Bougainville MPs to vote on key constitutional issues this week

Voters file through a polling booth in Buka town to cast their vote in last year's Bougainville independence referendum. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Johnny Blades. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PORT MORESBY, Jan 13, 2020, RNZ. When the Bougainville Parliament meets tomorrow, MPs will be asked to make a constitutional change to allow presidents to remain in office for three terms. That comes as the incumbent, John Momis, nears the end of his second and, currently, final term, Radio New Zealand reported.

Cabinet minister Albert Punghau said there was a desire to have Mr Momis continue – to see Bougainville through the negotiations with Papua New Guinea over the outcome of last year’s referendum on independence.

“We felt that it would be good for us to amend the constitution of the autonomous government to make the presidency seat be contested for three terms, and it would be able to give the opportunity for president Momis to contest the election of 2020 and so, as other candidates can contest the election.”

Mr Punghau said it was important for everyone in Bougainville to be united as the region went through the negotiations and ratification process.

Earlier plans to delay the election this year had been dropped, he said.

MPs would also be asked to make another constitutional change – to retain the three veterans’ seats in the Bougainville Parliament, Mr Punghau said.

Bougainville’s Minister for Peace Agreement Implementation, Albert PunghauCabinet minister Albert Punghau. Photo: supplied
As the constitution stands, the three seats set aside for the veterans are to go once Bougainville has held its vote on independence, but Mr Punghau said the government’s view now was that the seats be retained.

After this year’s election, which is set for May, Bougainville would begin policy discussions with PNG to change its name from the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the ABG, to the Bougainville Constitutional Transitional Government.

Mr Punghau said with the overwhelming vote for independence in last year’s referendum the name – Autonomous Bougainville Government – was inappropriate.

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