JSB meeting a ‘breakthrough’

The recently-concluded Joint Supervisory Body meeting between the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government has been described as “a very important breakthrough”.

Shadow Minister for Bougainville Affairs and Deputy Opposition Leader, Timothy Masiu, said it addresses a lot of issues that have been lingering in the minds of Bougainvilleans, especially in regards to the issue of the Referendum Commission and the restoration development grants funding.

“On behalf of the Opposition and as Shadow Minister for Bougainville Affairs, I’m delighted that the ABG and the National Government can agree to some of the issues and move forward.”

He appealed to the people of Bougainville for their support to the ABG to allow for changes in Bougainville.

“Since the JSB was not held for a long time, the issue on Bougainville was that, is the national government interested in what is happening on Bougainville?

“Also because some of the issues raised in the former JSBs were not being addressed.”

Masiu has publicly stated that he is pro-Bougainville Independence but he states it is important that the people of Bougainville be allowed to make up their own minds, as required under the constitution.

“And I’m just pleased that the Prime Minister has stated that he is all for referendum because I asked him a question in parliament some time ago and he said perhaps it will not happen.”

Deputy Speaker in the ABG, Francesca Semoso, who had attended the JSB for the first time, said she understood the fears and insecurities of the National Government in regards to letting go of Bougainville. 

“You know, Bougainville is part of Papua New Guinea and even if the people separate from PNG, it will always be part of PNG.

“It’s like when a daughter wants to leave the family and says ‘mama, mi redi lo marit ya’ (Mum I’m ready to get married) and the mother will always say ‘I don’t think you’re ready.’”

The Joint Supervisory was held on the 14th and 15th of December (2017) in Port Moresby.

Among resolutions reached was the setting up of a referendum transitional committee whilst awaiting a suitable candidate to become chair of the Referendum Commission.

“I’m pleased to announce that we have agreed to establish a referendum transitional committee that will manage the process and which questions will be asked at the referendum for our people of Bougainville to answer,” said Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

The PM also made a commitment to release up to K400 million in restoration development grants, which will be tied to key infrastructure projects approved by the National Government.

Meredith Kuusa