NOOSA – In its first 80 days, the Autonomous Bougainville Government under president Ishmael Toroama has secured a number of benchmarks.
Since September’s swearing-in of Ishmael Toroama as the fourth president of Bougainville, he has been focused on realigning the government’s priorities for developing the region and making it ready for independence.
“In my inauguration speech, I said I expected ministers to take their cue from my priorities and implement them through respective department plans,” Toroama said in a statement.
He heralded a return of the Bougainville capital to Arawa, which was relinquished during the civil war of the 1990s.
On the matter of Bougainville independence, approved by 98% of voters in a referendum last year, Toroama said that while consultations had been slowed down because of the national political situation, independence preparations are at an advanced stage.
The government has recently launched the Manetai limestone project, the Tonolei agriculture project and registered the Bana Special Economic Zone.
It has also encouraged dialogue with the Konnou and Tonu factions to encourage their reintegration into Bougainville affairs.
It will soon begin to repossess government assets in Arawa in Central Bougainville in an attempt to reestablish government services in the former capital.
Most government functions are currently centralised on Buka Island, in the north.
“Before the government can establish offices in Arawa, residents must start releasing government assets,” Toroama said.
“These include houses and land that are currently occupied.
“We must be ready to allow our government to reestablish itself in Arawa.”
In an important move, a law and justice office was opened in the town last week.
Toroama said law and order is a key factor in enabling Arawa to attract development from private and government sectors.
He issued a stern warning to law breakers that his government will not tolerate challenges to the government and its laws.