East New Britain’s Quest for Autonomy

East New Britain FlagIt was extremely hard not to notice yesterday that PNG’s two leading dailies both ran the story about Governor General Sir Paulias Matane hinting that a major step toward the granting of powers of autonomy for East New Britain (ENB) Province will be taken some time this year.

East New Britain’s quest for autonomy is not new – it has its roots well before PNG became independent in 1975 with the establishment of the Mataungan Association in 1969. The most significant historical case for ENB autonomy was the simple fact that as the country was facing independence, there were only two provinces whose provincial budgets were not two-thirds financed by direct national government funding allocations: East New Britain and North Solomons.

ENB had the million dollar per year Tolai Cocoa Project and North Solomons had Panguna; this was aptly reflected by the fact that by 1978, there were only two fully elected provincial governments – East New Britain and North Solomons.

Alphonse Gelu of the National Research Institute has written a paper concerning national/sub-national governance within PNG which is titled A Research Framework for the Evaluation of Greater Autonomy for ENB. In the paper he outlines the main focus of ENB’s request for autonomy into three main areas:

  1. Political structures – including a Provincial Constitution
  2. Financial arrangements – including increased access to and control over revenue
  3. Administration – including enhanced control over an increased range of government agencies, functions, and personnel.

Gelu also makes the point that if the Government does grant ENB autonomy and any other province for that matter, it must take into account a number of factors. Firstly, the request for autonomy must be examined in terms of its benefits as a solution to existing problems. Secondly, it must be examined in broad principles of good governance. Then it must examine the feasibility of such a proposal in the context of Papua New Guinea – how will autonomy benefit the country as a nation?

Whatever the outcome, it is more than likely that the ENB case will be used as the model for future provincial requests for greater autonomy. Ironically, the provincial government system was established to discourage secessionist movements. Now it seems that it may just be the catalyst.

~ by Tavurvur on January 9, 2009.

6 Responses to “East New Britain’s Quest for Autonomy”

  1. I’d say I’m all for it. My reasons:

    1. Provincial governments need to be more responsible for what goes on in their provinces and they need to be given more control over their resources. Government Ministers shouldn’t be responsible for what goes on in Provinces. That’s a job for Provincial administrators. This will cut down on Ministers using openings and money grants for politics.

    2. This will encourage Provinces to get serious about supporting local businesses in their Provinces for tax revenue purposes in the Provinces. If the private sector grows, so to does the funding for government services.

    3. I don’t believe that Autonomy should be equated with secession movements, because just like the Autonomous Region of Bougainville you will no doubt still have an economic, political and social relationship with the rest of PNG.

  2. E, I’m all for it too but I think we must tread with caution. ENB will set a precedent for other provinces to call for their autonomy as well – and honestly, some of our provinces are not in the position to request autonomy. But it will happen. ENB is one province that can actually benefit and grow from greater autonomy.

    The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is a little bit “unique”. There’s a special relationship going on with PNG and Bougainville and they will be given total independence eventually – no question about that.

    One point that must be made is that our Provincial Governments are no way in touch with their rural districts as they once used to be under the Administration. Yes, they look after the town folk – but what about the other 80% – 90% people of their province?

    Historically, the Provincial Government system was set up to discourage secessionist movements. It’s somewhat worked and has filled filled the gap between pre- and post-independence, but there has been talk already about abolishing that same system due to its ineffectiveness.

    I do believe that greater autonomy will allow provinces to be more in touch with their people. At the end of the day what will benefit the people the most? If greater autonomy will, then surely that must be the road that should be taken.

  3. i love this its amazing new Britain is great and i wish to go and meet the wonderful , forest and be in the heart of it ! 🙂 ‘_’ 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 i hope my wishes come true

  4. Well, ENB go for it. Enough is enough. You deceive to have your own autonomy. You are the role model of other provinces so take the lead and others will follow. The so called Bureaucrats at Waigani rob us for so long and the wise need to put an end to that. other provinces with alot of resource and yet are not benefiting from them will follow the line.

  5. Well as a tolai young man studying in one of the greatest and leading University in terms of information computing technology Divine Word University, I would say East New Britain GO FOR IT Please. Let be autonomy in my homeland Rabaul. Our government today is corrupt and we the people of Rabaul we want to be our selve now. We can manage our selves so to all the other University students from Rabaul please we must fight for this and support this idea because from my point of view, I see its realy a great idea to have such government system in East New Britain. Our province is the fastest province leading in development but we still need more development. To all the East New Britain students studying all over the country, I encourage you all that if you finish studying; please go back to your province and work there. Let us work together to build up our own province, in terms of economy,agriculture,education, health and others. So East New Britain go for it.

  6. I should say ENB go for it, nothing is impossible.

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