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Joint Media Statement on the signing of the Sharp Agreement

The National Government and Autonomous Bougainville Government have signed a Joint Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on the Dispensation of Constitutional Requirements relating to the Process of Transfer of Functions and Powers pursuant to Section 295 of the National Constitution.   

The MoA was signed by Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape and President of Bougainville Hon. Ishmael Toroama in Port Moresby today.

The two leaders acknowledge that the establishment of the autonomy arrangements in Bougainville was a new journey for both governments and that there were expected challenges to be faced along the way.

Chief among these challenges is the issue of drawdown of powers process. Over the years, two autonomy reviews have been done to analyze how the drawdown process has been implemented since the formation of the first Bougainville Government in 2005, and a key finding was that the process itself has been happening at snail’s pace.   

Going forward under this new Agreement, the two leaders agree that the requirements under Section 295(a) & (b) of the National Constitution, irrespective of whether a specific request was made or not by the Bougainville Government since the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, are now dispensed with, effective as of this day.

In particular, the removal of certain steps that have been seen as a hindrance to the implementation of the drawdown process in the past. This includes the dispensation of the ABG’s need to assess its capability to operate the function or power. The issuance of a 12 months’ notice to the National Government will no longer be required, and funding issues must not be seen as an obstacle to the National Government allowing the transfer of a power to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Furthermore, the Autonomous Bougainville Government will have the power to legislate on any, or all, of those areas or powers under Section 290.

However, the Sharp Agreement will ensure that the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government consult to continue to implement ongoing transition plans.

As the two sides prepare to enter into the first Joint Consultations over the result of the Bougainville referendum, it is critical that all outstanding autonomy implementation issues be separated and dealt with at the administrative level to ensure full focus of the two executive governments when consultations over the referendum result begins this month.

The Agreement provides this much needed separation and repeals the existing Memorandum of Understanding on the Overarching Framework for the Transfer of Functions and Powers from the National Government to the Autonomous Bougainville Government Pursuant to the Bougainville Peace Agreement 2017.

The two leaders reaffirmed their joint commitment and focus on the forthcoming Consultations and will have continued support to maintain and strengthen PNG and Bougainville relationships at all levels.

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