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Ministerial Statement by the Attorney General & Minister for Bougainville Independence Mission Implementation

Mr. Speaker, Let me take this opportunity to welcome two new members to this chamber. Hon Robert Kebau, ExCombatant member for South Bougainville. I assume will be the 1st time for him to be in the chamber. I also welcome Hon Francesca Semoso, Member for North Bougainville who yet again has a new sitting arrangement. On behalf of myself, my family, the two departments I provide political stewardship over and the people of Tonsu Constituency, I congratulate the two of you.

Mr. Speaker,

I wish to update this Honorable House on the progress made by the two Governments since the JSB meeting on the 31st of July; and on several other issues that have developed since.

Mr Speaker,

On the 31st of July, JSB made a number of resolutions to fast-track the consultations which broke down at the technical level in March of this year. The key resolution was to escalate the consultation to the political level.

Mr. Speaker,

The Minister for Bougainville Affairs Hon Manasseh Makiba and I were delegated the function of the technical team. JSB had directed us to consult and agree on the content of the sessional orders relating to:

  1. The question to be put before Parliament;
  2. The number of sessions required to deliberate on those matters;
  3. The voting majority required to endorse the referendum results; and
  4. The manner in which the referendum results would be brought to Parliament.

JSB further directed us also to explore the possibility of seeking support from Moderators to mediate any impasses that we encounter in the course of our consultation.

Mr. Speaker,

Following the JSB meeting we had a preliminary meeting; and then followed by a more substantive meeting on the 6th of September. At this meeting Minister Makiba handed over their proposed sessional order including the question to be put - incorporated into the sessional order itself – which was to endorse the referendum results. On the other issues the subject of the JSB resolutions Minister Makiba offered the following position.

  1. Contrary to the Joint Parliament decision for a simple majority as the required majority to deal with the matter in Parliament the Minister offered an absolute majority as their choice.
  2. As regards the number of sessions their position was for no less than two sessions.
  3. Finally, the Minister proposed that the voting be done by way of a secret vote rather than an open one.

The only agreement was the adoption of the sessional order by Parliament as the procedure on a simple majority.

Mr. Speaker,

At the end of our consultation, it was clear that we had encountered an impasse right from the start, as the attitude was that I was there to merely agree to their proposal. It appeared that the National Government had taken the view that because the sessional orders were for the parties to develop – as opposed to merely adopting the current standing orders of the Parliament – they believed they had a free hand to suggest anything outside the scope of reason and of the law – in particular section 14 of the Constitution. It was for this reason that I came back concerned that we had an impasse of a serious nature.

The President has since written to the Prime Minister months ago, requesting an urgent JSB to appoint a Moderator. There has been no response.

Mr. Speaker,

Following my meeting with Minister Makiba, I prepared our counter proposal sessional order and the required motion by which the questions would be put in the course of the tabling of the referendum results in Parliament, and was ready to have follow up meetings with him, to allow the dialogue to continue. However, despite his own intimation for me to meet him in Port Moresby, on my arrival there the Minister advised that he was not available.

Mr. Speaker,

Three weeks ago, I delivered our proposed sessional order to NCOBA, on failing again to meet with Minister Makiba on my arrival in Port Moresby.

Mr. Speaker,


Last week the UN Political team was here to meet with us on the proposed moderator and other pertinent issues, given the impasse we encountered. The team have since returned to New York.

Mr. Speaker,

As a Government we haven’t as yet agreed to names and particulars of the moderator.

I have however proposed to the UN that the responsibilities of the Moderator must be reworked.

Specifically, I have proposed that the Moderator must not be one who is only engaged when there is an impasse. Rather he/she must have resource people attached to his office. The Moderator must have the ability to sniff out potential hotspots and attend to those hotspots before it becomes fatal issues.

Mr Speaker, any impasse at all whether big or small is a wasted day in Bougainvilles Independence calendar.

The recent impasse has now led to the National Government adjourning Parliament to 2024; this is a breach of the Era Kone Covenant, whence the parties had agreed that 2023 would be the year of Ratification.

Maybe the office of a working Moderator would have picked it up in good time and walk the parties together to avoid the breaches.

 Maybe the office of a working Moderator could deal with the issue of outstanding RDG. Maybe he could deal with the correct, justifiable annual Fisheries funding.

The Office of the Moderator could assist by providing resource people to the Bi-Partisan Committee to provide Awareness to National Members.

It was strongly recommended that UN cannot be passive bystanders. It must provide platforms where Bougainville can argue her case.


I reiterate ABGs position –

  1. We reject any Nation-wide consultations per se. unless
  2. ABG has membership on the Bi-Partisan Committee.
  3. More importantly, the Bi-Partisan activities must be expanded to include Awareness to members of the National Parliament.

To date Minister Makiba has announced the establishment of the Bi-Partisan Committee but has not announced the expanded activity.

Without awareness to the National members, the Nationwide consultation would be a waste of Bougainvilles time and be used as a tactic to delay the ratification agenda. If so then we must reject being members.

In any case Mr. Speaker I had written to Minister Makiba proposing Hon. Robert Hamal Sawa, Hon Justin Borgia and Hon Willie Masiu as being ABGs members to the Bi-Partisan Committee.

I will be writing to Minister Makiba proposing that the Member for North Bougainville, Hon Francesca Semoso be appointed the Deputy Chair to the Bi-Partisan Committee on Bougainville Affairs.

I appeal to this House to support the Executive governments proposal to rework the office of the Moderator and our stance on the BiPartisan Committee.

Mr. Speaker,

Bougainville Independence Leaders Consultation Forum (BILCF) 

On the 15th of December the Bougainville Independence Leaders Consultative Forum (BILCF) met at Koma in the Tonsu constituency; and have also come out strongly condemning the actions of the National Government in deliberately slowing down the process. BILCF has also taken on other issues surrounding the impasse which have been seen as part of the overall National Government strategy to slow down and delay ratification, suppress the people of Bougainville by frustrating the political and administrative processes and keep the people of Bougainville in limbo and suspense of their final decision on the referendum results.

Mr. Speaker,

I understand the Veterans’ Federation has also met, to support the stance taken by the BILCF. I call on the Veterans Federation and, on the Churches, to support the ABG on its stand against the delay with the ratification of the results and for the independence of Bougainville.

Mr. Speaker, I also make some clarification in regard to the Leaders Forum Resolution pertaining to the Ombudsman Commission.

A week and a half ago my department received a letter from the Ombudsman Commission stating they were commencing an enquiry into the legality and existence of BIMAT. The resolution was a call to Ombudsman Commission to be sensitive in exercising its constitutional powers particularly when the tension between the two governments is intensifying.

At no time were the Bougainville Leaders seeking immunity from the Ombudsman Commission powers of investigation and prosecutions.

In any case no number of resolutions from anybody can stop the OC from exercising her powers.

Mr. Speaker,

I now come to the core issue that has perplexed the process especially the gross misunderstanding of the BPA surrounding the implementation of results of the referendum and the role of Parliament.

Minister Makiba, in response to a question in parliament from the member for Central Bougainville. had this to say:

“I want to make it clear to everyone that under the Constitution in section 342, and the Bougainville Peace Agreement, the Bougainville Referendum result is non-binding. What that means is it doesn’t take immediate legal effect until this National Parliament approves or ratifies it. So that is the position in law in regards to the Bougainville Referendum results”

Mr. Speaker,

In response to this I took up this point about the use of the word non-binding.

Mr. Speaker,

This is not a war of words as the newspapers may have called it.

 It goes down to the heart of a set of narratives that has been in the air for a long time. These narratives are: (1) that the parties to the BPA had not intended a binding agreement in terms of the referendum results; (2) that the parties had intended the role of the Parliament not as a rubber stamp but a veto power; (3) that the post referendum consultations were not that important in terms of what the parties can or cannot do to implement the referendum results.

Mr. Speaker,

As pointed out above, there is a gross misunderstanding by the national government over the intention of the parties under the BPA and this has come about largely through the influence of these narratives on the truth behind the BPA and also through the legal advice provided by the State Solicitor over the ratification by the parliament of the outcome of the referendum and specifically the application of Section 342 (1) and (2) of the Constitution.

Mr. Speaker,

The intentions of the parties in the BPA are protected by part XIV itself of the Constitution. And it is important to dwell on this and explain to our people what their case is because there is so much disinformation and misinformation about the intentions of the parties just by misreading the application of section 342 of the Constitution.

In my media statement refuting Minister Makiba’ assertions, I posed the following questions;

  • Would Bougainville leaders had signed the BPA had they knew the Referendum result was non-binding?
  • Would the Revolutionary fighters had surrendered their weapons of war had they known the Referendum results were non- binding?
  • Would Immunity had been granted to all fighters including PNGDF, Police, Correctional Officers if the Referendum results were to be non-binding?
  • Why have the Referendum constitutionally guaranteed, including whence it can be held, but then assert that the results are non-binding?

It doesn’t make logical sense.

What if I were to now suggest that any ratification decision by the National Parliament will be non-binding?

Nowhere in the BPA, the respective Constitutions and Organic Law is the word non-binding found. I repeat, Nowhere.

Mr. Speaker,

Section 276 of Part XIV of the Constitution protects the intentions of the parties; protects the implementation of the Section 342; ensures that the parties interpret Part XIV properly; and protects the BPA through the three-quarters absolute majority vote requirement to change Part XIV itself.

Mr. Speaker,

This is what section 276 says:

  1. This Part applies to Bougainville only.
  2. This Part shall apply notwithstanding the provisions of this Constitution and where the other parts of this Constitution are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, the provision of this Part shall prevail.

Mr. Speaker,

The Constitution is clear. Part XIV is superior to other parts of the Constitution as they relate to Bougainville and the implementation of the results under section 342 (1) and (2) of the Constitution. The whole intention of the post consultation on the implementation of the referendum result is to allow the parties to reach agreement outside Parliament and take it to Parliament. So far only the Era Kone Covenant provides the outcome of the consultation; and the joint report for the 11th Parliament as described by the Wabag roadmap provides the intentions of the parties regarding implementation of the results. However, the disagreement over the sessional orders and the required majority poses a threat to the next steps necessary to bringing the matter to Parliament for its decision.


I’ve said this before and I will say it again: The Constitution is Supreme.

All three arms of Government, the National Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary are creatures of the Constitution. All must follow the Constitution.

Mr. Speaker,

This is the situation we are in. We are at an impasse because of the disagreement regarding the sessional order especially in terms of the required majority to pass the motion of the endorsement of the results and by definition the outcome of the referendum for Bougainville’s independence.


There are some decisions this Government must make, the obvious one being: 

Should ABG continue to be engaged in the Ratification process ?

This is a matter to be played out in Waigani, not Kubu.

The parties have consulted and signed the Era Kone Covenant.

What if there’s an agreement on the voting majority as being simple majority, Bougainville signs off on it, but then the numbers fall short on ratification day.

Mr. Speaker

I have formed a preliminary opinion on what I perceive is the National Governments strategy. I ask the people of Bougainville and the mandated Bougainville Leaders to think this through.

  1. Prolong the impasse as long as possible.
  2. Sign the Security Treaty with Australia, so if there are any fallouts from the failure to ratify, provisions of the Security Treaty can be invoked
  3. Upgrade intelligence so an assessment can be done on what will happen if Ratification fails.
  4. With the ultimate National Government position being NOT to grant Independence, the only “time" they can offer another option is when the Independence vote is rejected by Parliament. NOT before Ratification.

So Bougainville be very, very careful what you wish for. Everyone in this room must look in the mirror and continue to ask the question what am I doing to implement the Independence Vote. There’s no grey area.

There’s no room for neutrality after the Referendum Results have been declared.

The majority of the Bougainvillean people have spoken.

Our status as mandated leaders is grounded in the Electoral and Constitutional Law.

Our peoples vote for Independence is also grounded in strong Electoral and Constitutional Law.


I remind the people of Bougainville of the need to remain united behind this Government and as one people. Distinct from other ethnic groupings in this nation of Papua New Guinea.

The enemies of Independence and Peace have commenced their subversive activities.

And I remind everyone that it is our own people and leaders who will be used to disunite and frustrate the Independence agenda.

God Bless the innocent souls of all who perished as a result of the Bougainville crisis and the fight for Independence, Both Bougainvilleans and non Bougainvilleans. We are all made in the image of God.

God also Bless the souls of Leaders who have fought hard but have not as yet seen that day when that new, Sovereign Nation proudly emerges.

Merry Christmas from the seas and beaches, and mountains and valleys of Tonsu. 


Hon. Ezekiel Joneh Masatt 
Member for Tonsu 
Attorney General & Minister Bougainville Independence Mission Implementation 

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