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Toroama: Bougainville Must Achieve Independence In The Next Four Years

by PNG Business News - May 26, 2021

Photo Credit: Autonomous Bougainville Government (2020)

President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, Ishmael Toroama, stated that Bougainville must achieve independence over the next four years, with members of the independent state's parliament being elected by June 2025.

This comment was made by President Toroama as he explained the ABG's official stance as Bougainville starts the first post-referendum consultations with the international community.

President Ishmael Toroama and Prime Minister James Marape recently met with their respective consultation teams to discuss Bougainville's political future.

Following the overwhelming result of the Referendum in 2019, in which 97.7% of Bougainvilleans voted in favour of separation from PNG, the two governments are meeting to negotiate on the results, as mandated by the Bougainville Peace Agreement and Part XIV of the National Constitution.

The systematic consultation process started just 5 months ago, on January 11, when both governments signed the Joint Communique on the Bougainville Referendum Outcome.

“When both governments signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement in August 2001, we committed ourselves to a “deferred 15-year referendum” period.” President Toroama said.

“This was to allow time to our people, on both sides, to heal the wounds of the conflict, and ponder over what we need to find as a final solution for Bougainville and Papua New Guinea,” President Toroama added.

“For those who fought for independence we wanted independence at that time of our negotiations over the Bougainville Peace Agreement; but in all fairness to our people, we were prepared to wait 15 years, to allow our them to have their say, through a free and fair referendum vote, at some later stage,” he said.

President Toroama stated that both governments have worked together in good faith for the past 20 years to enact the BPA with the expectation that a referendum will be held.

In understanding the referendum results, President Toroama stated that Bougainvilleans have clearly opposed greater autonomy, having already existed, observed, served, and witnessed the slow development of autonomy under the existing Bougainville Peace Agreement arrangements for the past 16 years.

He stated that autonomy, under current or future arrangements short of independence, is not a choice for Bougainville's solution.

“All we have done in the last 20 years, whether in the weapons disposal or autonomy space, were intended to bring us closer to this day, when we should consult over the outcome of the referendum, and reach an agreement on the future of Bougainville,” President Toroama said.

“Our position on the future political status of Bougainville is clear and that is independence,” President Toroama said.

References:

Autonomous Bougainville Government Website (18 May 2021). “Toroama Outlines ABG Position.”

Autonomous Bougainville Government Website (18 May 2021). “PM Marape at Joint Consultations.”

RNZ (19 May 2021). “Bougainville's president seeks independence by 2025”.



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