The National- Thursday, January 20, 2011
By PATRICK TALU
FORMER Bougainville affairs and mining minister Sam Akoitai yesterday said the Autonomous Region of Bougainville will not become independent in 2015 because of the slow progress on work towards staging a referendum.
Akoitai said in-fighting between the regional member and the president would also take its toll on the agreed timetable of 2015.
The Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) contains a clause calling for a regional-wide referendum to have the people decide their political future and set 2015 as the date for that ultimate decision.
Akoitai said: “I am very concerned about the way things are progressing on the part of the office of Bougainville affairs to fast track the BPA and the path to a referendum as agreed in the BPA.
“In the agreement, there are three pillars that form the basis of BPA. They are: weapons disposal, autonomy and a referendum,” the former Bougainville resistance fighter-cum politician said.
Akoitai who now considers himself as a private and corporate citizen said the three pillars are not fully addressed and the weapons disposal is not complete and still needs to be addressed.
He acknowledged that the government has honoured the second pillar in granting Bougainville autonomy but work is yet to be done that would lead to a referendum.
Akoitai said the government through the office of the Bougainville affairs has an obligation to fulfill to the people of Bougainville to effect the referendum which is a prerequisite to independence.
“It is duty-bound under the BPA to prepare Bougainville for a referendum. I can’t see and hear any progressive report on the referendum which is the most important pillar of the BPA.
“If fiscal independence is lacking, I don’t see an independent Bougainville.
“ABG’s internal revenue could be less than K30 million and that is not enough to be an independent nation.
He also said the infighting between current Bougainville Affairs Minister and Regional MP Fedelis Semeso and Bougainville president John Momis will drag the progress of the implementation of the BPA.
“It’s a sad situation for the people of Bougainville when their political heads are fighting amongst themselves. I would like to see the two leaders come to terms to implement and fast track the BPA,” he said.
Akoitai also called on the Ombudsman Commission to investigate into the affairs and management of Office of Bougainville Affairs (OBA).
He charged that OBA was not fulfilling its constitutional duties and functions.
He also alleged that there was double dipping and misuse of public funds by OBA.