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Presidential Address to Parliament

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address this Honorable House on several matters that are pertinent to Bougainville’s progress in our Independence Mission.
Mr. Speaker, from the outset let me say it once more within this Honorable House that Bougainville’s future as an independent sovereign nation is inevitable. There is nothing that can change the resolve of our government and our people from achieving sovereignty as an independent nation. No foreign government nor foreign leader will dictate to Bougainville the outcome of the Bougainville Peace Process. It is an outcome that will be negotiated with the Government of Papua New Guinea through the legal framework that guides this process.
Mr. Speaker I would like to comment on the statement by the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles whose remarks on Bougainville’s political future has finally made Australia’s position very clear. Australia have bargained their neutrality in the Bougainville peace process for the sake of geo political maneuvering and maintaining control of the pacific region from their perceived threat of Chinese influence in the region.
Deputy Prime Minister Marles’ claims Australia is being neutral in the Bougainville peace process. However, his remarks pledging Australia’s support to the Government of Papua New Guinea just as we are preparing for the ratification contradicts his statement. The pledge can be viewed as a calculated move to intimidate Bougainville and pre-empt the outcome of the ratification by the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea.
As a witness and signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement the Australian Government should maintain its neutrality instead of pre-empting the outcome of our political future. In principle this pre-emptive act in itself is a direct intervention by the Australian Government on the internal affairs of Papua New Guinea. It is an action that will directly influence the National Government. This has given rise to questions on Australia’s continued involvement in the peace process and their presence on Bougainville.
Honorable Members, what we are witnessing is simply history repeating itself yet again. We have an Australian Labour Government trying to influence Bougainville’s right to self-determination. In the 1970’s it was Prime Minister Gough Whitlam who quashed Bougainville’s independence movement, in the late 1980’s it was Prime Ministers Bob Hawke through to Paul Keating who supplied and armed the Papua New Guinea Defence Force who unsuccessfully tried to put down our revolution. The current Australia Labour Party led Government is simply complying with the policies of its predecessors with the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles echoing the same sentiments as his political forbearers.
Mr. Speaker the general consensus is that Australia has diplomatic relations with the Government of Papua New and not with Bougainville. However, successive National Government including the current Marape/Rosso Government have termed Bougainville a special case. Taking into consideration Bougainville’s autonomous status and the ongoing peace process it is critical that Australia or any foreign power for that matter should refrain from prematurely seek to pre-empt the outcome of our political future.
As President of Bougainville I am not in a position to comment nor speculate on the foreign policy of foreign governments who have diplomatic relations with Papua New Guinea. Though we do not have foreign affairs powers, countries dealing with Bougainville must understand that our political arrangements are not the same as the other provincial governments of Papua New Guinea.
Mr. Speaker, there are some who will accuse me of trying to burn bridges with our development partners. I assure you all that I do not seek to burn any bridges with our development partners but as President of Bougainville I will not bow down to foreigners and allow the resolve of the people of Bougainville to become an independent sovereign nation be compromised yet again. The time for compromise is over!
Mr. Speaker at this time I want to acknowledge the Vice President Hon. Patrick Nisira for successfully hosting the Bougainville Trade and Investment Summit last week. The two-day summit gave us the opportunity to look at developing a sustainable economic model that will support a Bougainville that is both economically and politically independent.
The current Bougainville Economy is not an entirely independent Bougainvillean Economy of our design and driven by our government and people. Despite the autonomous arrangements on Bougainville, it is an economy still very dependent on the National Government of Papua New Guinea for funding. Under the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement the intergovernmental funding arrangements for Bougainville are different from the provinces in PNG. However, the funding arrangements are structured in the same manner and focuses solely on service delivery while ignoring economic development. This funding from the National Government has never really been forthcoming and halts many of our development plans and projects.
The recently passed Supplementary Budget by the National Government is a clear example of this. Last year when the 2022 National Budget was passed we were informed that we would be getting the biggest portion out of all the provinces in the country in the budgetary allocations. Ironically our own Supplementary Budget is based on K50 million that is being cut from the Restoration and Development Grant. The RDG is a constitutionally guaranteed grant and not to be removed once it has been allocated.
Previous Bougainville governments saw the control by the National Government over our fiscal capacity as an impediment to growth and development. I choose to see it as an opportunity to motivate us to foster economic growth that can be developed and sustained through innovative means by promoting local entrepreneurship, foreign direct investment and introducing practical economic policies. We already have several of our homegrown business and economic concepts in place with many of them close to production.
Mr. Speaker another very important issue I must address before I conclude my statement is the conflict in the Konnou Constituency. There are many people criticizing the government for our so called in action to deal with the situation in Konnou. Any response by the government that will result in more violence and bloodshed is not the solution to the problem in Konnou. As a responsible government we have to consider the safety of the innocent people caught in the middle of the conflict, especially the women and children.
As a responsible government, we have a duty to maintain peace and good order within our communities. The Konnou issue is an internal matter that needs cooperation from all levels of the government. The ABG through the Member for Konnou Hon. Willie Masiu, the three Ex-Combatant Members, Community Governments, the Bougainville Administration, the Bougainville Police Service and local chiefs and leaders must work together to resolve this perennial issue. I expect the Minister for Information and Communication Technology and the Member for South Bougainville Hon. Timothy Masiu to also play a part in resolving this matter. We must address this issue from a peace building perspective with conflict resolution being our priority.
I want to be clear when I say this, we cannot continue along this path to self-destruction. We are simply wasting our time fighting ourselves and our government instead of rallying behind our government to support peace, promote development and prepare for independence. It is not the intention of my government to force development onto our people. Development must be willingly accepted by our people so they can actively participate in it to become meaningful so that it meets their felt needs and aspirations.
Mr. Speaker, this Honorable House has just begun our third year in office. There have been many challenges but there have also been triumphs. On the political front negotiations with the National Government are becoming more critical, economically we are starting to develop our fiscal capacity and socially we still have some problems that need to be addressed but we will manage them as we go along.
We may have differences in policy matters but it is that diversity that keeps us all united as leaders of a people who are resilient and destined for greatness. I thank you all for continuing to serve our people in spite of the challenges we face every day.
God Bless you all and God Bless Bougainville.
Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR

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