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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 28, 1999 - Post-Courier)---All functions relating to the administration of Bougainville will come under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department, Prime Minister Bill Skate announced yesterday.

He told a press conference at Morauta Haus that the National Executive Council made a decision to abolish the Bougainville Affairs Ministry and "promote" Central Bougainville MP Sam Akoitai, who currently holds the portfolio, to Minister of State Assisting the Prime Minister.

Mr. Skate said Mr. Akoitai will have more responsibilities and it will relieve him from the day-to-day administration of the Prime Minister’s Department.

Mr. Akoitai is the third Minister of the State.

The two ministers already assisting the Prime Minister are Commerce and Industry Minister Ian Ling-Stuckey, on economic matters, and Public Enterprise and Communications Minister Dr. Fabian Pok, on projects and implementation.

Mr. Skate said Mr. Akoitai will help him run the department, giving him more time to address major issues, including economic recovery, Bougainville, law and order, and to ensure that government ministers and departments are implementing the 1999 Budget.

"And as a result of these considerations, I have promoted the Minister for Bougainville Affairs, who will now be known as the Minister for State," he said.

"Bougainville functions and responsibilities that are being carried out now will automatically come under the Department of the Prime Minister."

Mr. Skate said Mr. Akotai will take care of the day-to-day operations of Bougainville and will continue the peace process from the his department.

"The other thing is to send a signal that by promoting him, my government is showing confidence in his leadership and the confidence we have in the people of Bougainville," he said.

Mr. Skate also pointed out that the government can not afford to have a special ministry created for Bougainville because it may create provincialism and encourage regionalism, which is not good for the country.

"So I have purposely created that simply to achieve the peace process which is progressing well at this stage," he said.

"And by giving Mr. Akotai the position, we are giving the signal that Bougainville, as it is, is an integral part of Papua New Guinea. It cannot have a special ministry of its own. Therefore, I want to inform the people that Mr. Akotai will be now known as a Minister for State."

Mr. Skate said both the chief secretary and deputy secretary will work under Mr. Akoitai in running the affairs on Bougainville.


PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (January 28, 1999 - Post-Courier)---The National Court yesterday referred to the Supreme Court for interpretation or application, the decision by the Cabinet to suspend the Bougainville Provincial Government (BPG).

Judge Warwick Andrew ruled that the resolution of the matter involves the interpretation and application of the Constitution and of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments.

Judge Andrew said the questions relating to the interpretation of the Constitution and the Organic Law in this matter, clearly involve very substantial issues and Section 18(2) of the Constitution provides that a court or tribunal "shall" refer the matter to the Supreme Court.

Section 18(2) provides that; "subject to this Constitution, where any questions relating to the interpretation or application of any provision of a constitutional law arises in any court or tribunal shall, unless the question is trivial, vexatious or irrelevant, refer the matter to the Supreme Court and take whatever other action (including adjournment of proceedings) is appropriate."

Judge Andrew was ruling on an application by Bougainville MP John Momis, for leave, to review the NEC decision to suspend the BPG, claiming the suspension was unlawful, unconstitutional and of no effect. The court was satisfied that both Mr. Momis and the BPG had standing and there was also a case to be tried.

In deciding whether there was an arguable case such that leave should be granted, Judge Andrew set out the background to this matter contained in the words of the Minister of Bougainville Affairs Sam Akoitai as stated in his affidavit tendered in court.

It said: "On 1st January 1999, the NEC met to consider a report from the Minister for Provincial and Local Government Affairs.

"Having formed the opinion, by virtue of its powers under S.187(E)(1) of the Constitution and S.58 of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments, that the ground for suspension existed and that the matter could only be put right by suspension, the National Executive Council then decided to provisionally suspend the Bougainville Provincial Government with effect on and from 12:01 a.m. on 1st January 1999. I was appointed to exercise all the executive powers, functions, duties, and responsibilities of the suspended Bougainville Provincial Government on behalf of the National Executive Council."

Judge Andrew said this was the NEC resolution that needs interpretation and application according to the Constitution and the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Governments, quoted by the Minister.

The matter will now be listed before the Registrar of the Supreme Court to be given a date for hearing.

Outside court, Mr. Momis said he was disappointed that the National Court neither granted nor refused his applications for leave to apply for judicial review.

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