I acknowledge the presence of the Prime Minister, Honorable James Marape, the respective Ministers of Autonomous Bougainville Government and the National Government, Departmental Heads and members of the Joint Technical Team. I also welcome our development partners and international friends who are present with us this morning.
I also make special mention of Moderator of the Consultations, His Excellency the Honorable Bertie Ahern. Despite his absence at the three joint consultations due to the COVID 19 pandemic his advice and guidance through the United Nations proved invaluable.
I am very thankful also to the United Nations for their continued support on Bougainville and acknowledge their presence here this morning.
Prime Minister, from the outset I must commend you and your government’s unwavering support to the Bougainville Peace Process through the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
It is a process that you inherited from your predecessors and is more than half a century old dating all the way back to before the dawn of Papua New Guinea’s Independence in 1975. Nevertheless, you have shown great foresight in understanding its historical context and the current political processes on the independence aspirations of the people of Bougainville.
The successful outcome of the 2019 Bougainville Referendum is a testament to the mutual cooperation between the National Government and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. As the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea who oversaw the successful outcome of the 2019 Referendum, it is only befitting that you are here today to set the final path towards Bougainville’s political settlement that reflects the 97.7% of Bougainvilleans who opted for independence during the referendum.
Through the three Joint Bougainville Post Referendum Consultations we have jointly developed a decisive path on the future political status of Bougainville. We have jointly agreed on a timeline (not before 2025 and no later than 2027) and a roadmap for the ratification of the referendum results in the National Parliament. Finally, we jointly agreed on the documented record of the three consultations now known as the Era Kone Covenant that we signed on April 5, 2022.
Formally known as the The Era Kone Covenant on finalization of the Bougainville Referendum on Independence the Era Kone Covenant;
- Captures the outcomes of the three post referendum joint consultations,
- Ensures the outcomes of the joint consultations are tabled in the 11th Parliament in 2023,
- Commits both Governments to jointly formulate a report to brief the 11th Parliament on its role to give effect to Section 342 of the National Constitution, in this case a report on the three Bougainville Joint Post Referendum Consultations outcomes.
- Provides for the respective executive councils of both Governments to make Constitutional Regulations, prescribing all matters that are necessary for carrying out and giving effect to the Era Kone Covenant in accordance with Section 349 of the National Constitution. The Constitutional Regulations will map out the protocols of the ratification process.
- The Constitutional Regulations cannot be amended or repealed by the National Government except with approval of the Bougainville Executive Council in accordance with the Bougainville Constitution and the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
The Era Kone Covenant has just been endorsed by the National Executive Council and the Bougainville Executive Council. This formally concludes the process of the post referendum consultations between both governments. A report on the outcomes of the Joint Consultations will be furnished by the Joint Technical Team to brief the 11th Parliament in 2023. Henceforth, the Era Kone Covenant will act as a guide to successive Joint Supervisory Body meetings.
The Era Kone Covenant triggers the next important stage in the Bougainville Peace Process and this is the drafting of the Constitutional Regulations. The Constitutional Regulations will chart the course for the ratification process by the National Parliament while taking into account the referendum results and the Post Bougainville Referendum Consultation Report. In hindsight the Constitutional Regulations will enable the Ratification Process to be an all-inclusive democratic process that will ensure considerations are given to the people of Bougainville as well as the state of union of Papua New Guinea.
Article 1 (iii) of the Era Kone Covenant recommends that the Joint Legal Technical Working Group immediately commence drafting the Constitutional Regulations. I am hopeful that this will commence as soon as the conclusion of this special JSB Meeting.
Prime Minister, my technical team have taken the liberty of formulating a working draft of the Constitutional Regulations. This draft can be used as the baseline for the Joint Technical Team in creating and finalizing the joint Constitutional Regulations that will be presented to both our executive governments for endorsement. As a measure of good faith and mutual understanding I would like to propose that our technical teams use my government’s proposed draft to immediately begin work on the Constitutional Regulations.
Prime Minister, I have a moral responsibility to the people of Bougainville and the twenty thousand 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 Papua New Guinea 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 many progress that we have achieved in the last 19 months.
I look forward to our discussions during this Joint Supervisory Body Meeting.
God Bless Papua New Guinea and Bougainville.
Hon. Ishmael Toroama, MHR