Prime Minister Hon. James Marape and Bougainville President H.E. Ishmael Toroama Discuss Post-Referendum Issues

In a pivotal Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting held today in Port Moresby, Prime Minister Hon. James Marape together with Bougainville President H.E. Ishmael Toroama discussed crucial issues concerning the ratification and aftermath of the Bougainville referendum.

The meeting concluded successfully with several significant agreements aimed at facilitating the ongoing peace process.

Bougainville Treasurer and Finance Minister Hon. Robin Wilson commended Prime Minister Marape for fulfilling all outstanding payments, refuting recent newspaper allegations that the PNG Government had significant outstanding debts to Bougainville.

Minister Wilson highlighted a notable improvement in financial commitments under the Marape Government, stating that since 2019, it has disbursed K350 million of the K621 million owed.

Furthermore, he mentioned that with an allocation of K200 million in the 2024 Bougainville Budget, the total payments will exceed K500 million.

The leaders agreed on the appointment of a Working Moderator who will assist both the Bougainville and Papua New Guinea governments in several key areas:

•         Addressing unresolved issues related to the Sessional Order and other matters to bring the results of the 2019 Referendum for independence before the National Parliament.

•         Overseeing the preparation of the Joint Consultation Report and addressing other legally mandated issues under s342 (1).

•         Supporting the Bipartisan Committee in its efforts to deliver joint awareness messages to Members of the 11th National Parliament.

•         It was resolved that a Joint Technical Team from both governments will collaboratively develop the Moderator’s mandate and terms of reference within one week following the signing of this JSB agreement.

Regarding fisheries revenue-sharing arrangements, a long-standing agenda item of the JSB, the leaders directed the responsible ministers to further discuss and finalise this matter. A mechanism will be established by the ministers, chief secretaries, and relevant agencies to conclude the fisheries revenue-sharing arrangement.

On financial matters, including the Prime Minister’s Commitment and the Restoration and Development Grant, it was resolved that the funding support under the Prime Minister’s commitment programme will cease post 2024. The funds will be reallocated to settle outstanding RDG arrears owed to Bougainville.

Concerning the issue of Bougainville Copper Ltd (BCL) shares, the leaders recognised delays in transferring shares to the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG), primarily due to cost implications associated with stamp duty tax. The National Government committed to settling the K1 million stamp duty tax through Kumul Mineral Holdings Ltd, ensuring the BCL Shares Certificate is transferred to the ABG by the end of May 2024.

The leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Bougainville Peace Agreement and to upholding the Melanesian spirit of consensus, ensuring a peaceful progression as both governments approach the final stages of their political journey.

The next meeting of the JSB is scheduled for August.