By Ishmael Palipal
The people of Bougainville people celebrated a major milestone on 30 August 2016 with the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA).
The 2001 BPA signing signified peace, reconciliation and unity for all Bougainvilleans and was an emotional moment that people longed to witness after more than ten years of bloodshed.
During this 2001 signing, the Bougainville people, the Bougainville government and Papua New Guinea Government agreed on terms and conditions they would follow in order to achieve lasting peace, development and, eventually, referendum.
The agreement is centered around autonomy, referendum and weapons disposal, the three pillars that Bougainville should achieve when working in co-operation with the parties concerned.
Yesterday’s ceremony emphasized the importance of BPA and the President Dr John Momis and other speakers strongly emphasized that all parties must work in accordance with the BPA and should not breach it.
There was a consensus that the BPA is a joint effort between Bougainville and PNG and all must uphold their duties and obligations towards achieving the objectives—lasting peace and unity, development and referendum.
Mrs Ruby Mirinka, a signatory to the BPA as a representative of the women and children of Bougainville, pointed out that peace an opportunity to grow and develop. Given this opportunity there are other fights such as those against things that are undermining the growth of this region such as the effects of drugs and alcohol on communities and an economic crisis.
Mrs Mirinka elaborated that should carefully utilise the resources they have so that in the coming years there will be something concrete to celebrate.
Former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander Ishmael Toroama spoke on behalf of the ex-combatants and reminded the people that God is the framer of the peace in Bougainville and all Bougainvilleans must embrace every opportunity.
He assured the people that ex-combatants are in full support of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) towards the referendum.
Philip Miroiri, who represented the Mekamui, shared similar sentiments and spoke of standing united with ABG ahead of the referendum.
Like others who strongly stressed the importance of peace in Bougainville, UN Resident Coordinator Mr Roy Trivedy outlined a strong link between peace and development.
“When there is no peace,” Mr Trivedy stated, “there will be no development.
“When there is no development there will be no lasting peace.”
He concluded that only through peace will Bougainville flourish and it is the responsibility of all the concerned parties to ensure this is achieved.
The ABG President Chief Dr John Momis closed the day with his keynote speech addressing the importance of the Peace Agreement and encouraged all parties to respect it.
He strongly challenged the National Government to honour the BPA and to support by assisting Bougainville as agreed.
Mr Momis assured the people of Bougainville that Bougainville will still arrive in her final destination through this referendum.