PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 24) - Attorney-General Francis Damem has failed the Papua New Guinea government by not providing timely advise to the cabinet on the second draft of the proposed Bougainville Autonomous Government constitution.

His inaction and a reported statement made on Radio Australia allegedly casting doubt on the Bougainville Draft Constitution has brought a major embarrassment to the Government. Five ministers had to face a group of angry Bougainville leaders in Buka this week to defend the Government against criticisms of his failure. The fact is that the Attorney-General was given the Second Draft of the Constitution six months ago. To date he has not given the required advise to the National Executive Council. Cabinet must have his advice to decide the Government’s position on the Draft Constitution. If the Draft was flawed as he claims, then why did he not tell the Government that six months ago? 

This inaction is in clear breach of the trust that the Government and the people of Papua New Guinea have entrusted in Mr Damem.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement provides for this to be done and the National Government has continuously reiterated its commitment to ensuring that the proposed Autonomous Government of Bougainville becomes a reality. That commitment was re-stated in Buka this week when the ministers faced a barrage of accusations from Bougainville leaders.

Mr Damem was not there to personally explain to the Bougainville leaders why it has taken so long for him to provide the advice to cabinet as the government’s principal legal adviser. Both the National Bipartisan Committee and more so the Government has gone into damage control in an attempt to minimize the damage caused by Mr Damem’s reported statement on Radio Australia. Bougainville leaders are also doing the same thing - separately - after receiving the Minister’s statement. This is a serious matter that has far reaching consequences for the peace process and must never be taken for granted.

October 27, 2003

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier:


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