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‘Secession is not part of our Constitution’: Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Puka Temu
4:47 pm GMT+12, 12/02/2020, Papua New Guinea

Bougainville Affairs Minister Sir Puka Temu has bluntly told Parliament in his Referendum statement Wednesday that the National Constitution does not provide for separation or secession of a part of the country.
 
Giving an update on the situation on Bougainville, Sir Puka also singled out that the consultation process will start after the mid-year ABG elections, and it might continue for approximately 12 months until mid-2021.
 
“Again, this is purely forward planning, which is dependent on how the process goes. It might take less or more time than 12 months,” he said.
 
“The referendum vote is in favour of independence. However, if MPs feel compelled not to give legal effect to that outcome, the right place to express that view is through the consultation process in which both governments will be engaged.”
 
He presented his ministerial statement on the Bougainville results specifically speaking also on the 98 per cent result which was Option 2 – Independence.
 
“Independence literally means being free from being governed or ruled by another country. For Bougainville to separate from Papua New Guinea, as the definition suggests, it would entail a significant step for a range of critical issues,” he said.
 
“Even so, it is useful to bear in mind the diverse forms of independence that small island states, in particular, currently enjoy – from sharing such important arrangements as currency; institutions such as courts of appeal and universities; special arrangements for freedom of movement for citizens, border security, and others.
 
“In short, it is of the utmost importance that the two governments continue to engage whatever the outcome of the consultations.
 
“Bougainville and Papua New Guinea will be neighbours forever. We will continue to have many shared interests. It is accordingly important that we pay close attention to the interests, options and issues involved.
 
“In this regard, an important consideration for MPs to bear in mind is that the National Constitution does not provide for separation or secession of a part of the country. This means that if the National Parliament were to agree to ratify the referendum outcome in favour of independence, the National Constitution would have to be amended to allow for it to be granted.
 
“Mr Speaker, worthwhile if the Autonomous Bougainville Government elections – normally scheduled for June of the election year – be deferred for a certain period of time so that the consultation process can start immediately after the referendum, and there will also be no delay in other related activities. The latest out of Bougainville is that the deferral of the election will no longer be pursued.
 
“Second, it is now envisaged that the consultation process will start after the mid-year ABG elections, and it might proceed for approximately 12 months until mid-2021. Again, this is purely forward planning, which is dependent on how the process goes. It might take less or more time than 12 months.
 
“And third and final, there will be a JSB meeting due to take place around early March.
 
“The developments just high-lighted are likely to be raised at this meeting. We can discuss and debate this sensitive issue for all we want.
 
“But, as I said earlier, we must be mindful of the fact that the national government was signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
 
“I do not need to inform you that what any MP says can be interpreted in a thousand ways.
 
“We do not want any Bougainvillean voter to think that his or her preference on the ballot paper was expressed in vain.
 
“Our over-riding objective must be to honour the letter and spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and implementing laws – as well as allow for concerted efforts to continue building and sustaining lasting peace by peaceful means,” he said.

SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS


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