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Unity in diversity: why we’re still together 44 years on

James Marape
James Marape - "Let's show the world that Melanesian consensus can provide answers to PNG's internal problems"

| Edited extract from an address by prime minister Marape to the Bougainville House of Representatives, Wednesday 11 September

BUKA – Forty-four years ago, we claimed independence from colonial rule over our land and resources.

Yet some legacies and shackles we still try to get out of today show that both Papua New Guinea and Bougainville are not truly independent in terms of economic strength.

Bougainville and the crisis we had is, in my simple view, an example of the bad and sad legacies our people on both sides of the Bismarck Sea have to live with due to political and economic structures we inherited before 1975 that are not respectful of Melanesian values.

In my humble view, if our country is still dependent on foreign aid and grants, dependent on borrowed money because our economy is not strong, then our claim to be politically independent is of no use.

For what use is political independence if our people and our different layers of government cannot translate money from their land in mineral resources, petroleum and gas, agriculture, forestry and marine resources into cash to improve our people’s livelihood?

This is the indigenous tribal people’s own land and resources yet an adequate transfer of wealth to our people has not taken place.

Today I come to your House of Representative to firstly say sorry to you if the national government in Waigani has not fully recognised your ownership of your inherent rights over your resources; a principle in my view can never be compromised if we are to truly remain a country of a thousand tribes that remain united in diversity.

Bougainville continues to teach Waigani how we must respect indigenous rights and I come here to hear you more fully and also to lend you not one hand for shaking hands but both hands for work.

And more work we must do. We owe it to fallen past citizens and citizens of now and the future to ensure improved infrastructure to sustain the economy of Bougainville and PNG.

We all know there is much ground to cover in terms of trust and honouring outstanding work. I am here to rebuild that trust capital by giving you resource support to ensure work is done, within the context of national affordability and Bougainville agreements.

Over many years and many agreements, due to many factors much remains unfulfilled and my government’s commitment is to fully ascertain that and work towards not retiring past commitments but developing all enabling infrastructure to sustain all facets of a modern diversified economy including my personal focus on agriculture and fisheries.

To this end, I have the pleasure of announcing our approval of a K1 billion facility for the next 10 years to be apportioned as K100 million every financial year for key economic enablers in the region.

Economic independence must precede every other conversation, lest we forget the rest of PNG and the Pacific neighbours around us who gain political independence but are still struggling economically.

Our national government will make landmark legislative reforms that will unbundle resources locked in all corners of the 462,840 square kilometres our country.

My new generation of national leaders, those who helped me change government, want to transfer resources to our people in provinces and to you here in the special region of Bougainville.

In the case of Bougainville, our national government will transfer full revenue raising powers to the regional government and will assist monitor your collections in fisheries, forestry, agriculture and other industries that you Bougainvilleans choose to undertake.

Our nation is a nation of many hundreds of tribes who each speak different languages and unity in diversity is the reason we are still together 44 years on.

Let’s show the world that Melanesian consensus can provide answers to internal problems and I look forward to working with you all.

May I end with the passage of Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:9 in which He says ‘blessed are the peace makers for they shall be call children of God’.

Let’s make peace, I am willing to give what belongs to you back to you in the context of national unity.


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Gideon Dendo

A speech that has meaning and power.

Daniel Kumbon

Yes Michael, its really impressive and unifying. Wonder what the people are thinking.

Michael Dom

Impressive speech.

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