COMPROMISE KEY TO BOUGAINVILLE PEACE: GOVERNMENT PAPER

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By Jack Metta

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (September 12, 2000 – The National)---A compromise on the division of powers and functions, control of funding and personnel, and powers to direct Bougainville are three areas which, if a satisfactory agreement is reached between Bougainville leaders and the National Government, will ensure the resolution of the details of all other matters involved in the ongoing peace talks, a paper released by the PNG Bougainville Technical team says.

Dated September 5 and released after the recent peace talks in Rabaul, the paper contends that the Bougainville argument on autonomy is that an autonomous Bougainville should be a nation within a nation.

"The key issue is the division of powers and functions," the paper reads. "The National Government proposals are not based on this approach - they leave control at the center.

"The National Government should be asked to move back towards the position put by Bougainville Minister Sir Michael Somare last year, that Bougainville would retain all powers except aspects of defense and foreign affairs."

The key issues remain, it said, regarding powers and functions, control of funding and personnel, and powers to direct Bougainville.

On powers and functions, the paper said there needs to be a compromise concerning those to be retained by the National Government with more powers available to Bougainville.

On control of funding and personnel, it said there can be no autonomy without it. Bougainville must have control of its own revenue sources and of personnel including the public service, police and teachers.

On the powers to direct Bougainville, the paper said that if the National Government can withdraw powers and functions, suspend the autonomous government, and amend the constitution arrangements without Bougainville consent, there is no real autonomy.

"If a satisfactory agreement can be reached on these central issues, the details of all other matters can be resolved relatively easily," the paper said.

On the matter of referendum, the paper said that Bougainville should indicate that the proposals in the Prime Minister's recent statement are a positive step.

"But they need to be added to and Bougainville now needs an assurance that the referendum proposals will include a guaranteed right for Bougainville to hold a binding referendum on independence for Bougainville."

It said the PNG position is that the PNG Constitution would be amended to provide for the possibility of a referendum.

"The proposal is to amend the Constitution to permit a referendum on important national issues. The only referendum proposed on Bougainville's political future would be on the 'continuing suitability/acceptability of agreed autonomy arrangements'.

"The emphasis on 'continuing suitability' indicates that the only outcome of a "no" vote would be a review of the autonomy arrangements."

The paper said a move towards independence would not be possible.

"This involves a significant change in the National Government position. Before Loloata, its position was to put off even any discussion of the referendum issue until autonomy had been implemented and could be judged."

The paper suggest that the leaders go back to basics with the focus of debate on principles - on the nature of the autonomy and the referendum arrangements Bougainville wants.

"The key argument is that we are seeking ways of ending a civil war. Only with arrangements of the kind proposed by Bougainville can we end the conflict," the paper said.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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