NOOSA – The Papua New Guinea and Bougainville governments endorsed the Era Kone Covenant at a special meeting of their joint supervisory body in Port Moresby on Friday.
And Bougainville president Ishmael Toroama has spoken of his “moral responsibility to the people of Bougainville to ensure political independence is granted to Bougainville”.
The covenant brings together the outcomes of last year’s summits between the governments in Kokopo, Wabag and Port Moresby.
The covenant sets out the mechanism that the national parliament will adopt to ratify the results of the 2019 Bougainville referendum in which there was an astounding 99.7% vote for independence.
Friday’s meeting was attended by Toroama, prime minister James Marape of PNG as well as ministers and departmental heads of both governments.
Toroama commended the Marape government for its “unwavering support of the Bougainville peace process” and its “great foresight in understanding the historical context and the current political processes on the independence aspirations of the people of Bougainville”.
He said the meetings had “jointly developed a decisive path on the future political status of Bougainville”, nominating the agreement on timing (not before 2025, not later than 2027) and the roadmap for the ratification of the referendum results being pf particular importance.
Toroama said constitutional regulations will now be drafted to chart the course for the ratification of the referendum by the PNG parliament.
“I am hopeful that this will commence as soon as the conclusion of this special meeting,” he said.
Marape gave his assurance that his government will continue to work within the spirit of the peace agreement.
“I just want to assure Bougainville that it doesn’t matter who sits in this chair in three months’ time, the work for Bougainville has been set and the work we have set will continue on,” Marape said, alluding to imminent elections in PNG.
President Toroama showed he was ahead of the game by tabling draft constitutional regulations to be used as a baseline for further discussion.
“I would like to propose that our technical teams use my government’s proposed draft to immediately begin work on the constitutional regulations,” he said.
“I have a moral responsibility to the people of Bougainville and the 20,000 lives lost in the Bougainville Crisis to ensure political independence is granted to Bougainville.
“However, I understand that you also have a responsibility to the people of PNG to preserve the sovereignty of the nation.
“In spite of our differing views on Bougainville’s future political status I am grateful that we share a mutual respect for each other and our own views.
“I believe this trust and respect is the foundation of the progress we have achieved in the last 19 months.”