NOOSA – The Papua New Guinea and Bougainville leaders have announced the immediate start of joint consultations on the outcome of Bougainville’s 2019 referendum in which 98% of voters opted for the autonomous province to become independent.
PNG prime minister James Marape and Bougainville president Ishmael Toroama reaffirmed that their governments are committed to the process of consultations on the referendum result.
They agreed that the consultations will be moderated and key on the agenda will be the future political status of Bougainville and the method the national parliament will adopt to endorse this.
They emphasised that, under the Bougainville Peace Agreement of 2001 that ended the civil war of the 1990s, the referendum outcome is subject to ratification by the PNG national parliament.
Ratification would open the gate for both governments to begin planning for Bougainville’s independence.
A failure to ratify the referendum would likely generate significant opposition in Bougainville which could lead to civil disruption in the province.
The leaders agreed that Bougainville had satisfactorily met the conditions relating to weapons disposal and good governance, required by the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
They stated that both governments had previously agreed that the definition of independence was “an independent nation with sovereign powers and laws, recognised under international law … separate from the state of Papua New Guinea.”
Marape and Toroama agreed that the upcoming consultations will be moderated by an appointed moderator and will address key issues on the future political status of Bougainville and the method the national parliament will adopt to endorse this.
Both leaders paid tribute to the late Sir Mekere Morauta for his contributions to the Bougainville peace process and for his role as a signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
They expressed both governments’ sincerity to “continued peace by peaceful means”.