Crucial meeting of Bougainville and Papua New Guinea leaders delayed

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, Nov 28, 2020, RNZ. The Papua New Guinea and Bougainville Governments have delayed a key meeting. The Joint Supervisory Body, the JSB, was to meet on Friday in Port Moresby, Radio New Zealand reported.

In a statement the Bougainville Government simply said the meeting has been put back two weeks, with no explanation.

But the delay comes amid an ongoing political standoff involving parliamentarians in Port Moresby, with the opposition wanting to bring a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister, James Marape.

However in preliminary meetings this week both governments agreed on 16 recommendations to go to Mr Marape and Bougainville’s Ishmael Toroama when the JSB does eventually meet.

This will include the possible establishment of a permanent secretariat to support the joint government consultation process over the independence referendum outcome.

The JSB will also be asked to endorse the appointment of former Irish taioseach or prime minister, Bertie Ahern, as the international moderator for those consultations.

Other recommendations that will go to the meeting cover the planned Bougainville economic and investment summit for which the autonomous government is seeking Port Moresby support, and the transfer of shares in the miner, BCL, that had been divested to Port Moresby by Rio Tinto and which the previous PNG government had promised to Bougainville.

In addition, Bougainville wants greater control over its fisheries and taxation, and it is seeking funding from Port Moresby for small and medium enterprises, which Mr Toroama has signalled as the key to developing the regional economy.

Bougainville also wants more information on Mr Marape’s earlier commitment to allow the establishment of foreign missions in Bougainville.

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