and the outcome of the consultations, and the pathway consequential to the outcome of the National Parliament decision.
- To take action necessary to process an endpoint which is the culmination of all the activities that flows from the constitutional amendments to give effect to the National Parliament decision
- To take immediate action which are focused on the full implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement subject to the National Constitution, with a focus on completing outstanding tasks under the pillars of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, including the implementation of the Sharp Agreement to support the economic growth of Bougainville to ensure that Bougainville is in a position to effectively and efficiently manage its own economic affairs in preparation for a political settlement
- To allow the National Government to undertake national consultations across Papua New Guinea on the outcome of the Referendum, noting that constitutional amendments which would have been set in motion by the signing of this Statement will need to be enacted to give effect to Bougainville’s final political status.
- To determine a political settlement no earlier than 2025 and no later than 2027 guided by an agreed joint road map.
Mr Marape continues: “We must continue to recognize that nothing that we decide today, or at any point in our discussions, will pre-empt the decision of the National Parliament. Anything that is seen to undermine the very clear provisions that we have in place under the National Constitution could be open to challenge in the courts, which would only serve to delay the process further.
“We must aim for the 11th Parliament to make a decision, and work towards an outcome no earlier than 2025 and within the years up to 2030. In that journey, we should continue to respect the Parliamentary process and requirements. This is an important step and we cannot afford to second guess, how it will proceed, the details of the motion and the options to go before Parliament. This step must be laid out clearly so we can deal with it..
“I again want to say that I and my Parliamentary colleagues are here in a spirit of openness. We will continue to listen. We will continue to act on the needs of Bougainville, to ensure that we have a robust process of consultations which will lead to a fair outcome for all of us, PM Marape concluded.