BUKA – Discussions were “tough”, Bougainville president Ishmael Toroama has revealed after last week’s top level talks in Wabag with Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape.
Describing the leaders’ meeting in Wabag as “tough”, Toroama told a public meeting in Buka that Bougainville’s independence must be settled so the autonomous province can move forward.
He said the Bougainville high level negotiating team had been ready for the talks and had “stood firm in what the people voted for, and that is the independence of Bougainville,” Toroama said.
“We agreed to a compromise date of not earlier than 2025 and no later than 2027, and no-more.”
The president called on the Bougainville people to support his government by contributing in whatever way they can towards preparing for independence.
“I took the risk of compromising on 2027 and want the people to make sure they support their leaders on this mission,” he said.
He said the Wabag talks had been successful, even though he had complained to Marape that the PNG government team was avoiding using the word ‘independence’ in official documents.
“The reluctance in using the word ‘independence’ by the PNG side was a denial of historical facts,” he told Marape.
“It is against the spirit of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, and the amendments in the PNG constitution, to now bury the independence word at this late hour of our journey.”
Referring to the 20,000 lives it had cost, Toroama said the 1988-1998 Bougainville war had been about independence.
Toroama announced that the next top level meeting of what is called the Joint Supervisory Body will be held at Buin in South Bougainville.
“Last week was the first time for the Bougainville leaders to set foot in the Highlands region,” he said.
“It was also good for the people of Enga to witness the consultation process.”
On another issue, he warned that, if the Bougainville government is given the power, it will ban Facebook and other social media platforms which are continuing to promote issues that are not good for the region.
“They are places where people with fake names continue to create issues that can create disunity in a post-conflict area like Bougainville,” he said.