Support among Bougainville MPs for constitutional changes – Cabinet minister

Bougainville's Minister for Peace Agreement Implementation, Albert Punghau Photo: supplied

A Bougainville Cabinet minister says there is overwhelming support among MPs for two constitutional changes being planned.

The Bougainville Government in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region wants to retain the three parliamentary seats set aside for veterans from the civil war crisis.

These seats are set to be abolished ahead of this year’s election, but there is a desire to keep them.

The Minister in Charge of Peace Agreement Implementation, Albert Punghau, said there was also strong backing to allow presidents to remain in office for three terms.

He was confident that when Parliament met in March that it would get the go ahead for both changes but right now a community consultation was underway.

“As our standing orders state, we have to go and consult with the chiefs, and community government chairmans and the church elders…

“We have read the first reading, we have moved the motion to get those measures done with the Parliament overwhelmingly siding with it and now the committee has been sent.””

On the presidency, Mr Punghau said the changes were not about ensuring incumbent John Momis, who is nearing the end of his second term, would get to continue in the role.

He said it was quite possible Mr Momis would not be re-elected but to deny anyone the chance to run a third time was an infringement of their human rights.

“Some critics claim it’s made for him. No, it’s not for him only. It’s for making sure that all of us are united together and these people [could] vote him out and [he] does not come back again, that will be it. That’s the reasoning behind it,” he said.

The legislation is now being put to community leaders around Bougainville before returning to Parliament just before the election writs are filed on 27 March.

Mr Punghau said a third matter, concerning changing the name of the ‘Autonomous Bougainville Government to ‘Constitutional Transitional Bougainville Government,’ could only be done in consultation with the national government of PNG.

Meanwhile, a prominent Bougainville leader has come out against government plans to allow presidents to hold office for three terms.

Martin Miriori, who once led the Bougainville Interim Government and had a senior role in the Bougainville Revolutionary Army, has strongly condemned the move.

He accused leaders of not listening to the people and being blinded by “their greed and power and money”.

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