AROB wants independence: Roka-Matbob

One question has been hovering between the PNG Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), “Where are we going now after the Referendum?”

Prime Minister James Marape has always advocated that Bougainville’s efforts towards achieving independence must be handled with great care.  Hence, the creation of Bougainville Affairs ministry and the Bougainville Government.

Theonila Roka Matbob, MP and member for Ioro Constituency in the Bougainville Government spoke to Loop PNG while in Madang for the post-election women’s forum, on the ABG’s challenges and the way forward for the autonomous region. As Minister for Community Government in the ABG, MP Roka-Matbob has called on the PNG government to be clear on its intentions for Bougainville.

“We need a lot of our Papua New Guinean politicians to understand the technicalities and the language of transition. When it comes to political literacy, it is really important to know that, there is no such language as “drawdown of powers” and to make their intentions known to avoid disappointment,” the MP stated.

The minister states that the Ministry of Community Government is the biggest department, which now focuses on ticking off four requirements, especially where aspiring nations who want to be independent must fulfil in order to be considered where the international level is concerned. She states that whilst talking about independence, they’ve only been so focused on convincing the National Government but have never ticked off international boxes that come under an international convention or the Montevideo convention of 1930.

Roka-Matbob said there are four key areas. They are:

  1. A defined territory – Bougainville has an external boundary but they are now looking at setting up permanent boundary lines for consistency with the internal boundaries that they have currently
  2. A permanent population – Bougainville has a permanent population, however need to consolidate all constituency figures to come up with a standard or average figure for consistency so that it can be calculated. The population requirement internationally for an aspiring nation is over a 100, 000 people
  3. A government – Bougainville cannot mimic or have a drawdown of powers for a governance system from an already independent nation (in this case PNG governance system).
  4. The capacity to conduct international relations – Bougainville government will have to ensure that the communities in Bougainville can enable to partner and trade with other international countries.

The minister states that as far as they are concerned they are working towards ticking off all these requirements before 2027, where they intend to rectify and table their declarations. MP Roka-Matbob added that the people of Bougainville have spoken through the referendum - 97.7% want independence.

Her question to the PNG Government is, “Is it really Bougainville being the challenge politically or is it an economic loss for the country?”