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'Let our people go,' Toroama tells Marape

Marape Toroama
Ishmael Toroama (right) has told James Marape that PNG has not honoured commitments under the 20-year old Bougainville Peace Agreement


NOOSA – Bougainville’s president Ishmael Toroama has told Papua New Guinea prime minister James Marape “in no uncertain terms” that it is the resolve of the Bougainville people for an independent Bougainville.”

In a statement to the Bougainville parliament on Tuesday, Toroama said he had “made it clear that it was time to let our people go to be free as an independent sovereign nation.

And he said Bougainville was still experiencing political and economic sanctions by the government of Papua New Guinea despite the Bougainville Peace Agreement signed 20 years ago that ended the decade-long civil war.

“We have taken the consultation avenue as far as we can,” he said. “The timing is now right to address head-on the long historical issue of independence as expressed by 97.7% of Bougainvilleans through the 2019 referendum result.

Toroama said he told Marape at a two-day consultation with the national government in Port Moresby last week  that “the issue of independence remains the greatest unifying factor for our people and government.

"It is a journey that we must all walk together and accomplish together.”

He explained that the Bougainvilleans’ “long yearning for independence from Papua New Guinea” was something “unique only to Bougainville and this sets us apart from the rest of the country.

“In the last 50 years our calls for self-determination have been ignored and we have had to concede to the political will of foreign powers.

“The people of Bougainville have had our rights suppressed through the exploitation of our resources, we had a war waged on our people and we are still experiencing political and economic sanctions by the government of Papua New Guinea despite the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the autonomous arrangements.

“Our message was clear; it is time to let the people of Bougainville to be free.”

Toroama complained that joint meetings between PNG and Bougainville officials “continue to be impeded by bureaucratic red tape.”

“Despite numerous resolutions passed by both governments we are still trying to resolve perennial matters that have been in limbo for as long as the existence of the Autonomous Bougainville Government.

“I informed the prime minister that I was disappointed at the complacency and delays in fast tracking matters.”

Toroama referred to major issues including the outstanding restoration and development grant, revenue from fishing in Bougainville waters, transfer of Bougainville Copper Limited shares, tax remittances and the much protracted draw down of powers and functions to the Bougainville Autonomous Government.

“The ABG’s inability to exploit the full potential of its autonomy arrangement has created a scenario where Bougainville continues to remain dependent on the national government,” Toroama said.

“This induced dependency syndrome has rendered autonomy virtually impotent on Bougainville.

“While this is intentional or not, it questions the commitment of the national government to implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement.”

Toroama said the timeline for Bougainville’s political settlement at sometime between 2025 and 2027 calls for a whole of government approach to our independence readiness.

“The timeline demands that we have a viable economy that is robust and ready to support our development needs,” he said.

“It demands that our government institutions are capable of implementing government directives to provide efficient service delivery and development for our people.

“It demands that we have a government that promotes democracy, transparency and accountability. Above all, peace and good order must prevail throughout Bougainville.”

Toroama said he would no longer tolerate corruption and complacency in the Bougainville Public Service.

“I have given the administration ample time to institute reforms but I see that people continue to resist change. Heads of departments should take note that the time has come for change in the public service.”

He said new public service minister Joseph Mona had been tasked to eradicate corruption and improve efficiency.

“The independence agenda now demands us to make practical decisions that are in the best interests of our people,” Toroama said.

Explaining that a Bougainville Constitutional Planning Committee will soon be established, he said that the people “all share a deep appreciation of the facts behind our call for independence. It is one agenda that rallies our people and this government in union.”


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Lindsay F Bond

Its' like "Blind Freddy can tell" that folk of Bougainville are less than impressed with their lot within PNG, but that is not the only report a "Blind Freddy" has given.
Fact is in Italy, at international competition on cocoa, Bougainville cocoa proved supreme. "A group of international judges made the final selection based on 12 criteria that included bitterness, astringency, acidity, and floral and woody notes. All judging was blind with samples only assigned a number."
The headline is "PNG's Bougainville cocoa wins gold at the 2021 Cocoa of Excellence awards".
Not only Blind Freddy, let us also see that again, "Bougainville cocoa wins gold".
It's not about quantity, it's about quality.

Lindsay F Bond

Whether it was British or any other nation that caused village after village to join in conversation about who is in charge and how each can be involved and what more benefit can be won, is now long past.
A paramount legacy may be what education has brought.
Yet along with science, that includes knowing and feeling the effect of ills of others who more or less have charge of the current governance.
Here, I venture the idea that people of the Torres Strait had near zero choice but long ago did welcome a cessation of (internal) hostility. Today within a larger economy (Australian), they derive benefit perhaps more directly than might be possible via the United Nations, nor of internal resources.
Strangely perhaps, one example for consideration is the continuity of Australians with the odd notion of need of constitutional monarchy, and that with a nation at almost extreme distance on this planet.
This is not to surmise any gratitude by folk at Bougainville for folk not of Bougainville, and in defense of thoughts of "going your own way", it can be demonstrated that forty years of governance of PNG has brought no significance of revision in societal education while overloading on resentment.
Yet, comment from me is only to celebrate what learning provided and express hope for secure and fortunate future.

Kindin Ongugo

James Marape uttered so much soon after deposing his former boss through a vote of no confidence. He mentioned Bougainville independence. It is now a daily conversation.

The 2022 national elections should be a reference by the rest of PNG on Bougainville independence.

If James Marape is returned with an absolute majority, a number close to the number of MPs who sided with him during the VONC in 2017 he then he can fast track independence which would be sad.

I prefer we remain united as we are now.

We can change the constitution so Bougainville and the rest of the New Guinea Islands should automatically occupy the deputy prime minister's post when someone from the mainland gets the prime ministerial post.

If Bougainville goes, New Ireland and New Britain will be seriously considering independence as well because they do not trust the majority of people from the mainland.

Dr Momia Teariki-Tautea | Another Bougainvillean who voted for Independence

One has to be Bougainvillean to appreciate the sentiments.

The people of Bougainville have always sought autonomy and overwhelmingly confirmed this at referendum.

President Toroama’s call to “let my people go “ is the people’s call.

PM James Marape knows that, as well as the other 110 members of the PNG parliament.

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