Bougainville's Momis eyes second term
Veteran Bougainville leader hoping to retain presidency as the province enters a crucial term.
Bougainville's president says the region's progress towards self determination has been most interesting and challenging and this is why he wants to continue in the job.
The autonomous Papua New Guinea region goes to the polls from May 11th for two weeks and the incumbent president John Momis is one of nine contesting that position.
Mr Momis first got involved in politics in the 1960s. In 2010 he became president after trying unsuccessfully to win the post in 2005.
Mr Momis says he wants to be involved in the next parliament because it will be critically important for Bougainville as it will oversee a referendum on possible independence from PNG and he says the people want someone of experience at the wheel.
JOHN MOMIS: In 2015 it is inevitable we must have a referendum, whether we are ready or not. Hence the critical importance of having a leadership that can take the necessary steps to prepare the people of Bougainville despite the shortage of funds, lack of capacity and so on and so forth, it is inevitable. We cannot put it off. We cannot put off the referendum.
DON WISEMAN: Is it the overriding concern going into this election?
JM: It would be the overriding, yes.
DW: So what is it that's going to be expected of that next government in terms of preparing for that?
JM: Well, managing the process of referendum itself and then to ensure that the outcome will be acceptable to the people of Bougainville. If it is not, you know, you could run the risk of creating another unstable situation which may not be palatable or acceptable to both the national government and the people of Bougainville as a whole. It is important that we manage this referendum process, and there are conditions that have to be met at the same time as providing delivery of services. As you know, Bougainville used to be the premiere province, and we believe that the national government owes us over 500 million kina, that is triple that in the peace agreement, and it makes it very difficult for us to deliver services. We have a challenge to create a new society.
DW: In terms of economic development, I know there have been a number of initiatives in the last couple of years but are you starting to see signs that some signs of economic viability is developing within Bougainville?
JM: There are small signs of economic viability, but it is still difficult because as you know, one of the conditions that must be met before the outcome of the referendum can be positively considered and accepted. And our national government is pushing self reliance and we are no where near reaching that level. We still have a lot of work to do.
DW: If you remain in government what are you looking at doing in the years preceding that referendum?
JM: Well, as you know, we have our own mining law now, which is the final long-term mining law which is probably the most liberating legislation in Bougainville so far. It liberates the landowners, liberates the people of Bougainville and creates a level play ground for a collaborative effort between the developers, the government and the landowners. And after the election we will be taking immediate steps to talk to Rio Tinto to find out whether they're interested. If they're not then we would call upon another company and we can invite others.
DW: And that focus is on the Panguna mine in the first instance?
JM: That is the focus but it is not the only. We have a timeline to meet. And unfortunately agriculture, fisheries, and other things just won't enable us to meet those timelines. Mining is the only thing that will generate so much revenue to assist the government to provide services and help to develop capacity to handle the new public service powers.
DW: I know there's been a significant amount of support for the mining issue but there does remain some degree of opposition, doesn't there?
JM: Well there is opposition from a few people. Landowners and me'ekamui are totally in support. The opposition is coming from a few people for selfish political, their own problems. Especially the ones who are involved in the Invincible and Bogenvil Resource Development Corp (BRDC) and some ill-informed people in Australia who are associated with Jubilee Australia, who are in fact totally against mining, any sort of mining.
DW: Let's talk about law and order, because I know this is something that you have been working on and there's some degree of New Zealand police involvement. Where are you at? Because it's been a precarious thing going back a long way.
JM: There has been some improvement, we still have a long way to go. But we're getting more people from the New Zealand police and the Australians to assist with the regular police, involved in the training of our community police which is very important but we really have to do something major to enable and equip our regular police to deal with serious law and order situations.
DW: And they will be armed in some cases?
JM: I think we will have to because if we don't - the Bougainville Peace Agreement does not permit Bougainville Police Service to be armed except for in certain circumstances, but I think we will need to arm them and come up with strict regulations to ensure that this power is not abused.
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