FINALLY the Bougainville House of Representatives has sworn in all its members in the presence of Prime Minister James Marape and a delegation from Port Moresby.
In his keynote address, Marape re-emphasised the National Government’s commitment in assisting Bougainville improve its economy.
He continuously emphasised on ‘economic independence’ for Bougainville in his speeches.
It makes one wonder as to why it is always economic independence that has always been in Marape’s lips and why he has often avoided the phrase ‘political independence’.
The Bougainville Peace Agreement and the Constitution provides for Bougainville to determine its own political future through a referendum.
It simply empowers Bougainvile to determine a political status of its choosing.
In this case, the people of Bougainville overwhelmingly decided to choose independence.
When voting for independence, they did not vote to determine the degree of economic independence but political independence.
One wonders whether the use of the phrase economic independence commonly used by Marape was intended to cause confusion to the Bougainville people so as to cause them to shift their focus from pursuing political independence and to remain part of PNG.
Marape continues to preach about empowering Bougainville by transferring powers such as agriculture, forest, fisheries, and lands among other things.
Does he understand that these powers and others are already available to Bougainville under the peace agreement?
Does he know that there is no need to transfer those powers anymore and that the failure in seeing that the transferring of such powers are effected lies in the National Government which it failed to perform since 2005?
Someone needs to advise Marape that the window period of transferring those powers available to Bougainville has already lapsed.
Someone needs to advise him that what the National Government needs to look into is to consider transferring sovereign powers such as international trade, foreign relations, international civil aviation, migration, and other powers on a gradual basis. Marape needs to be advised that the new Bougainvile President Ishmael Toroama wants to see that some of these sovereign powers are transferred to Bougainville after the five year period of the ABG expires.
He needs to be advised that the time to discuss greater autonomy is gone.
It is now time to discuss the gradual drawdown of sovereign powers to Bougainville.
PNG and Bougainville need to look into the possibility of establishing free association for a period of about 10 to 15 years followed by full independence in say 2035. The need for Bougainville and PNG to enter into free association is to allow Bougainville to grow its economy while receiving annual grants from the PNG Government.
John Honging, NCD