Bougainville's tough stance at latest referendum talks

8:22 am on 10 December 2021

The President of Bougainville has taken a tough stance with Papua New Guinea in the latest talks over the independence referendum.

Ishmael Toroama told the third joint consultative meeting that Bougainville has taken the negotiations as far as they can go.

He pleaded with the PNG Prime Minister, James Marape, whom he called his friend, saying 'I appeal to you, it is now time to let my people go."

In the speech Mr Toroama listed the factors that distinguished Bougainville from the rest of PNG.

He spoke of Bougainville's ignored appeal for independence in 1975, skin pigmentation differences, long time links with Solomon Islands, the national government's failure to rein in Bougainville Copper and the government's serious crimes against humanity, and human rights abuses, during the civil war.

The president said the PNG Govt system cannot be trusted to stand for and protect its citizens.

He said against such a backdrop independence is the only option for Bougainville.

Bougainville president Ishmael Toroama.

Photo: Supplied/ Autonomous Bougainville Government

Mr Toroama said he is now calling on the PNG Government to make a clear declaration to these consultations that it is ready to give Bougainville independence, within the time frame set in the Wabag roadmap talks earlier this year.

After those talks Bougainville spoke of a timeline that would lead to independence by 2027 at the latest, but Mr Marape said no such undertaking was made.

He said any decision on Bougainville independence rests with the PNG parliament.

Papua New Guinea's position

Mr Marape, speaking just ahead of the consultations, said the vote on a possible final political settlement for Bougainville, should happen in the National Parliament in 2025.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape and Bougainville's President Ishmael Toroama meet for talks in Port Moresby, 9 November 2020.

PNG Prime Minister James Marape and Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama Photo: PNG PM Media

He said he wants a Papua New Guinea-wide consultation and awareness on the Bougainville issue before the final ratification can be decided.

The NBC reported him saying that while he considers Bougainville a special case in its push to sever political ties with PNG, he wanted the wider country to be consulted.

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