3 Jul 2013

Bougainville contemplates suing PNG national government

5:42 pm on 3 July 2013

The president of the autonomous Papua New Guinea province of Bougainville, John Momis, says his government is considering suing the national government for what he says is its failure to meet the terms of the Peace Agreement.

He says the lack of money is stalling preparations for the referendum on possible independence, which is a key part of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

That vote is likely in 2016 and Mr Momis told Don Wiseman Bougainvilleans need to be more self reliant or seek financial help elsewhere if the national government does not meet its commitments.

JOHN MOMIS: The people of Bougainville must realise that that event, that important political moment in the history of Bougainville is quite imminent. As a matter of fact, next year the ABG, their own house of representatives, will determine the actual date of the referendum. So whilst we're experiencing a lot of problems in respect to assistance from the national government, we need to get ourselves organised and be more self-reliant, even in terms of sourcing funds from outside. Because we are not having a very successful engagement with the national government. They seem to be having no qualms or conscience and consistently breaching the Bougainville Peace Agreement. So the only way to motivate our people is to say, look, we have to be ready. It's like saying the grand final date is on, and, whether we are ready or not, we have to play in the grand final. We made the commitment so we better get ourselves organised.

DON WISEMAN: When you say that the national government is breaching the peace agreement, there was a lot of good feeling toward the end of last year and the government came through with those very large commitments they had made. So are you suggesting there's been a backtracking since then?

JM: There's been quite a bit of backtracking, yes. Even last year the $100 million the government promised only came to us in November towards the end of the year. It doesn't give us much time to implement, especially when the Bougainville administration doesn't have the capacity. And this year, we haven't go this year's allocation yet. And the restoration and development grant, which is stipulated in the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which is sub-constitutionally guaranteeing the allocation of funds which should be given to us every year - they have been under paying us deliberately. We worked out that, in fact, the national government owes us something like approximately $188 million. That is the only guaranteed funding to Bougainville. They've been severely underpaying us.

DW: And that's separate from the commitment of 500 million kina that was made?

JM: Yes, 500 million for the next five years - that's a political commitment the national government made. Whereas the restoration and development grant is constitutionally stipulated. The national government has no choice but to give it. In fact, we are seriously thinking of taking them to court for such a massive breach, which creates a lot of doubt in the minds of Bougainvilleans about the national government's goodwill.