Mr. Speaker, I rise today within the chambers of this honorable house to present my ministerial statement on several matters of importance to the Autonomous Bougainville Government.
Mr. Speaker, before I proceed, on behalf of the people and government of Bougainville I would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the Royal Family and the British Government on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Her passing signifies the end of an era of great socioeconomic and political changes that swept the world in the last 70 years. Bougainville was the first place she visited in Papua New Guinea where she was escorted by the country’s first Knight the late Sir Paul Lapun. We remember a great woman who despite the somewhat questionablelegacy of the institution she represented she stood for progress and modernization.
Mr. Speaker, we have just ended another electoral cycle with the 2022 National General Elections. Amidst all the chaos that happened throughout parts of Papua New Guinea I must congratulate our people and the candidates contesting the elections for maintaining civility during this period. As Bougainvilleans we have shown yet again our respect for democracy and the processes that ensure its vibrancy.
The stage has been set by the formation of the 11th Parliament of Papua New Guinea under the Marape/Rosso Government. This is the parliament that will ratify the referendum results and of which three of our four National MP’s arenow a part of.
That being said, we are now at a very crucial stage in our political journey to independence. It is important that all our leaders at all levels in the ABG and the National Government are well acquainted with Bougainville’s Independence Mission. We must all understand the developments that have emergedfrom the Post Referendum Joint Consultations between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the National Government. This will enable cohesion and greater cooperation by all our leaders and ensure active participation by our people in the ongoing Bougainville Process.
I have met with the Minister for Communication and Information Technology and Member for South Bougainville Hon. Timothy Masiu, Minister for Internal Security and Regional Member Hon. Peter Tsiamalili Jnr and the Member for Central Bougainville Hon. Fr.Simon Dumarinu. All three of our National MP’s have pledged their support to our Independence Mission. It is time we put aside our differences and work together for the greater good of Bougainville and our people. I believe the first step to achieving our desired political future is uniting our leaders under one goal and that is independence.
As we prepare for the ratification in 2023 we have the Era Kone Covenant to guide us in our negotiations with the National Government. The covenant triggers the next important stage in the Bougainville Peace Process through the Constitutional Regulations. The Constitutional Regulations will chart the course for the ratification process by the National Parliament. Itwill enable the Ratification Process to be an all-inclusive democratic process that will ensure considerations are given to the people of Bougainville as well as the state of union of Papua New Guinea.
Mr. Speaker in light of Prime Minister Hon. James Marape’s statement calling for a nationwide consultation on Bougainville’s decision to secede from the rest of PNG, I have only this to say; the provisions of the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement are clear. The two Governments will consult over the results of the 2019 Referendum. Under the BPA and the Organic Law on Peace Building on Bougainville, these two parties are the only ones privy to consult over the Referendum Results, there are no exceptions.
Mr. Speaker, last week I had the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister and our new Minister for Bougainville Affairs and Member for Magarima, Hon. Manasseh Makiba. We discussed several matters of importance on intergovernmental funding arrangements, the implementation of the Era Kone Covenant and the 2023 Ratification. Our technical team is preparing to meet their national counterparts in the next few weeks. The Joint Supervisory Body will convene later this year to issue the political directives on these matters.
Mr. Speaker over the course of the last four months I have made several ministerial changes within the Bougainville Executive Council. While it is my prerogative as the President to institute changes within my cabinet there are elements within this Honorable House who are questioning my decisions and accusing me of assuming dictatorial powers. I do not have a problem with my decisions as President being questioned by Members of this House, that is a vital part of our democracy. However, I do not take kindly to being accused of promoting a dictatorship on Bougainville as it goes against everything I stand for as a veteran of our war for freedom and a peacebuilder.
I want to urge the leaders of this Honorable House and the people of Bougainville not to give in to persons who hide behind the pretense of leadership and are bargaining our independence aspirations for their own selfishness and hunger for power. Do not let our resolve be compromised by people who want to incite disunity and threaten our independence mission.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate my points during the swearing in of our new departmental heads a few months ago. My government created the Six Point Strategy which encompasses our development priorities as well as our political aspirations. It created the Bougainville Independence Mission, gives direction and clarity on our economic priorities and it strives to improve the quality of life for all Bougainvilleans. The Six Point Strategy must be embedded within the development priorities of each and every department as we work towards political independence.
Our departments must look at innovative ways to ensure service delivery is effective and far reaching as possible. I am encouraging our departmental heads to look at:
1. Codependency of departments (cross cutting issues that promotes cooperation between departments)
2. Utilizing Sharp’s Agreement to drawdown more powers and functions.
3. Alignment of priorities between administrative and political levels.
I cannot deny that financial constraints and capacity issues are major impediments to developing our public service sector and providing services to our people. We are still heavily reliant on funding from the National Government to implement our sectoral development programs primarily in the health, education and infrastructure development sectors. We cannot consider ourselves independence ready and remain dependent solely on funding from our development partners and the National Government.
Mr. Speaker, Bougainville must and it will become fiscally self-reliant within the next three years. We already have several planned economic development projects ready to go online in the next six months. The Bougainville Water Bottling Company will be producing and selling our own brand of spring water to international and domestic markets. Our new refinery will also be operational before the year ends. It is the government’s intention that we have a monopoly over the alluvial gold trade on Bougainville. It is a multi-million-kina industry that will earn a lot of revenue for Bougainville.
In the agriculture sector the Bougainville Executive Council has decided to build a Cocoa Processing Factory on Bougainville. Local downstream processing of cocoa powder and chocolates direct from Bougainville produced cocoa will improve the value chain of the industry on Bougainville. it will increase spinoff benefits in employment opportunities and business activities and add value to Bougainville’s economy. The factory will also give an incentive to the government to increase our cocoa supply and look at reopening the plantations. Bougainville has the potential of increasing our current tonnage of 20, 000 tons of cocoa to more than 100, 000 tons annually.
Mr. Speaker, there are also several more economic development projects that are currently in the pre-production stage. We have the Manetai Limestone Project which was issued its license just recently, we have the Tonelei Integrated Agriculture Project that is being progressed and the Bana Free Trade Zone. The government has also met with several investors who are showing an interest on Bougainville’s potential for resource development.
Mr. Speaker, an investment opportunity that I am very keen on developing is the tourism industry. This year alone we have and we will be hosting several social events that promotes Bougainville’s unique diverse cultures and beautiful islands.Despite minimal support from the government our local promoters have delivered these events with a lot of success. To capitalize on this multi-billion kina industry the government will be providing support to improve logistics, communication, security and capacity building support to tourism operators. It is time we have a tourism policy in place to look at improving the industry on Bougainville.
As President I am pledging my government’s support to local indigenous businesses to enable them to thrive and prosper while contributing to Bougainville’s economy. Providing government support to the small to medium enterprises at the community level is one way of contributing directly to local economies within our constituencies. It is also my government intention to develop an industrialized Bougainville. It is time we looked at downstream processing of raw materials and manufacturing. The two initiatives by the government to produce spring water and the gold refinery are just the start.
It has been my philosophy that a person must not stress over what they cannot control but focus more on changing what is within their control to enable progress. Many things in Bougainville today seem hard and challenging simply because they are not within our control. Our desire for a swift conclusion to our political journey, our desire for a quick fix to our economic woes etc…. are examples of the things that are beyond our control. However, these things do not limit us to determining how we negotiate the outcome of our political future, they do not determine the means in which we can creatively raise internal revenue and they certainly cannot limit our capacity to be innovative and having the will to persevere.
I am reminded by the late Francis Ona’s words at the start of the Revolution ‘’The Duty of Man is to protect his land’’. To the members of this honorable house, I say to you, our duty is to protect the land, defend our people and deliver independence for Bougainville.
God Bless you all and God Bless Bougainville.
Mr. Speaker I commend this statement to the House.
Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR
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