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 by the government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the leaders representing the people of Bougainville. It was signed in Arawa, Bougainville, 30th August 2001. It was created to end conflict between PNG and Bougainville and between different groups in Bougainville. The idea behind the BPA was that the governments of Bougainville and PNG must work together to 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?

National Government was represented in the Agreement by: Hon. Sir Mekere Morauta, KT MP (Prime Minister) and Hon. Moi Avei, Minister For Bougainville Affairs.

Leaders representing Bougainville: Hon John Momis MP (Governor, Bougainville), Joseph Kabui (President, Bougainville), Hon Moi Avei (Minister for Bougainville Affairs), Hon M Ogio (MP for North Bougainville), Hon M. Laimo (MP for South Bougainville), Hon. S. Akoitai, (MP for Central 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 Forces), Mrs. Ruby Mirinka (Representative of Bougainville Women). The signing was witnessed by New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, United Observer Mission on Bougainville and 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 - A change from provincial government status to one of greater decision-making, law-making and governance at the Bougainville level. Unlike any other PNG province, Bougainville has its own constitution, can make laws, hold elections, and make its own governance arrangements. This is supported by a funding arrangement from the National Government. A period of autonomy was meant to help resolve divisions and disagreement before a referendum was held, or contribute to a referendum outcome in favour of continued unity.

2) Weapons disposalA process for demilitarization of Bougainville that included reintegration, reconciliation and a three stage weapons disposal plan:

  • 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 in any case between June 2015 and June 2020, which must include a choice of Bougainville Independence. The BPA has rules for conducting the Referendum such as using good governance and weapons disposal to help set the date.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BPA AFTER JUNE 2020? (the final date for the referendum)

The BPA does not have an end or final date. The BPA and the Constitutional Laws set out that autonomy and other arrangements they provide for will continue where no decision 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”, to be held in any case, no later than June 2020 which is 15 years after the first sitting of the House of Bougainville 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 kinds of differences between people. One danger is that the result can leave the ‘losing side’ 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, with people understanding these arrangements will help avoid conflict. Clear arrangements help planning for and managing the referendum. They make sure everything possible is done 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, learn from experience of other countries and do everything possible to minimise the chance of serious problems occurring during the referendum and afterwards during the transition phase.

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
  • Bougainville Constitution
  • Papua New Guinea Constitution

WHEN WILL THE REFERENDUM BE?

The National Government (Government of Papua New Guinea) and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) has agreed that the target date for referendum is June 15 2019. The agreement was made in a Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) meeting held in May 2016.

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 Bougainville.