16 Oct 2022

Bougainville fumes as Aust take sides over independence push

9:48 pm on 16 October 2022
Ishmael Toroama, president of Bougainville

The President of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama Photo: Supplied/ FB -Autonomous Bougainville Government

The President of Bougainville is furious at what he sees as Australia taking sides against it on the independence question.

Ishmael Toroama has issued a statement saying Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles has made clear that Canberra would back whatever position the PNG Government reach on Bougainville's independence aspirations.

Bougainville's Government is committed to achieving independence by 2027 at the latest with progress expected in the next year.

Toroama said since the end of the Bougainville Civil War, Australia had maintained a neutral position on the matter.

Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Richard Marles speaks at the Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on June 11, 2022. (Photo by Roslan RAHMAN / AFP)

Australian deputy prime minister Richard Marles Photo: AFP

He said this is the first time Australia has clearly come up in support of Port Moresby.

Toroama said this makes clear why Bougainville's requests for help with its independence preparations have been ignored.

"I would like to remind the Australian Government that it was they who instigated the Bougainville Crisis through their involvement with Rio Tinto when they suppressed the rights of the people of Bougainville."

"It was the Australian Government who trained and armed the Papua New Guinea Defence to wage war on the citizens of Bougainville and it was they who supplied gunships to wreak havoc and mayhem on Bougainville," he said.

"What we are witnessing right now is simply history repeating itself where the Australian Government throws its support behind the Government of Papua New Guinea to destabilise yet again Bougainville's right to self-determination."

Toroama called Marles statements veiled threats and a clear sign that Australia, as a signatory of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, will no longer remain impartial in implementing the provisions of the agreement.

The Bougainville Peace Agreement spells out a process of healing and a way forward for Bougainville and PNG through a peace-by-peaceful means approach which is based on the core values of our Melanesian traditions and cultures.

This is not something Toroama believes the Australian Government would have an understanding of.