PM blames Bougainville missing budget on ‘administrative error’

The Bougainville flag … a critical year for the referendum on independence next year. Image: Bougainville News

By RNZ Pacific

The Bougainville President, John Momis, says he has been assured by Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, that the absence of a vital grant from the 2019 Budget was an “administrative error”.

Both leaders met last week in Port Moresby

PNG’s budget, announced last week, makes no mention of the Restoration and Development Grant which is constitutionally guaranteed under the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

READ MORE: PNG budget reports lack transparency, says economist

Momis said Bougainville relied on this grant for essential projects and a failure by the national government to pay it would reflect badly on both Port Moresby and Bougainville.

The budget did feature a cut to recurrent funding for the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

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Next year, 2019, will be a critical year with a referendum on Bougainville’s long term political future scheduled to take place in June, Momis said.

The PNG and Bougainville governments must ensure that together they provide the funding and support needed to allow the vote to take place and for the important work of peace building to continue, he said.

O’Neill has promised to rectify the issues.

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Mary-Louise O’Callaghan: Time we heard the Pacific’s take on the Pacific

Covering the Pacific … “we might even learn a thing or two about the nations and the region within which we live .” Image: Shane McLeod/The Interpreter

ANALYSIS: By Mary-Louise O’Callaghan

It is both apt and overdue that veteran ABC correspondent Sean Dorney was last night awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Journalism at the 2018 Walkley ceremonies.

Judged by the trustees of the Walkley Foundation, this award not only recognises Dorney’s extraordinary body of work built over four decades chronicling life and politics in the Pacific, especially Papua New Guinea, but pays homage to one of the last of a near extinct breed of old-time expat Pacific correspondents who lived and breathed their rounds as long-term residents of the communities upon which they were reporting.

Australian newsrooms, instead of panting and pontificating about the growing influence of China, might be better served by tapping into Pacific conversations.

READ MORE: Podcast by Bond academic, student wins Walkley Award for journalism excellence

Mary-Louise O’Callaghan … “not uncommon in the two decades either side of the turn of the century for Pacific correspondents to report on unfolding events such as the Bougainville secession crisis or expose corrupt or inept governance.” Image: The Interpreter

Sprung from the bad-old and arrogant days of colonial dispatches referencing “restless natives” and “strange customs” when first nation’s peoples served merely as the backdrop for the white man’s conquering and efforts to “civilise”, it can be argued that for a time these rusted-on corros (who not infrequently through their marriages, gained the privilege of the unique insight of living life within a Pacific family), served as useful intermediary interlocutors in the transitional societies of post-independent Pacific states.

As nations such as PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu fought to different degrees to shake off their colonial framing and fashion a culture of accountability of their own, correspondents like myself and Dorney strove to facilitate and amplify indigenous views of events in these nations. This was both in our reporting for Australian audiences, or, in Dorney’s case, for the entire region. His reports were broadcast back into the countries he covered by Radio Australia, the ABC’s once wonderful but now defunct shortwave radio service.

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Reporting crises
With the additional resources afforded our first-world news bureaus, it was not uncommon in the two decades either side of the turn of the century for Pacific correspondents to report on unfolding events such as the Bougainville secession crisis or expose corrupt or inept governance that indigenous journalists literally couldn’t afford to do.

As late as 2003, my “scoop” as The Australian’s South Pacific correspondent on the Howard government’s decision to dispatch a 2000-strong Australian-led Pacific intervention force to restore the rule of law in Solomon Islands after several years of unrest, was lifted by the national newspaper, The Solomon Star to run as their frontpage splash.

The only difference being that, unlike The Solomon Star’s newsroom, I worked for a media outlet that could bear the exorbitant cost of international phone calls; I had the means to contact Solomon Island government officials to confirm the story after their meetings in Canberra.

Much has been written in the past decade or so warning about the dangers of the disappearing resident Pacific correspondent, as first Australian Associated Press, then Fairfax closed their bureaus in Suva, Port Moresby, and Honiara, and in many cases wound down the network of stringers who reported for them elsewhere in the region.

The ABC is now the only Australian media outlet still maintaining a permanent presence in the South Pacific region with its bureau in Port Moresby.

But as we are all learning, with disruption comes new opportunities and with digital disruption, in particular, has come new ways of gathering, reporting, and disseminating news.

Hear from the people
Here’s the rub: should we really be lamenting the passing of the old-fashioned foreign correspondent, particularly in our own region?

Or is this a chance to embrace the opportunity to hear from the people of the Pacific in their own voices with analysis from their perspectives and news priorities that reflect Pacific agendas?

There is today a prolific cohort of indigenous journos, bloggers, and social commentators already daily reporting, dissecting, and disseminating their nations and region’s affairs with the insight only an indigenous member of an indigenous society can have.

Australian and New Zealand newsrooms, instead of panting and pontificating about the growing influence of China, might be better served tapping into these conversations.

If we joined them, we might even learn a thing or two about the nations and the region within which we live.

Mary-Louise O’Callaghan lived and reported on the Pacific as a foreign correspondent with Australian metropolitan daily newspapers for more than two decades. In 1997 she won the Gold Walkley for Excellence in Journalism for her investigative reporting exposing the Papua New Guinean government’s ill-conceived decision to hire foreign mercenaries to end a war for secession on the island of Bougainville. Her book Enemies Within, Australia, PNG and the Sandline Mercenary Affair, was published the following year. She is now working for World Vision Australia where she leads the Public Affairs team. This article is republished from the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Bougainville voters need to present unified front, says Momis

Bougainville President John Momis … need to be united. Image: Ramumine

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The people of Bougainville should present a unified front at the dawn of the referendum to secure a viable option of self-determination, says Autonomous Bougainville Government President Dr John Momis.

If Bougainville can secure more than 90 percent of the popular vote next year, it would have the bargaining power to negotiate with the Port Moresby national government, he added, reports The National.

“After the referendum vote, we will still have to negotiate with the national government before the referendum result is ratified by parliament,” Dr Momis said.

“Securing a majority vote on one option of the referendum question secures support from the international community and it proves to the national government that this is what our people have chosen as the new path for our future.

“Apart from presenting a unified front, it is imperative that we implement the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“It does not matter if the government is failing to honour the peace agreement, we must continue to strive to implement it so that when it comes to the ratification of the outcome of the referendum, we can proudly say that we implemented it in its entirety.”

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Dr Momis said it was the moral and legal obligation of the Bougainville government to honour the peace agreement despite capacity constraints which had hampered the full implementation of the autonomous arrangements on Bougainville.

He urged factions who have been causing problems for the government to end their dissension.

“We must realise that we stand on the threshold of a definitive period in our history yet we continue to be diametrically opposed to the government and the rule of law,” Dr Momis added.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Only independence will appease Bougainvilleans, says Moses

“No amount of greater powers or autonomy will appease the people – especially after the loss of over 15,000 lives during the 10-year Bougainville War.” Image: PNG Post-Courier

By Patrick Makis

The people of Bougainville will only accept independence from Papua New Guinea and nothing else, says concerned Bougainvillean and independence hardliner Gabriel Moses.

And no amount of greater powers or autonomy will appease the people – especially after the loss of over 15,000 lives during the 10-year Bougainville War.

Moses was speaking in reaction to comments made by Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, this week, who reportedly said that the PNG Constitution did not permit the granting of independence to any province or region in the country.

“It is hard to compensate the 15,000 to 20,000 lives that were lost during the conflict even with K20 million or 100 pigs or even greater autonomy, free and just association or whatever.

“The only answer is to grant independence or sovereignty to the people of Bougainville after the referendum is conducted.

“The fact is that Bougainville already won independence through the blood that was shed during the crisis and referendum is just a process that will formalise the wishes of the people who I believe will overwhelmingly vote for independence from PNG.

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“The three or four questions that are being suggested to be answered during the referendum are just to confuse the people especially those who are not educated enough to understand and interpret the questions,” Moses said referring to the questions yet to be decided by the Joint Supervisory Body for the referendum due next June 15.

Unlocking resources
He said Bougainville was ready for independence because of its vast natural resources and minerals and only independence would allow the people to unlock these resources for development under their own government and country.

“There is no economic value for Bougainville to remain under Papua New Guinea as PNG is a sinking ship and has nothing to offer Bougainville even though the Panguna mine, at one time, contributed largely to the development of the country through the national budget.

“PNG has continued to fail us in terms of providing sufficient funds to operate systems like the provincial government which it gave to us to prevent secession in the 1970s and now the autonomous government.

“What guarantee do we have that by continuing to remain as an autonomous region we will address our developmental needs as currently the ABG is cash-strapped and continues to be starved off funds legally owed to it under the peace agreement,” Moses said.

He called on all Bougainvilleans to vote for independence from PNG and prove to the world that there was overwhelming support for self-determination and independence.

“The people of Bougainville or Buka are ethnically and culturally connected to Solomon Islanders but were separated from their relatives by the British and German colonisers and included under PNG in the 1800s,” Moses said.

“So the fight for self determination dates back to the 19th century and PNG should realise by now that Bougainvilleans will stop at nothing to continue to push for their independence.”

Patrick Makis is a Papua New Guinean journalist who has worked with the PNG Department of Defence.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Former BRA and BLF fighters break arrows to heal Bougainville wounds

Breaking bows and arrows … the people of Haku show their commitment to the future of Bougainville. Image: Radio New Dawn FM News

By Aloysius Laukai in Buka

The people of Haku have demonstrated their commitment to the Bougainville peace process by reconciling former fighters from the Bougainville Revolutionary Army and the Buka Liberation Front ahead of their mass reconciliation next week.

The ex-fighters and commanders broke bows and arrows in a traditional ceremony marking reconciliation before next year’s referendum on independence.

At the height of the Bougainville conflict, the people of Haku formed the Buka Liberation Front (BLF), which later changed into the Bougainville Resistance Forces after many atrocities were being committed to the ordinary citizens of Bougainville.

They then went to Nissan island to get support from the PNG Defence Force soldiers who were stationed there.

The reconciliation at Luli village was attended by both the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) and BLF commanders and their soldiers.

They broke bows and arrows in front of their chiefs to show their commitment to peace and unity for Bougainville leading up to the referendum on independence next June.

-Partners-

BLF commander Donald Hamao said that the people of Haku were committed to the future of Bougainville and wanted to end yesterday what they had started 28 years earlier when they had formed the resistance force in 1990.

No time for war
Mathew Gales, commander of the BRA, also said there was no time for war on Bougainville. He called on the people of Haku and Bougainville to look at the “big picture ahead” and create peace in their communities.

The reconciliation included flag raising ceremony speeches and activities.

Haku will do a big reconciliation ceremony next Thursday at Eltupan village, the place were fierce fighting between the two factions took place at the height of the Bougainville conflict.

The ceremony was co-sponsored by the chairman of the Bougainville Import Export Group which operates SOLMAL in Buka town, Jason Fong.

Other sponsors included the ex-combatants member for North Bougainville, Ben Malatan,  and the national member for North Bougainville, William Nakin.

Aloysius Laukai is editor of New Dawn FM News community radio.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Ex-Bougainville VP blasts Canberra’s ‘top down’ interference in referendum

Bougainville MP Joseph Watawi … “Australians attempting to hijack our political system.” Image: Twitter

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A former Bougainville regional vice-president has condemned Australia for political interference over the independence referendum process, saying Canberra would be better served dumping their diplomatic and aid corps in favour of “a drunk rugby team”.

Bougainville is preparing for a referendum on independence to be held on June 15 next year.

Joseph Watawi, Bougainville Member for Selau and former vice-president of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), Joseph Watawi has accused Canberra of “tokenistic efforts” and contrasted Australia with New Zealand’s “trusted and respected” role because of its cultural awareness.

Watawi is chair of Bougainville’s parliamentary select committee responsible for the referendum preparation, weapons disposal, peace and unification.

“Without consultation, the Australian government has sent ‘advisers’ to all of our political offices while making only tokenistic efforts to actually help the people here,” he said in a statement.

“Let us not be naive, Australian aid is not about helping people but about gaining political power and influence. The problem is that in Melanesian cultures the only way for outsiders like Australians to gain political power and influence is to actually start at the grassroots and help people and communities.”

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Watawi said the “top down approach” of the Australians in “attempting to hijack our political system merely confirms the suspicions of many Bougainville people that the Australian programme is one of spying and jockeying for position over our natural resources in the lead up to next year’s independence referendum”.

Real task
The real task facing the Australian government and their representativeness was to deal with Australia’s legacy issues.

“It was the Australian-owned mine at Panguna that started the Bougainville war that led to the deaths of at least 10,000 Bougainvilleans and it was Australian helicopters and pilots who contributed to that death toll [by] shooting people from the air and burning villages,” Watawi said.

“Australia [had] also contributed to the naval blockade of southern Bougainville, stopping essential food and medical supplies from reaching civilians in the conflict area.

“In the past 10 years we Bougainvilleans have put a lot of work into the reconciliation process among our various factions and language groups. Australia, as one of the key causes of the war, has been noticeably absent from this process.

“If you go to the Panguna [mine] pit today and ask the women who are the traditional landowners there they will tell you that in the life the wealthiest mine on the planet at the time, they did not get paid enough to buy food from the mine supermarket

“If Australia is genuine about rebuilding its relationship with us they need to send us useful people like nurses, doctors, teachers, engineers – not bureaucrats,” Watawi said.

“Australia would have won more power and influence here if they had sent us a drunk rugby team rather than their current batch of bureaucrats.

“Compare this to New Zealand [which has] slowly and carefully with great cultural awareness built the Bougainville police force and law and justice sector since the signing of the peace agreement in 2001,” Watawi said.

“The result is that New Zealand is a trusted and respected international partner and member of our community.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

O’Neill defends PNG government responses over Bougainville

Papua New Guinea’s government has defended its handling of preparations for the Bougainville referendum. Video: EMTV

By Meriba Tulo in Port Moresby

With just a year to go before the people of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville go to the polls to determine their political future, the Papua New Guinean government has defended its handling of preparations for this exercise.

During question time in Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the government, under his leadership, had done more for the Autonomous Region during his term than at any other time.

He said the next Joint Supervisory Body meeting would be of the utmost importance for the Bougainville referendum in June next year.

During question time, Member for South Bougainville Timothy Masiu asked a series of questions of the Prime Minister regarding the national government’s efforts in support of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville’s preparations for the referendum.

Of particular concern, according to Masiu, the recent appointment of a Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Bougainville Affairs, which he claimed would cause challenges for the region on conducting the referendum.

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The Prime Minister emphasised the steps taken by the parties – the national government, and the ABG – to have the Chairman of the Referendum Commission in place, as well as agreeing on the all-important referendum questions.

While there has been some sentiments regarding possible independence for Bougainville, the Prime Minister was quick to point out that it would be difficult to let go of the Autonomous Region, especially at a time when there was need for unity in Papua New Guinea.

The national government and Autonomous Bougainville government are due to meet in June for the Joint Supervisory Body meeting.

This meeting, scheduled to take place in Arawa, is expected to iron out several issues relating to the referendum, including the all-important question, or questions, which will be put to the people of Bougainville.

Meriba Tulo is an EMTV reporter. This story was first published by EMTV News and is republished here with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Future of Panguna mine at stake in PNG, Melbourne court hearings

The abandoned Panguna mine site after Rio Tinto closed down the operation. Image: Business Advantage PNG/SMH

By Kevin McQuillan of Business Advantage PNG

Two court hearings next week – one in Port Moresby and the other in Melbourne – will help determine the future of the exploration licence for the Panguna copper mine in Bougainville.

The decision to refuse an extension of Bougainville Copper Limited’s exploration licence and to impose an indefinite moratorium over the Panguna resource, followed a statutory Warden’s meeting in December 2017.

There was “a narrow divide between those supporting the mine to be opened by Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) and those that oppose it”, according to Bougainville President John Momis.

BCL has successfully sought leave to apply for a judicial review of the decision to refuse its licence extension, citing legal and procedural concerns.

“While the moratorium has been gazetted, it has no impact on existing exploration licences or applications for extension, lodged prior to the moratorium,” said BCL Company Secretary, Mark Hitchcock.

“BCL remains the holder of the exploration licence (EL1) until the matter is ultimately determined,” he said.

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BCL has held the licence since the mine closed in 1989. The company is now owned by the PNG national government (36.4 percent), the Autonomous Bougainville Government (36.4 percent), European shareholders (four percent) and 23.2 percent through the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

Rio Tinto gave away its stake in 2016.

Opposing BCL
Those opposing BCL’s involvement are led by Philip Miriori, who claims chairmanship of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners’ Association (SMLOLA).

He has thrown his support behind a bid by Perth-based junior miner, RTG Mining, to gain the exploration licence, setting up a joint venture company, Central Exploration, of which RTG owns 24 percent.

One of RTG’s major shareholders holds another 32 percent, and the SMLOLA retains 44 percent.

Miriori’s chairmanship of the SMLOLA remains in dispute. The 367 authorised customary heads of the 510 blocks of land within the special mining lease area of Panguna say they do not recognise Miriori as the Chairman of the SMLOLA and support the extension of BCL’s exploration licence.

On the same day as the Port Moresby hearing, on May 17, BCL will be in court in Melbourne, seeking disclosure about the relationship between RTG Mining and the SMLOLA.

Miriori and other supporters admit they are being paid by RTG, but Miriori has told the ABC that the payments are legitimate salaries, not inducements.

“That is always a normal part of anything, nothing is free,” he said.

Seeking disclosure
The action seeks disclosure from RTG Mining and Central Exploration about any compensation or benefits paid to the SMLOLA.

One analyst close to the proceedings says any disclosure could determine the possibility of “unlawful interference” with BCL’s exploration licence.

For his part, Momis says his government believes it would be “untenable under current circumstances” for any developer to develop the mine.

“BCL has an extensive database of historical data and project information from the mine operations prior to closure.”

“We have some problems with RTG right now,” Momis told RNZI.

“In fact, they are causing a lot of confusion and division in the community and we are not prepared to go ahead while this situation prevails.”

Exploration data
Should RTG Mining or any other company win the exploration licence, the next battle will be over the data about the location and extent of resources.

“BCL has an extensive database of historical data and project information from the mine operations prior to closure in 1990,” said Hitchcock. “This data remains the intellectual property of the company.”

Even if that data is not protected by intellectual property law but is only considered confidential information, it will still require cooperation from BCL to access, according to Alexandra George, senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales, who specialises in international intellectual property law.

She said it might be expensive and time-consuming to obtain.

She said that under Australian copyright law, ownership of a database is not straightforward. Whether or not RTG Mining could access the data may depend on the terms of the exploration licence, any special legislation, and on the terms of any contracts or licence agreements that have been entered into.

“If [the data] was not available, having to reinvent the wheel would add significant costs,” said George.

“Perhaps the safest way of assessing value is what the market is prepared to pay.”

Hitchcock said: “We estimate it would take any other company or entity at least two-to-three years to replicate the BCL database through exploration activities and would cost in excess of A$200 million (K400 million).”

Kevin McQuillan writes for Business Advantage PNG.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

O’Neill ‘undermining’ Bougainville peace deal, vote plan, says Miriori

The trailer for New Zealand documentary maker Will Watson’s forthcoming documentary about the Bougainville peace process, Soldiers Without Guns. Video: Boosted

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A Bougainvillean leader has accused Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill of “undermining” the island’s 17-year-old peace agreement and the independence vote due next year.

Martin Miriori also condemned O’Nell for lacking sensitivity over Bougainville that struck a New Zealand-brokered peace agreement which ended a 10-year civil war and included a referendum vote on independence.

Miriori, a Panguna landowner and pro-independence leader, was reacting to a statement by O’Neill at the Business Forum in Brisbane last week and repeated in PNG’s The National newspaper that the vote was not about independence, but what was best for the people of Bougainville.

https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/356876/png-pm-says-bougainville-vote-not-about-independence

“When the prime minister comes out openly making such a statement in public, my view is that he is already undermining the good intentions and the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement which, among other issues, clearly states that the issue of independence for Bougainville will be also among the options for a referendum vote to be taken by the people [in] June next year,” he said today in a statement.

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“This is also the common understanding of the international community as well [as] including the United Nations,” Miriori said.

“For the prime minister to water down the main focus on the independence issue at this time is simply a big slap on the face [of] the people of Bougainville.”

Miriori said Bougainvilleans would not have “fully committed themselves” to the joint partnership with Papua New Guinea in the peace process if they knew that they were “going to be tricked”.

“We must not lose the trust and confidence of the people at all cost, and in doing so try to confuse them by making such statements, which could easily undermine all our good work and tireless efforts being invested in this very delicate and sensitive process since we first fully committed ourselves at Burnham [New Zealand] in July 1997 towards achieving lasting peace by peaceful means,” Miriori said.

RNZ Pacific reports that O’Neill told the Business Forum in Brisbane that when the outcome of the referendum was tabled in the national Parliament, he was sure every MP would vote in the interests of a unified and harmonious country.

Guitars instead of guns
Meanwhile, the film maker of a forthcoming documentary about the Bougainville peace process, Soldiers Without Guns, has released a trailer.

In a social media message message to supporters last week, Will Watson said: “We were celebrating the 20th anniversary of lasting peace for Bougainville yesterday.

“Yes, the 30 April 1998 was the signing of the peace accord.

“The other big news is that I completed the trailer for the upcoming movie, Soldiers Without Guns. It took lots of work but I think it describes the Pacific’s worst civil war and peacekeeping with guitars instead of guns.

“Still lots of work to do to complete the film. I hope you like the trailer.

“I have been inspired to tell this story for the last 12 years. I am now very close to completing the feature length film.”

Watson won the 2017 Cannes Film Festival peace feature for his documentary Haka and Guitars.

He has appealed for support in a funding campaign to complete the Bougainville project.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

O’Neill government suffers first election court rebuff in Bougainville

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: O’Neill government suffers first election court rebuff in Bougainville

A delighted Sam Akoitai (in red tie) outside the National Court yesterday after winning back his Central Bougainville seat in the National Parliament. Photo: Sally Pokiton/Loop PNG

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Bougainville Affairs Minister Fr Simon Dumarinu has been ousted by four votes as the first casualty of the Peter O’Neill government in Papua New Guinea after last year’s general  election, reports Loop PNG.

The National Court in Waigani has declared Sam Akoitai, a former mining minister, reelected as the Central Bougainville member of Parliament after hearing an election petition.

Justice Lawrence Kangwia yesterday afternoon declared Akoitai elected under section 212 of the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government.

He formally ratified election results from the recount, filed in court on March 20, as correct and valid, reports Loop PNG.

Akoitai won 7257 votes in the recount while Dr Dumarinu had 7253 votes.

Akoitai was declared the winner after the court refused a motion by Fr Dumarinu for a further recount.

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‘Peace must be winner’
“We’d like to continue to maintain peace in Bougainville and peace must be the winner,” Akoitai said outside the court.

“It’s now down to work, both in Bougainville and Papua New Guinea.”

He is regarded as a cheerleader for Rio Tinto and Bougainville Copper Limited, having worked for the company for eight years. He also fought against the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) during the region’s 10-year civil war.

Fr Dumarinu is a Marist Catholic priest from Deomori in the Panguna mine area and had been elected to Parliament as a member of the Social Democratic Party led by National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop.

Bougainville faces a referendum on independence on June 19 next year.

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