WE BOUGAINVILLEANS GATHER TOGETHER TODAY TO REMEMBER THE REMARKABLE THINGS THAT WE HAVE ACHIEVED TOGETHER THROUGH THE BOUGAINVILLE PEACE AGREEMENT.
WE ALSO GATHER TO REFLECT ABOUT THE MANY CHALLENGES THAT STILL FACE US AS WE IMPLEMENT THAT AGREEMENT.
It is six years ago today that the first Autonomous Bougainville Government was sworn in, on the 16th of June 2005. Quite rightly we celebrate that, as a significant day in Bougainville’s history because it marks a major step in the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
Bougainvilleans, this is your day!
As President of Bougainville, I am proud that we Bougainvilleans have reached this sixth anniversary. In many ways, this is an amazing achievement. I congratulate all Bougainvilleans.
But it is also important to ask why this anniversary is such a great achievement.
To answer that question, we only need to think back to where we were in 1996 and early 1997. The conflict in Bougainville was intense. The BRA and the BRF were killing one another. So were the BRA and the PNG forces. The Bougainville economy was almost dead. The Kokopau to Buin trunk road had more holes than surface. Most schools and health centres were closed. Thousands had died. Many more were injured or traumatized. Over 60,000 Bougainvilleans lived in care centres.
No other place in the Pacific Islands region has experienced conflict so terrible as the Bougainville conflict.
But we were able to end that conflict through a peace process that began in the middle of 1997.
We Bougainvilleans can all be proud of the fact that it was our leaders that initiated the peace process. It began with meetings between opposing Bougainville leaders held in Cairns, Australia, in 2005. Then when we had difficulties resuming those meetings, the New Zealand Government helped us by bringing large numbers of Bougainvilleans to Burnham Military Barracks in New Zealand, in July 1997. It was in Burnham that we agreed that we would work together for peace. It was some months later, in October 1997, that we began talks with the PNG Government.
That’s where the peace process started. And four years after it began, we signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement, on 30 August 2001.
We can be especially proud of the achievements of the peace process, and of the Bougainville Peace Agreement. Compared to most peace processes in other parts of the world, our peace process has been very successful.
One major reason I have for saying that, is because in a majority of peace processes around the world, within 5 or 10 years of the peace process beginning, the conflict resumes or a new major conflict occurs.
That is the experience in so many African countries, as well as Asia and the Middle East. Even in our own region we have seen how easily conflict can be repeated once it has started – we only need to think of Fiji, where there have now seen three major military coups since 1987.
Yet in Bougainville, it is now 14 years since the peace process began. And so far, the conflict has not begun again.
Yes, it is true that we have localized conflict and killing in the Konnou area of south Bougainville. That is a terrible thing. It must be stopped. But it is also true that the Konnou conflict is localized. It does not involve a resumption of the awful generalized conflict that we experienced from 1988 to 1997.
So indeed, we can be proud that the violent conflict between PNG and the BRA, and between BRF and BRA, is over. But at the same time, because we have experienced that terrible nine years of conflict to 1997, we know the danger of major conflict. We know how easily such conflict can start. So we know that we must do everything in our power to make sure that such conflict never does begin again.
Our main basis for our joint efforts to make sure that we avoid such conflict is the Bougainville Peace Agreement. That Agreement, so painstakingly negotiated by so many people over such a long time, was the basis that was agreed, to finally end the conflict.
The Agreement sets out our goals, and a broad road map or game plan for achieving our goals.
If ending the conflict was the main goal, there were other goals that were essential to ending the conflict. The most important of these, stated clearly in the Agreement, was “to empower Bougainvilleans to solve their own problems, manage their own affairs and work to realize their aspirations”.
We agreed to do that initially through the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Later, the basis for empowering Bougainvilleans to manage their own affairs could be reconsidered, as a result of the agreed referendum on independence for Bougainvilleans.
But it was also clear that the choice that we would make in the referendum on the future political status of Bougainville would depend very much on how well the Autonomous Bougainville Government worked. It was always clear that it would be essential that autonomy should work well. Only then would Bougainvilleans have a real choice in the referendum. It must be a choice between:
• on the one hand, true autonomy that has a proven track record of operating in practical ways to allow Bougainvilleans to manage their own affairs and solve their own problems, and has actually delivered real benefits to the people; and
• on the other hand, future independence, and the possibility that it may deliver benefits to our people.
Today I am calling on all Bougainvilleans, and the Government of PNG, to work hard, and to work together, to deliver the vision of the Peace Agreement.
All of us sometimes get frustrated that the progress of implementing the Peace Agreement is far too slow. I know that I am often very unhappy about this.
But its good, on this 6th Anniversary, to remind ourselves that although we have a long way to go, we have in fact already achieved quite a lot.
The main conflict has been ended for 14 years. We have established our own government – the ABG. We have even run three Bougainville-wide elections – in 2005, 2008 and 2010. Our schools and health centres are running again. Some new powers and functions are in the process of being transferred to the ABG from the National Government.
The Bougainville economy that was almost dead in 1997 has burst into life again. Cocoa and copra dominate in Buka and the north, and to a lesser extent in Central and South. Gold production contributes in central and south. Cocoa, copra and gold money is the lifeblood of PMVs, stores, building and earth-moving, and many other businesses.
The economy has been helped by donors, especially cocoa rehabilitation and trunk-road upgrading and maintenance by AusAID. Japanese constructed bridges will contribute too.
We have two big hydroelectric projects about to be established in Central and North Bougainville by PNG Sustainable Development and PNG Power. They will be just the first steps towards hydro-electrification of the whole of Bougainville, both rural and urban areas.
Some of this activity began even before the ABG was established. Some has also happened since the first ABG election in 2005.
But the strong emphasis on building peace through economic prosperity is something that I proudly point to as the special direction of the Momis-led ABG. We must free ourselves from the dependency syndrome.
This is a major change. We work to build on the good foundations established since the early stages of the peace process. We aim to spread economic development widely and fairly.
We need the people who are missing out on development to get a fare share of economic opportunities. That means must work for much more development in south Bougainville, the mountains of central Bougainville, the west coast, and the atolls.
Hydro-power and better roads and bridges in central and south Bougainville will help. But we also need new cash crops, and new sources of employment and business opportunities for people in all parts of Bougainville.
That is why my government is working so hard to establish a major oil palm project in Torokina (an area of least economic development). That is why we are working with AusAID towards early restoration of Arawa Town. We are establishing a special economic zone at Kokopau. We are actively seeking investors for a wide variety of projects involving Bougainvillean partners.
Working for peace based on equitable economic development is a new direction for Bougainville. It’s one that will take time to bring the benefits that we all so much want to see. But in the first year of my government we have made a start. I am confident we shall see much more development in the new direction in the next four years.
In that first year we have done a great deal of the complex work that absolutely must be done if we are to agree, amongst Bougainvilleans, on whether mining should be re-established.
In particular, my government is working with the landowner communities in the six main leases associated with the Panguna mine to establish landowner associations. The landowner communities have agreed they want their own associations to represent them in all discussions about the future of Panguna. We are clear that landowner communities must be fully involved in all decisions about whether Panguna re-opens, or whether any other new mining project is established.
But we are also clear that these are decisions for Bougainvilleans – for the ABG, landowners affected by possible projects, and the wider Bougainvillean community. They are not decisions to be made by little groups of foreigners with just a few landowners who are manipulated by foreign interests. That is a recipe for corruption and conflict. I will come back to that issue a little later in my speech today.
We are engaging with BCL and with the National Government about preparations for negotiations about Panguna.
We held a 3 day workshop at the end of March to help the ABG leaders and public servants evaluate the main options on the future of mining.
The ABG under my leadership is clear that if the ABG and Bougainvillean communities agree to renewed mining at Panguna, or other new mining projects anywhere else, it must bring maximum benefits to our people. That will involve not just a fair share of mining revenues. It means much more.
Bougainvilleans must get as many mining jobs as possible, and access to business opportunities. If we are to have mining, it must provide the basis for the most broad-based economic activity possible. That is what we will aim for when discussions on Panguna (or any other new project) begin. That is also an important reason why we will not tolerate corrupt mining interests that try to establish projects without working through the ABG – for we know that only careful negotiation and evaluation will ensure that we achieve fair and equitable mining agreements.
The changes we Bougainvilleans have achieved since the peace process began, and since autonomy started have not been easy. And we still face many major problems.
Those problems include:
• very limited amounts of government revenue,
• a weak Bougainville Administration and Bougainville Police Service,
• corruption in financial management,
• that localized violent conflict in parts of south Bougainville,
• the presence of weapons in many parts of Bougainville,
• and so on.
To deal with these and similar problems, much more work is needed. My government is focused on these issues, and is working to achieve major changes.
But let’s be clear. All of the changes we need depend a great deal on achieving equitable economic development. Even the local conflict in South Bougainville happens because many of the young men involved have no employment or business opportunities. So economic development is vital for ending conflict and achieving weapons disposal. Development is also necessary for the ABG to have revenue needed to build a good public service and Bougainville Police Service.
With the K500 million for high impact projects promised by the National Government in February, much can be achieved. But it is essential that the projects are determined by the ABG. Only then will the people of Bougainville be empowered to manage their own affairs and realize their aspirations, as promised by the Bougainville Peace Agreement and in accordance with the Principle of Subsidiarity.
With more support from the National Government, and from our donor partners, I am confident that we will rapidly move to the point where we will no longer need PNG and donor support. Instead the Bougainville economy will generate the revenues needed for our sustainable government and development.
All Bougainvilleans must work with the ABG so that we continue to solve the difficult problems that face us, and so that we build peace based on equitable economic development.
Before I finish I want to talk more about the challenges ahead of us. While we have achieved much, we all know that there are still dangers ahead of us. Although we can be proud that we are one of the few conflicts which has not resumed within 5 to 10 years after initial peace, there are risks that serious and widespread conflict could resume in Bougainville. We must be aware of those risks if we are to avoid them.
Major risk factors include:
• That localized armed conflict, which has already spread in south Bougainville, and could easily become much wider conflict;
• The many weapons in Bougainville, which could also easily be used to generate wider conflict;
• Unequal development, where particular groups of people are left out, and become angry;
• Corrupt development, especially things like corrupt mining operations, where outside interests make special deals with a few local leaders or landowners, causing conflicts amongst people in the area of the development.
We must be aware of these problems. These are among the things that could prevent us from taking the unique opportunity that we have given ourselves through the Peace Agreement.
Unlike the rest of PNG, and unlike other countries in our region, the Peace Agreement gives us Bougainvilleans the right to establish structures of government that enable us to “manage our own affairs”, to realize our own aspirations.
When we negotiated the Peace Agreement, the Bougainville leaders were clear that we did not want to follow the way things were being done by governments in the rest of PNG. That meant that we wanted to establish Government that worked in the interests of our people. We wanted government that was honest and accountable to our people. We wanted government committed to achieving equitable development.
The Agreement also gave us a very tight time-line to work with. We had to try to achieve these things through our autonomous government in just 10 to 15 years – in that short space of time before a referendum MUST be held.
And although I am proud of the things I have mentioned that we have achieved already, we all know that its nowhere near enough. We have only moved part of the way towards the kind of government we want. And we face dangers that we will be blocked from making more significant progress.
We must work now to end these major dangers.
For example, we must agree that the corrupt foreigners trying to work with small groups of local landowners must be stopped. I think most of them need to be kicked out of Bougainville. I am calling on all patriotic Bougainvilleans to work with me to get rid of the corrupt foreign mining interests that refuse to work with the ABG.
Another thing we must work on is ending the conflict in south Bougainville and disposing of weapons all over Bougainville.
The problem of local conflict worries me deeply. I know that many who are involved have been damaged and traumatized by the many years of conflict since 1988. They are involved because they have little or no education and so little chance of employment or business opportunities. So they use guns and violence to give themselves status and income.
While we can understand and sympathise with what has led them to use guns, we cannot allow them to continue to do that. What they are doing has the potential to destroy what we have achieved so far through our peace process.
It is vital that we end the conflict and dispose of the weapons.
Instead, we must use the new weapons – these are the weapons of equitable economic development.
Today, I am offering a challenge to the young men and to the older leaders of the main groups that started the conflict in south Bougainville. My challenge is to put aside violence and weapons. Because I recognize that many of you have kept using weapons because you have not had opportunities that would allow you employment or business activity, I want to offer you those opportunities.
Right now I am working with foreign governments and business organizations to set up advanced technical training opportunities in Bougainville. But that is something for the medium and long term.
For the immediate future, I want to find places for members of those armed groups in the South to get training at places like Don Bosco, in Port Moresby, and the small scale mining college in Bulolo. I will be making efforts to contact the leaders of these armed groups to sort out the practical arrangements for such training as a matter of urgency.
Finally, I want to remind the National Government that in signing the Bougainville Peace Agreement, it committed itself to working with Bougainville leaders to enable us to solve our own problems, manage our own affairs, and achieve our aspirations.
That means putting the decisions in the hands of the representatives of Bougainvilleans in the ABG. That means working with us to transfer powers rapidly. That means giving us significant revenue. The high impact project money must come to us, and be spent on what we decide. It must not be held in Port Moresby. We need transfers of both powers and revenue NOW. In that way we can achieve real autonomy before the referendum timetable runs out. As I keep saying, only then will our people have a real choice in the referendum.
I will finish my speech by emphasizing the key points that I have made today. That is to say that we Bougainvilleans have achieved much that we can be proud of.
But there are also major dangers that could drag us back towards serious conflict happening again. We could be like Fiji, with our worst nightmares repeating themselves.
We must work together to avoid those dangers. The conflict in the south, the presence of weapons, and corrupt foreign mining interests are amongst the worst of those dangers.
I want to see new weapons brought into operation in Bougainville. Through the powerful weapon of equitable economic development, with the support of the National Government and donor partners, we must end conflict and move towards the vision of the Peace Agreement.
Please, all Bougainvilleans reflect on what we have achieved, and where we are going. And at the same time, enjoy this, your special day.
BOC - Auf dem Weg zum MULTIBAGGER, die ersten 500% sind schon erreicht ;-))))))))))))