Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama has called on Prime Minister James Marape to spell out clearly and honestly his fears about Bougainville obtaining Independence from Papua New Guinea.
Toroama made the call based on government’s delaying of the ratification process on Referendum, which has been stalled beyond the required period for Parliament to give its blessings under the provisions of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).
The National Government and ABG convened the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) Meeting in Port Moresby Monday, where Marape and Toroama addressed the meeting.
“Prime Minister what is your fear? Toroama asked. “What is your apprehension?
Is it that we will have nothing to do with PNG? Is it to do with the rest of the country seeking the union of PNG? Is it that you no longer take our referendum serious?
“I appeal that we resort to our Melanesian customs, values, strengths which will continue to serve us.
“Prime Minister, our position on this ratification pathway is simple.
“Bougainvilleans have voted for independence. That is the outcome that the BPA talks about as being subject to the ratification of the National Parliament; and that is the outcome that the National Parliament has to confirm, endorse, sanction, finalise, or ratify, according to Melanesian culture and protocol,” he said.
“Prime Minister, we must not forget that Bougainville’s journey as a result of the conflict and the ultimate cry for freedom, self-determination and independence has been long, challenging and without a doubt, costly. More than 20,000 lives have been lost, infrastructure demolished to basically nothing and the rule of law, while being reconstructed slowly, mainly exists through traditional laws and systems.
“However, on 30 August 2001, a peace deal was secured by the people of Bougainville, with the government of Papua New Guinea (GoPNG).
It stopped a decade old conflict; established an autonomous government; and guaranteed a referendum to be held after 10 years but no later than 15 years.
“This was the Bougainville Peace Agreement; a peace deal that has been hailed as a great success story.
“Many years have gone by and the novelty of it all has rubbed off to some extent; yet its real value lies in the unknown nature of the referendum pillar of the agreement.
The people of Bougainville have democratically exercised their constitutionally guaranteed right to choose their future and have voted for independence through a stunning 97.7 percent vote,”. he said.
Toroama said the people of Bougainville have already voted for independence which should be respected.
Toroama said that the Bougainville Peace Agreement was a creation of the PNG Government and leaders representing the people of Bougainville to secure lasting peace.
He said a pathway that failed to go with the intent of the parties would go against the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
He said the few years spent as representatives of the fourth Bougainville House of Representatives had moved along many things.
“We have fast-tracked the assumption of powers, functions by the Autonomous Bougainville Government through the uptake of these powers through legislation,” he said.
“We have spoken openly about the issues confronting us and today signals an important day in our history where we must face the biggest challenge yet.
“And that is to agree to a referendum pathway as agreed to in Wabag on 07 July 2022.
“As you are much aware, our consultation broke down all too soon at the technical level in March this year, and though we may have achieved a milestone through the signing of the Era Kone Covenant, we have not completed the work.”
PM Marape assured Toroama that Papua New Guinea would stand by every commitment made to Bougainville since the 2001 peace agreement. “I thank the president for his tolerance, patience, and understanding of the requirements of the processes that are in place, the requirements of what is expected for me and my team as a custodian of our national constitution, and for all of us as joint custodian of the 2001 peace agreement,” he said.