The National Executive Council has approved the set-up of a National Advisory Body and a Consultative Team to engage in consultations with the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

Prime Minister James Marape said his Cabinet acknowledges that a consultation process will take place now after the declaration of the Bougainville Referendum result last year.

Therefore, it approved the setting up of a National Advisory Body, a PNG National Consultative Team and an Eminent Group, he said.

The Advisory Body would offer views and advises on behalf of the National Government and people of PNG, and the Consultative Team undertake the consultative process with the Bougainville Consultative Team.

The proposed membership of the Advisory body include community representatives, churches, business community, civil society and prominent men and women and the PNG National Consultative Team include senior members of Parliament and Secretaries of Central Agency Coordinating Committee (CACC) or key government departments.

The two governments are yet to agree on a tentative format and an agenda for the consultation process and it is difficult to gauge how long it will take, the Prime Minister said.

However, there is general hope that it could be concluded before the 2022 National General Election and after the consultation process is done the two governments will commit the outcomes of their deliberations to Parliament for ratification.

It has to be noted that as a non-binding arrangement, Bougainville’s overwhelming vote for independence does not translate to immediate self-determination.

The final decision is the ratification that it is to take place after the joint consultation process and both governments, through the Bougainville Peace Agreement, do recognize the National Parliament as the highest and constitutionally mandated authority in the country.

For such reasons, it is considered crucial that a National Consultative Forum within a specific time frame be held before the consulting process commences, sometimes in March-April 2020