An almost half-empty Bougainville House of Representatives has farewelled John Momis, the region’s longest serving president to date and a senior Papua New Guinea statesmen, in a shunned and scandalous lack of attendance in the final session of the Parliament on Friday.
The Bougainville Legislature has 40 Members. However, The Bougainvillean counted not more than 20 of them present.
While President Momis and his 10-member Cabinet were present, many other seats of constituency members in the chamber were empty.
Some members left the session halfway through, while others took their leave soon after paying their tributes to the out-going president, who is one of the co-authors of the national constitution and father of decentralisation in the country.
President Momis had taken up to an hour with his final address to the House of Representatives – recounting his political life since 1972, and the floor was then opened up for tributes.
With almost 50 years in politics, many members remembered Momis as a young, spirited Catholic priest with political intentions.
Born during World War II, Momis has been acclaimed on the world stage as well as papua New Guinea, as someone who strives to empower people realising their potential.
Public seek independence
But the now 81-year-old has been viewed by analysts as more in favour of continued autonomy and continued integration with Papua New Guinea – a view not shared by some MPs and the wider public who are for outright independence and severing of political ties with mainland PNG.
Many MPs praised his leadership and his mentoring and ability to weigh up options and his use of peaceful means to consult and achieve his government’s goals and desires.
Momis’ Post Referendum Consultation and Dialogue Minister Albert Punghau said many Bougainvilleans still wanted him to continue his leadership, and he could easily be returned if the courts had not ruled him ineligible to contest a third term.
Fidelis Semoso, the Member for Tsitalato, former national MP, former cabinet minister in an earlier Momis government and Momis’ political rival for the last two years, said politics would remain politics and that he had nothing personal against Momis. He described Momis as having served both Bougainville and Papua New Guinea in an “illustrious” career.
“What me and my B-14 group stood for then, was not personal,” he said.
“We only wanted to protect the constitution and ensure there is rule of law which has been confirmed by the Supreme Court.
“You should rest assure that you have mentored and created many young leaders, who will carry on the dream of Bougainvilleans from here on.
“The other part of your legacy is leading Bougainville to achieve the 98.2 percent referendum result which has been praised both locally and internationally as a well-conducted and credible vote.”
Semoso also did not hide his intention of replacing President Momis – “God willing”, he said.
Luke Karaston, the Minister for Technical Services and Member for Suir, said President Momis would be remembered for being there and helping to bring Papua New Guinea into independence and now ushering in a resounding result in the referendum which would pave the way for consultation with the national government.
- Three weeks are being allowed for the Bougainville election – August 12 until September 1 – due to the covid-19 alert in Papua New Guinea.