The recently concluded Joint Supervisory Body Meeting in Enga Province between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the National Government of Papua New Guinea ended with both parties agreeing to a roadmap to a final political settlement in the year 2027.
The roadmap has several indicators which both parties need to resolve before 2027.
Bougainville wants independence but the PNG Government says there has to be a nationwide consultation and amendments to the constitution to allow for any final political settlement.
Bougainville’s desire for independence is a long-standing issue, even before Papua New Guinea became an independent Sovereign Nation on September 16, 1975, the then Bougainville Provincial Assembly announced a unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) under the Republic of North Solomons on September 1st, 1975, obviously, that didn’t get recognition but it stands in history as one of the moves made to separate from the colonial powers.
Colonial Powers had Bougainville annexed between Germany and Britain until Australian rule in the early 1900s, Bougainville always had plans for Secession from the Colonial Powers, the idea for secession also fuelled the 10-year Civil war on the Island.
Since the ceasefire and the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement in 2001 Autonomy had been achieved, weapons disposal, and the Referendum Vote.
The recently concluded Joint Supervisory Body meeting a joint-government consultation on various issues which will determine a political settlement for the Autonomous Bougainville Government was held in Enga Province and saw both parties agreeing to a road map, a timeline of sorts, with the deadline as 2027.
The roadmap has several key indicators which must be achieved by both parties if there is to be a positive outcome for Bougainville.
Most see it as independence looming in 2027 but Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea James Marape said the 2027 date is the proposed date by the Autonomous Bougainville Government and that the PNG Government has accepted the date as a tentative one
The PNG Government kept using the term Political Settlement which in their case refers to a final agreed outcome for the benefit of both Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
The Autonomous Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama, said in his opening speech of the second Post Referendum Consultations that Independence has always been the final ultimatum for Bougainville.
But Prime Minister Marape says that the word ‘Independence’ was used as a referendum choice. It does not mean the PNG Government has automatically agreed to that move.
During the first Post Referendum Joint Consultations in Kokopo the two leaders jointly committed to ensuring that the consultation process is guided by the principles of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
Ratifying Bougainville’s Independence is the next process and that is what the two Governments are working on to consult on the definition and process of ratification
Also to identify constitutional issues relating to the referendum result and the tabling
The team from Bougainville came prepared to table a compromised date of 2027 as the date of Bougainville Independence, it is still early days but many say Bougainville is certain that all can be achieved in the coming years in preparation for Independence.
But a political settlement can only happen for Bougainville when all parliamentary processes have been complied with, which Prime Minister Marape says must include a nationwide consultation and Constitutional amendments reflecting the result of that consultation.
President of Bougainville Ishmael Toroama told the gathered that Bougainville is ready to take part in a nationwide consultation for the benefit of a positive result.
So the pathway to a political settlement for Bougainville is clear set by an agreed roadmap, with continued consolations on the horizon towards the final outcome in 2027, Papua New Guineas’ concern has always been about national unity as mention more than often by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea.
A nationwide consultation and amendments to the constitution, and the ratification process still needs to happen, both parties are still working on workable solutions, but having to agree to a timeline that includes set indicators, gives hope to both Papua New Guinea and Bougainville of reaching a final settlement on Bougainville independence.
For the People of Bougainville, the 97.7% referendum landslide vote for Independence is an indicator that independence is inevitable for the region, the only way forward now is to have the support of Papua New Guinea.
Bougainville also still needs to economically support itself and also improve its public service machinery and provide positive outcomes towards the date of 2027.