3008 Historical Bougainville Charter signed by Head of State

The historical Bougainville Charter has been signed by the Governor General Sir Bob Dadae today (30 August, 2017) at Government House in Konedobu to fast-track preparations for the conduct of the Bougainville Referendum in June 2019.

The small but significant ceremony was witnessed by PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato, ABG Commissioner George Manu and the new Bougainville Affairs Minister Fr. Simon Dumarinu.

The Bougainville Charter is the third and final most important document and it was signed on the same day 16 years ago on 30 August 2001 when the Bougainville Peace Agreement was signed in Arawa by all parties in the Bougainville conflict.

The signing of the Bougainville Charter is required under the Organic Law on Peace Building on Bougainville which emanated from the Bougainville Peace Agreement signed in Arawa.

There are three pillars of the Peace Agreement and they include good governance, weapons disposal and referendum.

The Organic Law on Peace Building on Bougainville provides for two electoral commissioners, PNG Electoral Commissioner Patilias Gamato and Bougainville Electoral Commissioner George Manu, to work closely together on the referendum.

As such, Commissioner Gamato and Commissioner Manu had been working tirelessly for 20 months since 2015 to meet the constitutional requirements through a consultation process to come up with the arrangement and agreement for the conduct of the referendum and finally the charter.

The Organic Law on Peace Building on Bougainville gives four options as to who will conduct the referendum on 15 June 2019 in Bougainville.

The first option is for the PNG Electoral Commission to conduct the referendum; second option is for the Office of Bougainville Electoral Commission (OBEC) to conduct it; third option is for both PNGEC and OBEC to jointly conduct the referendum; and the fourth option is for an independent body to conduct it.

In 2016 when the Joint Supervisory Body which comprised of representatives from GoPNG and ABG met, they decided that an independent body be appointed to conduct the referendum.

Both governments then signed the instrument on the arrangement on how the referendum would be conducted.

That independent body is now called the Bougainville Referendum Commission (BRC) which both electoral commissioners (Gamato and Manu) worked together for the last 20 months to establish it.

"We both worked together on the agreement basically to relinquish the responsibility to an independent body," Commissioner Gamato said.

Under section 58 of the Organic Law on Peace Building on Bougainville, it is the responsibility of the PNG Electoral Commissioner to advise the Head of State on the good governance and weapons disposal aspects of the peace building process on Bougainville so that the three pillars - good governance, weapons disposal and referendum - ran together.

Meanwhile, Commissioners Gamato and Manu appealed to leaders of both governments (GoPNG and ABG) to start working together to support the Bougainville Referendum Commission with appropriate levels of funding so that necessary preparations were put in place to conduct the referendum come June 2019.

BRC compromises of seven members who include PNG and Bougainville electoral commissioners and two members each from GoPNG and ABG, one male and one female.

The new Bougainville Affairs Minister Fr. Simon Dumarinu after the signing ceremony thanked all those involved in putting together the charter - the electoral commissioners, leaders from GoPNG and ABG as well as international partners.

"Without their help we cannot come this far after the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement 16 years ago in Arawa."

"This signing of the charter is historic and symbolic," he said.

Media Consultant

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