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Review finds fault with both Bougainville & PNG govts

Mt Bagana
Mt Bagana, Bougainville


BUKA - While Bougainville has a modern system of laws and effective model of representative government and democracy, corruption is still rampant within the autonomous government, Bougainville president John Momis has said.

Dr Momis was responding to findings from the second joint autonomy review in a statement to the Bougainville House of Representatives.

“The report demonstrates that the ABG has been chronically underfunded over the life of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

“Where we have received precious funds, these have not been managed well,” he said, saying that the report found that the government and the public service consistently fail to adhere to legislation and that corruption has at times taken hold.

“This is why I continue to speak so forcefully on the need to ensure that our leaders are held to account,” Dr Momis said.

“I am heartened by advice that the fraud squad will soon be deployed to Bougainville to investigate allegations of fraud.  Nobody is above the law.  Everyone must be held to account.”

The report noted slow progress in advancing the drawdown of powers to the ABG, a result of poor funding from the national government.

There was also a lack of commitment and engagement at national government level.

“How can we harness the benefits of autonomy when we can’t exercise the powers and functions that autonomy provides?” Dr Momis asked.

“All we do is maintain a system of dependency, a system that relies on a dysfunctional national government bureaucracy and where policy paralysis prevails.

“It is up to both governments to do more,” he said.

The review noted a significant failure of government departments to address compliance issues and administer the law.

“We must harness the legal powers available to us.  We have excellent laws, but we fail to administer them,” Dr Momis said.

“The Bougainville Peace Agreement is often hailed as a world best practice document but implementation has been poor. 

“These are issues that must also be addressed jointly with the national government,” he said.


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Paul Oates

The reality of the situation is that our view of what works and what doesn't under the law is predicated on our society.

Our legislative framework works (mostly), because everyone agrees (or chooses not to openly disagree), in obeying the law of the land.

The crux of PNG's problems is that we (read lapuns) never were allowed enough time to set in concrete the legislative framework we bequeathed to PNG and to educate future generations in why the law has to be followed.

As a natural progression therefore, the current situation has evolved. Pay lip service to enacting legislation knowing full well that's just for show and that in practice, nothing will change.

It's a bit like when we used to visit the villages on patrol. There would be the nice new pit latrines and everyone was openly enthusiastic about their use. As soon as we left however, the old habits would continued to be followed.

The reason foreign businesses continue to turn a blind eye to PNG laws and just bribe their way with those who are prepared to take the money is that there is a clear recognition of the credibility gap between what is the theory and what is the reality.

The Chinese president alluded to it all is his speech yesterday. There is a new approach becoming evident in PNG.

Yep! It's called 'reality bites'. The real question is: Exactly who will it end up 'biting' in the bum?

Philip Fitzpatrick

"We have excellent laws, but we fail to administer them,” Dr Momis points out and suggests that Bougainville must "harness the legal powers" available.

Having excellent laws but failing to administer them has always been a problem in Papua New Guinea.

So too has been the maladministration, subversion, cherry picking and outright ignoring of those laws.

Papua New Guinea's mining, forestry, environment and land laws are excellent pieces of legislation. Their environment laws are better than anything we have in Australia.

Even the criminal code is a comprehensive and entirely workable piece of legislation.

If government, industry and the general population respected those laws and applied them without favour Papua New Guinea could be a great society.

If the government conscientiously funded the agencies that administer those laws there would be a fundamental shift for the better in the way society operates in Papua New Guinea.

Unfortunately there is neither respect or upholding of these laws.

Lawyers in Papua New Guinea spend a great deal of their time very profitably subverting the laws. At the very least this is alarming and extremely sad. It is an indictment of a sick society.

Companies that come to Papua New Guinea quickly learn that adherence to the law is a commercial disadvantage. They learn that by doing so they are considered naive and fair game for exploitation.

They quickly change their practises and take on shonky lawyers to advise them. People they employ who do the right thing are quickly dispensed with.

To make matters worse the public is often complicit in the subversion of the law. Greedy landowners will sign deals with miners and loggers that clearly disadvantage and often destroy their communities without a second's thought.

The police will selectively administer the law, take bribes from big business and actually and openly moonlight with them. Their modus operandi is brutality, which has a long history going back before independence. Atrocities committed by police when their bosses weren't watching are legend in Papua New Guinea.

A society that ignores its own laws must be ultimately doomed. History tells us this in no uncertain terms. Disregarding the law is what breeds anarchy and eventual revolution.

Dr Momis, an old time politician with a real heart for his people, knows this and has identified it as the biggest obstacle to true autonomy in Bougainville.

It is hard to see how he can overcome what is now an entrenched disease in his country.

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