MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Elections for Bougainville autonomy in Nov 2003

Published by MAC on 2002-09-19

Elections for Bougainville autonomy in Nov 2003

By Brian Gomez

An election for an autonomous Bougainville provincial Government should be held by November next year, according to Joseph Kabui, president of the Bougainville Peoples' Congress.

This was based on the assumption that the weapons disposal program would be completed on schedule and a draft constitution for the province is finalised by the middle of next year. Mr Kabui told The National that he was hopeful that the draft constitution for an autonomous government would be completed by the end of January.

The proposed constitution, which needs to be endorsed by the National Executive Council, will be drawn up after the extensive feedback is received from the public.

Mr Kabui said the 25 members of the Bougainville Constitutional Commission would divide themselves into five teams that would travel around the province to obtain public feedback. One of these teams would also visit Port Moresby, Lae and other centres to obtain the views of Bougainvilleans living there.

"The constitution will further enhance the old provincial government constitution," Mr Kabui said, noting that Bougainville had spearheaded the previous system.

He said the main change would be that 90 per cent of powers would be restored to the province. However, foreign affairs, international trade and defence would remain with the National Government.

"We can enter into negotiations with other countries as long as it does not interfere with bilateral relations with Papua New Guinea," he said.

Mr Kabui, who is also chairman of the BCC, said that once an autonomous government is set up, the province would be able to address issues such as the best form of representation for the province in the National Parliament.

"Do we need four members or one member. If so how he's selected will have to be worked out.

"Current feedback suggests having one person there as our ears and eyes and for liaison with the National Government. We will be doing everything down here," he said. Mr Kabui said the planned referendum on independence in 10 to 15 years time "will be very interesting".

"Would people be happy with an autonomous government or to make a total break. This will be a choice for the people.

"My preference will be guided by how people will cast their votes," he said.

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