Goodbye, Great Australian Novel
RIP Murray Bladwell: Man of Simbu

Alarming questions on referendum eve

John Momis
In times past president John Momis would never have disrespected the very constitutional laws that he himself wrote


PORT MORESBY - The sidelining of Bougainville chief secretary Joseph Nobetau, for what can only be deemed political reasons, should be seen as an alarming concern on the eve of the independence referendum.

At a time when the world is watching and waiting to see just how Bougainville and the rest of Papua New Guinea will respond to the referendum vote, it is unfortunate that what they will see is a provincial government intent on self-interest and power over the rule of law.

There is no doubt that Bougainville president John Momis is an honourable man.

He has devoted a lifetime to the cause of Bougainville’s self-determination and no one should be left in any doubt as to the commitment he has previously shown to his people and lands.

But recent events have caused many in the Bougainville community to question what now drives the president, with many fearing that he has elected to be swayed by the actions of a few, rather than the will of all his people and that he has been corrupted by power, influenced by outsiders, and chosen a path of political expediency over than the rule of law.

Mr Nobetau’s case is just one example of where the president’s recent actions have given rise to concern.

Another case, the joint venture with Caballus Mining, is a clear example of an initiative that the people do not support.

The proposal, which if approved will lead to an erosion of constitutionally guaranteed rights over natural resources, will ultimately see a small few (mostly foreigners) becoming very rich without any benefits to local landowners and communities.

This is what caused the Bougainville Conflict to occur in the first place, leaving many to question how the president, a man of such esteem and intellect can be manipulated to support what is very clearly a one-sided deal.

Then there is the issue of corruption.

The president continues to entertain a man in his cabinet who has been charged with official corruption. He is also alleged to have approved the expenditure of state funds for his defence.

The fraud squad, invited to Bougainville with the strong public endorsement of the president, has been asked to leave, with justice minister Willie Masiu going so far as to write to PNG police minister Kramer asking that he intervene.

These are not the actions of a government committed to good governance. These are not the actions of a government committed to the rule of law.

The sacking of Nobetau is a final case in point.

In times past the president would never have allowed himself to be influenced in such a way.

He would never give lip service or disrespect to the very constitutional laws that he himself wrote.

This is not the man that Bougainvilleans know and have grown to love and respect.

In what seems to be his haste to appease the insecurities, jealousies and fears of a small few, he has chosen a path that will stop major reform from taking place and see anti-fraud and corruption measures grind to a halt.

These are not the actions of man of integrity and principle.

Much has been said and written in recent weeks regarding Nobetau’s dismissal. What is clear is that it is wrong. It is against the law.

It is based on meaningless accusations, innuendo, and influence from a small few, perhaps even some outsiders.

As Bougainville prepares for its next vital chapter, as it looks to embrace the possible responsibility of statehood, now must be the time for strength and the courage of convictions.

Joseph Nobetau was one man who stood for these important principles.

The people of Bougainville are watching closely to see what happens next.

Come December, the next chapter in Bougainville’s history will begin to be written.

The question is, can the people of Bougainville trust those empowered to negotiate their destiny and long-term political future?

Only time will tell.


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Arthur Williams

I guess Nobetau is an unhappy man. I see from one of my files that in 2011 PM O’Neill in wanting to reform the public service ethos revoked his post of Acting Chief Migration officer. It happened during one of those famous PNG Incidents and I mention a few bits of a back-story of Momis’ current sacking of his Chief Secretary.

Interestingly the 2011 sacked officer had received a report from the Constable Davis A Evari of RPNGC Interpol Konedobu that told how Joko Tjandra later to become Joe Chan was subject of an Interpol Red Notice.

Nobetau was replaced by Mataio Rabura who a few months later in early 2012 was able to say: ‘Mr Joko Tjandra is eligible for Citizenship because Ambassador Ilau says the allegations [in Indonesia] are political rather than criminal. As stated during the CAC [Citizenship Advisory Committee] meeting, why should PNG risk billions of dollars of investment because of an alleged crime..?’

He got his passport issued a mere 3 days after application –surely a first for the passport office. Only for a sudden new scenario to emerge a few days later when he had changed his name to Joe Chan and allegedly applied with his new date of birth for a 2nd passport using his new name. That too was issued.

There was quite a lot of media criticism of the new citizen and by January 2013 the 2nd passport had been cancelled by the Foreign Minister. This led to the convening of a Ministerial Committee of Review into the events leading to that decision and one of its members was the future PM James Marape looking at poor old Joe Chan’s incredibly rapid PNG citizenship followed by the 2nd passport issue and revocation. Joe was vindicated and got his 2nd passport again.

I think perhaps the age old problem of big fish in a small pool hits hard a small nation like PNG and the social round must see a lot of back scratching as well as back biting and U-turns as we saw in the change of Prime Ministers but not 90% of his friends-enemies-friends.

It seems this time ABG’s Chief Secretary doesn’t intend to go quietly. It will be interesting to see how President Momis handles this with the long awaited referendum very close.


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