Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) Attorney General and Minister for Bougainville Independence Mission Ezekiel Masatt has delivered a detailed Ministerial statement in parliament this week in response to the recent statements made in the National Parliament by the National Minister for Bougainville Affairs Manasseh Makiba and Prime Minister James Marape.
“The parliamentary statements on 13 June 2023 by Minister for Bougainville Affairs Manasseh Makiba and Prime Minister James Marape cannot be taken lightly,” Masatt said.
“Some parts of these statements are mischievous and misleading, that if not corrected can mislead the nation with profound negative impacts on the procedures and legality of the Bougainville Peace Process.”
Minister Masatt dissected the National Minister’s statement in parts beginning with Minister Makiba’s remarks on the Marape-Rosso Government’s achievements reached under Bougainville’s peace process, and clarified that the achievements highlighted by Minister Makiba have not been achieved in full.
This include the Prime Minister’s commitment of K1billion (US$280 million) to Bougainville (K100million (US$280,000) every year from 2021 to 2031), the transfer of the BCL shares to the ABG and the transfer of powers under the Sharp Agreement to name a few, which Minister Masatt described as ‘incomplete’.
Minister Masatt reiterated that Bougainville has remained committed to the Bougainville Peace Agreement and it has turned out to be a process that is recognised internationally as one of the best peace processes in the world.
“We have ticked off every single box in the BPA. We are now at the Ratification stage of the process and it must be a mutual step following all the agreements reached in the post-referendum consultations,” he said.
At the conclusion of the third post-referendum consultations in December of 2021, the two Governments agreed on the Era Kone Covenant which captures all the agreements reached in the three joint consultations, and outlines the legal pathway to bring the referendum results and the outcomes of the consultations to the National Parliament.
At subsequent engagements at the technical level, there’s been diverging views on the meaning of the term ‘ratification’ as stated in Clause 311 of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which further strained the discussions on both sides.
“The diverging views from both governments continue at the time of this Statement, and may continue if Government of PNG continues to disrespect the Era Kone Covenant and tries to sidetrack the final decision-making process in the Parliament and not endorsing the Bougainville Referendum results as agreed by both governments in the post referendum consultations.”
Through ministerial intervention, it was agreed that a sessional order will be adopted to fill this procedural gap, and in April this year, the two parliamentary teams led by the respective Clerks from Bougainville and PNG parliaments, met in Lae and passed a joint resolution on the Sessional Order for the Tabling of the Referendum Results.
The joint resolutions stated:
a) To present the Bougainville Referendum Result and the Report for the Joint Post Referendum Consultations, the Minister responsible shall deliver a copy to the Clerk to be laid upon the Table.
b) After the Minister’s statement, debates may ensue
c) A motion “that the National Parliament accept and endorse the Bougainville referendum Result and the Report for the Joint Post Referendum Consultations” shall only be moved by the Minister responsible at another meeting of Parliament.
d) The motion shall be decided by a vote that shall be recorded and must be supported by a simple majority.
e) The Speaker shall announce the result of the vote and the decision made by the Parliament shall be furnished to the Bougainville Executive Council.
Minister Makiba however, stated in National Parliament that ‘the referendum result shall be accepted by a two-thirds majority absolute majority vote’ – a decision that was made in the National Executive Council without any consultations with the Bougainville Executive government.
“ABG in good faith and through the resolution reached in Lae, has been committed to the Ratification process. ABG will not agree with the proposed two-thirds absolute majority as it makes the process difficult,” Masatt said.
Minister Masatt reaffirmed the ABG’s call for a review of the voting majority and maintains that the National Parliament does not have veto powers to vote over the results of the Bougainville referendum in the National Parliament.