Bougainville on the offensive over unpaid grants
Bougainville's re-elected leader John Momis says he will seek arbitration if the PNG Government does not pay outstanding grants.
Bougainville may seek arbitration if the Papua New Guinea Government does not pay what it says are outstanding grants of $US143 million dollars.
President John Momis, who was sworn in for a second term at the beginning of the week, says the money is guaranteed under the Bougainville Peace Agreement which formally ended the ten-year long civil war.
He says the Restoration and Development Grants are vital for the region as it tries to develop its economy ahead of the referendum on independence that is due before 2020.
PNG has in recent years contributed other funds to Bougainville, but Mr Momis told Don Wiseman that money is tied aid but the Restoration and Development Grants are different.
JOHN MOMIS: Its an obligation that they should meet so we will raise it again and if our request falls on deaf ears we will have no choice but to go for arbitration. Because that is the next step that is recommended in the Bougainville Peace Agreement in resolving sticky issues such as the Restoration and Development Grant one doesn't work then we will go to the national court. But I hope that we can convince the national government I think they listened this time. I was told by some people that a lot of people were surprised that the national government has not met its commitment.
DON WISEMAN: Clearly this money is vital if you are going to develop an economy. You have talked about the need for fiscal self-reliance and this is the critical part of it.
JM: That is correct and it is the only unconditional grant Bougainville has that she can spend without meeting conditions stipulated by the national government. And as the date for the referendum draws closer you know we really have to work very hard to demonstrate some potential capacity for fiscal self-reliance without which of course it would be very difficult.
DW: I understand you are creating a new post an economic development Ministry?
JM: We want to put a lot of emphasis on the responsibility of the autonomous government to raise revenue and I think one of the best ways of doing that would be to have a ministry wholly and solely responsible for economic generation of revenue for economic development.
DW: If I could just return to the election or the counting there was a lot of criticism from the likes of Sam Kaouna and threats of significant legal action. What's your response to that?
JM: Well I think that anybody has a right to pursue cases if they have the evidence but in my view there was absolutely no, what I now in my case is there was no foul play. I think Sam Kaouna and others over estimated their popularity. There is really no grounds for any legal challenge in the court of disputed returns.
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