Today we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) that was signed between the people of Bougainville and the Government of Papua New Guinea on August 30, 2001.
The Bougainville Peace Agreement formally ended the Bougainville Crisis and signified the cessation of hostilities between the people of Bougainville and the Government of Papua New Guinea.
It closed one of the darkest chapters of PNG and Bougainville’s history. The BPA set the foundation for peace and opened the way for Bougainville to pursue our aspirations on self-determination.
In the last twenty years our people, our leaders and the Autonomous Bougainville Government have shown great resilience in maintaining our commitment to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
Our endeavor to attain political independence for Bougainville has always been within the parameters of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
Our commitment has given credibility to the process espoused by the BPA by successfully implementing the requirements of the BPA’s three main pillars:
2. Weapons Disposal
We have achieved Autonomy, we have achieved Weapons Disposal and we have successfully held a Referendum with an overwhelming 97.7 percent of Bougainvilleans who have opted for an Independent Sovereign State of Bougainville.
The theme for the 20th Anniversary of the BPA “Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Bougainville Peace Agreement as the Cornerstone of our Independence Mission” is a testament to these achievements.
It also a declaration by our government and our people of our resolve and the journey we have already begun.
We have enjoyed twenty years of peace under the Bougainville Peace Agreement and the autonomous arrangements that created the ABG.
The next five years are going to be critical as the ABG has declared its position to the National Government and we have set a timeline (2025 – 2027) for Bougainville’s final political settlement.
I must thank the Prime Minister Hon. James Marape and the National Government for their continued commitment on the implementation of the BPA, we have come this far in the spirit of friendship and equal partnership.
However, there are outstanding issues such as intergovernmental finance arrangements, drawdown of powers and the joint autonomy review.
In light of this achievable challenges I recognize the Joint Supervisory Body as the appropriate medium to discuss these issues.
In the face of adversity, we have shown courage by defending our land and our people against an oppressive regime and by the same spirit we have proved our valiance to accept peace. Our journey is not yet over, the next chapter in our history requires our people to unite and to continue to work hard to support our government.
History has taught us that peace by peaceful means has been the only answer to Bougainville’s progress. Hence we must embrace the values and principles that promote peace not only for our time but a peace for all time to come on Bougainville.
As a signatory to the Bougainville Peace Agreement and moreover as President of Bougainville I am proud of the progress we have made despite the many challenges that came our way.
I pay tribute to Bougainville’s past and present leadership for their immense contribution to making Bougainville realize its ultimate political future and that is independence.
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
Happy 20th Bougainville Peace Agreement Anniversary Celebrations to you all.
Hon. Ishmael Toroama MHR