Bougainville gears up for independence; constituents advised to 'accept change'
Bougainville President Ishmael Toroama said the people must be ready to embrace the sweeping political changes being implemented by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) as it prepares for political independence.
“Change is imminent on Bougainville. The government has set a course for reform and change in our system of government and society and this will have a direct impact on our people,” Toroama said during the launching of the Bougainville Independence Ready Mission Implementation initiative in the Tsitalato Constituency.
Bougainville leaders have set a deadline of 2027 to gain full independence from Papua New Guinea, becoming the world's youngest nation.
"The timeline was agreed to by the two governments during the second consultation in Enga Province earlier this month," ABG said in a press release.
While Papua New Guinea has accepted the result of a 2019 referendum, in which 97.7 percent of Bougainvilleans voted for secession, it has yet to commit to granting the region full independence.
“This change is the change desired by our people when they rejected autonomy and opted for independence during the Referendum in 2019 so you must be ready to support your government,” Toroama said.
“I want to remind Bougainvilleans that the fight for independence is not over. We have simply traded one battlefield for another when we signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement,” Toroama said.
“This battle is one where we do not need weapons but it is a fight where we use our intellect and our ability to unite and progress development on Bougainville to prove that we are ready to be independent," the president added.
According to AFP's report, the power transfer process would culminate in Bougainville assuming "all or any sovereign powers" and an official declaration of independence.
In a press release, the autonomous government said progress on Bougainville’s quest for full independence would require the support of the people through their participation in development and adopting social responsibility standards.
ABG said the timeline for Bougainville’s independence has given momentum to the region’s preparations for political sovereignty through the constituency independence readiness initiative.
This follows the Autonomous Bougainville Government presenting Independence as its position during the first Joint Consultations with the National Government in May this year.
ABG said it has neared the completion of all its Independence Readiness Mission Implementation for the 33 constituencies on Bougainville.
"With Tsitalato Constituency launching its program this week this now leaves the Peit constituency the final constituency to launch its program on Friday," ABG said. "The Suir constituency launched its program this week and the Selau Constituency did theirs last week."
ABG said the regional launches for the Women’s and Ex-combatant’s seats for North Bougainville will be the two final seats to be launched to complete the program throughout Bougainville.