THE joint supervisory body (JSB) meeting, led by the Prime Minister James Marape and the National Executive Council with Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama and his delegates are in Enga for a three-day negotiations on Bougainville’s independence.
After years of secessionist conflict and a long peace process, an overwhelming majority of 98 per cent voted to breakaway from Papua New Guinea in 2019 by a referendum.
A date was set last month by Bougainville’s legislature for its political break-free, which marked 2025, as the year of Bougainville’s independence.
Bougainville’s autonomy was granted in 2005 in which the names the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (Arob) and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) were derived from then.
The Bougainville crisis started in 1989 over Panguna’s environmental damages caused by Bougainville Copper Ltd.
Landowners demanded damages from the company but that didn’t eventuate, which resulted in conflict.
The 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement ended this conflict which led to the deaths of about 20,000 people, or about 10 per cent of Bougainville’s population.
The Government should be careful in its negotiations in the JSB meeting.
There’s never been a precedent, PNG got its Independence just recently without bloodshed, without pain and struggles and without technical difficulties.
We had ours on a golden plate where Australia and the United Nations prepared everything for us.
This breakaway movement is a first test of national sovereignty and security.
For Toroama, there was bloodshed for 10 years and over 20,000 people died. If you know Bougainville history, they have been fighting for a breakaway since the 1960s.
If their demand for independence is successful, it shall definitely be a precedent, which is not promising as a country.
Therefore, proper consideration should be given on this matter.
It is a matter that will certainly threaten our sovereignty in the long run.
Papua New Guinea’s Constitution doesn’t allow for such breakaway movements by any regional/ethnic group in the country.
The preamble of our constitution says: “we the people of PNG are united in one nation.”
Section 1(1) of the Constitution says: “PNG is a sovereign independent state, the Independent State of Papua New Guinea.”
It doesn’t mention anything of secessionist movement.
According to Wikipedia, economic sustainability for Bougainville depends mainly on agriculture, aquaculture and the Panguna mine.
Given the size of the population of 300,000 with a land size of three districts proportionately to its people, Bougainville will do far better than PNG if independence is granted.
It wouldn’t be a problem for self-reliance.