THE recent Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) resolution that was agreed to by the Government and Bougainville is contrary to the Bougainville Peace Agreement and does not give effect to “peace by peaceful means”.
In that agreement, among others, Prime Minister James Marape and Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama agreed to reach a political settlement for Bougainville in 2027.
During the talks, Marape’s proposal to have a nationwide consultation to gauge views on the result of the referendum was agreed to by the Bougainville president.
Firstly, on the issue of setting a year (2027) for a political settlement, the Bougainville Peace Agreement does not provide for both parties to consult and set a specific timeframe for a political settlement through consultation.
Political settlement is the end result of the ratification process in which only the Parliament has the authority to decide for after the results of the referendum are put to Parliament.
The rationale for having a consultation between the Government and Bougainville leaders is to agree to a process by which Parliament will exercise its powers in ratifying the results of the referendum.
During the consultation process, both parties should agree upon when the results of the referendum will be put to the Parliament.
It is through this JSB consultation that both parties can decide how Parliament should vote on the results of the referendum.
It should be understood that the executive arm (the prime minister and senior members of the National Executive Council) and the leaders of Bougainville (through the president and his senior ministers) cannot determine the political settlement for Bougainville.
The power to determine the political status for Bougainville is only given to the people of Bougainville (through the referendum) and to the Parliament through the ratification process.
The Parliament represents the people of Papua New Guinea. Thus, when Parliament is empowered by law to ratify the results of the referendum, it simply implies that the people of PNG, in general, are given the mandate through their 111 representatives to have a say on the results of the referendum.
It does not require another nationwide consultation to be conducted on the results of the referendum.
It should be understood that the executive arms of both PNG and Bougainville should stay out at all times to determine the final political settlement.
The people of Bougainville have already decided on their future political status by voting for independence.
It is now the turn of the people of PNG, through its 111 MPs, to ratify that result of the referendum.
The JSB, which mainly consists of the executive arms of both parties, should only perform facilitators’ functions in getting the house in order in preparation for the Parliament to have a final say on the results of the referendum.
If this advice is not taken, the Opposition can seek the Supreme Court’s interpretation on this legal issue pursuant to the PNG Constitution.