O’Neill signs autonomy documents

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By DOROTHY MARK
THE Government has granted Ireland, East New Britain and Enga greater autonomy by allowing them to manage their own finance, political and administrative affairs.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill signed off that confirmation in Madang yesterday.
O’Neill arrived in Madang to seal the endorsement made by governors during a provincial governors’ four-day conference this week.
The governors were in Madang to discuss effective service delivery, especially projects captured under the Alotau Accord Two.
Inter-government Relations Minister Kevin Isifu said greater autonomy given to the three provinces was different to the autonomy given to Bougainville.
He said Bougainville was given independence while New Ireland, East New Britain and Enga were given more responsibilities to manage and run their provinces.
He said the provinces were given administrative, financial and political powers.
“The arrangement that we endorsed is called greater decentralisation which is a different kind of autonomy where you give in to provinces,” he said.
Isifu said greater autonomy would enable them to get some of the powers held by the national government.
“We are now giving the provinces some of the functions and powers that were held in Waigani,” he said.
“These powers will enable them to operate independently without relying too much on Waigani.”
O’Neill said the signing of the autonomy was the start of the process of granting greater autonomy for provinces and that marked a new phase on the Government’s decentralisation history and practice.
“This is another step forward from 2012 where this Government in the last term of parliament commissioned the review of the organic law,” he said.
“In signing this agreement with the three provinces I want to say that everything that we do must be in the framework of our national constitution,” O’Neill said.
“And let us be clear, the constitution does not provide for independence or political autonomy,” he said.
“The national constitution however says that substantial devolution or delegation of decision-making power can be made to a province and this implies greater autonomy to provinces,” O’Neill said.
He said the three provinces would sign service delivery partnership agreement to exhibit unity between the provincial executive councils and district development authorities to work together and share resources towards improving service delivery and development in the provinces.

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