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Parliamentary statement by President Hon. Ishmael Toroama

I rise today before this honorable house to present my final Ministerial Statement for 2023. This statement reflects the progress this government has made in representing the felt needs and aspirations of the people of Bougainville.

Mr Speaker, since assuming the Minister for Mineral and Energy Resources I would like to update the house on certain progress we have made. Concerning the progress on the work carried out by the Ministry for Mineral and Energy Resources through the regulatory authority, DOMER, the following is an update on our progress:

  1. Bougainville Copper Limited has updated its IPA records to reflect the current ABG’s 36.45% shareholding in BCL. The shares are held by Bougainville Minerals Limited, ABG’s own company incorporated under the Companies Act 1997.
  2. There has also been significant progress towards the establishment of the Bougainville Energy Office. With the policy framework in place, necessary steps are also being taken for an enabling draft legislation form a legal basis for the establishment of the Office.
  3. Work on the Petroleum Supply and distribution project is also underway. The project aims to generate revenue for the ABG, lower the price of petroleum products on Bougainville, and solve Bougainville’s ongoing power outage issues by importing fuel straight from the manufacturer to Bougainville and cancelling all third-party deals.
  4. The ASM Regulatory Enforcement Taskforce Awareness campaign is also currently underway in the Region. The task force has covered the Kanaitu/Atamo and Kopani areas in the Eivo-Torau Constituency, pump station, Panguna and Moroni areas of Ioro Constituency. Once all key areas are covered a six-month grace period will commence and after the grace period lapses, the Enforcement Taskforce will take action against those that participate in unauthorized mining activities on Bougainville.
  5. The Deed of Settlement which aims to put an end to the long-standing court battle between ABG and BCL is pending the National Court endorsement. Once endorsed by the Courts we shall proceed to grant an Exploration License once all necessary lawful requirements have been followed.

Mr. Speaker, this government is focused on enhancing our socio-economic and political capacity in a holistic all-of-government approach. The primary objective of this focused approach to capacity building is our independence mission. It is our vision for a new Bougainville to have a vibrant economy, sound administrative and governance structures, and a healthy and educated population. However, three main obstacles continue to hinder progress and development in Bougainville. I have identified these three obstacles as:

  1. The National Government of Papua New Guinea and its ignorance of the Bougainville Peace Process.
  2. Challenges to the legitimacy of the Autonomous Bougainville Government as the authority of governance in Bougainville.
  3. The lack of patriotism by our leaders to support the Autonomous Bougainville Government which is a direct extension of the people of Bougainville.

Mr. Speaker, honorable members of this house, it has become apparent that the Government of Papua New Guinea will continue to ignore the terms of all our agreements dating back to the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001. We are just days away from ending the year and the National Parliament has not ratified the 2019 Referendum Results as was agreed upon in the Wabag Road Map and the Era Kone Covenant.

In the negotiations leading up to the supposed Ratification in 2023, our technical team and the national technical team reached an impasse. To resolve the impasse the Prime Minister, the Honorable James Marape, and I had agreed that there was a need to introduce a moderator to the negotiations.

The moderator would assist us to resolve three contentious issues that have stalled the negotiations:

  1. The voting majority percentage being the Absolute Majority as opposed to our position of Simple Majority.
  2. Having no less than two meetings before the Ratification vote is taken.
  3. Disagreements over whether the voting during the ratification should be done in secret.

Mr. Speaker, our government is ready to return to the negotiating table with our national counterparts to resolve these issues with the assistance of a moderator. I cannot comment on when that will be until I discuss the matter further with the Prime Minister. I must extend my gratitude to the United Nations for their support and commitment to assisting us with identifying a person with clear integrity and prestige who will be able to bring value to our engagements with the National Government before the Referendum Results are ratified by the National Parliament.

The Attorney General and Minister for Bougainville Independence Mission Hon. Ezekiel Masatt will explain further this in detail.

Mr. Speaker, many of the members of this honorable house will agree with me saying that the legitimacy of the Autonomous Bougainville Government is currently being threatened. The role of the Autonomous Bougainville Government as the authority on the ground is being usurped by the National Government through our very own National Members of Parliament.

Last month the Bougainville Executive Council rescoped K25 million from the Prime Minister’s K100 million Commitment to Bougainville under the 2023 ABG Budget. The K25 million was sourced from K15 million earmarked for constructing the Tavera Bridge and another K10 million for communication towers for Bougainville. After my Office negotiated with the Australian High Commission, we were informed that DFAT would construct the Tavera Bridge. This made the K15 million redundant hence the need for the funding to be rescoped and reprioritized. Cabinet also saw fit to rescope the K10 million for Communication Towers as we deemed the project not feasible at this time.

Mr. Speaker, in compliance with the law, I duly informed the Prime Minister in person on November 14, 2023, and through official correspondence on November 16, 2023. The PM’s Commitments funds are provided to the ABG as conditional grants under Section 50 of the Organic Law on Peace Building in Bougainville. As such, both governments will consult on the use of these funds through the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB). In instances where the JSB cannot be convened, the Prime Minister and I as respective heads of our governments can consult and agree on the use of these funds. We met and we agreed on the rescope. It is worth noting that at the JSB meeting in Arawa, the Prime Minister publicly announced that the PM’s Commitment would be under the Autonomous Bougainville Government’s control.

Mr. Speaker, the decision by this government to reallocate K25 million for immediate priorities cannot be implemented on instructions of the Regional Member for Bougainville, Hon Peter Tsiamalili Junior. The Regional Member has gone ahead and created a Bougainville Infrastructure Account where his office would manage the K100 million PM’s Commitment. The Prime Minister’s Commitment is a Conditional Grant from the National Government. However, the correct legal interpretation of conditional grants is based on the premise that the ABG and not the National Government nor the four National MPs, is the only legally mandated entity to hold the funds and manage it according to its budgeted priorities.

Mr. Speaker, the law is clear, any changes to conditional grants must be done so through the Joint Supervisory Body which is the entity to resolve all matters pertaining to the administration of the autonomous arrangements on Bougainville. It seems this process has been circumnavigated by the Regional Member and the National Government.

I want to make it clear to this honorable house that my concerns on this matter are not entirely based on the financial implications of having the K100 million diverted to an account managed by the Regional Member. This is a matter of principle and ensuring that the National Government and our National Members of Parliament do not usurp the role of the Autonomous Bougainville Government as the legitimately elected government representing the people of Bougainville. Today they take away funding from us, what do we expect them to do tomorrow? Is the National Government going to use subversive means again to regress Bougainville’s autonomy to the old provincial government system with aid from our National MPs? This is a very dangerous precedent that is being set and can affect our autonomous arrangements on a broader scale.

Mr. Speaker, as President of Bougainville I have always remained civil towards our National MPs and reserved my opinion on their conduct. I respect the mandate given to them by our people as our leaders in the Government of Papua New Guinea. Nevertheless, I will not stand by meekly and allow this government, which is an extension of our people, to be disrespected and deceived by individuals who have yet to prove their loyalty to the people of Bougainville. I have sacrificed so much blood, sweat, and tears to ensure Bougainville is safe from oppressors both foreign and domestic. As long as I am President, I will not allow us to go down that road again because I see this as history repeating itself by having our leaders selling us out.

Mr. Speaker, we all love to talk about patriotism, unity, and Bougainville’s independence yet that all seems to go out the window as soon as we step outside of Bougainville. Some National MPs have even claimed that omitting INDEPENDENCE from their vocabulary is a strategy to get the National Government to support Bougainville’s Independence. If you are playing two sides, then which side are you playing? This is a very critical time in Bougainville’s history, we need leaders committed to our Independence Mission and share the revolutionary ideals of our political forebearers on Bougainville attaining nothing less than political independence and sovereignty. We do not have time for people who have compromised Bougainville’s Independence Mission.

Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members, Bougainville’s future is not a sporting competition where we compete to outdo one another. We should all be working together to ensure our people’s future is socially, economically, and politically secure.

Since the formation of the Autonomous Bougainville Government in 2005, every Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and President of Bougainville has stated one clear fact and that is “Implementing the 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement” is the only way forward to administering Bougainville’s autonomous arrangements and addressing Bougainville’s political future status. This mutual understanding between Bougainville and PNG has since diverged. The legal framework very clearly prescribes the post-referendum processes, but it seems like we have a party that is simply chasing its own tail.

Mr. Speaker, in spite of all these challenges I remain very optimistic of our future. I maintain my faith in our government, our leaders and most importantly our people. Above all I believe in nature, and I believe in our God, the very same God we prayed to during the hardships of the Bougainville War, during the Peace Process and he remains the very God that will deliver Bougainville to its ultimate destiny as an independent sovereign nation.

Merry Christmas and God’s Blessing be with you all during the festive period and the New Year.

Mr. Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.


Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR


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