Former colonel confident he can lead Bougainville

4:16 pm on 20 July 2020

Bougainville's former acting chief secretary, Thomas Raivet, is confident he can lead the region into independence.

Bougainville is about to go into an election and the first and main task for the new government will be to negotiate over the results of a non-binding referendum last year, in which there was a resounding vote for independence from Papua New Guinea.

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Photo: The Bougainvillean

Mr Raivet said he was approached to stand after retiring President John Momis was stopped by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court from contesting for the role for a third term.

Mr Momis had first asked the members of his cabinet to see if one of them would stand in his place to complete the progress towards independence, but when they refused Mr Raivet said he was approached.

The former colonel said he accepted he hadn't been directly involved in politics, but his 40 years of military training taught him a lot.

"Military officers, we studied politics, we studied leadership all through our years in the military, and the 40 years in the military gives me the confidence that I can lead," he said.

Accusations of corruption within the Bougainville public service have been rife in recent years and overcoming this is a priority for Mr Raivet.

The PNG fraud squad was brought in at one point with the spotlight on both bureaucrats and leading politicians.

Mr Raivet said if he won in August his first move would be to bring some discipline to government.

"We need a bit of discipline at the political level as well as at the public service level. And my interest in coming in 2018 was basically to bring in discipline and to deal with this thing called corruption," he said

"And I believe that if I get up to the top and become the next president I will deal with corruption from the highest level."

Mr Raivet said the outgoing Bougainville administration is no longer pushing to change the Mining Act.

Controversial planned changes announced last year would have overturned what was considered ground breaking legislation when it was passed in 2015.

That law guaranteed landowners owned the minerals on their land, and as the administration's presidential candidate Mr Raivet told RNZ Pacific that that is something it will abide by.

The Panguna copper and gold mine in Bougainville was closed down for operations in 1989 at the start of the civil war.

The Panguna copper and gold mine in Bougainville was closed down for operations in 1989 at the start of the civil war. Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

He said the opening of the Panguna mine would be important for Bougainville but any decision on that is for the landowners.

"We can only amend the Mining Act at the request of the landowners themselves but for now they are quite happy the way it is," he said

"And when I was acting chief secretary we were making some moves to communicate with them and get the message clear that if they want Panguna, or any mine to open, they will have to take the lead."

Thomas Raivet is one of 25 candidates for president in the elections which begin on 12 August.