Govt must address B’ville referendum

Letters, Normal

The National

YOUR recent editorial asserted that next year’s referendum in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville could have enormous consequences. 
In this referendum, Bougainvilleans will decide whether or not they want to become independent from PNG. 
Once more, the Government and Parliament have unfortunately been complacent in the last 14 years not to address this issue.
The prospect of a referendum should be enough to jolt the “powers-that-be” from its deep slumber and immediately pass the required legislation on how best to accommodate the issue of autonomy in PNG within the context of its future development. 
The editorial highlighted several scenarios with far reaching implications, why certain provinces want autonomy like Bougainville and what the Government should do to address this issue.
On the whole, the editorial reminded the Government “to treat it seriously”.  
Is it a threat? 
I do not think so. 
On the contrary, I see the issue of autonomy not as a threat but a positive development tool for the Government. 
It can be so if approached in a rational manner with a long-term strategy of adapting levels of autonomy towards a positive outcome for the nation.  
I see the issue of autonomy, especially political autonomy as a positive development goal that should now be fully exploited and adapted as a possible future political model for a multi-cultural society like PNG. 
Since the Bougainville crisis ended, successive governments have all gone to sleep on the issue of autonomy and what it should do if other provinces also seek autonomy. 
The Government has no coherent national strategic policy and appropriate laws on how best to address future issues of autonomy within its national strategic policy context.
There are many reasons why certain provinces seek autonomy.
It is a form of self-government and provides the possibility to share legislative and executive powers between the National Government and the provinces.
For PNG, the contemporary relevance of autonomy has to be considered as an efficient means of conflict prevention and resolution through accommodation of the fundamental needs of national minorities within the existing provincial boundaries and as a fundamental right of national or ethnic minorities to be considered under national (and international) law.
The political system we have since Independence is badly flawed and needs to be changed as part of our national strategic plan within the next decade as it has failed Papua New Guineans. 
What PNG needs is small central government in a relocated capital city, say Arona valley in the EHP. 
It is time we have four self-governing autonomous regions – Papua, Highlands, Momase and New Guinea Islands – to independently develop their own regional governments under separate laws and administration structures. 
Bougainville can be a part of NGI.
The autonomy issue should not necessarily be seen as a threat but a good sovereign challenge for the Government. 
The Government must now take “the bull by the horns” and address the issue in a bi-partisan way in Parliament and as part of its national strategic plan.


Reginald Renagi
Port Moresby