Minister dismisses Bougainville criticism over independence vote

The Bougainville Parliament
The Bougainville Parliament . . . facing many PNG obstacles in the way of Bougainville independence, including an "ongoing debacle" over finance. Image: RNZ Pacific/The Bougainvillean

RNZ Pacific

Papua New Guinea’s Minister of Bougainville Affairs, Manasseh Makiba, believes an absolute majority is needed for the vote on the Bougainville referendum because it involves changing the constitution.

Makiba told Parliament last month that two thirds of MPs would need to support the independence push, drawing the ire of Bougainville’s Minister of Independence Mission Implementation Ezekiel Massatt.

Massatt said officials from both governments had already agreed that a simple majority would suffice.

Last month Massatt told RNZ Pacific that what transpired in the last session of Parliament gave the Bougainville leadership no confidence that they could achieve independence under a government led by Prime Minister James Marape.

But Makiba said the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Constitution allowed for Parliament to make a decision on the 2019 Bougainville referendum which resulted in a 97.7 percent vote in favour of independence.

The National newspaper reports Makiba saying that, as an issue of sovereignty, the vote on Bougainville’s future has to be done with the same majority as that required for constitutional amendments.

He said officials had overstepped their authority in making a commitment to a simple majority.

Prerogative of Parliament
Makiba said it remained the prerogative of the Parliament to make its decision as to the appropriate voting majority.

He also rejected claims from Massatt that the national government was putting up roadblocks.

Makiba said the national government had been very supportive and committed to implementing the provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the PNG Constitution.

He said leaders needed to refrain from misleading people with the wrong information.

“The people must hear the correct information and the process and rule of law must be respected, followed, and upheld at all times,” he said.

“If certain leaders are not happy with the ratification process proposed to the Parliament to debate and adopt by way of Sessional Order they have the option to go to the Supreme Court to get interpretation on the ratification process,” he said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

PNG's prime minister James Marape (right) shakes hands with Ishmael Toroama, the president of the autonomous region of Bougainville, 5 February 2021.
PNG Prime Minister James Marape (right) shaking hands with Ishmael Toroama, the President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, on 5 February 2021. Image: PNG PM Media/RNZ Pacific
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