The Bougainville Executive Council (BEC) made a decision on the 23rd August 2019 to terminate Mr. Joseph Nobetau’s employment contract as Chief Secretary of the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Since this announcement was made by the President and Chairman of the BEC, Honorable Chief Dr John Momis, at the conclusion of the special BEC, there has been a lot of concerns by Bougainvilleans.
“As President, I stand by the BEC’s decision as it was a Council decision and not an individual decision. I also want to reiterate that the decision to terminate Mr. Nobetau was made ‘in the interest of Bougainville’s unity’ as the people move closer to the conduct of the referendum in three months’ time.”
The relationship between the Chief Secretary and the BEC has been an issue for a long while and has become untenable. The BEC cannot be forced into working with Mr. Nobetau when the relationship between the BEC and its Chief Advisor, is untenable. The main considerations taken into account by the BEC and thereby making its decision are:
1. Amends and Reconciliation
Despite efforts by the BEC to mend the relationship, and even reconciling with the Chief Secretary, there has been no marked improvement in the working relationship between the BEC and Mr. Nobetau. No public servant is bigger than the elected and mandated government of the day.
As President, I have not met with the Chief Secretary, who by law reports direct to me, in over nine months. As Chairman of the BEC, I have been concerned also that the Chief Secretary does not attend BEC meetings as the Chief Policy Advisor to the government except on very rare occasions when it suits him. The same extends to his attendance during Parliament Sittings.
The Chief Secretary reports to the President and the BEC. However, when Ministers task him to account for certain actions, he displays disrespectful behavior and conduct to the extent of screaming at Ministers. No government in the world condones this kind of disrespectful behavior and conduct.
I have received reports that on numerous occasions, Mr Nobetau has seen fit to tell people that he is more powerful than the President and the BEC. This is against the spirit of democracy. No one particular public servant must be or is more powerful than the government of the day.
All public servants swore an oath to be loyal to the ABG. This loyalty starts with the Head of the Public Service and the Chief Secretary. Public Servants who choose to be loyal to another government other than the ABG must leave and make room for those who choose to be loyal to their government and its people.
Unfortunately, Mr. Nobetau has been very complacent and has allowed National Government interests ahead of the ABG’s interests. This has led to numerous ABG political agendas being left out of JSB meetings. Enough is enough. My government cannot just stand by and watch public servants watering down our political aspirations and undermining our government.
For example, Mr. Nobetau has been colluding with high level officials from the National Government to prevent the Minister for Bougainville Peace Agreement Implementation from participating in three International trips to promote and engage with the UN on Bougainville’s political interests. This has denied Bougainville the opportunity to enhance partnership with the global community, financial institutions and organizations in anticipation of its new political status that will be determine after the Referendum.
Under Nobetau’s leadership as Chief Secretary of ABG, various confidential documents of the government have been leaked to the public at will without any attempt from the Chief Secretary to mitigate this, instead he seem to be participating in the disclosure of such documents if and whenever it is convenient for his purposes.
5. No CACC meetings
An important body that screens and drives whole of government policy development and implementation is the CACC. This body is headed by the Chief Secretary. This body has never met and there is a huge back log of policy and legislative submissions yet to be brought to the BEC. This is unacceptable and makes it appear like the BEC is not performing its functions, roles and responsibilities.
Honourable Chief Dr John Momis, GCL, MHR
Autonomous Bougainville Government
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