Frequently Asked Questions

Common questions about the Bougainville Peace Agreement

Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS THE BOUGAINVILLE PEACE AGREEMENT?

The Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) is a joint agreement between the National Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the leaders representing the people of Bougainville. It was signed in Arawa, in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville on August  30, 2001 and brought an end to the conflict between PNG and Bougainville and between the different factions within Bougainville. The BPA is a commitment from the governments of Bougainville and PNG to work together and secure lasting peace for Bougainville through peaceful means. It is a ‘roadmap’ for Bougainville covering peace-building, security, governance and development.

WHO SIGNED THE BPA?

The National Government was represented in the Agreement by Hon. Sir Mekere Morauta (Prime Minister),  Hon. Moi Avei, Minister For Bougainville Affairs, Hon M Ogio (MP for North Bougainville), Hon. S. Akoitai, (MP for Central Bougainville) and Hon M. Laimo (MP for South Bougainville).

The leaders representing Bougainville were Hon John Momis MP (Governor, Bougainville), Joseph Kabui (President, Bougainville), R.J Banam (Chairman, Leitana Council of Elders), Mr. G Sinato (Deputy Governor, Bougainville Interim Provincial Government), Mr. T Anis (Vice-President, Bougainville People’s Congress), Mr. J. Tanis (Vice-President, Bougainville People’s Congress), Ishmael Toroama (Chief of Defence, Bougainville Revolutionary Army), Hilary Masiria (Chairman Bougainville Resistance Force) and Mrs. Ruby Mirinka (Representative of Bougainville Women). 

The signing was witnessed by representatives from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, The United Nations Observer Mission on Bougainville and the Peace Monitoring Group.

 WHAT ARE THE THREE PILLARS OF THE BPA?

The three pillars of autonomy, weapons disposal and referendum are the building blocks of the BPA.

1) Autonomy – Marks a change from Provincial Government status to one of greater decision-making, law-making and governance powers for Bougainville. Unlike other provincial governments in PNG, Bougainville has its own Constitution, can make laws, hold elections, and choose its own governance arrangements. This is supported by a funding obligation from the National Government. A period of autonomy helps to resolve any divisions or disagreements before the referendum is held as well as contribute to an outcome of continued peace.

2) Weapons disposal – Outlinesa process of demilitarization for Bougainville that includes reintegration, reconciliation and a three stage weapons disposal plan. The three stages are:

Storage in single locked containers
Storage in double locked containers, with one key held by the UN
Weapons disposal

 3) Referendum - The BPA guarantees a referendum, to be held between June 2015 and June 2020, which must include a choice for Bougainvillean independence. The BPA has rules that govern the referendum and requires that good governance and weapons disposal are acheived before the target date.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BPA AFTER JUNE 2020? 

The referendum must take place before June 2020, however the BPA does not have an end date. The BPA and the Constitutional Laws guarantee that the autonomous arrangements will continue whether or not a decision regarding Bougainville’s future political status is made.

WHAT IS A REFERENDUM?

A referendum is a vote by the people to decide on a single political issue. It is a way to make decisions about very important issues. In Bougainville, the BPA calls for a referendum on “Bougainville’s future political status” held no later than June 2020, which is 15 years after the first sitting of the Bougainville House of Representatives.

A referendum is like an election but, instead of voting for a person/candidate/party, people choose an ‘option’. That option or options will be on a ballot paper. People will choose the option they want by marking that option on the paper.

WILL THE REFERENDUM BE SAFE?

Holding a free and fair referendum is not easy. Referendums can cause conflict, especially where there are already ethnic, religious, or other differences between people. One danger is that the ‘losing side’ can be left feeling like the outcome causes them serious disadvantage. In the past 25 years, violent conflict has occurred after independence referendums – for example in East Timor and South Sudan.

Having clear arrangements for the referendum and ensuring people understand these arrangements will help to avoid conflict. Clear guidelines help in planning for and managing the referendum. The two governments will work together to ensure arrangements work as intended, problems are anticipated and contingencies are provided for. 

In preparing for the Bougainville referendum, it will be important to consider both the advantages and disadvantages that can flow from the referendum and learn from the experiences of other countries. Everything possible must be done to minimise the chance of serious problems arising both during the referendum and in the transition phase that follows.

WHAT LEGAL DOCUMENTS GOVERN THE REFERENDUM?

The rules for the Bougainville referendum are in four legal documents:

  • Bougainville Peace Agreement
  • Organic Law on Peace-Building in Bougainville – Autonomous Bougainville Government and Bougainville Referendum 2002
  • Constitution of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville
  • Independent State of Papua New Guinea Constitution

 You can download the Peace Agreement in full from the ABG webpage or access a fact sheet that summarises its main points.

 WHEN WILL THE REFERENDUM BE?

The National Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) have agreed that the Actual date for the referendum is October 12, 2019. The agreement was made in a Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting held in March 2019. 

HOW DO THE NATIONAL AND BOUGAINVILLE GOVERNMENTS WORK TOGETHER TO IMPLEMENT THE BPA?

The Joint Supervisory Body is a joint PNG-Bougainville institution to oversee the BPA. It is a place for the two governments to come together and resolve any disagreements. The JSB is co-chaired by the Prime Minister of PNG, and the President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. The JSB is responsible for making decisions such as the question or questions to be put to Bougainvilleans, as well as who is eligible to vote in the referendum. 

For more information about the referendum we have a number of resources in English and Tok Pisin on our website at http://www.abg.gov.pg/media/referendummaterials