Attorney General and Secretary for the Department of Justice and Attorney General, Dr Eric Kwa outlined this while speaking at the recent Sharp Agreement Summit in Port Moresby.
The summit was held to engage with all the National Government Agencies and Departments to inform on the need to expedite the process of transfer, and to develop more practical ways in which the transfers of powers and functions could be progressed.
Dr Kwa said the law and justice sector in PNG has 15 departments, while Bougainville has only one and so this poses a challenge.
“When we engage with them, it’s one person against fifteen heads of agencies, and with arrangements like that, we will always have issues. So, we try to interact with them in that context, as one group on our side, dealing with one group on the other side,” said Dr Kwa.
The advantage that the law and justice sector has is that it is supported by the Australian Government though the JSS4D program that funds programs that the National Government cannot fund.
Dr Kwa said, “A lot of the work that we do in Bougainville is with the support of the Australian Government.”
The Attorney General said there is a misunderstanding by the sector in PNG that once transfers are complete, that is the end. This is not the case.
“The other issue is the issue of capacity. As a sector, we have resolved that we will not talk about capacity at the moment and we will not talk about drawdown without key intervention that has been missing for the last 20 years.
“When we transfer, we are only transferring the policy powers; we are not transferring the legal powers. But, they need the law to implement that function because without the law, it is pointless.
“You cannot try to carry out civil registration if you do not have a law on civil registration. You cannot conduct liquor licensing if you do not have a law on liquor licensing. You cannot collect tax on certain items if you do not have a law on GST,” Dr Kwa explained.
He added that the sector would like to ensure that it assists the team on Bougainville by helping them to deliver the laws.
He added that according to the Constitution under section 290, there is a list of powers that Bougainville will assume. Once it assumes it, Papua New Guinea’s law ceases.
“The direction of the Prime Minister is that Bougainville must be given these powers. Together with powers, we must also give them the functions and the laws to do the work.
“We will also help them to develop their enabling laws so that they can be able to start implementing some laws of their own. They do not have to rely on PNG law. Only when they implement the law will we be able to identify capacity issues.
“The sector in Bougainville can then let us know if they have capacity issues and we will send someone over to help them.
Only in that context can we be able to truly transfer functions and powers,” said the Attorney General.