News and Public Notices

The latest from across Bougainville

ABG President Opening Statement at the Joint Supervisory Body Meeting

Honorable Prime Minister, we must not forget that Bougainville 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 20000 lives have been lost, infrastructures demolished to basically nothing, and the rule of law, while being reconstructed slowly, mainly exists through traditional laws and systems.

However, on the 30th of 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 (BPA); 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% vote.

Honorable Prime Minister, taken straight from the BPA, this agreement is a joint creation by the Government of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea and Leaders representing the people of Bougainville to resolve the Bougainville conflict and to secure a lasting peace by peaceful means.

It was intended to further the objectives of The Burnham Truce, the Lincoln and Ceasefire Agreements and other agreements and understandings between the parties. The Bougainville Peace Agreement was implemented through consultation and co-operation, and formed the basis for drafting constitutional amendments and other laws in order to give legal effect to the BPA.

The three-pillar peace deal was not just any peace deal; it was a deal that required a relationship built on trust – a trust that had to be publically demonstrated through the turning in of weapons and ammunition, prior reconciliation of enemies, rebuilding of homes and of families and the promise of a peaceful co-existence between communities.

Honorable Prime Minister, the National Government was convinced that the future of Bougainville could be a lot more promising if it took leadership in thinking outside the box and gamble with its future by allowing Bougainvilleans the chance to express their belief about their future in PNG through a Constitutionally guaranteed Referendum, which resulted in Bougainvilleans voting an overwhelmingly 97.7% for “Independence”.

Honourable James Marape, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, and Co-Chair of this very important JSB meeting, may I take this opportunity to personally thank you for the progress that we have made so far. And I mean this from the depth of my heart.

In this short span of a few years, as representatives of the fourth House of the Bougainville House of Representatives, many things have moved along. We have fast tracked the assumption of powers and functions by the ABG through the uptake of these powers through legislation, through the implementation of the Sharp Agreement.

We have spoken openly about the issues confronting us. 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 the 7th of July 2022.

This pathway is to provide a way by which the outcome of the referendum could be confirmed, or endorsed, or sanctioned by the National Parliament, and as close at it can be to;

(1) The real intention of the parties regarding the outcome of the referendum,

(2) And as closely captured by the clear language of both Clause 311 of the BPA and Section 342 of the National Constitution.

As you are very 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. Our technical officials were going to construct the pathway through the constitutional regulations but that has now failed; and here we are, at the JSB, to resolve this problem and move on.

Honourable Prime Minister what is your fear? 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.

Honourable 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.

A pathway that does not go with the intent of the parties cannot be supported by us because it would go against the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Moreover, and it would violate the specific application of section 278(3) and (4) and also section 276 (1) and (2) of the National Constitution.

In short and in reference to letter to you dated 24th July 2023, Honourable Prime Minister our proposal is as follows;

(1) The pathway to the National Parliament will comprise of a Melanesian ritual whereby the Minister for Bougainville Affairs will advise the National Parliament that a Melanesian-based ritual will be performed in the symbolic delivery of the outcome of the referendum to the National Parliament where –in tune with the ritual also – the National Parliament symbolically confirms, endorses, or sanctions the outcome in accordance with those protocols.

(2) Once this ritual is complete the ratification of Bougainville’s Independence is regarded as complete - and this can be documented for the purpose of the Hansard as the completion of ratification.

(3) The National Parliament will provide some rules (if needed) for how this sitting will take place as sessional ordered sitting of the Parliament.

(4) The Minister may table the referendum results (97.7%) as required by the re-tabling of the BRC report in addition to the Era Kone Covenant and the report that is mentioned in the Era Kone Covenant.

(5) The effect of the tabling of the Era Kone Covenant means that all the outcomes of the Joint Statements in Kokopo, Wabag, (specifically the Wabag Referendum Results Implementation Roadmap),Port Moresby are deemed to have been confirmed, endorsed and sanctioned by the Parliament as well.

(6) In the event there is an impasse a panel of three can be called to moderate on the impasse. Given the nature of the issue a combination of persons with relevant skills and knowledge would be called on to moderate.

To conclude, Hon Prime Minister, nothing is more significant to me than honouring and upholding the Spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. The Bougainville Peace Agreement clearly points out the very foundations of the Bougainville Ratification process and this year, on the 30th of August, we will be celebrating 22 years of sustained peace.

In the same token, I must acknowledge and thank on behalf of my people, the governments of our friends and neighbours; New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Island and Australia for signing and witnessing the BPA. Therefore, my government would really like to see how these signatories play a greater role in advancing the spirit of the BPA.

Hon. Ishmael Toroama,

[ Back to News ]