Bougainville says PNG dragging feet over covenant

10:01 am on 29 October 2022

The autonomous Bougainville government (ABG) wants to delay the next meeting of the Joint Supervisory Body with the Papua Guinea government, claiming Port Moresby is dragging the chain on drawing up critical constitutional regulations.

The key focus of the ABG is on achieving independence by 2027 by the latest.

This latest dispute comes despite both governments committing last April to the Era Kone Covenant which lays out how the independence referendum results would be tabled in the national parliament, and the manner in which that institution may ratify the results.

At that time Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama commended the national government for its unwavering support for the Bougainville peace process.

He said the Era Kone Covenant laid out a timeline and a roadmap for the ratification of the referendum results in the national parliament.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape and Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama

PNG Prime Minister James Marape and Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama Photo: supplied

PNG Prime Minister James Marape, at the time, reaffirmed his commitment to the outcomes, saying his government would continue to work within the spirit of the peace agreement.

"We've established a pathway that we should work towards and we on the national government side, I just want to assure Bougainville that it doesn't matter who sits in this chair in three months' time, the work for Bougainville has been set and the work we have set will continue on," Marape said.

But a national government's technical team has since failed to engage with its Bougainville counterpars to develop a jointly agreed draft of the regulations.

ABG Minister, Ezekiel Masatt, said this week this lack of commitment from the National Government has frustrated the ABG leadership and prompted its call for a deferral of the Joint Supervisory Body meeting.

The PNG government, and its technical team, have called for nation-wide consultations on the Bougainville question, but Masatt says the ABG's position is that ratification of the outcome of the consultation on independence is for the National Parliament and not all the citizens of PNG.

He said there is no legal basis for such a proposed nationwide consultation.